Call for Comments: Is Sucker Punch really a bad movie?

“To be frank, the people I’ve run across who’ve come to me and said ‘Sucker Punch is my favorite movie’ are normally angsty teenage girls.”Zack Snyder, 2023

From Monica: In 2011, I was a deeply depressed femme goth who was assaulted by a man, subsequently realized I was gay, tried coming out, and was forced back into the closet by my step-father who sent me to an actual psych ward and put on a bunch of catatonic mood stabilizers. Sucker Punch is also movie about a girl who has been sexually assaulted and forced into a mental asylum by her step-father, where she gets to dress in a bunch of cute goth outfits with her very queer-coded femme friends, and ends with her catatonically lobotomized. The plot of Sucker Punch spoke to me in a very literal way.   

But then I learned a lot of people thought Sucker Punch didn’t have a plot?! In fact, a lot of people thought Sucker Punch was a bunch of empty dance sequences and fight montages at best, and misogynistic, objectifying, exploitive, and gratuitously sexually violent at its worst. It seemed like these same folks might have missed that Sucker Punch was a commentary about the ways blockbusters (especially geek culture blockbusters) treat women—as silly little objects to be violently sexualized because their feelings are hysterical exaggerations, and therefore not valid. Worse, the dismissal of this movie’s intended message as “rape fantasy fembot porn” rather than a condemnation of an industry and a fandom that does not allow for female empowerment inherently perpetuated the problem. Arguably, we’re still very much stuck in it. In 2019, Avengers Endgame tried to prove that Marvel “gets women” by force feeding a girl-power fight sequence into the center of the final Thanos showdown. Or, you can go listen to our entire episode about the internet body shaming the She-Hulk television series.    

Sucker Punch is a pessimistic horror movie about the ways women’s agency is stripped and policed even when we try and make the best of our inescapable situations. It depicts the un-winnable scenario of being criticized for being too sexy or too strong or too femme or too emotional. It’s the Barbie movie monologue, but for folks who like Monster High Dolls and Wednesday Adams. To use Snyder’s own words, “angst” is defined as an unfocused, generalized feeling of dread. Within philosophy, it’s related to existentialism or an unstable sense of identity. Angst holds an inherently dismissive connotation, not unlike women’s hysteria. You know, the oldey-timey gaslighting diagnosis we used to use to force women into asylums for just….having feelings. To this day, I can’t think of another film that has come closer to feeling like I am being represented on screen.

So, if Barbie can gross one billion dollars, maybe we can give Baby Doll her due? This week we’re doing a re-watch of Sucker Punch and we want to know your thoughts! 

17 Comments and 0 Webmentions for “Call for Comments: Is Sucker Punch really a bad movie?”

  1. Suckerpunch is one of my favorite movies. I still rewatch it pretty frequently. I think it says a lot about female power fantasies under patriarchy that an audience might find silly or even unrealistic or “for the male gaze”, but it has a lot in common with the kind of feminism we see in Sailor Moon or early Wonder Woman comics. I’m not gonna rehash Berlatsky here, but his chapter on Wonder Woman 16 pretty much sums up my thoughts?

  2. It’s been a very long time since I’ve seen it, but I had a strong negative reaction to this movie at the time. The abuse narrative didn’t resonate with me in a positive way, but rather struck me as disturbing and depressing. HOWEVER – there’s enough going on I can totally see someone having a different or opposite reaction, depending on what they chose to focus on. But for me personally, recalling this movie makes me a bit queasy. One of those things.

  3. Legitimately the worst movie I’ve ever seen and I’ve watched seventy Amityville movies. It feels like watching someone play a video game instead of an actual narrative and that’s being exceedingly generous.

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