Final Paper: Zero Dark Thirty, Legally Blonde and Ideology

There is a common view that many people have on gender roles and what it means to have a female protagonist in a movie. The character must save the world but not compromise her beliefs or be too manly in her actions in doing so.  She must maintain her girly self and show a lot of emotion doing so because that is the idea of how women work in the male dominant society.  Shockingly enough that is a pretty long stretch then the lack of feminism in movies meant fifty or sixty years ago.  Then it was even worse ideals about women that they were just their for the house work or to be the damsels in distress. Well with the advancements of those ideals in the newer movies come two films that are part of this evolution of the film.  Legally Blonde and Zero Dark Thirty both deal with a main female protagonist character in her fight for justice and against the “man” that holds her down and does not believe in her like she deserves to be thought of.  Legally Blonde is about a sorority girl named Elle Woods who has those basic stereotypical ideals that a sorority girl is thought to have; she wants a very smart and very rich husband who she would just live happily ever after with.  However her idea of life changes as she loses her boyfriend and then attends law school to get him back, but she realizes that law is really her passion and ultimately saves an innocent victim. Zero Dark Thirty is about a female protagonist named Maya who really feels she has one purpose and that is to find and kill Osama bin Laden. She acts in a sort of heartless manner on her pursuit to find him but in the end she succeeds and there is one shot of her just showing a nice smile on the plane knowing that her job was done, and well done at that. Both movies are centered on a strong female character who has a purpose and although those purposes are different they are both defying the ideology of what it means to be a woman in cinema in this day and age, and both movies address this issue as they go along.

            Legally Blonde deals with the issues of ideology and what women should and shouldn’t do in a way where the director shows both sides of what the ideal female character should be in that situation to society and what the strong independent feminist character would do.  The audience gets to see a stereotypical girl gain values that make her an independent character and not the pretty airhead that society is pushing her to be.  In the beginning she has basic wants and needs, she does not feel like she needs to do anything other than just be whom she is and to soon get married.  It is the ideal sorority girl mind set, but as the time progress and she gets into law school she realizes that being a pretty girl makes it hard for her to get men, or anyone really, to take her seriously, so she can get he point across.  After finding this out she decides to change everything she is to be taken more seriously, but the issue with that is that she loses herself.  She cannot find where the depiction of the sorority girl ideals ends and where the real Elle Woods’s values begin, so she has to find them along the way.  The way the movie goes about showing her struggles with the ideals of pretty women in this field by demonstrating that one of Elle’s professor does not take her seriously to the point that he makes a move on her and treats her like a sexual object that he only hired to look pretty and maybe get a few sexual favors out of.  She is heart broken because all she wants is a chance to be a good lawyer, which is something that she is surprisingly good at.  She gets through it and saves the day the day while still remembering her girl ideals and how to stay herself through everything.  The end of the movie was actually written in later because the authors originally have her kissing the boy and ending it there, but it seemed they needed more than that. They needed to let the audience know that Elle finished top of her class and that she got everything she wanted and that the boy could wait (Hersey).

Zero Dark Thirty has a different way of getting the feminist ideals across in a different way than the other movie.  This movie is less centered on the fact that Maya is a female and centered on the fact that she has a purpose and a strong one at that.  She has no other thoughts on her mind then trying to get one man and bring the world to justice.  With a director like Kathryn Bigelow, who is defined “first by her gender and second by what she puts on the screen”(Barnes) this movie is sure to have some parts where the gender of the character really stands out in a way where the character is not much different from most other film just the gender has changed.  This is where critics start to say that the character is to masculine with her lack of feeling and so on, but just because there are these ideals of women having story moral compass for anything does not change the fact that women are not actually made that way.  She has her own ideals of what is right and wrong and they don’t fit into the ideology that women have today.  She is fine to participate in the torture methods that the real life government were not pleased we mentioned in the film (Kaminski), but not only did she help with them she was apart of them.  The only part of this character that stands out from any other character in this type of film is her gender and what it means to be a woman in this field of work.  Women are not take seriously unless they prove their selves worthy which is exactly what she did, which shocks many critics and makes them complain about minor things when the film is just going against a few ideologies.

The two films seem to challenge the ideology, but it seems that Zero Dark Thirty is much better at in than Legally Blonde.  Zero Dark Thirty shows a completely different side of feminism than seen in recent years.  The character Maya does not have these desires to shop like Elle does and she does not mess around when it comes to work.  She feels like she has a purpose and she is going to do what she has to do; she has no need for anything else.  While Elle on the other hand keeps the ideal wants of that sorority girl, but has more values to keep her head level.  Both women stay who they truly are, but Elle is a dynamic character while Maya is more static in her efforts.  Elle brings everything she was to the table and is more of the ideal Hollywood heroin. Maya is stubborn and has a strong head on her shoulders and she does not value the trivial things that Elle does.  Their approaches to challenging ideology are different all together, but they both have a strong point to get across that women are just as powerful as men.  They are not all about their hair and looking good and focusing material things when it gets down to it both women are insanely passionate for what they do and they do not let anyone forget it for a second.  These women defied ideals that would shock those of generations past, but it is just another step towards gender equality.

