Thursday, October 8, 2009

Soundtrack to an Imaginary Women in Prison Film

Deep in the coal black heart of a festering 20th century American city, a pair of mid-level mob enforcers unwind with the company of a semi-cooperative prostitute. After the back-alley lovemaking takes a violent turn, she hastily exits the vehicle with one of the thugs' wallets in tow. Headlights appear in the asphalt's black, rain fed mirrors and the woman is struck down by two tons of smoke belching Oldsmobile.

A week later, one of the perps discovers a surly, bandaged prostitute brandishing a kitchen knife in his apartment. One slit throat later, she is dragged, kicking and screaming into a maximum security women's prison where she must contend with lusty lesbian guards, authoritarian nuns, and those in the employ of the mafia family she unwittingly declared war on.

When the escalating spiral of violence ensnares the daughter she abandoned long ago, she organizes a prison break and, with the help of a faux-naive CIA spook (the dog that walks you), begins systematically burning the city's rotten underbelly to the ground. That is if a certain one-eyed sister of the cloth, determined to save her soul or else, doesn't find her first.

God Help the Girl - God Help the Girl
Blondie - X Offender
PJ Harvey 7 John Parish - Black Hearted Love
The Raveonettes - Here Comes Mary
Loretta Lynn - Rated X*
Blondie - The Hardest Part
Ladytron - Last One Standing
Dirty Elegance - Engloutir
Magneta Lane - Kissing is Easy

*Preferably the Neko Case Cover

It's more of a hybrid rape-revenge/prison story than a true "women in prison" film, but there is only so much plot to be wrung out of such a specific premise. Despite that limitation, I'm shocked that Tarantino or his ilk have yet to give it the post-modern deconstruction treatment. I would also be interested in seeing a feminist upending of the normally exploitative genre. It may not be very relevant in the 21st century, but I still believe there is a rich thematic vein to be mined. (Prison-A-Go-Go! is, sadly, the best we've got at the moment.)

Along the same lines, we need more female anti-heroes. Not just "badasses" or generic video game heroines, but flawed, three dimensional characters. Women in genre films almost always fall into archetypes that either fit neatly within the binary virgin/whore system or are so broadly written that they might as well just be Snake Plissken with tits. (I'm looking at you, Doomsday.)

The hypothetical lead of the above snippet would hopefully fit the bill: a vicious sociopath victimized by current circumstances, but with no one but herself to blame for the lows to which she has already sunk. A doomed noir hero with only a shred of maternal instinct to rally her otherwise selfish quest for revenge around. Otherwise her only redeeming quality being the emotional distance to recognize both the grim inevitabilities of her plight and her personal culpability in its creation. Also she commits many acts of totally awesome violence. In fact, someone should make this the setup for a Grand Theft Auto game; they're about due for a female protagonist. The women in prison section could be the tutorial/character generation bit. Someone please make that.

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