Every woman and girl in the world has witnessed, and most likely experienced, sexual harassment in many environments.
Since these acts are crimes, most people can agree that when someone harasses and assaults a co-worker, the perpetrator should lose their job instead of being promoted.
This was the opposite on Sunday night, as the world watched Casey Affleck receive the Academy Award for Best Actor.
Affleck has a long history of misogyny and violence, from making countless aggressive advances towards producer Amanda White as well as inappropriately touching her while on set for the documentary “I’m Still Here.”
Actress Magdalena Gorka testified that while staying overnight at Joaquin Phoenix’s apartment to film the documentary, Affleck came into her bed intoxicated and groped her in her sleep.
Both of these women took Affleck to court in 2010 and were eventually settled.
The response to his award win was negative,
as people spoke up online in disgust of Affleck; the the protest that became most popular was Brie Larson’s.
This is the second time she had to present Affleck an award, and both times she refused to applaud his win.
Larson is well known for her volunteer work for sexual assault victims, as well as her Oscar-winning performance in Room, a film where she played a rape victim.
Among most of those who saw Brie Larson stand up to Casey Affleck, I was awestruck by her silent resistance to an epidemic.
We live in a world where we are conditioned to accept and ignore sexual assault and harassment, as well as anyone who has been affected by these acts.
Joking about rape is just “locker room talk” and considered acceptable speech from our president; sexual harassment is “boys being boys” and something women have been taught to keep quiet in the face of; a prepubescent girl being cat called by grown men is treated like a rite of passage for girls.
If adults in our world keep raising girls who are afraid to speak up and boys who treat the female body like their property, we will continue to raise men like Casey Affleck.
In twenty years, men who have been to court for assaulting the women around them will still be awarded for their talents.
The only way to end this is to stop normalizing this kind of behavior. We need to stop tolerating rape jokes, ignoring sexual harassment, and minimizing the experiences of victims.
Now, it’s more important than ever to stand up and say that sexual assault is not normal and not okay.
The CW just introduced a new series to its Network with characters from the Archie Digest Magazine universe. Fans of the Archie comics, like me, were first blessed with a Betty & Veronica collection from MAC in 2013, and now a tv show. However, the show takes a dramatic turn from the mundane, comedic stories shared in the paper Digests.
The similarities between “Riverdale” and the Archie comics begin and end with the characters. You’ll see Archie Andrews (K.J. Apa), his neighbor and best friend Betty Cooper (Lili Reinhart), the fiery Veronica Lodge (Camila Mendes), and their beloved rival Cheryl Blossom (Madelaine Petsch). With the inclusion of Josie and the Pussycats (with Ashleigh Murray as Josie, Asha Bromfield as Melody, and Irie Hayleau as Val), and other side characters like Reggie (Ross Butler), Moose (Cody Kearsley), and the sardonic Jughead (Cole Sprouse), “Riverdale” acts more as a separate entity from the comics than a visual retelling. For instance, “Riverdale” further develops and builds from the character’s pre-existing comic personalities. Betty is still smart, reserved, and studious, as she was in the Digest, but you quickly realize this is the result of her manipulative mother, Alice Cooper (Madchen Amick), who never had a strong role in the comics. Veronica and Archie are shown in a similar manner, with strong influence from their parents that was never as prevalent in the comics.
While the character manipulation was necessary to show a darker Riverdale, I welcome the small consistencies creator Robert Aguirre-Sacasa kept with the Archie universe. Betty and Archie are still neighbors, Jughead still wears his signature grey “crown” beanie, and Pop’s Chock’lit Shoppe still plays a vital role as the beloved town meeting place.
In every sense of its creation, “Riverdale” is the Archie comic’s darker twin. The pilot episode begins with the death of Jason Blossom (Trevor Stines) and the return of the Lodge women to Riverdale. The quality of the show reminds me of an early “Vampire Diaries,” where the plot and characters are over-sensationalized to help deliver the story. I’m not necessarily turned away from the show, because I think it still has a lot to offer, but I’m cautious of what to expect from the rest of the season.
