The Forbidable Female Lead

Pacific Rim is a movie I had been looking forward to, because giant robots fight monsters from space that are also from under the ocean, and overall I found the film enjoyable for said over-the-top fights and a few key scenes where Del Torro’s abilities shined – including one particularly haunting scene of a small child fleeing through the desolate streets of a city as it’s being mercilessly reduced to rubble by a pursuing gargantuan terror.

There’s something we need to talk about though, and it has to do with this headline I read in the week leading up to release:

“GUILLERMO DEL TORO TALKS ABOUT PACIFIC RIM’S FORMIDABLE FEMALE LEAD AND THE LACK OF A LOVE STORY” (link)

I better put this up real quick cause it’s about to get heavy:

SPOILER WARNING: The following content contains spoilers.

Are you freakin’ kidding me?

Apparently what passes for a “strong female character” these days, according to the above article, is “not dressed slutty” and “doesn’t actually kiss or have sex with the male lead, despite oogling his hot bod through peepholes the entire movie.”

Here’s some facts about female lead Mako in this movie. 1. She is the only female character in an entire cast of dudes, short one redshirt who I think never spoke (maybe she said something Russian about “oh shit we are fucked?”), thus immediately failing the Bechdel test.  2. She spends the entire movie subservient to said dudes.  She’s shorter, meeker, less experienced and oh right there’s that one scene where she just barely manages to defeat lead blonde-manly-dude in single combat, but remember it happens only after being given permission by her father figure.  He’s not even metaphorically her father figure – it is later outright stated that he is her father figure.

Here’s some things that could have been done in this movie that might have earned it a real “strong female characters” label and, in this writer’s humble opinion, made for a better film overall.

  • Replace any male character with a female in the same role.  What if the Australians were a father-daughter team, or a mother-son?  Wouldn’t their final sacrifice be that much more emotionally powerful?  Del Torro says he made this film for his two daughters, why not show his daughters that they could grow up to be scientists, or the leader of a crack giant robot army?  
  • Have a mech that’s piloted by an all-woman crew.  The triplets could have been that much more bad-ass.
  • HAVE MAKO BE THE FINAL HERO.  In the final sequence blonde-hero-bro goes full knight-in-shining-armor, diverts his remaining oxygen to Mako, and forces her to eject; going on by himself to nuke the shit out of alien-town and save humanity.  What if these roles were reversed?  Mako would suddenly become the strong hero she’s been striving to be the entire movie, instead of taking a backseat to the hero of every other scene prior.

The hero whom she adores.  But don’t worry it’s not a love story.  Especially not that “wait they’re not going to kiss?” embrace while she straddles his escape pod in that final scene.