Tue
Mar 29 2011 3:49pm

Sucker Punch Part 2: Women, Weapons, and Self-Sacrifice

Sucker Punch

I didn’t even begin to touch on the gender-related issues associated with Sucker Punch in the first part of my review, because I was saving them for their own very special post.

As I mentioned, I didn’t read any criticism of the film until after I’d seen it, and what surprised me, aside from the unwillingness of anyone to talk about what Sucker Punch was actually about, was the fact that people saw the film as sexist, misogynistic, or exploitative. Much has been made of Emily Browning’s complaints in the press of how a sex scene between her character, Babydoll, and the High Roller (Jon Hamm) was cut from the film. While I agree that showing a young woman being in charge of her own sexuality is important in film, I’m glad the scene was cut for two reasons. The second, I’ll discuss below, but the most important reason is that it ensured that this film would have a PG-13 rating, which is hugely important in making the film accessible to the very girls and young women who would benefit most from seeing it. As I said in part one, I wish this film had been around when I was a teenager, and I think that girls and young women today are lucky to have this film and films like it. Sucker Punch is part of a heartening trend: films in which young women and girls don’t have to look to men, or even older women, to find role models. They’ll find them in young women and girls very much like themselves.

(Again with the warning for possible spoilers. You know the drill.)

Wise Man and Babydoll

Why I Had a Problem With the Wise Man

My one complaint from a gender perspective is that the Wise Man guiding the young women on their missions was a man at all. Someone in the comments of part one of my review mentioned that Helen Mirren should’ve played that part. I suggested Cate Blanchett. In any case, this is where the film could’ve gone further with regard to female empowerment. Why does Buffy have a Giles and not a Gillian? Why does The Bride have a Bill and not a Barbara? Why do the young women of Sucker Punch have a Wise Man? The TV and Film industry seems to think that young women need older men to guide them toward empowerment. OR, just to give them the benefit of the doubt, perhaps these stories are saying that there aren’t yet enough empowered women in place at the top to be those teachers. It’ll be up to these empowered young women to become those teachers for future generations of young girls.

Still, it would be nice if films and television shows entertained the notion that sometimes women have something to teach each other. That sometimes, they even want to and aren’t just cattily guarding their own positions against an All About Eve scenario. Oh wait, Sucker Punch does do that through the character of Doctor Gorski who, even as she works for The Man, does what she can to genuinely help the girls given her limited knowledge of the scope of their problems.

 

High Roller

Why Cutting the Sex Scene Made a Better Film

Above, I mentioned that there’s a second reason why I was glad the Emily Browning/Jon Hamm sex scene was cut. Aside from not wanting to have it rubbed in my face that she could get that close to sex with Jon Hamm, I’m glad the scene was cut, because while young women taking ownership of their sexuality is an important message to send, those two characters having sex would not make sense in the context of this film. I think the reason why a scene like that was objected to originally was not that “They don’t think a girl should ever be in control of her own sexuality because they’re from the Stone Age” as Browning says, but rather, in the context of this film it might have been seen less like empowerment and more like Stockholm Syndrome.

I don’t know the context of the scene that was cut. Perhaps she has sex with him for a reason, like she tries to kill him, or perhaps there’s more with his character in the film that was also cut that makes him more sympathetic. Guess we’ll have to wait for the Director’s Cut on DVD to know for sure. What I do know is that I’m glad that none of the girls had sex with anyone, because they had bigger problems in this film than dealing with their sex lives! Female  empowerment or awakening is always tied to sex in film in a way that it isn’t with men. Female Protagonist Finds Enlightenment by having an affair, or sleeping with a younger dude, or sleeping with an older dude, or sleeping with lots of dudes. Why does she have to sleep with anyone? Isn’t there anything else going on in her life? There is plenty going on in Sucker Punch without Babydoll also needing to assert her sexual confidence. In fact, one of the messages that I took away from the film is that there should be more to women than their existence as sexual creatures. The whole point is that they’re trying to get away from a place that trades on their sexuality.

