Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Host

The movie The Host, is based on the novel of the same name by Stephine Meyer. An alien race has invaded the earth.  The aliens do not seek to live peaceably with humans and instead take up residence inside of human bodies.  They then go on to completely clean up the earth, which was dying because of human neglect and greed. The aliens view humans as volatile and justify their enslavement of humanity based on their supposedly more moral way of living and interacting with others.

Movies and books are two very different kinds of arts.  A writer has a far greater ability to make many in depth points in a book whereas; movies quite often are forced into a position of making a point quickly without much nuance.  The Host essentially told the story as written by Stephanie Meyer without any analysis or nuance, thus making if fall flat. What we are left with is a doe eyed protagonist who is all about peace, love and getting along. It's boring and uninspiring.

In the book,  everyone on earth has a job and are allowed to pursue the calling that best suits them.  Everyone takes their turn cleaning the streets and doing menial tasks, that allow the environment to be clean.  If one is hungry, it is a simple matter of going into a grocery store and taking the food items that are needed off of the shelves.  If one is sick, it is a simple matter of traveling to a healing center to be cured and no cost is ever incurred for treatment. Both men and women work, though women or at least human women, remain subservient to males.  Sports are played without violence and at the Olympics, everyone is given an award.  There is no war and there is no violence. In the movie, we do see Wanda enter a store and take what she needs, as well as borrow a car by simply asking but these scenes alone are not enough to portray the message that Meyer tried to convey in the novel. By removing the class analysis, the movie removed the most compelling aspect of The Host.

When Wanda first arrives at the human compound, she was hit repeatedly.  Though the first time she is slapped, it's by her aunt, much of the violence she suffers is at the hands of men.  It is justified because they see her as the alien, the other. Wanda only stops being beaten when she shows them that she is gentle and even demur.  It reads as her conforming to patriarchal understandings of femininity and thus being rewarded.  In one scene, the human rebels begin to fight and instead of being proactive and trying to escape, Wanda turns herself over and allows herself to be strangled with no attempt to defend herself. Even more problematic, when Wanda is removed from the human body she was inhabiting, she is placed into the body of a woman who is even smaller, thus placing her passive personality into an even more vulnerable body.

In the novel, there were no characters of colour and no GLBT characters. The movie did however include characters of colour.  They were seekers, healers and of course human rebels.  The largest change was Doc being turned into a Black man.  Largely it felt like these were additions to forestall complaints of having an erased movie because none of the characters of colour were strictly important to the story.  They played the role of fillers and this turned into an opportunity that was lost to correct one of the problems with the book.  The movie also continued the novels erasure of GLBT people. Apparently all aliens are hetcis and so were the surviving humans.  This kind of erasure is of course common to this genre as the various reviews on this novel show but it doesn't make it any less irritating each time it happens.  Something about aliens mean quick death or erasure to marginalized people.

The Host was billed as Stephanie Meyer's first adult story but the movie turned it into nothing but the usual teen angst because it removed the class analysis. The advertisements for The Host tried desperately to connect it to Twilight and while The Host was more palatable in a lot of ways, there was nothing to really propel the story forward. Emily Browning is an attractive woman but having her make doe eyes and simper for almost two hours is not exciting. In the end, it's time that is most certainly wasted.  The Host is not entertainment but it is a cure for insomnia.