Now let me start this off by making sure that you, the reader, are aware of how much I love Edgar Wright. However, this love has been shaken…
I’ve watched Spaced so many times, I can quote it. I used to watch Shaun of the Dead secretly under my desk in my GCSE Graphic Design classes instead of drawing different types of display cases. Hot Fuzz is still my favourite film and I deeply questioned my taste in friends when I found out none of them had seen it. So when I heard about Baby Driver and that it was created by my favourite writer/ director combo, I was unbelievably excited. It had been four years since The World’s End and it was time for something fresh. So I bought my £7.50 ticket expecting something amazing.
But little did I know I would leave the cinema 2 hours later feeling like a deflated balloon at a children’s party that had been stomped on for a full afternoon. As a woman, I know going into any film that there’s roughly a 75% chance that the female characters will probably be either helpless, voiceless or impossibly sexy – or some strikingly unrealistic combination of the 3 – but I never expected it from Wright.
Yet the dialogue was smart, the shots were impeccable and almost every scene had hidden extras so common-place in his films. In particular, there was one scene where Ansel Elgort walks down the street as the titular ‘Baby’, listening to music and the graffiti around him matches the lyrics as he passes quickly down the street. This sort of seemingly unnecessary and excessive attention to detail is characteristic of Wright’s exciting, intriguing style. There was so much thought in every element – every element except the female characters, which for me was infuriating.
There are only two named female characters so yippee, it managed to pass the easiest check on the Bechdel test. However, we might as well end the celebrations there because after that it bombs every single other element. And to add insult to injury, the characterisation of these named women is simply poor. Let’s start with Lily James’ Debora – the damsel in distress of the film who exists to ask questions about Baby’s life and have no personality or motivations of her own. After meeting Baby for the third time, she’s ready to run away and start a new life with this man who doesn’t even know her last name or thinks to ask anything about her life… swoon. (Beware- spoilers ahead!) The only time she seems able to make any decisions herself is right at the end when she helps to kill Jon Hamm in order to save Baby. A stunning second date.
Meanwhile the other female character, Darling, combines two of my favourite overused and frankly shit, tropes. She’s the sexy gun-slinger, who kills without a care all while maintaining a perfect blow-out, whilst also being the ‘female who dies causing the antagonist to seek revenge’. Wright uses the deaths of women as motivators for male characters. Darling and Baby’s dead mother only serve to further the storylines of men, never really existing in their own right.
One of our other writers disagrees with Morgan – See why here!
The worst thing about it though is that I went into the cinema wanting to love this film. It was visually beautiful, the plot was entirely unpredictable and the soundtrack was phenomenal. Yet, despite these strengths, Baby Driver’s female representation was a car crash and Edgar Wright should have and could have done more.
By Morgan Jenkin