Until the last few minutes of “Wild Things”, I couldn’t understand how it was a girl power movie. I cringed every time Kelly was on screen. She embodies everything we have been criticizing about women in popular culture this semester. Her only positive “quality” is her beauty. Her self-worth is based entirely on the love and attention of a man for whom she is willing to throw everything away, including her reputation and her relationship with her mother. She is too stupid to realize that he is has no long-term interest in her.
When I watched Suzie and Kelly hookup in the pool, I felt that I was being forced to take on a male gaze. My mom, who I was watching the movie with, actually said, “The director of this movie must be male.” The scene felt like something straight out of a pornography film. Two girls are fighting in a pool, and then start hooking up. It’s a classic male fantasy trope. Even worse, the police officer is watching the whole thing and videotaping it, thus reinforcing the idea of the male gaze and the pornographic theme. How could a movie with a scene straight out of an adolescent male fantasy be a girl power film, I asked myself.
In the last scene, it all became clear. I found myself cheering when Suzie poisoned Mr. Lombardo. The scene then flashes back to how Suzie manipulated the entire situation. It goes back to previous moments and gives us a completely new perspective on the entire plot. Bizarrely enough, I was empowered watching Suzie’s evil brilliance. It’s interesting, because we spend the movie hating Mr. Lombardo–and yes, he is a despicable man–but Suzie is the real villain. She steals money from Kelly’s mother and kills Mr. Lombardo just because he didn’t come visit her in juvenile detention. Despite the fact that I hated Mr. Lombardo for what it turns out Suzie was doing, I didn’t hate Suzie when I found out that she was the real perpetrator. Perhaps it is because my identity as a strong, independent woman had been threatened by the film as I saw Kelly and Suzie seemingly toyed with because of the greed of a heartless, pedophilic teacher. When I found out that Suzie was the real manipulator, I felt relieved. Women had been restored to their proper, girl power place, using men to their advantage and then disposing of them for more important things like success (in Suzie’s case, financial success). The fact that we have no idea “Wild Things” is a girl power movie until the last few minutes makes that final message all the stronger, because the girl power identity has been threatened.