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.
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.