 

Sucker Punch burlesque outfits

Why Sucker Punch Isn’t Exploitative, Misogynistic, or Any Other Word Thrown Around Without Context In Feminist Discourse

Another criticism of Sucker Punch is that it is misogynistic and exploitative simply because it shows women being raped and objectified. I hate to break it to those critics, but...rape happen and women are objectified in real life. Be angry when it happens then. The objectification and sexual abuse in Sucker Punch need to be there, because these are the obstacles these young women are overcoming. What’s more, they aren’t shown outright, but through metaphors, which takes yet another step away from being exploitative and sensationalistic. By making sex “dancing” and a corrupt mental institution into a burlesque hall/brothel, Snyder is being the opposite of exploitative. He isn’t showing for the sake of showing, as many films do. Rather, he’s making a situation clear while attempting to not take advantage of his young actresses.

I offer you this thought regarding the visual metaphors: The burlesque is a metaphor for what is. The steampunk fantasy world is a metaphor for what should be.

 

Sucker Punch steampunk outfits

Many critics find the skimpy outfits reason enough to complain about exploitation. Well, the outfits in the scenes at the asylum make sense, as this is where they are, um, exploited. Also, they’re dance outfits. That’s what dance outfits and performance outfits look like, and in the context of the basic burlesque hall motif, these outfits also make sense. As for the outfits in the secondary fantasy world during the missions, let’s have a look at the outfits above, shall we? How much skin is actually showing? A couple of inches of thigh, a couple of inches of midriff? I’ve seen mothers buy their daughters more revealing clothing at the mall. I realize that there are people out there who find the mere sight of ankle titillating, or of cleavage, like, at all. But I was surprised by how much was covered and how non-sexual the scenes were in which they were worn. Seriously, they’re each mostly covered from head to toe in something.

And yes, the women look attractive in the outfits! What is wrong with that? Why is the very sight of them exploitative? When I was younger a friend of mine developed really early, and would complain to me that people assumed things about her simply because she had a large chest, but it was difficult for her to find shirts that covered her chest completely and also fit right, so most of her shirts were cleavage-bearing shirts. She was often called a slut behind her back. People assumed she was stupid. Not just boys and men, but everyone. By virtue of the existence of her visible cleavage, assumptions were made before she opened her mouth.

I am so tired of what a woman wears being an issue, and it’s often people trying to be “good feminists” and helpful who make the most noise about it. Sucker Punch shows women fighting, being intelligent, and helping each other. If all a person sees is the fact that there’s cleavage, or a bit of midriff, that says more about the person than it does about the film.

 

Babydoll and Dr Gorski

Why Institutions Are Bad For Women (and Why It’s Important For Us to See That)

Corruption and patient abuse in mental institutions and nursing homes isn’t new and it isn’t news. Sadly, there have been too many instances of the most vulnerable among us, once they are put in a place where they are supposed to be getting help, being ignored, abused, or violated. In situations like that, it is often women who suffer the most.

What’s weird is that, as I watched Sucker Punch, I thought of the film Blindness, which is a great film (based on a novel by Jose Saramago), if excruciating to watch. In that, an entire city goes blind at once, and the film focuses on the blind who are surviving in an abandoned mental hospital. Even as everyone is blind, and the strong generally prey on the weak, it is the women who are preyed upon the most. They must deal not only with being denied food rations and other supplies, but also with excessive violence, rape, and with the humiliation of having to offer sexual favors in exchange for food for their families. In Sucker Punch, we see that this particular asylum is all-female, making the fact that it is being used as a place where powerful men can come to “relieve themselves” sadly not surprising. I don’t think the film was commenting on the plight of mentally ill women specifically, but it is interesting that an asylum was chosen as the setting of this story. Both films are frightening depictions of how women have it worse in institutionalized situations, forced to deal with things that men simply don’t have to worry about. In the case of Blindness, the depiction is all-too-real. In Sucker Punch, the depiction is couched in metaphor and fantasy, but just as troubling and just as important to witness, if only to encourage people to stop it from happening in real life.

