The Fifth Element, a 1997 Sony Pictures film is written and directed by Luc Besson. Though it is set in the future, 2263 to be exact, America is far from having made gains in refuting patriarchy. By examining the characters, this film can be interpreted as operating under, and verifying, the dominant male (also white/heterosexual) ideologically structured system we exist in today. This film is reminiscent of 40's and 50's noir in that it makes political statements about women, operating in an overtly anti-feminist way.
The central female character, Leeloo, is coded as being important because of her "sexual power," much like noir women. However, the shots, dialogue, costumes, acting, and story remind the spectator that she is restricted and marginalized in society. From the very first shot of her, Leeloo is the voyeuristic fantasy of the male spectator and male characters. She is literally on display, lying naked in a glass case, in the first shot we see of her. The narration of the film comes to a halt, as there are alternating shots of Leeloo and the men who are staring at her in disbelief and obvious pleasure. The men in the film through dialogue call her "perfect," "the perfect being" or "the supreme being." The spectator is made to see Leeloo, played by the thin, attractive, sexy, Caucasian Milla Jovovich as "the perfect woman"though "perfect" perhaps only for our white, male, heterosexual, and young ideal spectator (or the character Dallas, her lover by the end of the film). Dialogue during this scene is important, as when the male Captain says that they will need "pictures
for the archives" of Leeloo, who is making orgasmic movements in her glass cage. The Priest goes on to say that Leeloo is "mankind's most precious possession." These lines clearly signify Leeloo's position as merely an object, there to be look at as sexual, and as something men possess. Leeloo is given thin strips of thermal tape to wear in this first scene, which reveals most of her body (enough to keep the PG-13 rating). The camera continues to focus on her as an image, an erotic object, and the males as bearers of the look. Leeloo continues to wear revealing outfits throughout the film which code her as "sexy." There are no other important women in the film, and this is particularly obvious in the scenes with the President of the United States. There are no women in any positions of political power, which we know because there are no shots of women with the President. (If there are, they are buried in the background and have no speaking roles; if they are present they are secretaries rather than people of authority or power). The "bad guys," Mr. Shadow, the aliens, and Zorg, all competing for power, control, and domination in the world are all male. The priest, Father Vito Cornelius, has a role of power because he has been passed on the knowledge of the stones and the "supreme being" through a long line of males"Fathers." Women's roles in this film are in roles of servitude, as stewardesses on the airplane for example. They too are erotic objects meant for the heterosexual, white, male spectators and male characters, as they are all sexy, young, white women in makeup and skimpy outfits. The women in Flohston Paradise greet the guests in their revealing outfits with kisses on the cheek and leis (supposed to be modeled after present day Hawaii). Dallas's mother has a role on the telephone as the voice of a stereotypical reliant-on-her-son, whining mother, and offers comic relief for the spectators. None of these women advance the narrative in any way.
The central character and point of view the spectator is forced to identify with throughout the entire film is Korben Dallas, white, macho, and in control. The name itself has a machismo connotation, especially "Dallas," which is evocative of the stereotypical macho cowboy. "The Fifth Element," or "Leeloo," who, while being the title of the film and central female character, is not the character...
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