If you’re a fan of other CW shows like “Vampire Diaries” and “Reign,” you will probably enjoy “Riverdale.” You can catch up on the first few episodes here, and be sure to tune in Thursdays at 9PM EST to watch the next installment live. If you need another reason to watch, check out the trailer below (or here).
Check out this video essay by Kristian Williams.
In Honor of Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher, the Ultimate Feminist Mother-Daughter Power Couple: A Feminist Look at Singin’ in the Rain By Austin Fimmano
I’m not exaggerating when I say that there may be few people in the world (at least few my age) who are bigger Singin’ in the Rain fans than I am. I was raised on old-fashioned musical films: The Music Man, The Wizard of Oz, Sound of Music, West Side Story… but Singin’ in the Rain blew them all away. The costumes, the hilarity of Cosmo Brown, the impeccable dance routines of Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor, and of course, the presence of the wonderful Kathy Seldon.
Debbie Reynolds was young, beautiful, barely nineteen, and drawing all eyes to her even when dancing next to one (or two) of the greatest dancers of their age. Growing up, my siblings and I could pop Singin’ in the Rain in the VCR – and then later the DVD player – every weekend and not get tired of it, and that’s often exactly what we did.
But just because you love something doesn’t mean you can’t look at it critically – or rather, doesn’t mean you can’t help but look at it critically.
When I left for my freshman year of college, I no longer had those leisurely weekends with my family where we could relax together and watch movies. I don’t think I had seen Singin’ in the Rain all the way through since I graduated high school – that is, until Debbie Reynolds died and my mom called us all into the family room for a tributary family movie night.
I was excited to revisit one of my favorite movies, and that I did. But there was another part of my brain that kept piping up against the nostalgia, and just would not be silenced.
In high school, I didn’t consider myself a feminist. I’m from a tiny town in Connecticut with one high school, little to no diversity, and a conservative community.
Feminism, to me, seemed superfluous. Surely women were equal to men. After all, I wasn’t treated any differently from my male peers; if anything, the more advanced our classes were, the more women there were enrolled.
But then I entered college in New York City and I found myself no longer in a rural bubble, but instead stumbling in and out of thousands of new worlds and power dynamics and frames of minds that I had only read about in books. I was introduced to all kinds of critical thinking that I hadn’t even known existed before. The feminist in me was awoken.
And so as I watched Singin’ in the Rain and my childhood-self cheered for Don and Kathy’s secretive, tap-dancing romance and laughing at Cosmo Brown’s unappreciated antics, my feminist self was taking a second look at Lina Lamont. Slowly I began to realize: she wasn’t a villain. She wasn’t ridiculous. She wasn’t dumb. She was tragic.
It’s easy to dislike Lina Lamont from the start. Don and Cosmo establish from the beginning that she’s just one of those people that you wouldn’t come near with a stick. She’s a fair-weather friend, she’s a diva, and she’ll only like you if she can get something out of it. And that’s before we even hear her talk.
Once Lina opens her mouth, our dislikes are not only confirmed, they’re expanded: Lina is grasping, she’s annoying, she’s dumb, and she’s an elitist. Singin’ in the Rain isn’t necessarily telling us that Lina is a greedy female trope; she’s just one of those people that everyone can agree they don’t like, regardless of gender. We all have some Lina Lamonts in our lives.
But consider Singin’ in the Rain through a different, less optimistic lens. Hollywood in the 1920s was brutal place to be a woman. Women had only just gained the right to vote and were barely seen as human beings.
Even an actress as successful as Lina would come up against obstacles that a man of her talent – like Don, for instance – would never encounter. She would be paid less, she would be criticized more, her career would have an expiration date that correlated exactly with her age and weight, and she would hardly get to make any career decisions without the help of a man.
The Pre-Code era, which offered women more meaty characters and storylines rather than just the typical “virgin or whore” roles of the early 20th century, was about to be introduced and then quickly and emphatically shut down.
When you start thinking about Lina’s world in this way, suddenly her irrational tendencies or craziness don’t seem so annoying. Take Lina’s obsession with her costar, Don Lockwood, for example, Don is understandably annoyed that Lina would believe what a tabloid magazine writes about her own love life – specifically, that Lockwood and Lamont are a power couple looking towards marriage.
