Two's Views Film Review
Mary: James Cameron directed Aliens, and Terminator 2. Both portrayed women as leaders. What happened with True Lies? It's not only degrading to women in general, and Jamie Lee Curtis specifically, but also portrays Arabs as inept stooges. Could James Cameron be bitter about his own divorce?
JC: Cameron wasn't kind to women or Arabs, but he wasn't nice to anybody in this movie. It could have been titled, The gang who couldn't spy straight. Even Arnold Schwarzenegger as spy Harry Tasker, and his sidekick Tom Arnold as Gib, are inept. They're in trouble from the first sequence as a caper goes amiss. Only the bullet fairy saves these bunglers. All the spy's bullets hit, and all the bad guy's bullets miss.
The picture is billed as an adventure, but it's really more an action-comedy. That formula works, with heart stopping explosions, and a lot of guffaws. But much of the humor is vicious. And Tasker's wife Helen (Jamie Lee Curtis) is exploited shamelessly.
Mary: This film used Schwarzenegger as Harry Tasker, the ever competent, white, male hero. Harry and Gib, are the typical mysoginist, race bashing characters that film can do without. Surprisingly, many men in the audience laughed at particularly abrasive language directed toward Helen. It was embarrassing for me as a woman, and I am glad you did not laugh, or we would have parted ways.
JC: Next time I'll laugh, just to test you. I had fun with True Lies, except for two sequences. In those two parts of the film, the character Tasker is cruel to his wife. I can't excuse that; it's gratuitous in this particular movie. In the rest of the story, though, we see a slam-bang, Bond-like thriller, well blended with some good laughs. Unfortunately, there's about an hour too much of it. If Cameron had cut the abusive, sexist stuff, and a few of the least plausible blow-em-up scenes, he could have tightened this into a fun flick.
Mary: Don't test me. I doubt that any editing would help the toxic stuff going on in this film. If Cameron took the sexism and racism out of the movie, the only thing left would be two boys and a used car salesman playing with their toys. When directors allow this sort of subconscious appeal to patriotism and sexism, many people are enabled into believing the messages it sends are true. The hugeness of this picture does not compensate for the awful messages it sends.
JC: Right or wrong, lots of people need somebody to hate. The Arab terrorists in this movie play the same role as did Russian Communists in the sixties, Native Americans in the fifties, and Germans in the forties. Film doesn't create bigotry, or even stereotypes. When such things are prevalant in society, is film honest if it ignores them?
Mary: Film does not have to ignore controversial issues prevalent in society, but film can and does contribute to the exploitation of people when a director doesn't deal honestly or directly with those issues. Give us more balance, please.
© 1996, J. C. Adamson & Mary Baker