Viking Night: Tank Girl
By Bruce Hall
April 4, 2011
Most consumers have no problem loving a huge budget blockbuster. Movies that are meant to appeal to the widest possible audience usually do just that. But some films have a narrower vision, or simply contain more complex meaning than meets the eye. They aren't always art, and they aren't always even very successful. But for a devoted and eccentric few, they're the best entertainment money can buy. Once, beginning with Erik the Viking, a group of dedicated irregulars gathered weekly in a dingy dorm room to watch these films and discuss how what pleases the few might also appeal to the many. Time has separated the others in those discussions so that I alone remain to ponder the wider significance of cult cinema. But while the room is cleaner and I no longer have to skip class to do it, I still think of my far off friends whenever I hold Viking Night.
Now that the epic box office implosion of Sucker Punch is complete, gather with me around the smoking crater and let’s talk about something they used to call "Girl Power." It’s an ingenious concept from the '90s; a way of taking Madonna’s self-conscious iconoclasm and distilling it into a catch phrase. According to the Spice Girls, if it really is a "man’s world," that’s only because so many women aren’t sassy enough to just reach out and grab what’s rightfully theirs. That’s what Sucker Punch was supposed to be about, right?
I guess it doesn’t sound any less plausible than anything else you see in the movies, but all too often our entertainment wants us to believe that the only way a woman can empower herself is by becoming a sex object. To some, that whole "Girl Power" thing was never anything more than a clever way to peddle T&A under the guise of a self-help initiative. It’s a free country but if that’s the way you think, you’re not a very progressive person. Let’s be realistic; are being thin and pretty really the only two problems facing modern women? Are those even really problems?
Of course, movies are rarely realistic, so it isn’t very often the guys running Tinseltown handle female leads well. And when they do it’s usually with a genre picture, dumbing what it means to be strong down to a cut and paste cliché. Anyone with a backbone knows that real strength isn’t in the power you’re given, it’s in the power you’ve taken. But while I like Ellen Ripley and Jackie Brown as much as the next guy, where is the love for Tank Girl? Like all great heroines, she’s not a girl trying to be a boy; she’s her own woman and when you try to classify her you diminish her. And if you insist on objectifying her, I’d suggest you not do it to her face.
Deep down she’s not really a bad person, but if she’s your role model you should have your head examined. Tank Girl is just a regular gal who lives in a tank, loves her friends, hates her job and is trying to make lemons into lemonade the best way she knows how - with violence. And more violence. And beer. It started as an obscure comic from Great Britain, originally published in the 1980s. It had a crude, do-it-yourself style and its humor came from a distinctly topical, blindingly nihilistic point of view.