He’s even more annoyed that she inserts herself into his life as if they really are romantically attached, and that she won’t be dissuaded. But as we learn from the end of the movie, Lina isn’t exactly “dumb or something.”
She may not have brains in the way that her rival Kathy Seldon does, but she knows how to get what she wants.
We can agree that Lina Lamont wasn’t really convinced by a tabloid that she was dating a man she’d only kissed on set – one who openly loathes her, no less.
Lina is a smart businesswoman. She would be aware of the ticking clock that was her career, and she would know that Don didn’t have one. Therefore, the tabloid romance was better for her career than any of the movies she’d made, put together.
While she was on Don Lockwood’s arm, no one would forget her. While she was his costar who could bring the element of real-life romance to the screen, she would continue to get starring roles.
When Lina finds out about Don and Kathy’s romance, she isn’t upset because she’d really believed that she and Don had been dating up till then. She was upset because she realizes the public won’t take her as seriously without a famous man by her side.
For this same reason, Lina is an elitist. When we see her at the beginning of the movie shunning Don’s plebeian charm, and then shooing Cosmo away with a haughty “Are you anybody?!”, the reason might not be as petty as it seems. Lina’s spent enough time in Hollywood to get where she is – successful, lead actress whose name is in every big picture produced by her studio.
During that time, she must have learned that women rarely get anywhere on their own, no matter the depth of their talent. Instead, they have to piggyback off successful men, which Lina has created a habit of doing.
After all, she didn’t become a “household name,” as the reporter gleefully informs us in the beginning, until her high-profile romance with Don Lockwood. Yet she’d been the female lead in what seems like every movie made by Monumental Pictures long before Don had made a name for himself.
It’s why Lina is always sweet-talking RF Simpson, the head of the studio, and casting off poor Cosmo. Lina is too practical to waste her time on men who won’t advance her career. This is a bit cold-hearted, but Lina isn’t really much different than a 21st-century businesswoman: she puts her career over her love life. When she and Don rise to stardom together as romantic leads, the perfect situation has been created for her: her love life could actually catapult her career.
This even frees Lina to have real feelings for Don.
If you begin to look at Lina as a tragic character trapped by the patriarchy, suddenly the whole movie begins to turn on its head.
Don and Cosmo don’t become any less charming, and neither does the alluring ingénue of Kathy Seldon, whose rise to stardom necessitates Lina’s downfall. But patterns start to emerge – Zelda’s exposure of Kathy and Don to Lina isn’t diabolical, it’s a woman protecting her career and that of her friend’s in a woman-eat-woman world.
The constant mansplaining and manterrupting that Lina experiences on set (and everywhere else), despite being the biggest star at Monumental Pictures, stops being a matter of her intelligence and you start to wonder if it’s simply because she’s a woman.
If you look close enough, the women of Singin’ in the Rain – the few that there are – transform from shadows that flit on the walls behind Gene Kelly to hard-working, talented businesswomen who will only ever be given half of what their male counterparts get – and that’s only as long as they stay young and pretty.
*If you have any intention of seeing “Rogue One” in the near future, or love the “Star Wars” series more than you’ve ever loved anything and don’t want me to crush your spirits because I know almost nothing about it, do not continue reading. But if the first thing I said applies to you, come back and read this review after you watch the film.
(You can also watch the trailer here or below.)
I don’t know how else to emphasize how little I know about Star Wars. I know a basic overview of the plot and the major characters, but I am in no way an expert. Even though I genuinely enjoyed “The Force Awakens” (2015), you can imagine how surprised I was when I agreed to attend the early release of “Rogue One” in Dubrovnik. The length of the movie, two hours and 14 minutes, was enough to make me question my decision. Why should I sit in a crowded room for 2-hours pretending I have some semblance as to what is happening, when I have to do that in school anyway?
As a complete outsider entering the realm of a Star Wars movie, I was a little overwhelmed. There were a lot of references to previous movies I know I missed. But what I loved was getting engulfed in another world. I loved being on the edge of my seat, caught up in the fast-paced storyline, the witty one-liners, the unpredictability of what would happen next. I loved how easily I could delve into “Rogue One,” even as an outsider with no technical knowledge of the film series.
