How ‘Adrift’ could be a better representation for female travellers
Dearest Hollywood, just one teensey, weeny request— do you think you could make one badass female solo travel film that doesn’t involve a guy? Pretty please? This was the thought that crossed my mind after watching Shailene Woodley (Big Little Lies) battle it out on the high seas in Adrift.
Off screen, we are in a Renaissance of solo, female travel. According to Cynthia Dunbar, the general manager over at REI Adventures (a company that takes travellers on crazy, epic adventures, like climbing Everest), “since 2010, women traveling with us has grown by 60 percent, and we continue to see this figure grow steadily each year.
Last year alone, 58 percent of all our guests were women”. Women travellers are knocking down barriers and stereotypes, and yet Hollywood seems eager to build those stereotypes right back up again.
Critics celebrated Adrift as a film where a woman makes it without a man. In her review for Tribune News, Katie Walsh writes, “It’s downright refreshing to witness the depiction of a woman as independently strong, capable and determined to survive.” And, it is!
But, can’t we have a woman “independently strong, capable and determined to survive” without a guy next to her, because (spoiler alert) Richard (Sam Clafin) is literally right there, talking to Tami (Shailene Woodley) the whole time (even if he is only a mirage).
It’s Tami and Richard’s relationship that takes precedent in the film, and ultimately changes Tami, not the fact that she just survived forty-one days at sea. Alone. Catching fish. Drinking rainwater. Surviving storms, dehydration, sunburn! I mean, come on.
And, if Tami was a guy, the survival story would’ve taken precedence. There are countless examples of films about survival that don’t have a love story attached. The only difference is the protagonist in those types of films is a guy. In films that feature male travelers, women are often conquests. Much like the land itself, the women don’t move and only serve as a means for the men to learn something about themselves.
Just consider 127 Hours with James Franco (The Disaster Artist). The closest the film gets to romance is when some naked girl in a car of naked people turns around and whispers “I love you” to Aron Ralston (Franco). And, that’s it! Franco just smiles at the memory, like he’s more recalling a sentimental, youthful escapade than any sort of deep first love. There is no real romance in the scene, because the scene objectifies this woman and Franco just smiles like he’s proud of himself.
And, there are plenty of films like this. Take The Motorcycle Diaries, where Alberto Granado (Rodrigo De la Serna) tells his friend that he wants to bed as many women as possible on their adventure across South America. The women might as well be some ruins that the pair climb on top of. The women, like in 127 Hours, are conquests.
And, then to top it off there’s All is Lost, which is essentially the same plot as Adrift minus the love story. Here’s Robert Redford (Captain America: The Winter Soldier) alone, at sea, trying to survive. But, big surprise, there’s no love story. In the trailer for the film are the words, “a man has only himself and his will to survive.”
Hollywood, do you think you could make just one film where the words “a woman has only herself and her will to survive” could be written onscreen during the trailer? That’s all we’re looking for here.