You Don’t Have To Make Something Perfect To Love It: Pacific Rim Isn’t a Feminist Movie

I’ve recently seen a lot of hub-bub about why you should like Pacific Rim (and Mako specifically) because it actually, really, honestly is a feminist movie, despite its lack of female characters.

Personally, I don’t like Mako. I think she’s basically furniture. She spends most of the movie being lectured or unconscious. She does one really hard-core fighting scene, which Del Toro later suggested was a stand-in for a sex scene. Ew.

She basically could have been replaced by a lamp because, as we learn later in the movie, the drift compatibility rules don’t actually freaking matter.

“Why are you holding me?” “Well, climactic things are happening so you’re probably going to pass out.”

But, whatever, this isn’t about the movie. This is about the response to the movie, because no one can deny it wasn’t a very feminist movie. There are two named women in it. Two. One of them doesn’t even get to talk. It spectacularly fails the Bechdel Test, which requires that there are two women, they talk to each other, and that conversation is about something other than a man.

Okay, so the movie failed that test. Here’s where it gets problematic. Suddenly I see all these articles and comments that, well, the Bechdel Test is inadequate. We need a different test, or we need to count other things.

I agree the Bechdel Test isn’t perfect, but it highlights a visual inadequacy that underscores the million other little inadequacies blatantly present in the film industry. Women simply don’t appear in film in proportion to our numbers in the real world. When you have giant fighting robots, their exclusion seems even weirder. None of the normal women-in-combat stereotypes seem to apply.

The problem is, you can’t eliminate a test because a movie you like doesn’t pass it. At some point it’s better for everyone to admit that a movie can be good, even great, and still be problematic.

When I get in debates about the Bechdel Test people will often say something along the lines of “well this eliminates classic movies!”

No. It doesn’t eliminate anything. Being critical of a movie, and seeing where the writing and characters fall short, does not eliminate that movie. Thinking and talking about the weaknesses in a piece does not mean you have to stop loving it.

So quit throwing out the traditional definitions of feminism in order to make Mako into a super-hero. She isn’t, and she doesn’t have to be, because you’re allowed to enjoy flawed things.

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