As Time Goes By

August 11, 2014 § Leave a comment

I always dread kissing in any action-adventure epic. At some point in the movie, the main male character and the main female character have to kiss, otherwise the power fantasy is shot and the audience will riot. They’ve been together a while and don’t hate each other, why don’t they get busy, everyone will ask. As much as I liked Edge of Tomorrow, I knew that Tom Cruise, no matter how weak he was, had to kiss Emily Blunt, no matter how strong she was, and that knowledge made me miserable. I almost felt like a parent, sure that my son or daughter was taking his or her boyfriend or girlfriend upstairs for the wrong reasons, but also sure that I could do nothing to stop it.

Raleigh and Mako don't kiss in Pacific Rim

Raleigh and Mako don’t kiss in Pacific Rim

The kiss bothers me so much with its ubiquity in cinema as the endpoint of the hero’s journey that the absence of one between Charlie Hunnam and Rinko Kikuchi in Pacific Rim was one of the few things that recommended the movie wholeheartedly to me. Even if the rumors were true that there was no kiss because Japanese actresses get blackballed for kissing non-Japanese actors, the movie was still improved by it, albeit inadvertently. Anything for a female character’s arc not to be her eventual acceptance of physical affection, I say.

Gamora and Starlord don’t kiss in Guardians of the Galaxy

It’s no surprise that I have a positive opinion of Guardians of the Galaxy, given how the rest of the internet is gushing about it, but no one seems to be making much of this aspect of the movie. Guardians of the Galaxy is great because there is ample sexual tension between Chris Pratt and Zoe Saldana, but it isn’t resolved by her succumbing to his charms, whatever might be teased in the picture above. No, in the movie, their interest in and attraction to each other is part of a larger arc throughout about trust and sacrifice, so we find them holding hands in the climactic scene instead. I love it, not only because there is a dramatic function for the two characters getting closer besides just audience gratification, but because holding hands preserves their autonomy and identity in a way that kissing, being often sudden and forceful, tends to vitiate.

In short, it feels to me like a victory, however small, that a female character can function as a companion to a male protagonist for the entirety of the movie’s plot, rather than being or becoming just a prize at the end. Maybe someday, it’ll be more common for her to be neither, but for now, it’s something that makes me want to talk about Guardians of the Galaxy a bit more.

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