 

Sucker Punch

Why Sucker Punch is Empowering: A War Film Starring Women

Critics seem troubled by Babydoll’s sacrifice at the end of the film, and cite her lobotomy as an example of how the movie isn’t empowering. This makes sense if you see self-sacrifice as weakness. However, I think there’s something hugely empowering about being strong enough to do for someone else rather than save yourself. For Babydoll to accept that it was her job to help Sweet Pea to freedom is a big deal. The film isn’t saying that lobotomy is her way to freedom. The lobotomy is the only way she can deal with her lack of freedom. She’s stopped being concerned about her own freedom, because she has willingly given it up to help someone else. That’s huge. Rocket dies trying to protect her sister from The Cook, the very man who attacked her earlier in the film. It’s as if, by Babydoll saving her from him, she was able to “pay it forward” to Sweet Pea. Both Rocket and Babydoll made the conscious decision to sacrifice themselves for the sake of someone they cared about. That’s powerful.

The deaths of Amber and Blondie are less powerful. However, the only truly tragic one is Amber’s. Blondie brought her death on herself, but Amber was the only true victim, having been smart, resourceful, and brave throughout, and dying anyway. But something like that had to happen. Because sometimes, the system is such that even smart, resourceful, and brave women get thrown under the bus, and you need to show that in anything to do with female empowerment. That this is what needs overcoming.

We see self-sacrifice in war movies all the time—male soldiers saying “Save yourself! Get out of here!” And this was, essentially, a war movie featuring women. They are in the trenches, not all of them make it out alive, and in the end one soldier is left to tell the story of her squad. It’s interesting to me that when a man does it it’s brave, but when a woman does it, it’s a sign of weakness. When self-sacrifice for another is a conscious choice, it isn’t weakness. And isn’t conscious, informed, non-coerced decision-making the very nature of this “agency” we keep wanting women to have?
 

Sweet Pea in Sucker Punch

Why Seeing Images Of Women Fighting Things Is Important

I remember when I went to see the film Elizabeth: The Golden Age (another film featuring Abbie Cornish!), I was so struck by one scene at the end in which Elizabeth I, on horseback and wearing armor, gives a speech to rally the troops. I was amazed, because Cate Blanchett got to do a Braveheart speech. It is so rare that female actresses get to do that. I’m sure she was thrilled by the chance, and I was thrilled to watch it.

 

Lastly, I’ll say that Sucker Punch is an important film simply because it gives a quintet of young actresses the opportunity to don armor, fight viciously, and have lead roles in a sci-fi/fantasy film; and it gives young women everywhere the opportunity to watch them do it. This type of story—a war film starring women; a war film in which women actually fight and fight brutally—is an opportunity afforded so rarely that when it happens, we damn well better embrace it, if only for its sheer novelty.

If only in the hope that one day it won’t be so novel anymore.


Teresa Jusino would be Sweet Pea if life were Sucker Punch. Her “feminist brown person” take on pop culture has been featured on websites like ChinaShopMag.com, PinkRaygun.com, Newsarama, and PopMatters.com. Her fiction has appeared in the sci-fi literary magazine, Crossed Genres; she is the editor of Beginning of Line, the Caprica fan fiction site; and her essay “Why Joss is More Important Than His ‘Verse” is included in Whedonistas: A Celebration of the Worlds of Joss Whedon By the Women Who Love Them, which is on sale now wherever books are sold! Get Twitterpated with Teresa, or visit her at The Teresa Jusino Experience.

44 comments
Rowanmdm
1. Rowanmdm
Having seen the trailers and read other reviews I was going to skip this movie. However, now I think I'll actually watch it. Thanks for giving me another way to look at this film.
Rowanmdm
2. heelbiter
I thought this was a great write-up until...

"If all a person sees is the fact that there’s cleavage, or a bit of
midriff, that says more about the person than it does about the film."

It's not about cleavage or midriff. It's about the come-hither poses and expressions in the publicity images and elsewhere, the language of which speaks directly to the most demeaning tropes of femininity. Given the skill with which you discuss other feminist concepts in the context of the film, it seems disingenuous that you would portray concern about the pornification of the characters as being all about a few square inches of skin. The advertising campaign for "Sucker Punch" clearly markets this "empowering" (oh, what a pointless, meaningless word!) film towards men hoping to see some adolescent tit.
Sharat Buddhavarapu
3. Sharat Buddhavarapu
I am on your side now, and you finally got me to see why the institution is all-female. This part of your review brings me much closer to the movie than your other, though my one counter-argument is if it's going to be metaphorical I'd prefer it to be even further disconnected from the idea of sexuality than it is here. How much more powerful might the message be if it had nothing to do with sexuality at all? Because if you're trying to sell a world or ideal world where women shouldn't have to deal with sexuality then perhaps the whole question shouldn't come up?