“Rogue One” was as good as I hoped it could be, (I heard someone say that as they left the theater, and I feel like that’s worth repeating). The main characters were complex, and formed meaningful relationships with each other. You have Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) and Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), who you don’t want to end up together because that’s too cheesy, but when you witness their final embrace seconds before their untimely deaths, you realize all you ever wanted was for them to be happy together. There’s K-2SO (Alan Tudyk), a former Imperial robot, and the source of never-ending comic relief, (until he is also killed). There’s the dynamic duo, Chirrut (Donnie Yen) and Baze (Wen Jiang), who are the ultimate bromance goals (plot twist, they both die).
That’s one of the major themes in “Rogue One:” there’s a lot of death. But the deaths are meaningful; the characters risk everything they have to deliver the Death Star files to the Rebel Alliance. Their sacrifices end in tragedy, but their efforts are not forgotten. My friend explained to me that the events of “Rogue One” occur just before “Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope” (1977), where Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) is in possession of the Death Star file the “Rogue One” cast died to deliver.
“Rogue One” is full of nods to the original series, with appearances from Fisher’s Leia and Darth Vader (James Earl Jones). I can’t speak for diehard fans of the series, but coming from someone like me, the movie is well-done. I would definitely see this again, and it has inspired me to finally sit down and watch the full series (although that may have to wait until after Christmas).
Watch Tove Lo's short film debut, 'Fairy Dust' here below, via Vevo. The film touches on sexuality, grief, and is shot beautifully.
*Seeing as this movie was just released (and for some reason available sooner in Dubrovnik than in the U.S.), I write about some spoilers that may impact your experience watching the movie for the first time. If this upsets you, see “Doctor Strange” first, and then come back to my review.
I love Marvel movies. Nothing compares to the feeling of being sucked into the Marvel universe and following your favorite superheroes (or villains) fight for the safety of Earth (because, for the most part, that’s what happens). I entered “Doctor Strange” ready to embrace the Marvel universe yet again, and it did not disappoint.
For anyone unfamiliar with the premise of the movie, Dr. Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) is a very successful neurosurgeon. He’s confident, rich, in love with a beautiful woman (Dr. Palmer, played by Rachel McAdams), and has a bright future ahead of him. One fateful car crash later, tremors in his hands have effectively ended his career as a medical doctor. Strange becomes obsessed with healing his body to return to a life of stardom, alienating Palmer and his other friends. After hearing of a healer in Nepal who made a paralyzed man walk again, Strange flies to Kathmandu to seek help from The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton). He is soon thrust into a global race filled with magic and mayhem to stop an estranged student from opening a portal to the Dark World. (That’s a very quick overview, but IMDb has a more in-depth one for anyone interested.)
In typical Marvel fashion, “Doctor Strange” was filled with the same wit and humor evident in “The Avengers” (2012), “Captain America” (2011), “Iron Man” (2008), and every other beloved movie. “Doctor Strange” also contained references to other characters in the Marvel universe (The Avengers), mentioned the mysterious infinity stones (also seen in “Guardians of the Galaxy” and “The Avengers: Age of Ultron”), and the final clip after the credits even included Thor (Chris Hemsworth). Everything was up to the Marvel standard of excellence; it was action-packed, filled with loveable characters (especially Strange’s new cape sidekick), and left you yearning for the very-probable sequel.
The CGI effects deserve their own mention. The Masters and Strange endure many chases through twisting buildings and changing dimensional planes, similar to the “Inception” promotional posters. These scenes turning buildings inside out and flipping cities upside down added visual interest to otherwise anti-climactic chase scenes.
Now that I’ve listed everything I liked, I feel like I should write about what I didn’t like. The casting was adequate; Cumberbatch delivered a very convincing role alongside McAdams, Swinton, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Mads Mikkelsen. However, I was suspicious of Swinton’s character. Nothing against Swinton, but Marvel could have saved a lot of effort if they hired a Nepalese actress to play The Ancient One instead of styling Swinton to look like one. I’m not the first one to notice this, as Ben Child and Alyssa Sage have each dedicated articles to the whitewashing controversy.
