Riddick Thinks Lesbians Are Just Kidding About Being Lesbians

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I saw Riddick this weekend, against my better judgment. Watching Vin Diesel act is like watching a lump of cookie dough animate and plod across the kitchen floor, but I like movies with aliens, so give me a break. Yet the film was confounding. Not just because Vin Diesel’s attempts at acting are so one dimensional that your brain will go numb, but because somehow Riddick—and thus its director, David Twohy—seems to think that lesbians are just playing hard to get when they say they aren’t attracted to men.

There is only woman in the movie—except for a woman of color who was onscreen for all of four minutes before she was shot like a dog while running braless—and her name is Dahl. Dahl is a white, blonde, tough lesbian. Her sexuality is made clear when she says very plainly that she “doesn’t fuck guys.” She is referred to as a “lesbo” by the human antagonist. Her character is what could be called “masculine”—if “masculine” indeed means one is gun-toting, strong, somewhat muscular, and possesses the ability to throw a mean right hook.  Dahl makes it clear that she has no interest in any of the men in her crew, let alone Vin Diesel’s character Riddick, who is unpredictable, arrogant, and extremely violent. Despite her disinterest, Riddick spies on her while she’s naked in the bathroom, makes repeated advances to which he receives no positive encouragement, and, while chained up, vows that when he’s free, he will kill the antagonist and also go “balls deep” in Dahl. This would be shockingly rapey if he didn’t follow up with, “But only because you [will] ask me to…sweet like.”

If this sounds wack, that’s because it is. (And follow-up or not, it’s still rapey.)

In the end, Riddick does indeed kill the antagonist and survive some aliens. The “good guy” inexplicably rescues Riddick in a spaceship, and who repels down with a harness to bring him onboard? Dahl. She straddles Riddick and, as they are towed upward, says that she has something to ask him “sweet like,” and he grabs her ass.

<slow applause>

So according to Riddick and Twohy, lesbians are just kidding. They don’t really “not fuck guys,” they just don’t fuck guys until some irresistibly masculine, bald-headed lump of clay with two chins struts along and renders their sexual orientation invalid. Twohy and his screenwriters have given themselves away as the overcompensating, adolescent jackoffs that they are: “what’s hotter than fucking a lesbian?” they giggle to one another under their Superman bedsheets. “Nothing!” They could’ve written Dahl as straight and set up the typical “bad boy gets to have sex with girl at end of action movie” trope. But no. Why stop there in their subjugation?

Dahl—who was named “Dahl” for a reason: the joke is they’re really calling her “doll” throughout the entire movie—is strong, necessarily violent, muscular, a great shot with numerous weapons, and smart. Yet Riddick renders her passive. Despite her strength and capability—and despite her sexual orientation—her identity is subject to the whims of the men onscreen: she is a rapeable object lacking agency and even a real name. Riddick, on the other hand, is subject to nothing: not even Dahl’s humanity.

Why? Let’s face it. In Hollywood—in America?—the male hero must get the prize. Despite the fact that Riddick didn’t really do much to redeem himself (his actions were in pursuit of his own survival; in retrieving the power cells from where he’d hidden them, he ensured his own well-being: the fact that the others also survived was coincidental) Hollywood still thinks he should get the prize. The prize is the girl, of course: the flesh dowry of male success awarded like cattle to any penis that patriarchy deems worthy. Riddick gets the prize simply for surviving. The message here, friends, one that we see over and over and over, is this: men deserve to have women awarded to them like chattel, simply by virtue of their maleness. You don’t even have to do anything good or moral or prince-like or gentlemanly to receive this prize: continuing to breathe is enough. And your prize? She doesn’t even have to be attracted to you. She doesn’t have to like you. Heck, she doesn’t even have to be straight. She’s all yours, pal. Enjoy. The prize is yours, even at the expense of others’ agency, humanity, and identity.

Fail. Riddick, you fail. On so many levels. You can’t “convert” a lesbian with a bald head, forty-six year old muscles, and a comically emotionless voice. In fact, you can’t convert a lesbian at all. Will Smith can’t convert a lesbian. Christian Bale can’t convert a lesbian. Barack Obama can’t even convert a lesbian. Do you know why? Because lesbians are lesbians. And that means truly, actually, in real life….they don’t fuck guys.

