My wife found a hilarious review of Dunkirk by a feminist named Mehera Bonner at Marie Claire: I Think ‘Dunkirk’ Was Mediocre at Best, and It’s Not Because I’m Some Naive Woman Who Doesn’t Get It As you can see from the title, Ms. Bonner wants you to know upfront that her objection to the movie isn’t that it sticks to the story and therefore offends her feminine sensibilities. She loves war movies!
[Dunkirk is] a story worthy of being told and re-told, and I really enjoy war movies in general, but still—actual stuff needs to happen. Stuff other than scenes of men burning in oil-covered water, ships sinking, and bodies drowning. If you want to argue that the non-stop violent intensity of the film was the point, and that we should feel fully immersed in the war like we’re living it ourselves—I present Harry Styles.
Nope. She isn’t another feminist bimbo who objects to stories that aren’t about women, or aren’t tarted up with out of place romance scenes featuring pop culture icons to keep the womenfolk entertained. She is cool like that.
What bothers her is her fear that other moviegoers (who aren’t totally chill like she is) won’t be able to see the movie and avoid squealing OMG, it’s Harry Styles!
The One Direction band member did a surprisingly impressive job in what turned out to be a pretty major role, but I refuse to believe it’s possible for any viewer with even a semblance of pop-culture knowledge not see him and immediately go “OMG, it’s Harry Styles.”
I haven’t yet seen the movie, but when I do I’ll be on the lookout to see if the men in the audience start to squeal when the aforementioned dreamboat makes his entrance. I’m not familiar with the band or the man, but it sounds like it should be pretty obvious when he appears on-screen.
But the fact that the main character is too dreamy for her totally non flighty sensibilities isn’t what most bothers Ms. Bonner about the movie. Her real problem is that it appeals to men, and reminds her of the kind of men who reject her:
But my main issue with Dunkirk is that it’s so clearly designed for men to man-out over. And look, it’s not like I need every movie to have “strong female leads.” Wonder Woman can probably tide me over for at least a year, and I understand that this war was dominated by brave male soldiers. I get that. But the packaging of the film, the general vibe, and the tenor of the people applauding it just screams “men-only”—and specifically seems to cater to a certain type of very pretentious man who would love nothing more than to explain to me why I’m wrong about not liking it. If this movie were a dating profile pic, it would be a swole guy at the gym who also goes to Harvard.
But enough about her, because, as she explained in the title, this isn’t about her objecting to a movie that breaks the current year mold by telling a story about men, in a way that unashamedly appeals to men. This isn’t about petty envy or the need to mark all spaces as feminine. Bonner explains in conclusion that she just thinks the movie would be much better if it focused on the kinds of inter-sectional feminist issues she personally finds so fascinating:
…to me, Dunkirk felt like an excuse for men to celebrate maleness—which apparently they don’t get to do enough. Fine, great, go forth, but if Nolan’s entire purpose is breaking the established war movie mold and doing something different—why not make a movie about women in World War II? Or—because I know that will illicit cries of “ugh, not everything has to be about feminism, ugh!”—how about any other marginalized group?
Update: I’ve now seen the movie, and have written my thoughts on it. There was no sobbing or squealing, and Merlin was magnificent.