The Moya View

“Damsel” Isn’t in Distress

Damsel is probably the best of a trio of feminist Westerns to grace the big and small screen this year. Woman Walks Ahead, where Jessica Chastain serves as a witness  narrator to the death of Sitting Bull and the end of the Western’s idea of the blood thirsty Indian; and the Netflix’s series Godless, about a town of Western widows who must defend themselves from evil corporate profiteers led by Emmy nominated Jeff Daniels are the others.

Damsel makes a nod to the #metoo movement and kills off the cliché that damsels in distress need to be saved. In fact, the men who go on a journey to save her are the ones who are quickly dispatched. Co-director and screenwriter Nathan Zellner and Robert Pattinson make extended cameos as two men with wrong headed notions of what a woman wants and needs. The good fool preacher character (David Zellner, the other directing half), the only man with a non rapacious design, is quickly disabused of matrimonial intentions by a well aimed heroine’s stone toss to his forehead.

Penelope (Mia Wasikowska) is the woman who firmly established her personal boundaries to a manly world. In her world, a man is an unneeded plot device.
The constant flipping of Western conventions gives Damsel its comedy, drama and narrative impetus. Damsel works through its Western illusions and disillusions to establish its own genre identify.





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