When David and I started on this video project, knew we wanted to work with Girlfight. We weren’t sure what exactly we wanted to say. Neither of us particularly liked the movie. I found the writing and structure to be extremely weak, and the characterization fell completely flat.
At some point I said: “It frustrates me that just about every movie featuring a lead woman feels obligated to introduce a romantic interest at some point, even if it’s completely superfluous to plot and character or even contradictory.” (I wasn’t that eloquent, but let’s pretend.)
And our video essay was born. We decided to cut the romance with scenes of Diana training, growing stronger, going after the thing she really wants: to fight. David made the brilliant suggestion of cutting in scenes from Real Women Have Curves – whose throwaway romantic plotline also left me confused and frustrated, because why was it necessary? Ana wanted to prove she’s not like her mother, she’s not going to subject her subjectivity to a man (via marriage), because she’s an independent woman — so she turns around and “breaks” with the mold by pursuing a guy? Inverse relationships don’t break the mold. All it does is assign power (in this case, female subjectivity) to the same indicators (in this case, sex).
Sex and romance are not the only popular indicators of femininity (there’s also proper dress, address, carriage, etc. — the way a woman signifies to the world), but they are the most potent. Frustration and desire is the main conflict in our final video essay. Desire, and the right to be and act accordingly, is a marker of subjectivity. If the question of desire is, “What do women want?” then the romantic subplots in Girlfight and Real Women Have Curves only frustrate the issue. Romance is not what Ana and Diana want. Yet it’s what they get to work with, in their movie narratives — and it’s also what we have to work with in a pop culture held captive by the idea that romance is central to a woman’s being.