5 Female-Driven Fantasy Movies That'd Fall Apart In Reality
Fantasy films are just that: a chance for the viewer to indulge in some anti-reality and experience a world different from our own. But when watching movies with female protagonists, I've noticed a few too many liberties being taken, even within those realms. They tend to ignore any real grounding in the leads' opinions, emotions, or reactions. And no, I'm not saying that a girl can't be the hero of a story because human traits would make her too fragile or weak. I'm saying that in these specific plots, the characters would totally act and react in a different way than what we got. For example ...
Wendy From Peter Pan Would Never Agree To "Mother" The Lost Boys
Right off the bat, Peter Pan contradicts Wendy's narrative arc and why she's ready to hop on the next pixie-dust train to Neverland. Remember, the point is that Wendy doesn't want to grow up. Every version of the movie, from the animated Disney film to the 2003 live-action adaptation, has some sort of ruckus involving Wendy, her dad, and Nana the dog-nurse. Dad gets pissed, declares the dog unfit to raise children (which is bogus, because not only is the dog the only one paying attention when Peter Pan shows up, but I don't see her yelling at the kids through the whole flick), and tells Wendy she needs to grow the hell up and leave the boy-cave.
Because of this, Peter, the star of Wendy's (strangely accurate) bedtime stories, flies to her window to take her away to Neverland. Wendy and her brothers are so dumb that they don't even question that they're being kidnapped. Wendy is stoked; she's heard of this magical place, she's met the jealous flashlight pixie, and now she's ready to check out some fantastic shit with the cute (albeit violent) flying boy.
They hit the pixie dust (freakin' hippies), excuse themselves while they kiss the sky, and own that second star to the right ... whereupon Peter suddenly makes Wendy play mommy to, like, ten shitty little boys? Wait, what happened? Hell, she was just looking for some sweet flirtation -- a boyfriend at most! Suddenly he's not only asking her to be a mom, but he also won't even stick around to "be a dad." Instead, Peter ignores Wendy completely and bounces off to the next adventure.
Let me just say that if a girl is bold enough to take off with her flying boyfriend in the middle of the night, she definitely has some spunk in her. She wouldn't evade growing up just to hit Neverland and, well, grow up! In a hurry. To raise a bunch of annoying-ass boys. What Wendy would really do is give them all the finger, get brunch with Tiger Lily, and declare everyone in Neverland to be insane fucks.
Christine From The Phantom Of The Opera Would Never Never Be Seduced By The Phantom
There exists almost no woman in the history of people who hasn't been harassed, stalked, or had her personal space violated by a man in some capacity. Because the epidemic is so prevalent, most females are taught how to recognize clear signs of danger when a man has the opposite of your best interests in mind. That said ...
A two-way mirror is installed in your dressing room by an old, disfigured murderer who dwells under the Paris Opera House and says he wants to teach you how to sing. I don't think I'm overreacting by saying that this just might be one of those tiny red flags women talk about.
The Phantom Of The Opera isn't a romance, because Christine is not a fucking idiot. And the Phantom is not the sexy, swaggering, darkly romantic figure he's pushed to be. He is a terrifying crazy person who not only murders people, but also demands cash from the Opera House managers like some kind of cartoon lunchroom bully. It would take Christine no more than 15 seconds, max, to figure out that all this mirror-dungeon shit is a terrible idea.
But for some reason, in every version of the story, Christine and the Phantom are paired together like some sort of goddamned fanfiction fodder destined couple, even though she happily hooks up with her childhood sweetheart Raoul at the end of the story. (Although Andrew Lloyd Webber gave in to the fanfiction and wrote a sequel musical called Love Never Dies, which insists that Christine boned the Phantom offstage and carried his weird phantom baby. But that's another story.)
Let me reiterate: Christine is 16 years old. The Phantom is like, 60 ... thousand ... billion. In a scene after he drags her down to his magical creep dungeon below the Opera House, Christine wakes up on a pile of soggy sewer blankets, and out of curiosity as to who this masked singing teacher is, she pulls off his mask ... and he threatens to beat her. Like, looming over her while she's cowering. But once he kicks her out, she'd probably run upstairs, scream to her teachers that she was just held captive, and warn the other tutu-dancers that they might want to go change in their closets after practice that night. Instead she keeps it a secret until halfway through the story, and by then, even her boyfriend thinks Christine should be live bait to draw the Phantom out. It's all pretty messed up.
