‘Discombobulated’. It’s a fun word to say, and apparently, was the feeling in the writers’ room when Charlies Angels was being developed.
Rebooting the original 1970’s TV show (again), 2019’s Charlies Angels sees a global cohort of female spy agents come together to protect a systems engineer named Elena, after she blows the whistle on a dangerous new technology. Elena (Naomi Scott) has had enough of her smarmy boss, and under the tutelage of Sabina (Kristen Stewart) and Jane (Ella Blainska), will learn to defend herself with cool tricks and gadgets like the rest of the Angels.
As soon as it opens, a glammed up Sabina looks straight into the camera declaring, “I think women can do anything”. And after that, comes the revelation that this movie only got greenlit because of the current political climate. Not for its writing, plot, or ground-breaking take on a classic.
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To be a female reviewer with a less-than-favourable opinion of Charlies Angels feels almost against the rules. Women can do good comedy, and our sisterhood is worth celebrating on screen; but Charlies Angels just doesn’t do us justice.
In wanting to show the diversity of its characters, it ends up making them feel like they’re in three separate movies; Sabina’s focused on her bleached boy-cut and clothes, Jane’s about the mission, and Elena’s just hoping for an invite to the table. Although they’d like you to believe they’re #squadgoals, their friendship is lacklustre.
A Movie That Tries Too Hard…
Sadly, Charlies Angels also feels the need announce its own ‘woke approach’ to women’s issues along the way (the opening quite literally, is only the beginning). Mentions of bra problems and feminine hygiene products are used as if to prove it’s really a movie championing women. Unfortunately, these tropes only reinforce stereotypes about what makes us female, earning more eye rolls than laughs. The audience was audibly deadpan.
“Charlies Angels bolsters a trend emerging in ‘feminist films’…where, if we can be patronising, heavy-handed and inattentive to the opposite sex, we’ve somehow won.”
Surely we can get to a point were movies with a meaning don’t have to spell it out along the way? If you show us a woman being strong, we’ll believe woman are strong. If you show us a woman leading an effective team, we’ll believe woman can lead.
Charlies Angels bolsters a trend emerging in ‘feminist films’ that the ideal for women is to be able to mistreat men and be aggressive like the worst of them, and call it equality. If we can be patronising, heavy-handed and inattentive to the opposite sex, we’ve somehow won.
…But At Least it Shows Women Have Choice
The more valuable message in Charlies Angels though, is that an empowered woman is a woman with choice. Sure, Sabina says it means she can wear high heels and manipulate men, or be a ground-breaking scientist, but the point is, she gets to choose.
Women are strong, we do have agency and we can make proactive choices about the direction of our lives. But, as we gain the attention and support of people, what are we going to point them to?
In Galatians the Bible says, “It’s for freedom that Christ has set us free”. That freedom Christ gave us, isn’t a freedom from respecting one another—it’s so that we can be for one another. The passage continues: “Freedom means that we become so completely free of self-indulgence that we become servants of one another, expressing love in all we do.”
If you really want a movie that’s going to teach girls to believe in themselves and love others, skip Charlies Angels and go for Ride Like a Girl, Hidden Figures, Pitch Perfect, or dare I say it, Spice Girls The Movie.
Charlies Angels is in cinemas now.