I agree with you that women should definitely been seen as more than sexual creatures and too often in pop culture that is all the depth they are allowed. I just wonder because being of Indian descent, Gandhi comes to mind immediately. A lot of his guilt and questioning of morality supposedly came from when he left his father's deathbed to have sex with his wife, and felt guilty when he wasn't there in his dad's last moments. The rest of his life he learnt to control that and other desires, and came to respect his wife as more than just a sexual, and submissive object in his life. Isn't a philosophical or spiritual approach to the topic more empowering than the straight on, "we'll deal with how women are viewed now" approach? Just a thought. Great review though...
Rowanmdm
4. robbadler
"Why does The Bride have a Bill and not a Barbara?"

Because "Barbara" getting The Bride knocked up is that "she" would remember, thus negating the premise of the move.
Rowanmdm
5. Maki
Uh huh, sure... No offense, I am all for girl power and all, but lets face it. This movie was all eye candy, and a storyline that would make its way into any Godzilla movie... Sure I understand its all about perspective, and how you see things, but ultimately, I figured this movie out fifteen minutes into it. I was absolutely unfacinated by its story and effects. Sure it had eye candy graphics, but with out a good story, eye candy cant hold a candle in the wind of making the movie... I just hope the Superman reboot is going to have a story.

As for Babydoll and her sex scene, I think it could have livened it up a bit, throw that in with more story and BAM, it would have been a better movie already. Take out some of the eye candy, set it all in the institution, and delve more into the plot and this movie could have been another Million Dollar Baby... I am saddened by how much Hollywood wants to throw eye candy around, and forget about story... I guess it is another way for us to become even more brainless then we are...

Some key points that I find you're lacking in, A: The man as the guiding force in this movie... If we're going to go outside the box, and think in metephorical outlooks then... The guiding force was god, the fact that he ended up being the bus driver, did a kindness, and let Sweet Pea on and saved her from questioning from the police who would have thrown her back into the institution, and guided her home... It would be a metaphor for God. *Gag* B: Women fighting in movies? Heroins are around in movies, for instance Blood: The last Vampire, *Cough* Million Dollar Baby *Cough*, Underworld, Underworld 2, Underworld: Rise of the Lycans, Underworld 4 (Due out soon), X-Files (Scully), Jean Grey in X-Men (Sure tital has men in it, but come on....) If you want to get right down to it, Terminator/Terminator 2: Judgement Day- Sarah Conner, Princess Leia from Starwars, Resident Evil: (No offense this series was ruined because people wanted girl power in it, when they should have stuck to the story line of the games and made it a truly GOOD series, even the games have female heroes, Jill Valentine, Rebecca Chambers, Clair Redfield.... You didnt have to throw in this female "Bad-ass" and change the WHOLE damn story...) Alright didnt go back far enough in films for you? Alien: Sigorny Weavers character Riply.... How about T.V. Buffy Summers, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Starbuck (Prime example of male role being switched to female...) from Battlestar Gallactica. Billy Piper: Doctore Who? Samantha Carter: Stargate SG1, Oh all recent right? Uhura: Star Trek, Michelle Pfiefer: Catwoman/Batman Returns, Halley Berry: Catwoman (Movie sucked but still female lead bad movie), Jane Fonda: Barbarrella, Captain Janeway: Star Trek: Deep Space 9... Have I named enough yet? Wonderwoman? >_
Rowanmdm
6. Maki
P.S. The Bride: Kill Bill Vol. 1/2.
Noneo Yourbusiness
7. Longtimefan
I have to say that the review is rather interesting. Sadly I do not know if it makes the movie more interesting to me.

