February 7th, 2009

What did you expect? I went to see Coraline on opening night last night. I watched it in 2D, which may have made it less dramatic, but it also made my poor, weak stomach happy. In the overall, I very much enjoyed it, but I can’t say the movie was everything I hoped and dreamed. Here are some elements that stood out:

The handmade aesthetic: It’d be hard not to adore the visuals of Coraline. Every single item in the movie, as production studio Laika proudly proclaims, was made by hand. It gives the film, which already centers around dolls, a visceral, toy-like quality that would be lovely to take in with or without a storyline.

The spider mother: I was happy to see that the image of the overbearing, life-sucking mother as spider, which has popped up time and again in literature and art, got incorporated into the eerie character of the Other Mother. After having ogled at the Louise Bourgeois retrospective at the Pompidou this past spring, I couldn’t help but think of her massive spider sculptures, which hint at the domestic. Interestingly, Bourgeois thinks of the spider, a symbol for her own mother, as a figure of love and protection — one who’d never sew buttons in your eyes.

The vaginal passage: Someone tell me the tunnel Coraline crawls through doesn’t look like an entranceway into the womb of the Other Mother? Anyone?

The unusual bodies: I always appreciate when mainstream movies show women with un-Hollywood proportions, even if those movies are animated. What’s interesting is that it’s not only the funky or evil women — like Coraline’s downstairs neighbors, one incredibly round and the other incredibly large-chested — who have trangressive figures. Coraline’s real mother also sports wide hips that narrow to an unimpressive chest.

The lack of sexuality: It really is disappointing that the movie lacks entirely in sexual tension (except for the brief moments when the Other Father suggests the Other Mother wants to consume her newfound daughter). In all great works of literature — or art, or film — with a young, female main character, a large part of the story’s dynamic comes from the girl’s unspeakable but inevitable entrance sexual maturity, her liminality. Coraline, who has a boring love interest and the body of a stick, might as well be a young boy. Her gender and its uncomfortable implications are left entirely unexplored.

The missing gothic tropes: In many ways, this is a traditional gothic tale. Still, the reason it ultimately falls flat is it’s missing certain literary standbys that help build a sense of the uncanny. Gothic heroines, for example, are almost always missing at least one parent. More importantly, the gothic stands in for the “unspeakable”; the supernatural covers up anxiety surrounding totally natural events, like an affair. Nothing is unspeakable in Coraline. Her parents are too busy for her, but that gets readily recognized and resolved. Where’s the secret? Where’s the story between the lines?

The awesomeness of owning items from the set: I must say, I’m still totally honored to have been sent some of Coraline’s handcrafted props. That little hat she wears out in the rain: that’s on my shelf. Still, I can’t help but wish I got one of the Scotties…

My next step is to go read the book and see which elements come from the original as opposed to the adaptation. Of course, every single copy (except one in Spanish) has been taken out of the San Francisco library system. Not to fear. A Coraline of my own is already sitting on my Amazon wish list — as is Lost Girls, an erotic graphic novel by Alan Moore about Alice from Alice in Wonderland, Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz, and Wendy from Peter Pan. Un-frickin’-believable, right? The book isn’t current in print, but a new edition is being released in April. Little girls in bizarre situations abound!

Tags: movies, reviews

17 Responses to “Coraline: spiders, vaginas, and disappointment”

  1. soulofaqua Says:

    I can’t help but have forgotten everything you said before the title “Lost Girls”…..

  2. Chris Says:

    Perhaps Coraline’s portrayal as “sexless” is a ploy to refocus the story outside of the title character’s body; that is, it doesn’t need to be viewed/read as a “little girl”‘s journey.

    Also, might not the very fact that Coraline resides in such an extraliminal space empower “her”- granting her the authority to choose her own identity refuting the tired dogma of sexual self and gender-based roles?