“Doctor Strange” is definitely the movie for all Marvel fans. If you’re able to experience it on the big-screen, it’s even better.
Long before I even read Jeanette Wall’s incredible memoir for myself I watched how her words affected people. It was summer, and I was in a production of William Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet. We practiced in our director’s backyard which left us with a lot of down time in-between scenes to frolic around the house and lay in grass. And when they weren’t memorizing lines, three of the girls from the cast that summer all shared one copy of The Glass Castle. I remember watching them sit captivated by her words. Each saving their spots with folded pages or bookmarks. Savoring the beautiful brutality of her words with reverence. It wasn’t until a few years later that I understood the true power of those words as the rationale behind three girls graciously sharing one single book.
Everyone likes to think their childhood was magic and unique. But while Jeanette Walls’s life is the epitome of those words it her bravery to write about her experiences that truly defines her story. Though far from glamorous her childhood spent in poverty was not without its brilliance. Growing up in a constant state of movement with a dreamer and artist for parents left little room for suburban stability. Their dysfunctional but imaginative ways shaped the morals she learned how to form for herself. Jeanette’s life story is one of beauty, redemption, forgiveness, adventure, abuse, and heartbreak. But the thing that captivates readers of all ages is the rare purity found in her telling of the hardest kinds of truths.
Recently finished in pre-production and set to air in 2017 is the movie adaption of the Walls family’s story. Acclaimed actress Brie Larsen known for her roles in Room and Short Term 12 is set to play adult Jeanette. Larsen will be joined by actors Woody Harrelson and Naomi Watts as Mr. and Mrs. Walls. Larsen’s track record of depicting resilient women is one of the main reasons I have faith in the movie’s potential to be fantastic. While I am aware my hopes remain dangerously high for this film, I am eager for the day I will yet again get to witness a portion of the world be captivated and humbled by an incredible woman’s story.
*This review definitely contains some spoilers and explanations that may make no sense to someone who hasn’t seen the movie. If you want to watch “The Magnificent Seven” like I did with no previous knowledge of the film, I don’t suggest you read this before seeing it. If you’re curious about it and need some encouragement before seeing it, stick around.
I had very limited knowledge of “The Magnificent Seven” before I stepped into the theater. All I knew was that it was a Western movie and it starred Chris Pratt. That was it. When the first scene played through, and a church was torched and people were murdered by the antagonist Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard), I was a little taken-aback. The tone for the movie is already very serious, and I wasn’t sure I was going to like it.
After finishing the movie, I really stand by that last sentence. “The Magnificent Seven” is very serious, as most Westerns are (I’m assuming, I also have very limited knowledge of his genre so there’s a good chance I’m wrong). I doubt I could write a better synopsis than IMDB, so here’s their description of the movie:
“Director Antoine Fuqua brings his modern vision to a classic story in The Magnificent Seven. With the town of Rose Creek under the deadly control of industrialist Bartholomew Bogue, the desperate townspeople employ the protection from seven outlaws, bounty hunters, gamblers and hired guns. As they prepare the town for the violent showdown that they know is coming, these seven mercenaries find themselves fighting for more than money.” (Not my own words, obviously, because I took this from IMDB).
It’s a pretty basic story of a “bad guy” taking over a small town, and the villagers enlisting the efforts of the “good guys” (loosely-applied term) to take their town back. Emma Cullen (Haley Bennet) and her friend Teddy Q (Luke Grimes) seek revenge for the murder of Emma’s husband (played by Matt Bomer, his death was pretty shocking because I expected him to last a little longer than the burning church from the opening scene). Bountyhunter Sam Chisolm (Denzel Washington) is the first to accept Emma’s offer (because of a tragic past with Bartholomew that isn’t revealed until the very end). He soon recruits gambling addict and “world’s best lover” Josh Faraday (Chris Pratt), the straight-shooter Goodnight Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke), the “bear in people’s clothes” Jack Horne (Vincent D’Onofrio), the knife-thrower Billy Rocks (Byung-hun Lee), the Mexican outlaw Vasquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo), and the rogue Native American warrior Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier).