Both movies are great representations of challenging ideology in modern cinema that is a new way of thinking.  Both women are strong, stubborn and ridiculously determined to prove themselves and get their work done. Elle and Maya both work against their limitations they face with their gender and fight to show that they are worth something to the world, a lot more than they are given credit for.  Although they are both in fields where they are the minority gender they prove that they are good enough to be up their with the men going through even more struggles than any man in that field would have to.  They are both inspirations that will shape new ideals for women to come. 


Barnes, Brooks. “An Enigma Poised in the Shadow of a Spotlight.” International Herald Tribune. 02 Jan 2013: 10+. SIRS Renaissance. Web. 15 Dec 2013.

Hersey, Eleanor. “Love and Microphones: Romantic Comedy Heroines As Public Speakers.” Journal of Popular Film & Television (Vol. 34, No. 4). Winter 2007: 149-158. SIRS Renaissance. Web. 15 Dec 2013.

Kaminski, Matthew. “The Art and Politics of ‘Zero Dark Thirty’.” Wall Street Journal. 16 Feb 2013: n.p. SIRS Renaissance. Web. 15 Dec 2013.




 Inception is definitely a new blockbuster film that depicts a lot of what modern cinema and what it will becomes.  The new technology they used made a lot of scenes more glamorous like the staircases going on and on, and other things like that which they spent a lot of money advertising for.  This was very appealing for viewers and they wanted to see more of that because it never really existed before. Another aspect of the film that made it more modern is the ending being so open-ended and not quite complete. It was a different way of concluding the movie that is not seen very often in older film.


Chicago 10

The main theme of Chicago 10 is the exploitation of the American counterculture in the late 1960’s.  Morgan decides the counterculture should be identified with, with how he portrays the Yippies in the film, putting them in a positive light different from many other filmmakers about this time. He keeps it very light-hearted when the Yippies where against the cops making them the chosen group for the audience to really relate to and side with against the cops.  The whole movies portrayal of the counter culture really shows the directors view of how all of the events in that time period went down.

Documentaries display an event in history it is no made up event that is possible to happen. Voice-overs are very common in what happened during the time the events happened, which is an element Morgan put in to Chicago 10. Another element of documentaries are people from the events talking about what happened there and what was going through their mind when all of the events take place, like “talking heads”. Morgan did this with the animation and the real life footage like clips from speeches and such.  This informs the audience about the Yippies and their battle with the cops in a way that has never really been done before cinematically.

Documentaries usually hone in on events that directors try to enlighten the community with a new way of thinking about that specific topic, doing so by explaining events and showing how they actually happen. Chicago 10 takes this definition differently than many other films do. To tell the story of the ‘pigs’ vs. the Yippies during the Vietnam War, he uses mostly animated characters for his roles and some live footage.  Instead of real people to act out the trials and such they use the animated characters. It is sort of distracting to see the animated characters stand in for real people and less relatable for the audience when animated characters are involved.

Three Experiment Films

Much like my previous blog post, Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Film has a large theme of women ideals and feminism.  The women are portrayed as barbie dolls to show the constant physical issues women deal with each day. Barbie dolls were created to be the ideal women when in actuality it is not only impossible to look like one in real life it is gross and demoralizing. Still, however, women dream of having this look but are never able to live up to it.  Karen feels so pressured to live up to these standards she takes her weight loss to the extreme and the barbie doll started to literally shave off the pounds.  These ideals could never be lived up to but that was too hard for some women to understand.

Avant-garde film style was evident in all three movies we watched for this week.  This type of film often upsets viewers in a way because the movies do not have straight forward characters or plot lines; they are more vague and harder to really understand.  An Andalusian Dog is put together almost in a narrative form and really emphasizes the unconscious much like a surrealist film. Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story uses dolls to tell the story which makes it a more abstract film and harder to identify to the characters as it would if they used people from Nazi concentration camps.  Meshes of the Afternoon is another surrealist film that focuses on the a dream state with everything happening like it is in a dream. The tree movies all exhibit traits of avant-garde.

All of the character are played by dolls in Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story because it is making a statement about feminism in an artistic way.  Since Karen Carpenter was so idolized as a little girl she felt a constant need to live up to the standards that society put on her, just like many women are when the Barbie doll came out.  The shape of the Barbie doll is an impossible image to live up to that women are constantly compared to and expected to be looking like. The movie used the dolls as characters to make a statement saying thats how she felt at the time and she still wasn’t happy because she still wasn’t skinny enough, so she had to “shave” off the weight. This was an artsy way of giving more meaning to the characters that humans could not exactly bring to the table while filming.  It was a fantastic choice to use dolls in the film.