Alice From Alice In Wonderland Is The Worst Possible Tour Guide
The first thing to consider is Alice's day-to-day life PW (pre-Wonderland). She's always lived a very regular, non-fantastical existence. It makes zero sense that she would follow a talking rabbit down a dirt hole, voluntarily burying herself in a shallow grave. This girl is what, seven years old? She knows her own mortality and understands danger. Only a stupid baby would follow a talking rabbit into the ground.
(Fun fact to note: The original manuscript by Lewis Carrol was called Alice's Adventures Under Ground, which sounds less like a fantasy adventure and more like murder porn.)
There is a fundamental problem with Alice and her underworld adventures, and it lies in her blase reactions to what is happening around her. On one hand, the audience could be presented with a version of Alice who is absolutely stoked by what's going down in Wonderland and takes control of that narrative like no other. She just thinks Wonderland is the coolest place ever. She consumes those "Eat Me" cookies with enthusiastic fervor while giggling, tosses back the "Drink Me" potion like whisky shots on a Tuesday, and exchanges perverted anecdotes with the Mad Hatter that would put the comments section of an Ariana Grande music video to shame. Hell, she will be the one to cut off that damn queen's head and paint every rose in the fucking room if she feels like it!
On the other hand, we could see a terrified little girl who simply doesn't understand what's happening around her. An Alice who screams and cries because of all the nightmarish imagery. Another version of Alice might be confused and terrified because she doesn't know what she did wrong. Does Alice believe in God? If so, what are the chances that she thinks she's died and been sent to Hell? She would wonder what she did that was so bad in her life that she deserved to have this punishment inflicted upon her.
And if this is the case, the Alice in front of us wouldn't just cry because she's grown to the size of a house. But she might because her mind, body, and sense of normality are being stretched, manipulated, and compromised throughout the entire story. But Alice only displays the slightest bit of annoyance when she can't figure out the Mad Hatter's riddles, and deems the tea party "stupid". Alice reacts to almost nothing happening around her, meandering from one chapter to the next, compliantly participating with the dystopian hell-fury she's forced to accept as her new reality, with no promises of going home in sight.
The Wizard Of Oz And Return To Oz Wouldn't Work If They Shared The Same Dorothy
Return To Oz was a Disney sequel-but-not-sequel to The Wizard Of Oz. It was made almost 50 years after the original, but takes place about six months later. A melancholic version of Dorothy, traumatized by the events that took place in Oz, has severe insomnia. She's sent a key via a shooting star and tries to tell her Aunt Em. Her reward for relaying this story? She is taken to a mental institution for some electrotherapy, under the ruse that the procedure will let her sleep. A girl, later revealed as Princess Ozma, helps Dorothy escape the institution during a thunderstorm. The girl presumably drowns, and Dorothy wakes up in a version of Oz that is in ruins, with her friends from the original turned to stone. Holy shit, now that I write it all out, it feels like it was written by Pink Floyd.
Watching this movie and seeing the challenges that Dorothy (played by Fairuza Balk) faces, there's no possible way that this film would work if we were seeing Judy Garland's version of the character. In Return To Oz, Dorothy gets chased by freaky wheeled gang called "The Wheelers," and almost has her finger bitten off by the disembodied head of the witch Mombi. In Wizard Of Oz, Dorothy falls into a pig pen and ... stays there screaming until one of her uncle's farm hands leaps heroically over the fence, sweeps her into his arms, and hovers over her until she's sure she's okay.
While Return's Dorothy (who I must note is younger than Garland's portrayal) is busy tying a taxidermied Gump's head to a couch, learning the intricacies of aerodynamics, and casting a spell to bring a sofa-thing to life so it can fly her and her new friends (a robot, a talking chicken, and a pumpkin-headed sort of scarecrow man, respectively) to safety, Dorothy in Wizard Of Oz gets locked in a room by the Wicked Witch and just ... sits there. The Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Cowardly Lion are climbing a castle to try to save her while she's just hanging out. I want to shake her and tell her to smash that stupid hourglass that the Witch claims will kill her when it runs out of sand. So what? Jump out the window. Kill yourself before she kills you. Make an effort! DO SOMETHING.