The first thing I usually notice about movies with large casts like this one is how diverse they are. I was impressed this movie seemed to have adequate representation, although I wish there were more female roles. Bennet is mostly onscreen as the only woman among a full-cast of men, who sometimes make jokes at her expense. Aside from the film’s lack of women, I appreciated how emotionally connected I got with each of the “magnificent” Seven. The directors invested as much time into Washington’s character as they did Pratt’s, and so on. With the exception of D’Onofrio and Sensmeier’s characters, I wanted each of the Seven to live through their final fight with Bogue.
After watching these characters grow and form a genuine friendship with each other as they rallied the town together during the final battle for Rose Creek against Bogue and his army, I was surprised so many of them were killed. Jack Horne is shot with multiple arrows by Bogue’s Native henchman Denali (a scene that reminded me of Boromir’s iconic death in the first “Lord of the Rings” movie), and Billy and Goodnight are obliterated from their sniper posts at the top of the (still-burnt) church steeple. The most memorable death, and definitely the most badass I’ve ever seen, was Faraday’s. After charging at Bogue’s men alone, Faraday is shot multiple times. His last act before dying is sticking a cigar in his mouth, which one of Bogue’s men lights. When a gun is turned on him, Faraday collapses face-down in the dirt, but he isn’t dead yet. He slowly rises, revealing a lit stick of dynamite in his hand. He smirks at the henchmen as the dynamite explodes, killing Faraday and his targets, but also destroying the automatic gun that killed so many of the villagers (and Billy and Goodnight). I was very emotional after this scene.
I was equally-surprised Chisolm wasn’t killed. In a movie where so many of the characters are killed, Chisolm is one of a few people who manages to see the death of Bogue (courtesy of Emma). By the end, Emma’s husband is avenged, Chisolm’s family (also killed by Bogue, won’t go into a lot of detail with this because it’s very sad) is avenged, and the four dead mercenaries are buried.
I can comfortably say that while I liked “The Magnificent Seven” more than I thought I would, I wouldn’t see it again. There was a lot of action, graphic content (blood, explosions, the whole nine-yards), and a little bit of misogyny (just a smidge). A comment Chisolm made to Emma before the final battle, as the Seven are preparing the town for Bogue’s attack, really stuck with me. When she asked where she would be posted, he told her to stay with the women and children. When she told him she could shoot, he told her that if women were going to be shooting with the rest of the Seven, they were as good as dead anyway. I understand that this movie is set in the West, and women weren’t seen as equals to men, but when you consider how surprisingly diverse the cast is, I don’t think it would be a stretch to include a woman in the group’s dynamic. After all, it’s Emma who rallies Chisolm, helps ready the town, and ultimately kills Bogue. She deserves more credit than she was given.
Another small, petty issue I had with the movie were the horses. I know none of them were really hurt during the explosions, but the scenes I found the most disturbing were the ones where horses were thrown into the air from dynamite or fell to the ground as they were pelted with bullets. I admit this is a very nit-picky problem to have, especially since it was necessary to have the horses subjected to the same violence the men faced.
On a more positive note, the movie did lighten up after the first scene. Chris Pratt’s character offered his typical humor, dropping some funny one-liners every now and then (as did some of the other characters). The small inclusions of humor helped balance the intensity of the other scenes, as gunfights were rampant and almost everyone dies in the end. If you’re a fan of Western films, you’ll love this one.
*This review may contain spoilers. If you have not seen “Snowden” and don’t want the surprise of the movie ruined for you, don’t read ahead (or do, but don’t blame me if the illusion is shattered when you do eventually see it, because you should).
A quick recap of the movie: “Snowden” follows the real life story of of Edward Snowden, the man who worked for the United States National Security Agency and released NSA records to the media. After discovering the NSA (in compliance with the Central Intelligence Agency) was performing the illegal wiretapping of millions of American citizens, Snowden made the decision to alert the media (from a small Hong Kong hotel room). As he awaits refugee status to avoid an extradition to the U.S. for [an unfair] trial, Snowden is trapped in Moscow when the U.S. Department of State puts a red flag on his passport. Snowden is still living in Moscow as the U.S. government tries to work with Russian authorities to have him sent back to the States for trial.