Really.

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14 thoughts on “Riddick Thinks Lesbians Are Just Kidding About Being Lesbians

  1. alexkellyoc says:

    Not really-some might be fooling themselves but most of the time when a woman tells you she’s gay, nobody should doubt her words.

  2. I know this isn’t a substantive comment–and it’s a great article about the unkillable trope of women “asking for it” even after they’ve just explicitly not asked for it, to the point of not even being heterosexual–but I just…LOOK IT’S STARBUCK ERRYBODY! FRACK, I MISSED HER.

  3. You know some guys always feel that all the (good-looking) lesbians out there are just waiting for them to straighten them out, right? A fail, I would agree.

    Sounds like they’ve changed the character of Riddick in this sequel. I don’t remember him being at all sexual in the first two installments. It was all bad-ass macho and muscles. Hm, too bad…

  4. belle.beckford, it sounds like they have changed much. In the first two Riddick movies (not masterpieces, mind you, but good enough because, you know, aliens and spaceships…) he was only out for himself, but made some choices that helped others. He’s a figure much like Mad Max, but more purposefully violent because he needs to be. But…
    Olivia, thank you for this post. I make it a point to avoid like the plague any story that makes women weak. It disgusts me. I’ll put this one up on the shelf with the Twilight saga.
    And women, it’s one thing to want to conform to societal norms to a point – not that I’ve ever liked or encouraged conforming – but this should make you angry! If more women don’t make noise over these vapid, weak portrayals of women, do you ever think Hollywood will stop making them?
    Joss Whedon is someone who gets why strong women are important, and his female characters tend to be very strong indeed. He was asked once why he felt the need to keep writing strong female characters. His answer? “Because people keep asking me that question.”
    Make some noise. Complain to the movie production companies. Complain to the actors and directors. Heck, go back to the theatre and complain to them when you’ve seen such a weak and destructive portrayal of women.
    And teach your daughters. And sons.

  5. revreed says:

    An animated lump of cookie dough plodding across the floor would be FAR more entertaining than Vin Diesel’s acting! I too watched “Riddick” against my better judgement for the same reason: aliens. I am astonished by how man sci-fi/fantasy writers still assume that women aren’t a substantial audience and don’t matter. But as I was leaving the theater, I was taken aback by how man WOMEN are buying into these portrayals. One woman actually insisted Dahl was a strong woman because she repeatedly pounded on the face of the rapiest rapist. I pointed out the pejorative naming of her character, the passive way she just sort of stood around while the men ran the show, the dismissive way she was made into a lesbian rather than simply being a woman who doesn’t want a skeazy guy heavy-breathing all over her… I received blank stares in response.

    http://appalachianpreacher.com/2013/09/11/mamas-dont-let-your-sons-watch-riddick/

    • oliviaacole says:

      I just read your blog and it makes excellent points. The idea that brutality wins women and should be used as a tool of seduction is frightening, and frighteningly common.

      I too have had conversations with women since I saw Riddick; women who I respect and consider empowered. But they were completely blinded by the “physically strong woman” characterization…so much so that they didn’t notice the socially submissive woman. That is perhaps the most disturbing message of all: that it doesn’t matter how strong you are, if you outrank the men, if you are able to defend yourself (all the things we’re encouraged to do to find power): what matters is that you have a vagina, and therefore can be subjugated.

      Scary stuff. And stupid.

  6. Chuckled to myself with the idea of the director and the screenwriter’s under the superman sheets. Great image.

    I’ve heard that action movies are making an increasing amount of their profits from international sales, which makes me think that we’re not likely to see the trend you described reversed anytime soon in Hollywood. Not that America is the most gender/sex/sexual orientation conscious country in the world, but when your expanding markets are places like China and India I don’t think there’s any impetus to start making realistic female characters.

  7. Not that it is in the Sci-Fi genre AT ALL, because it’s not- but I was equally pissed about “The Kids Are All Right”. Mostly because Hollywood had an opportunity to showcase the typical(boring) lifestyle of a lesbian household who represent an equal love to that of any heterosexual couple. Instead, it was another message of how lesbians are susceptible to being “straightened” out by a dick. I’m so tired of misrepresentation of the gay/lesbian lifestyle. It’s a long way from being realistic.

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