Okay we have to have a talk about Jupiter Ascending being a “13-year-old girl’s fantasy.” (This is something I’ve heard repeated so many times, on so many posts, it’s just becoming one of those things people copy off each other without thinking about it.)
Lana Wachowski, co-writer and co-director of Jupiter Ascending, does indeed bring the female gaze, but she is not 13. She is 49.
I see a lot of, “Jupiter Ascending is like every 13-year-old girl’s epic ideas! Don’t hate on it, 13-year-old girls are awesome!” 13-year-old girls ARE awesome. But a 13-year-old girl did not have a hand in writing Jupiter Ascending. A 49-year-old woman did. And you know what, 49-year-old women are pretty awesome too.
And, no offense to the creativity of amazing 13-year-olds out there, but Jupiter Ascending was a tighter, more nuanced film than most 13-year-olds would have the experience to pen. The Wachowskis’ age and experience showed itself here–and perhaps even influenced the themes, the value of time and how quickly it goes by no matter how much you have, the desperation to transcend the limits of age and continue to live. These are things you don’t usually think about at 13.
So what exactly was it about Jupiter Ascending that people thought was adolescent?
Well…it was fun. It included some things women and girls might wish for.
If you’re a girl, once you’re over 14, fun isn’t your territory anymore. You don’t get fantasies. You don’t get wish fulfillment. You get a sink full of dishes to wash, apparently. You’re not a secret princess. Grow up.
The Wachowskis were in their late 30s when they made The Matrix–almost the same movie, to be honest. No one asked how many thirteen-year-olds it took to make that. In fact, it was rated R, and many adults were influenced by its serious themes. Jupiter Ascending had serious themes too–instead of the red pill and blue pill, Jupiter chose between a toilet scrubbrush and a scepter–and had to decide which was more worthy, which would make her most herself and most happy with her choices–if the trappings of status had more value to her than a clean conscience, if it was better to dominate or be dominated, and which would leave fewer wounds on her soul. Like with the Matrix, it presented a choice between an ugly but comfortable existence endorsed by the system, and a difficult, impoverished existence outside the system which nonetheless was the only path to freedom.
And, like the Matrix, the hero is helped along on their journey by a very sexy martial artist who seemingly defies gravity, and y’know, gets to hit that after making all the right choices. It’s fun.
But women aren’t allowed to have fun. So when something women might like is fun, we defend it by infantilizing it. Don’t get angry at it, don’t hate it, don’t be threatened by it! It’s only a juvenile, baby 13-year-old fantasy. It’s just very innocent and doesn’t know any better yet. It certainly isn’t the fantasy of a 49-year-old woman who knew exactly what she was doing and liked it!
Jupiter Ascending was radical for a lot of reasons, and one of those reasons is that it wasn’t the fantasy of a 13-year-old girl. It was the fantasy (in part) of a 49-year-old woman. And it was an idfic without shame or self-consciousness or apology. It’s sad that that’s so far out of our usual experience that most of the audience doesn’t even seem to be able to imagine what that might look like, even when it’s right in front of them.
“Okay we have to have a talk…” ©aiffe, originally posted in April 2015