New Criticals

The film Gravity, tongue in cheek, is grounding: it pins its characters and viewers to a cultural landscape built around stale notions of binary gender behaviors and heteronormativity, while contributing to the predictable “look” of Hollywood films’ mainstream whiteness and accepted forms of (masculinized) intelligence. It is 2013, yet we, the viewers, still get a hysterical woman protagonist—one of the smartest medical engineers in the world, mind you—who must choose between mourning her dead child and being a reasonable, logical person in order to survive. More concerning perhaps is the underlying tension that gets played out in the yo-yoing of the film’s narrative as it struggles to celebrate the heroic intelligence of Ryan Stone (played by Sandra Bullock) while constantly undermining it via her emotionality that incapacitates her, bringing her to the brink of death over and over and over again. Yes, her father wanted a son (the reason given for her masculine name), but the film never acknowledges its own anxiety about having a female play the sole survivor from the mission.