The Adjustment Bureau – Hollywood sustains patriarchy once again


One of my guilty pleasures is going to the cinema to see something that I definitely won’t like. A bit of a paradox but the best trips to the cinema have been to see films that have annoyed me in one way or another.

For example, a trip to see Dear John with my house mate proved to be one of the best cinema trips I’ve ever been on. Shallow characters  + stupid plot line + Channing Tatum +  sobbing girls = very amusing. Sex and the City 2, not so amusing as depressing, especially as the showing was completely packed full of people who bought the ideologies the film sold.

But I don’t think I’ve come out of a film being more pessimistic that I did coming out of The Adjustment Bureau.

To do a quick summary, the film is an adaptation of Phillip K Dick’s short story, The Adjustment Team. Basically, wanker wannabe senator David Norris falls in love with a a woman called Elise (we don’t know her name for about half of the film) he has known for ten seconds. Literally. David Norris wasn’t meant to meet Elise and a group of primarily white men in suits and ridiculous hats turn up acting a bit macho. They tell David Norris that he was never meant to meet the woman as it wasn’t part of the plan and basically they have control over making sure people live by their fate. They tell the David Norris that if he were to never seen Elise again,they would both achieve success and happiness which comes under the form of being the President for him and being a famous dancer for her. Years pass, David Norris sees Elise again (for about ten minutes). Despite trying to separate them, the adjustment bureau fail to keep them apart. Blah blah blah, a bit of running, a bit of panicking, a bit of sex, then David Norris decides that he will fight his fate by randomly tuning up in Elise’s life (on her wedding day) and there is a bit of an action scene. In the end, the Adjustment Bureau decide because they have proved their love (a sloppy kiss) then fate has been changed. Whallah.Happily Ever After.

A bit of a rough version, but really the plot was so silly that it’s not worth much attention. What is worth attention however, is how the film managed to maintain gender roles and managed to maintain the idea that only men have power.

Perhaps I was naive in being shocked, but the most astounding part of the film  is that Elise is the only female character in the entire film. She wasn’t developed at all, and the most camera attention she received was when David Norris makes a comment about her short skirt and the camera lingers on her thighs for a while.

David Norris, this aggrevating and smarmy politician keeps showing up in Elise’s life on the presumption that she ‘loves’ him as much as he ‘loves’ her. He disregards her feelings in this, treating her like a passive object, and she is portrayed in the film as a feeble woman who buys into his false promises and falls at his feet when he returns having not kept them.

The Adjustment Bureau continually tell David Norris to basically get over her, and tell him that there are many other women in the world who he can have his pick from. What do we learn from this? That the purpose of women is to be at the disposable of men who are the only ones to choose their partners.

And obviously, all of the politicians in the film are men and all of the members in the Adjustment Bureau are men. The only other women we see in the film are women in stereotypically feminine roles – dancers, secretaries and mothers. The Adjustment Bereau simply seems to be a perfect reflection of patriarchy – that men are at the top and the women are the second sex – not worthy to be in any kind of powerful position.

Not to mention, the ideology at play when the Adjustment Bureau tell David Norris that he is set to become President and her a famous dancer. I mean, fair enough, we all have our hopes and dreams, I’m not judging the fact that the character wanted to be a dancer. My problem is that in the film, that is the all she is allowed to be. Her role is to be stereotypically feminine.

Jumping slightly to near the end of the film, David Norris, in an attempt to win the ‘love of his life’,  barges in on her in the women’s toilets before her wedding, spews out some illogical crap about the adjustment bureau, expects her to buy it within five seconds and drags her across New York. And I mean, drags her:

All the while, the audience are left laughing at the woman for not getting the idea of the Adjustment Bureau in five seconds, which has taken David Norris an hour and a half to figure out.

The film definitely didn’t adjust anything, it just sustained the idea that men are more powerful and superior to women and gender equality really isn’t up there in Hollywood priorities.

It’s worrying to know that a business that claims to be state of the art is still living in the Middle Ages. No wait, women are still oppressed, nothing’s changed.

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