I went to see 10,000 BC
with Aaron yesterday. I had no illusions that it would be a good film, but I was expecting rip-roaring pulpy fun. As someone who has played a lot of Runequest and who loves a well done Conan-like film, I was hoping for a pulpy prehistoric epic. It mostly managed to deliver that (although, it would have been better if the smilodon had stuck around and if there had been at least one scene of our hero riding a mammoth). However, what it also delivered was a huge womping dollop of sexism and a large side-helping of racism.
There are a grand total of two female characters in this film, an old holy woman, and the blue-eyed "prize" that various male characters are competing over. The old woman gets to do some magic, and the blue eyed woman gets to perform exactly one
action during the film.
It was a gloriously (and given the distances involved, ludicrously, but it's pulp, so who cares) multi-racial film. However, what we had was all manner of impressively manly white and black warriors fighting evil turbaned semites (the most horrible of the minor villains looked like he was cast because he most closely resembled various old caricatures of "the menacing Jew") and cringing effeminate "asiatics" (who could also be read as South American natives), which seems to parallel modern US fears about middle easterners and immigrants a bit too closely for comfort.
The low point of the film was where our hero (after a far too underplayed scene where he kills the faceless evil god-king with a single long distance spear throw, a scene that should
have been the climax of the film), the one somewhat sympathetic turbaned middle easterner shoots the blue eyed prize to prevent the hero from having her (this is stated by the character) and then our hero stabs this villain in a scene where he looks like he's stabbing the villain in the crotch with the hero's big white spear
– no, I'm not exaggerating this description in the least, it's exactly that
unsubtle. That piece of gender and racial horror is the climax of the action in the film.
Absolutely the worst part about the film is how easy it would have been to fix most of these problems. In a better world, the film would have had the following changes:
- One of the various tribes the hero helps to recruit would have been fierce amazons, and we would have had a few scenes of our hero being puzzled but impressed with warrior women.
- Throwing the spear at the mysterious evil leader whose face we never see would have been the climax of action in the film, and as he fell down the stairs, we would have seen that the evil god-king was a blonde haired blue eyed white man.
- When the sympathetic middle-eastern villain ran off with the blue-eyed prize, he would have been the hero running after him and would have given the woman a brief choice to go with him or with the hero and ridden off, a villain redeemed.
That would have been a film I would have been very pleased to see. Not an excellent film by any means, but rip-roaring fun (although, I still would have liked it better if the smilodon had stuck around), and one that would have made me proud to know had been made. Instead, we see our own gender and racial discomforts writ large.