  3. Stiches Says:

    Get off the feminist soapbox. So there was no sexual tension? Big whoop! The story is almost a perfect adaptation of a novel for CHILDREN. As for your complaining about lack of gothic tropes, have you thought to wonder that everything that its not meant to be that way? Contrary to what Hottopic says, dark aesthetics =/= goth.

  4. 60% of Women Need to Shut the Fuck Up Says:

    What the movie lacks in sexuality, the internet totally makes up for it.

    Here’s a picture to wet your whistle you damn dyke.

  5. Anonymous Says:

    I apologize for my fellow comrades. I don’t really agree with some of your points (for example, I find it refreshing to find a movie that doesn’t have sexuality for a change), but nothing you’ve said is particularly rage-worthy, and much of it is fairly agreeable/

    Really, you don’t deserve the abuse that’s likely to come you way, now that someone has attempted to stir up sentiment against you, for some reason.

  6. annoyed Says:

    you got a piece of the god damned set. shut your mouth and accept it with a smile don’t bitch about not getting what you want. i mean really what are you an 8 year old that that didn’t get what she wanted for christmas?

  7. Nikolai Says:

    you not liking a movie about a little girl because it lacks sexuality is pretty sick. thats the kind of thing i would expect to hear from one of the guys that jerks it to womyn’s gymnastics.

    really, you need to rethink the whole “vaginal passage thing too” you’re worse then my 13 year old son who said “that looks like shes crawling through a butthole” during that scene

    really though this stems from your being a pussyhurt feminist. you can fight for womyn’s acceptance but what you dont know is that as a man i have ALOT less people protecting me and need to work ALOT harder in life.

    it aint the 40s anymore honey, you get alot more privileges than a man does.

  8. Chris Furniss Says:

    Yikes, looks like Bonnie has a fan who likes to use many different aliases!

    I think she has a valid point when it comes to the lack of sexuality in the film. A children’s film *can* have sexuality in it without being completely overt. Sex is a part of life and many great classic children’s books and movies deal with it in some form or another. I haven’t read the Coraline book but I am sure that the movie was toned down from the literary version, so I wouldn’t be surprised if something like that was left out. The problem with shielding children from ALL sexual content (I am not just talking about hardcore porn or whatever, but even the mention of anything remotely sexual) just fetishizes it and confuses them.

    Kids are confused about sex. Especially in this weird world we live in where “role models” such as Hannah Montana exist to show girls that their only lot in life is to doll themselves up and look hot for boys.

    And as for the vaginal tunnel comment… I think it’s a bit of a stretch, but definitely interesting as part of a greater thesis about the symbology in the film. The problem is that I don’t think the film was being overly symbolic, nor do I think it really had a message. It exists to look neat and tell a fun story in my opinion.

    Also, holy shit people can be jerks when they don’t have to say things to your face.

  9. Chris Furniss Says:

    Oh! It’s 4channers making those comments. Don’t worry, Bonnie. Their opinions matter even less now. :)

  10. soulofaqua Says:

    4channer harassment. Proof that you are so cool pitiful people loathe you.

  11. Jinny Says:

    Exactly what Chris and soulofaqua said. :)

  12. DireSloth Says:

    4channers getting you down? Just turn the light on and they’ll scuttle back under the furniture.

  13. Aileen Wuornos Says:

    Fact remains, not one of you can defend her comments without sounding like a complete dumb ass.

    First can I say she gets a fucking prop piece from the movie then complains that it’s not the prop she wanted. Nice. She then dismisses the movie based on her utterly inane standards. I wish I could punch you over standard tcp/ip.

  14. Scott Jon Siegel Says:

    Okay, not to get into this, but you people do realize she actually LIKED the movie, right? Four of the seven points listed were compliments, not criticisms. That’s like, more than half.

  15. Cadallin Says:

    Bonnie, I’m sorry you get so much hate. Point out the obvious and its torches and pitchforks.

  16. Bonnie Ruberg Says:

    A reminder: constructive criticism is welcome. Blind hate gets deleted. Thanks for playing!

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