Not Without my Daughter’s Hymen

24 02 2009

I’m not big on movies. Really, really not big on movies. Saying that I’m not a movie buff is sort of like saying Stalin wasn’t really a people person. An understatement. On anybody’s list of Great Cinema, I’ve probably seen one out of maybe 10 or 15, and even then I was simultaneously playing very competitive game of Scrabble, Twittering, and trying to assemble a bookshelf from Ikea, in the dark.

But, Internet, this economy is not just going to reach around and stimulate itself, so this weekend I ponied up and bought a ticket to Taken, the Jack Baueresque action flick featuring everybody’s secret boyfriend Liam Neeson.

The plot is pretty straightforward: Retired superspy (Neeson) is trying to build a relationship with his 17-year-old daughter, much to the chagrin of her ice queen mother and mom’s wealthy new husband. Daughter goes to Paris, daughter is abducted by sex traffickers, Dad flies to Paris and uses his mad spy skills to save the day. Daughter is saved, mom is grateful, scores of bad guys die in grisly and intensely satisfying ways (and if you think any of that constitutes a spoiler, well, you see even fewer movies than I do).

Fine. Good. It’s an action movie. BUT, oddly, Taken left me with a lingering sense of discomfort, and I think I know why. The producers of the film went to near-exhaustive lengths to first inform and then remind us again and again that Kimmy, the daughter, was a virgin. From her wardrobe of jumpers, jean jackets and sneakers more suited to a 7-year-old than a high school senior to Kimmy’s squealing glee at receiving, yes, a pony for her birthday to the repeated references to her ‘first time’ in future tense, the message is agonizingly clear: Virgin. Virgin, virgin, virgin.

What Taken implies is that this young woman’s assault, kidnapping, trafficking and ultimately systematic sexual abuse would have somehow been less awful, and her plight less sympathetic, had she been sexually active in the first place. Case in point, about halfway through the movie, Neeson is in a grimy makeshift brothel, searching for his daughter. Instead, he finds Amanda, Kimmy’s much more overtly sexual friend who brought her to Paris in the first place. Amanda is handcuffed to a bedpost, beaten and dead. Without pausing even a beat, Neeson and the film move on. Amanda was a slut; she got hers. Point taken.

The writers go so far as to make clear that even in the time between her abduction and when Dad swoops in to save the day, Kimmy isn’t raped; i.e., her purity isn’t compromised. It’s honestly not clear whether Dad is on a mission to save his beloved daughter or on a Sharia-esque crusade to salvage her honor. Ultimately Kimmy is snatched (heh) in the nick of time, just before she’s deflowered by the lecherous (and, naturally, Arab) Sheik and swept back to the safety of Beverly Hills, honor intact.

Now, of course I’m not saying Kimmy isn’t a sympathetic character or that any father worth his salt wouldn’t go to the absolute ends of the earth to prevent his daughter from being raped. But I do disagree with, and was more than a little upset by, Taken’s assertion that only “good girls” deserve to be saved.




12 responses

24 02 2009
Jim Cobb

Stephenie, I’m a fanboy of yours, keep up the excellent writing-


24 02 2009

You don’t go to the movies for so long, and when you finally do it’s to see Taken? Really?

24 02 2009
Donna Cook

great review, interesting insights

24 02 2009

I saw the movie too and my impression was very different (although the birthday scene was predictable and nauseating). Your review & summary seems to have missed a couple of relevant points. The abductors deliberately target pretty, females travelling alone, so as to turn them into willing prostitutes – accomplished by getting the girls addicted to drugs so that will do anything (prostitution) to get their next fix. the fact that they are travelling means that there is less chance that someone will report them missing fo r afew days or even weeks. The significance of the virginity is that it is a commodity to be valued. This does not mean that non-virgins are less important to us as society but in the pretext of the movie, they are a greater value because some people value and/or have a religious imperative for uncontaminated or unadulterated (quite an appropriate word) women who, in some cultures, are second or even third class citizens. This religious imperative is not reflected in other conduct, such as drinking alcohol, never-the-less, it does exist.

One more point, which is very relevant, the female slave trade, including the desire for virgins is a very real scenario. It does happen, just as is portrayed and is big business, especially in Eastern Europe.

24 02 2009

Funny that Potluck tells you that you “missed some points” while simultaneously misses your point entirely.