First, I cannot even begin to explain how ecstatic I was with the casting choice of Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Edward Snowden. He fit the role perfectly, and has a very strong dedication to the story. A month ago, Gordon-Levitt called out The Washington Post on Twitter (below or here) for refusing to support Snowden even after they shared the NSA information he provided (and won a Pulitzer Prize for it).
Other all-star cast members include Shailene Woodley, Zachary Quinto, Nicholas Cage (I was genuinely surprised to see him), and Melissa Leo.
There’s no arguing Snowden is a very controversial figure. “Snowden” aims to humanize him, providing the audience with Edward’s experiences and how they influenced him to eventually leak classified government projects. His love interest, Lindsay (played by Woodley), is one of the main reasons he makes the decision. Their strained relationship is a significant focus in “Snowden.” One scene shows Edward’s [warranted] paranoia after he learns his former-boss from the CIA is monitoring Lindsay’s e-mail, cell phone, and online presence. Other scenes show Edward placing bandages over his and Lindsay’s laptop cameras, and arguing with Lindsay over deleting her nude self-portraits. In the end, he wants to protect her (and every other American whose lives are being digitally invaded) from these breaches in personal privacy.
An overarching theme in the movie is whether Edward is a traitor or a hero. “Snowden” plays with both labels, using the plot to show him in both roles. Toward the end of the movie, when Edward is copying the NSA files onto his [very discrete] USB drive, he is secretive. Rushed. He is shown looking over his shoulder as he hurries to copy the last file, and it is implied that his actions are wrong. He is guilt-ridden and hunched over, the implications of his decision weighing on his shoulders. In this moment, we see Edward as a traitor. He is knowingly stealing classified documents from the NSA Hawaii base, risking the jobs of his colleagues (and possibly his own life). The audience sees him sneaking the USB past security in a rubix cube, coaxing one of the security guards (his friend) into testing out the cube to keep the drive from being discovered.
On the other hand, commentary from Snowden himself at the very end of the film places him in a different role. His motivations for releasing the documents weren’t sinister. He didn’t want to exploit or destroy the U.S.; he wanted the American people to hold their government (or him, he admitted, if they saw fit) accountable. I attribute this desire to release the documents to his relationship with Lindsay. In the beginning of the movie while they’re on a date, they walk through a crowd protesting Bush’s war in Iraq. Lindsay tells Edward she believes should hold their leaders accountable. People have the right to voice their concerns. By the end of “Snowden,” Edward finally understands what she was talking about with her “liberal” jargon.
In addition to his love for Lindsay, Snowden attributes his ultimate decision to the Nuremberg Trials. He questions where the line between following orders and committing a crime is drawn, and if he inadvertently crossed it when he created his surveillance projects for the CIA and NSA (the same projects they were using to spy on Americans). He also emphasized that he should be tried for his actions, but he wouldn’t receive a fair trial under the Espionage Act (hence his persistence in relocating to Latin America to avoid extradition to the U.S. from China).
“Snowden” isn’t a movie I would typically describe as action-packed. Edward wasn’t a super-spy or an assassin. He didn’t hold the President for ransom, or invade another country to gain intelligence. But that’s what made it so much better: the entire premise of “Snowden” is that he wasn’t any of those things. Edward was just a regular person. He was a regular person who made the decision to blow the whistle on one of the world’s superpowers, risking his life, relationships, and career. He threw everything away to leak these documents, and that’s (for lack of a better work) impressive.
I thoroughly enjoyed this movie, even with its lack of action-packed thrills and explosions (in the traditional sense). The movie was long, but worth every second. I left the theater not only believing that Snowden is a hero for his defiance against the government, but that he’s a complete badass. He had the audacity to question the agencies he worked for and their commitment to “security.”
After seeing (or reading about) Edward Snowden, what do you think? Is he a hero, or is he a traitor?