Jennifer Kesler has written already about the new Angelina Jolie film, Salt, and the fear expressed by the filmmakers that having a male love interest rescued by a female lead is too castrating to his character. She quotes:
In the end, Salt’s husband, played by German actor August Diehl (‘Inglourious Basterds’), was made tough enough that he didn’t need saving, thank you much.
However, in the end, he isn’t. He’s shot and killed, right in front of Salt herself. Which gave me two reactions.
First, I’m bemused. Bemused that the makers of the film apparently do think that, for a man, being rescued by a woman is a fate worse than death (they must do, because how else could the former “castrate” him, but the latter not?). I’m not sure what to say to it, except to reiterate Jennifer Kesler’s point that by this logic, female firefighters and cops – and I would assume paramedics and other medical professionals – should refrain from rescuing, treating, or otherwise saving the men they come across, in case doing so unmans them too much. Also, I look forward to the makers of Salt showing a women in these professions acting in such a way, without having it compromise their heroism. (Indeed, for firefighters and cops, it should make them if anything more heroic, since pausing to make such a determination would likely put them at further risk themselves).
In fact, it could be argued that this happens in Salt itself, because…
My second reaction, though, was lopsidedly positive. Without going into detail, Salt was facing a serious greater-good-situation, which demanded she get in with the bad buys holding her husband – and to do that, she had to let them kill him, without showing more than a momentary grief at his death. And she does. So why would I like that? Partly a vicious satisfaction that he wasn’t tough enough to save himself. But also, that Salt could feel love for someone without it overwhelming everything else about her character – that given a choice between his life and hundreds of thousands of others, she chose them over him – and the other way round too, that she could let him die without it making her love into a lie.
Incompatible reactions maybe, but that happens sometimes.
See also a short review by Gategrrl.