That's the biggest difference between the Dorothies in these two movies. If you really stop and think about it, the original Dorothy from The Wizard Of Oz never actually did anything. She glided along the entire movie, passively accepting the adventures happening. She got knocked out during a tornado. Her house accidentally landed on the witch. She didn't even technically put on the slippers; Glinda did it for her with magic. She followed a road that was already conveniently built. She didn't have to bring anyone to life, or solve any puzzles. She bent a nail and the Scarecrow fell off his post. She picked up an oil can that was at her feet, and alive came the Tin Man. Even the lion didn't tear her face off. All she had to do was walk, and everything kind of just ... happened to her.
Imagine this character being thrown into Return To Oz, where she has to figure out literally everything happening to her on her own. The yellow brick road was smashed. The women were missing their heads. The Nome King was turning dudes into green ornaments, and for some reason had an aversion to eggs. There's almost no way that Garland's squawking, rambling Dorothy would have survived being chased by the Wheelers for five seconds. They'd hustle her ass over to the Deadly Desert, she'd turn to sand, and the movie would thankfully be over. It would end in 42 seconds with "Somewheeerrre ... over the raaaiinb- OH DEAR CHRIST, THEY'RE TEARING OFF MY FUCKING FACE!"
Sarah From Labyrinth Drags The Entire Narrative Down The Toilet With Her Shitty Boredom
What makes Labyrinth so interesting to examine is the infinite number of directions the story could have gone in if only the protagonist, Sarah, was more like a person -- any kind of person. She goes from manic and pissed to completely non-reactive so fast that it makes her completely unrelatable to the viewer. And through the whole movie, Jareth the Goblin King is giving her fuck eyes and trying to convince the viewer how special she is. One of the reasons Labyrinth was originally panned has to be that Sarah isn't a character most people want to kick it in a maze with.
Out of the gate, Sarah is deranged and cruel to her family. She spits hate in a narcissistic monologue fashion. Really, all her dad and stepmother asked her to do was babysit her brother so they could toss back a few drinks and pretend they aren't totally drained by that shitty thing called being adults.
Sarah summons Jareth, a warlock with a very prominent pants bulge (whose makeup rivals Mark Hamill's in the Star Wars Holiday Special), along with a whole mess of Jim Henson puppets, by wishing he would kidnap her baby brother. Jareth takes the baby and tells her that if she wants him back, she'll have to make it to the castle at the center of the Labyrinth in under 13 hours. Now, all of a sudden, Sarah stops Shakespearean screaming and hating on everything. She, without any sort of amazed, frightened, or intrigued reaction, says, "Come on feet, let's go."
What's even weirder here is that based on what we've seen of Sarah up to this point, why would she even step into that maze? She's displayed zero sense of loyalty, bravery, or compassion. I'd buy it from her if she scoffed, grabbed a copy of Seventeen, and was basically like, "Let the parents hit that maze. Their baby, their problem." I'd also buy it from her if she saw Jareth, threw him onto her parents' bed, and took a ride to the bone zone on that sweet Dance Magic Bulge. This reaction would be very realistic and acceptable. I know many a girl who at 15 would have performed similar actions. Hell, I'd even take it if she suddenly changed her tune and screamed at Jareth that she was speaking out of anger, that she didn't mean what she said and he needed to give her back her baby brother right goddamn now.
But absolutely nobody would look out their regular-ass suburban window, see their world transformed into a magical castle and labyrinth, and basically roll their eyes and go, "Fine. I guess I'll go," and then walk through the scenery with the same lack of enthusiasm as a community college freshman on her way to Bio Lab. Especially during the dungeon scene, in which Jareth shows up out of nowhere, leans on the wall like a cool dude trying to impress a girl, and says, "So, how do you like my Labyrinth?" and Sarah, with a bored expression, says, "It's a piece of cake." I swear, she was seconds away from saying, "Pfft, it's OK, I guess. You know, for a boring-ass Labyrinth." It makes sense that in a world of goblins and monsters, the strongest reaction we get from Sarah is during her visit to the fart swamp.
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