The Meg review:

feminism and a gigantic prehistoric shark

By Cora Burridge | October 08, 2019

Three times the size of a great white shark, extinct for millions of years and the subject of numerous conspiracy theories, the Megalodon seems an unlikely partner in the fight against the patriarchy. Yet this dinosaur of the sea has done exactly that in the form of Jason Statham’s action flick, The Meg. Released in 2018, the film follows a team of scientists who discover a living Megalodon. Adventures continue as they try to contain it and save the high seas from a ravenous monster.

Within all the Jaws ripoff clichés, lies a hidden gem in the form of Li Bingbing’s character, Suyin. On paper one may hesitate when seeing the criteria the character fills: daughter of a leading male scientist, mother of young child and the love interest to an inexplicably cockney Statham. However, Suyin is arguably one of the best female characters in a modern day, male dominated action film.

Her character is consistently in the midst of the action. She is independent and follows her instincts but more importantly is one of the primary drivers of the plot, alongside the hyper masculine Statham. It is hard to find a female character in male dominated action thrillers that have any kind of similar agency. Moreover, the Chinese actress increases racial diversity in female action heroes. As Hollywood increasingly realises the potential goldmine of the Asian market, films like The Meg make a conscious effort to cast Asian actors to cater to that geographical market’s needs. It is even more significant to cast Asian women who are hard to find in the mainstream western film output. While Hollywood’s motive behind such casting is arguably a cynical cash grab, it undeniably is increasing Asian representation in western film.

Ultimately, the most impressive aspect of Suyin’s character is that she combats a current and backwards trend in cinema. In order to try and progress their female characters, Hollywood has often opted to simply write them as they would a male character. Thus limiting their representation of how diverse women can be. On the one hand, we must have these kind of female characters in action films yet we must also represent action hero women who can also be mothers and love interests without losing their own agency. Suyin does exactly this, symbolising another type of female character in the action genre and a much needed one.

She also defeats a giant prehistoric shark.

Cora Burridge is a masters student at the University of Amsterdam. The views expressed here are not necessarily those of The Amsterdammer.

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