Zero Dark Thirty

A main theme in the movie, Zero Dark Thirty, is feminism and how the main character, Maya, is a female and she is basically running the show. She is the head person in charge of finding Osama bin Laden and eventually killing him.  It is an action film with a main female character where in most cases it would be a male. It is speaking to the fact that she is just as capable of doing that as a man is and even though everyone is putting her down and not really listening to her, she is actually right and it is shocking to all the men.  At the same time as this a very empowering movie for females, males can still enjoy it just the same and appreciate the acting.  Zero Dark Thirty also has a theme of kind of a genre-mash up where the two genres are drama and action. It is not only one it has characteristics of both and it builds for a better over all movie.

Kathryn Bigelow is often seen as a auteur director meaning she possesses the influence and artistic control of the movie to make it seem as though she is the author of the film. Bigelow really makes the film her own and different than many other films because much like her lead character Maya, she has one purpose in this movie and one purpose only: to find and kill Osama bin Laden in the film. She does not mess around with the back stories of the character she jumps right in to the chase and finds exactly what she needs to let the audience know so she can get on with the film.  She does not take time to celebrate the triumph until the viewer end, when you see Maya smiling to herself on the plane.  She makes it her own movie in this way.

People argue that although this is a feminist movie that the lead female character, Maya, is too much like a man making the feminist argument a moot point.  However, these people are wrong because they do not see that Maya as a character is just a strong human being.  If people are stereotyping Maya to act like “a man” because she does not carry many feelings on her shoulder and she gets to the point, they are missing the point of the movie.  Stereotypes are what brought these people to the assumption that she has masculine traits as a female and it is unfair to say that women cannot still be women while keeping their feeling to themselves. Everyone expresses themselves in a different way so what if she is a female that can only express herself aggressively; it does not take away from the fact that she is a strong female in this field with everyone doubting her. She is a role model for women everywhere that women can be strong and in whatever field of work they so chose, even the “manliest” of fields of work.


One of the major themes in the film, Weekend is a war on classes. The working class and the bourgeoisie are at a constant battle throughout the film but the audience does not understand the struggles enough to understand who to root for in the issue.  Both sides are violent and at different times in the film both sides seem to be at fault.  The two classes have this built up hatred for one another when they are who they are because they were born into that family. After the large fight at the end, however, the two seem to cease fire and begin to bear each other more.

Not only language is a reason that this film may not make sense to many American viewers.  This was a foriegn film that came out in the French New Wave. This type of film is in contrast of a typical American movie. The movie lack cause-and-effect continuity, closure, and plot clarity.  French New Wave movies distance the viewer and do not allow for a character audience that average Hollywood viewers so desperately crave.  The social context of the movie makes it very hard to follow along and really enjoy the film as someone who is used to an average Hollywood movies because I found myself constantly trying to figure out what was going with characters I was not very fond of.

Godard alienates the viewer but making the acting and the characters on relatable.  The acting of the film is never just right for a viewer.  The acting is always off whether it is over exaggerated or over done or making things not that big of a deal or just plain boring sometimes. It is never satisfying to watch so the viewer can not really get into the movie.  they are not rooting for one character during the film they are just trying to see what will happen to all of these characters that they themselves have no strong feelings for. It is an interesting approach that forces the viewer to stay on the outside looking in. This does not happen very often for most Hollywood films and is something that is very hard to get used to in a film.

Far From Heaven

The main themes form Far From Heaven included both heterosexual and white supremacy.  Through out the film the main character Frank is dealing with his built up feeling that he just can’t shake.  He is gay and in that time not only was that not acceptable to most people, but it was thought of as a disease that should be taken care of immediately.  The heartbreak on Cathy’s side may not have been necessary in the first place because if Frank accepted he was gay much earlier on he would not have married Cathy in the first place.  White supremacy plays another large role in the film because when Cathy fall in love with a black men, we see all of her friends that once loved her, turn on her because that is under no circumstances okay to them. White supremacy may even be worse then heterosexual supremacy because in the end at least Frank and his lover got to be together while Cathy and Raymond did not get the same luxury.

Ideology is a set of values, opinions and beliefs and ideology is found all over the place in Far From Heaven. Radical Ideology is seen through the idea of white supremacy and all of the whites sticking up their nose to those of color. Also with these older folks teaching their kids this way just like when Raymond’s daughter was beat up by a bunch of white boys because she was black. Sexuality is another ideology that is seen throughout the film with things such as Franks affair, challenging everyones idea of a perfect home in the 1920’s. The ideology of gender roles also proves it hard for both Frank and Cathy to be in such a relationship; Cathy seems to want more than just to be a housewife and Frank craves something a little different than the average male.

Sexual orientation and race interrelate in Far From Heaven  more than once throughout the film. The way Frank is looked down upon when he first comes out is the same way Cathy is looked down upon by society through the whole movie when she is spending time outside the house with Raymond.  The two have somewhat of equal problems with what they are facing in an interracial relationship and a homosexual relationship.  Even when Cathy is talking to her best friend Eleanor about Franks affair, Eleanor seems to accept it and wants to do what ever she can to help Cathy at the time.  When Cathy mentions spending time with Raymond, though, Eleanor is very quick to judge and get Cathy out of her house.  She is disgusted with Cathy as though she is also in a homosexual relationship as well.  The two are kind of one in the same at this time period.