PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN and the limits of the “feminist” label

While Emerald Fennell’s film has not yet been released in France, it is already screened on American campuses. Labeled as “feminist”, the feature film aims to spark a conversation on sexual assault in universities. But does the film really lend itself to this?

With her colorful wig and smirk, Cassie seems to exude joy, good humor and gentleness. Until her makeup was disfigured into an expression bordering on obsession and madness. Because the heroine, interpreted by the fantastic Carey mulligan, is not a nice girl. Moreover, it is all the life led by the young woman who has nothing of what she looks: barista by day, avenging by night. As brilliant as she is manipulative, she has only one goal in life: to take revenge on men who do not hesitate to abuse vulnerable young women. Every night she goes to a different bar to pretend to be drunk and wait to see if the men will abuse her.


svg%3E - PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN and the limits of the "feminist" label
Credit: Focus Features

PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN has guts. In the wake of the #MeToo movement, Emerald fennell decided to sow doubt in the minds of its spectators by asking them a question which seemed final: What if there are no good men? What if all humans were just potential predators? To support her point, the director relied on a subtle but effective casting, chosen specifically for the occasion. So, Adam Brody, the first man to fall into Cassie’s trap is first and foremost the embodiment of Seth Cohen, the caring and somewhat awkward teenager of Newport Beach. Max Greenfield? He will always remain Jess’ perfectionist roommate in New Girl. Chris Lowell? The frozen lover of Veronica Mars.

The fact that the movie’s predators are played by familiar audience figures underscores Emerald Fennell’s main point: anyone can be an abuser.

But in wishing to restore power to Cassie over these men, PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN This is not, however, a feminist film. Far from it, since instead of portraying a strong woman who recovers her power and shakes up the foundations of patriarchy, the spectator attends a rape and revenge of the most classic.


svg%3E - PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN and the limits of the "feminist" label
Credit: Focus Features

Looking at Carey mulligan educate men in PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN, it is not difficult to think of the classic of the genre: Jennifer’s Body (Karyn kusama, 2009). However, it is mostly in the short program Sweet / Vicious of Jennifer Kaytin Robinson that makes us think the realization ofEmerald fennell. In the series, two students, Jules (Eliza bennett) and Ophélia (Taylor dearden), decide to take revenge on the sexual assailants at their university. Their motivation lies in the administration’s refusal to prosecute the rapists in order to protect the reputation of the establishment and of the young men.

Just like in PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN, the culprits are above all promising young men (” Promising Young Man “) who should not see their future spoiled by ” a small error of course“. In the end, you don’t have to be a sadist to appreciate the confusion in the eyes of Cassie’s attackers when they understand that the young woman is there to give them what they deserve … but as and when history, borders are blurring. In the movieEmerald fennell, justice finally appears only as an imperfect system which would encourage women to become as violent and unstable as men.

By wishing to restore power to the survivors, the director offers them a film that reminds them above all that justice is only a myth.

Yes Carey mulligan is fascinating in her interpretation and gives a unique sensitivity to her character, the camera ofEmerald fennell when it is sharp and without appeal. The costumes are subtle but effective in helping to create a special atmosphere around the character of Cassie. Nonetheless, the overall appreciation that has been made of this film as well as its criticism of the justice system calls into question the label “feminist”Which was stuck on his poster because of the sex of his protagonist at the risk of glorifying his trauma.

Films labeled as “feminists”Because they tell of a woman’s revenge benefit no one but the patriarchy. And to present them as such, especially when it comes to educating students, is absurd if not dangerous. Hoping, however, that American campuses manage to tackle this thorny question with tact and diplomacy, failing to have chosen a production more adapted to the subject of sexual violence like the mini-series unbelievable.

Sarah cerange


svg%3E - PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN and the limits of the "feminist" label

Original title : Promising Young Woman
Production : Emerald fennell
Actors: Carey Mulligan, Bo Burnham, Alison Brie, Laverne Cox
Release date : May 5, 2021
Duration: 113 minutes

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