Sunday, 10 April 2011

Sucker Punch as Apocalyptic

I'm convinced that Sucker Punch (yes, the movie) can be read as apocalyptic. On the surface it's easy to see it as a video game, or source material for costuming, or as a trivial action-fest. But it has all the features of apocalyptic literature.

From memory, my preferred definition of apocalyptic is a text written to an oppressed people, from the point of view of a single mediator who collapses the dualism of space and/or time. The text is meant to be encouraging (inspiring?) for the oppressed people, telling them that ultimately they'll have victory.

And if you've seen Sucker Punch, this ought to pop out of the screen at you. The girls in the institution are oppressed by the orderlies (including the crucifixion of lobotomy), making them an ideal community as audience. The mediator is Baby Doll. She's the only one who sees both sides of the dualism (even the multiple layers of the heavenly aspect of the dualism). Through her the heavens are revealed, but they are only directly visible to her. All the action sequences that take the place of the dance scenes are those heavenly revelations. They feature dragons, beasts, fires, wars, earthquakes and other symbols common in apocalyptic literature. At the end of it all, there is a victory (no actual spoilers here), complete with an epilogue of encouragement and inspiration to the fellow characters, and to the cinema audience.

None of this makes the film any better or worse as a film, but it gives a new way of reading the film. Contrary to Christian apocalyptic, in which the "weapons" for Christians are acts of faithfulness and love, in Sucker Punch the weapons are entirely sexual. As Baby Doll dances, she immerses herself into the heavenly world of symbols, but is actually using sexual titillation to fight back against the men who oppress her, manipulating them. On the other side, also, the oppressors use sex as weapons, but sexual violence of forced prostitution. If anything, the message of the film is for the girls who are forced into sex slavery to use their sexuality against their oppressors in order to achieve freedom. Outside the film, this isn't the best way to overcome oppression, but it's within the frame of reference of the film itself.

So Sucker Punch is apocalyptic, quite overtly. I'd love to have the time to analyse it more thoroughly. The symbols of dragons, Nazi clockwork zombies, warrior robots and so on are interesting choices for the men in power (the mayor, the orderlies, the father, etc.). And so is the choice of the old man as angelic messenger who lays out the missions and dispenses wisdom. If you go to see it, watch it as apocalyptic.
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