24 02 2009

I think Potluck answers to that in that the situation for value in sex slaves was appropriate wrt as much real life as can be sunk in one of these movies. I felt that the father was absolutely obsessed with his daughter to the point of fault. He was right, in the movie, but I think the movie portrayed him as much the flawed hero* with his obsession and paranoia. I think that shadow movie was interesting.

I’d also say that society IRL places very little value on “virgins.” Our kids are sexed up young with low-slung jeans for aged 9. The only odd thing about the movie, imo, is that there was a character portraying a Virgin in it. And even then, if I remember, it steered clear of literally stating it.

*his obsession as the flawed hero I think answers his lack of interest in the “slut.”

24 02 2009

Is it wrong for a father to be obsessed with his child’s well being?

Neeson was deliberately mis-lead by his wife and daughter regarding the trip. Amanda mis-lead the daughter and was in reality had a typical, naive “spring break holiday” type of attitude.

The Neeson’s character in the movie ignores Amanda precisely because she is not his daughter, she is dead (and so has no information to share) and she was instrumental in getting his daughter into a very dangerous situation.

With regard to his attitude toward death and killing? Well, when people become repeatedly exposed to death and dead bodies, they become ‘hardened’ to it. I can speak from experience because I am an emergency room RN, formerly a paramedic. There is rarely something I have not seen or been involved with and, for the most part, I just get on with it as that is my job. I have to ‘turn off my human-ness’ and try to help the person that is on the gurney (or was in the street/car under the subway train/burnt etc) or I would be unable to function. There are situations which are pretty devastating, particularly when they involve babies or children, but one has to deal with them and then attend to the ‘self first-aid’ after the adrenaline has worn off. the relevance of my history is purely that we are given vague implications that Neeson’s character was a government ‘problem solver’ (with no clarification). We could assume he had a very violent background but we don’t know.

I do know that my family means every thing to me and that I would do anything in my power to protect them or rescue them – clearly I wouldn’t have the skills or contacts of Neeson’s character but I would do what I could.

Anyway, analysis apart, not being able to get to the movies much because I have a 6 month old son, means that when I saw this I was pleasantly entertained, just as I would with any other action adventure movie that i didn’t have to think too much about!

25 02 2009
Brian Dunbar

Amanda is handcuffed to a bedpost, beaten and dead. Without pausing even a beat, Neeson and the film move on. Amanda was a slut; she got hers. Point taken.

People will see what they want to see.

1. Neesen’s character also ignored a whole bunch of other girls, who were not dead. Were they sluts or good girls in a bad place? We don’t know.

2. The character is a focused individual with good ignoring skills and the ability to focus like a laser on the task at hand.

Amanda is dead. He doesn’t know the other girls. Some important people in the French government are on the take, and the local gendarmes might be as well – the State is not going to help.

There might well be a scene on the cutting room floor where he made an anonymous call to a tv station or a friendly cop – but we can see that might have slowed the movie down: it’s an action film not a procedural.

25 02 2009

Great blog and interesting post! I haven’t seen this movie, but I think the points you brought up are definitely worth thinking about.

13 03 2009

WHOA!! I won’t be seeing this film any time soon…thanks for the review.

16 03 2009

I agree with your analysis of this film. When Neeson came upon his daughter’s friend, I remember wondering why he didn’t try to get her body. The scene at the end, where he introduces his daughter to Britney Spear’s equivalent surprised me. I fully expected that they were going to Amanda’s family to give them some closure. This was a loose end that wasn’t adequetly dealt with IMO. On another note….I may wait until I’m 40 to visit Europe with another girlfriend!

12 05 2009
no one you know

Agree with some above that the references to virginity are essential to the plot: the bad guys cared that she was a virgin so it was necessary to establish that she was. IMO this was a little clumsily done but so were a lot of other pieces of dialogue in this movie; and I thought so before reading this review. They kind of pushed aside consistent dialogue quality in favor of spending time getting the action scenes right.

Also, he _did_ look very sad when finding Amanda dead; they made that clear. But he had so little time to find his daughter, she couldn’t help and he couldn’t do anything for her, so his (as others said) laser-like focus turned again after a few moments to finding Kim.

Another, very simple, reason for Dad’s getting her out “just in time” is that had she been raped, the movie wouldn’t have had such a clear-cut, unsullied (no pun intended) happy ending for her. He saved his daughted in every possible way: not addicted to heroin, not raped, not mutilated, alive and well.

I think it’s interesting, though, that you’re focusing on the sexuality to the exclusion of the other possible violations of/attacks on his daughter. Wonder why that’s the one that bothers you.

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