But still, a well written and interesting perspective.
Rowanmdm
8. Dank
But don't all your points defending Sucker Punch apply equally to Charlie's Angels?
Ranjan Asrani
9. Allchaos
I still don't understand the dancing scenes. She's having sex with them on the stage? Or she's stripping for them? Or what is she actually doing at those points that allows the other girls to pick pocket stuff?

Also, Blondie and Amber got shot in the Brothel sub-reality, but what happened to them in the real world? I didn't think that guy went around shooting people, so did they exist at all?
Jenny Thrash
10. Sihaya
Here's the plot of the story as I see it: Babydoll accidentally kills her sister while trying to save her from being raped by their stepfather. Babydoll gets sent to an institution, where her stepfather conspires to ensure that she will be lobotomized. He discusses the lobotomy with an orderly. Babydoll sees the faces of some other inmates, but never gets introduced.

In the next scene, Babydoll gets lobotomized. Her neurons fire wildly, and she hallucinates a whole lot of characters to whom we have not yet been introduced, but who have familiar faces. Her brain reshuffles her memories into this violence drenched, oversexed story-quest. An apparent hour later, the lobotomist's hammer comes up. Babydoll, who's been silent so far, is now faceless, too. We never again see her face in the "real" world. The orderly tries to assault her, but gets caught, and the plot to lobotimize Babydoll is revealed too late. The psychologist tries to ask Babydoll if she's okay, but of course she doesn't answer. She's hallucinating again, imagining a happy ending to her lobotomy nightmare. The End.

I'm still looking for empowerment in that. It's just not there.
Teresa Jusino
11. TeresaJusino
heelbiter @2 - what's intrinsically "demeaning" about come-hither poses? About seduction? The same point I made about the clothing also holds true for flirting/seduction. In and of itself, watching a woman be seductive is not intrinsically anti-feminist. It's all about context. And throughout the entirety of this movie, the come-hither glances were used as a means to an end. And only in the burlesque/brothel reality. There were no come-hither glances in the sci-fi/fantasy reality at all. The point is that a woman wearing a certain outfit in and of itself is not the problem, the problem is in how it's perceived. In this film, the young women are dressed that way for a reason - to make a point about how women are sexualized and objectified. And yet, when in the fantasy world, what they're wearing doesn't matter - because they're too busy slicing things with swords and shooting people in the face.

Also, James Bond is all about come-hither glances. No one gives him shit for it.

Maki @5 - Great, you named a lot of female heroes. Many of them are favorites of mine. But, I promise you, as long as you think that list is, it's a speck compared to the amount of films that have been produced and the amount of films that feature men fighting things and doing battle, both in real life and in fantasy worlds.

Interesting that all of your examples come from sci-fi (except for Million Dollar Baby, which was a great film!). We're still lacking films in reality that deal with women fighting things. I mean, we had G.I. Jane. And Girlfight. And um... There's still a lot more work that needs to be created. The next step is getting these movies made by women, not just for and about women. But that's a conversation for another day. :)

Dank @8 - many of them, yes. What's your point?

Allchaos @9 - I guess this is up for interpretation, but the dancing was always equated with sex, so to me, the dancing was seduction of any kind.

As for Blondie and Amber - they definitely existed, because we saw them at the very beginning in The Theater. As for whether or not they actually got shot, I think they did. I think that Blue was actually using the mental institution as a way to earn money for himself by pimping out the inmates, and I think it's very likely that he would actually shoot two of them without any problem, considering that these are all girls left there with no one to really care about them.

Sihaya @10 - The lobotomy happens five days after she's brought in. When we're still in the real world, we hear Blue say that the doctor is due in 5 days. So those days do pass and there actually is a plan. In the real world, the girl who is Babydoll probably came up with a plan to steal the keys and the map and set the fire for the distraction to get out, and they went about doing things. But we in the audience see a heightened/stylized version of that. At the end of the film, after Babydoll's lobotomy, Dr. Gorski talks about the fact that Babydoll set a fire and had an escape attempt. So all of that actually did happen. It wasn't a hallucination just before the lobotomy. The 5 days of events are referenced in the real world twice.

