Monday, May 26, 2014

Cult Status: The Women of Machete Kills

"This dress cost more than your f***ing life!"


Where do you draw the line between extravagant mockery and insulting exploitation? Gratuitously skimpy costumes? A machine gun bra? That thing that Sofia Vergara wore around her crotch, which was supposed to look like something else, that turned out to be a pistol?

To describe Robert Rodriguez's Machete Kills (2013) as "problematic" would be an overwhelming understatement. Whilst watching it, it's difficult not to get distracted from the so-called storyline and drift into an internal debate about which female character (and her costumes) are the most offensive. 

It should come as no surprise that this sequel to Machete (2010), which was hugely disappointing, would be utterly lacklustre as well. What is somewhat surprising, however, is the array of well-known actresses who chose to participate in this abomination.  

Amber Heard plays Miss San Antonio, a secret service agent / spy / assassin (I'm sorry, I wasn't paying attention), posing as a Texan beauty pageant contestant. 

Sofía Vergara is Desdemona, a literal maneater, a madame at a brothel who despises men so much that she either eats parts of their bodies or shoots them with her machine gun bra.

Lady Gaga, unsurprisingly, plays La Camaleón, a hit-man (again, not sure about this one) who changes face and apparently gender whenever he/she is seen.

Then of course there is Michelle Rodriguez's Luz, a.k.a. Shé, the leader of an illegal immigrant aid movement, who wears an eye-patch.

What is interesting, as well as a little unsettling, about all these characters is the question as to whether or not they are intended to be empowering, or if they, much like their costumes, are simply mockery disguised as empowerment. To what degree are these characters and their costumes a reflection of classic tropes of exploitation cinema? Has it been taken too far?

Interesting side note: costume designer Nina Proctor has previously worked on the likes of Grindhouse epics Death Proof (2007) and Planet Terror (2007), as well as the first Machete, and we will next see her work in the upcoming Sin City: A Dame To Kill For. Seems she has a knack for dressing some controversial female characters.




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