Went and saw Gravity. A great movie, exciting adventure, visuals so pretty I might go see it again just to gawp at it; pleasantly on the realistic end of the Hollywood realism spectrum.


There are basically two characters in this movie: the three-days-to-retirement Experienced Astronaut and the science-ballast Mission Specialist.

Now, the Experienced Astronaut is cool in all situations. This EA reacts to everything with dispassionate reason and expertise, makes all the right decisions, is willing to die to save the lives of others, and doesn’t even get winded. A perfect NASA advertisement, this astronaut: imperturbable, jocular and professional.

(The EA even does this: one guy admits making a mistake, and the EA says nah, not your fault, would have happened anyway. Which, to me, always seems to imply that if you don’t blame yourself you’re arrogant and then it was your fault. Arrgh.)

The Mission Specialist, on the other hand, spends half the movie gasping, squealing in terror, curling into a fetal ball, giving up, colliding into things, and generally acting the part of the emotional rookie that just barely keeps alive. This MS has science smarts, allegedly, but they’re useless: the flight simulator flunking, heavy-breathing, arms-flailing MS is dead unless the rugged, practical EA is there to tell the MS what to do.

And if the EA should die so the MS might live, why, the MS’s subconscious will use a hallucination of the EA to give the MS advice. Because the MS just needs the guidance of a strong, unemotional hand.

Also, the MS character is written to have a dead child in the backstory. The EA has an ex-wife and lots of stories; a life busily lived. The MS has this dead child and that’s all that defines the MS.

Well, that and the sense that the MS is fleeing personal demons into space; it would be better for the MS to just go back down and abandon these lofty pursuits which are much better suited to rugged practical unemotional people like the EA.

The voice of the EA is an amusing anecdote or a wise command. The voice of the MS is a panicky mantra or a wail of despair. We stick close to the MS to see all of the fear and anxiety. We keep a respectful distance to the EA, who has everything under control.


Consider these two roles, the Experienced Astronaut and the Mission Specialist. Then ask yourself, what the fuck were the makers of this movie thinking when they made the EA a man, and the MS a woman? Didn’t it strike their minds that this might be one of those, what were those, one of those stereotype things?

I understand that in the past both would have been men; but even then, I think they couldn’t have made the MS-not-Ms. such a sack of emotions. Not manly enough, you see. And a man obviously couldn’t have had a backstory that was all about children. Maybe a girlfriend; that would have been okay.

And let me note that the last third of the movie, where Ryan Stone became competent, was the best third. The first was Ryan Stone hyperventilating, and the middle third was Ryan Stone floating inside the ISS, alternately presenting her tits and her ass at the camera.

Here’s an idea: go see Gravity and imagine the genders of the two main characters are switched. Assess the probability of that movie being made, and despair.

I liked Gravity, I will probably go and see it again, and this was one of those things that get stuck in your head when you’re watching a movie, but oh what I wouldn’t give to change the roles of the two actors, or even to make both of them women.

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