But there weren't actual dragons. :)
Rowanmdm
12. David B
I was fine until you started writing about instiutions and the negative impact on women. I think there are plenty of stories from the American penal system dealing with the sexual assault of male prisoners in all-male prisons. Also look at the complaints of suspected terrorists at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay. In mixed gender situations the reason why the women are likely to be abused first is because on average women are physically weaker than men. In a dog eat dog world, the weakest person, regardless of gender, is going to be the first one picked on. As such saying instiutions are only bad for women is simply not true.
Also you write that there need to be more films about women fighting things in reality. The problem is that throughout human history 99.99% of front-line troops have been men. It is a little difficult to write a WWI movie about women fighting in the trenches when there were basically no women fighting in the trenches. This is why most female soldiers are in sci-fi and fantasy settings not because directors are sexists.
Danelle Mallen
13. astrophilia
Excellent reviews! I didn't know much about the film at all, but I'm certainly interested to watch it now.

However (I'm sure you were waiting for that one), I'm not sure I agree with your stance on the wise man. I do agree that it's important to show women wanting to teach and learn from one another; I don't see what's inherently antifeminist about gaining guidance from a male figure. If nothing else, it's at least good to know that not all men are the enemy. The inclusion of supportive male figures is important for a rounded world view or we risk an "us vs. them" message. In this particular case (based on your review because, as I said, I haven't seen the movie yet), it might even have story relevance. After all, he's the bus driver, which can represent mobility and/or the world beyond the asylum's walls. I supposed the bus driver could've been female just as easily, but he wasn't. It's important for young girls to see that not all men want to see women fail, just as not all women want to see other women succeed.

I do admit that it's tricky ground to tread: Where do you draw the line between being simply a supportive male character and being the benevolent patriarch on whom the hero must rely to achieve her self-actualization? I'll have to see the movie for myself to decide if I think that line was crossed.

And now for something completely different...I'm intrigued by the idea that these women are tyring to flee an asylum, which is a safe place by definition and a dangerous, oppressive place in reality--yet another stark disconnect between what should be and what is. I think this disconnect also goes back to (and supports) your point about institutions being bad for women. (No point here, just commenting :).)
Rowanmdm
14. NorthRaider
Much kudos for the (refreshingly) thoughtful review of this otherwise huge clusterfrak of a movie. I'll admit that I was excited to see this until I found out about the massive Women In Refrigerators outcome of the ending. Thankfully your perspective allowed me to reconsider and not completely write off this movie.

My 2 cents on the Wise Man: Even from the trailers I was somewhat disappointed in them falling back on the tired "Old Guy Who Gives Advice" trope. But for what it's worth, in the context of the movie he might make sense because without his presence that would have made every single male character in the film a reprehensible scumbag of sorts. Maybe they just needed the Wise Man to be male as a more sympathetic contrast to Blue, Babydoll's stepfather, the Cook, the High Roller, et cetera? Not an elegant explanation, I know.
Teresa Jusino
15. TeresaJusino
David B @12 - Actually, that's not entirely true. It's not just a matter of who's weaker physically. While both men and women might be, say, stolen from in an institution, a woman also might have to deal with, say, an orderly being sexually inappropriate with her. Whereas male patients don't have to deal with that same level of violation. When I said women deal with the worst of it, I meant that, in addition to the stuff that weaker male patients have to deal with, female patients deal with additional indignities that men usually don't have to deal with. My mother was a nurse's aide for a long time and saw some pretty horrible things on the job.

And I appreciate what you're saying about history, and understand that this is why we haven't, up until now, seen many movies with women on the front lines in the military. But when I say we need to say "women fighting things" I mean that outside the military, too. Movies like "Million Dollar Baby" as was mentioned above. Or, have you ever read the Brian Wood graphic novel, The Couriers? I love that, because its protagonist is a 25 year old NYC girl who grew up in the streets and makes a living as a "courier" for all sorts of disreputable types. She's good with guns and isn't afraid of a fight. I mean, stuff like that. Stuff where women aren't afraid to get into a scrap, because there are plenty of women who aren't. No matter what their physical size.

astrophilia and NorthRaider - good point about the Wise Man being the only man who's not a scumbag in the film! Point taken. :)
Rowanmdm
16. Maac
I hate to break it to those critics, but...rape happen and women are objectified in real life. Be angry when it happens then.



This is too dismissive for me and borders on condescending. Some women have actually been through rape and sexual assault and find such dramatic, CGI'd-and-prettyfied depictions of it/allusions to it triggering. Obviously such women are not in need of reminding that this happens in real life, and the fact that it does happen in real life doesn't necessarily make the movie empowering in this case.

I also think one needs to consider audience -- whose "gaze" is this catering to? Exposure can be used to convey so many different meanings and implications. (Obviously you'd know better than me, having seen the film.)

Otherwise, there are some interesting points to think about, but in this case, so far, I still think I'd find this film upsetting and not a fun good time at the movies. Jury still out.
Rowanmdm
17. Maac
I'm flagged as spam? :-(
Rowanmdm
18. martinblank
Great, great analysis.

I/r/t the Wise Man, I found it amusing that a lot of his "wisdom" amounts to empty cliches. (Although his "If you don't stand for something you'll fall for anything," much seen in the movie's ads, is always happy advice.) Why is he there, other than to be the sole male-who's-not-scum? Is he, too, a commentary on irrelevant "mansplainers" who just basically need to get out of the way and let the women take care of business? I need to see it again, but aside from apparently being the Bus Driver at the end, does he actually do anything other than magically being there on the scene in each fantasy to set up the situation and facilitate what the women then go on to do by themselves? Is the Wise Man actually Zack Snyder, taking the piss out of himself? Is he the "director" of the very cinematic fantasies that, in our reality, take the place of having to watch the "dance" (rape) or standard escape action?

The movie deserves far more attention than simply "LOL this is crap," so I'm happy that it's getting discussed seriously somewhere.
Rowanmdm
19. Sihaya
Teresa, I know that some very, very general events are referred to at the end. Like I said, her brain is reshuffling some memories. The events of the last couple of days are probably the last new memories she will form. But there's nothing to indicate that the other gals's characters are anything like Babydoll's imaginings. I don't think the others actually die in any escape attempt, though it's possible that they were the original candidates who'd been slated on the traveling lobotomist's schedule (the history of lobotomy is sick like that - it's most famous practitioner worked it like a travelling show, letting hospitals know he was coming to their state and asking if there was anybody the hospital think would benefit from his procedure? Or any doctors who wanted to observe and learn about this wonderful cure? The lobotomist had some materials to read). Dr. Gorski refers to the fire and the escape as niggling problems. Nothing in her tone or posture indicates deadly events - I don't imagine she would think of Babydoll as being somehow spunky rather than distressingly violent, if they were. I doubt Sweet Pea had a sister who the cook attempted to rape and then killed. That's Babydoll's own sister. No, their personalities and tales are, as far as the story's concerned, ciphers with no clues. So we know very little about what actually happened in the "cut" between the scene when Babydoll is checked into the theater and when she's seated in the lobotomist's chair.

I think that the sex scene with Hamm would make sense. The sex would be a stand-in for the violence of the lobotomy, for what is actually happening to Babydoll at that moment - her loss of self. It would actually be the best indicator that her hallucinations are a reflection of what is going on in the "real" asylum, though, and might have changed *my* perception about the plot of the film. I would have seen something that actually tethers her hallucinations to reality, and I might have felt some hope when Babydoll imagines Sweet Pea's bus ride.

I guess my problem is that I'm not just deciphering the past. I'm seeing Babydoll's extremely helpless future, but I've got no indication of Sweet Pea's future, really. It's why the film seems like hopeless, last minute thrashing. The symbology doesn't matter when the future indicators are bleak, even for the larger context of the asylum and institutionalization. Oh, I'll admit that in 1955 the lobotomy was already on a downward slide, and seen by many doctors as barbaric. The wave of the future was clean and surgery free, and already in practice at many modern hospitals - electroshock.
Emmet O'Brien
20. EmmetAOBrien
I would appear to have jumped the gun on some of these points in my response to your earlier post; sorry for that.

I am not sure I agree with you about the potential impact of a sex scene with the High Roller, though; in that to my reading of the film, once we get that doctor character on stage in the outer frame, he's deceived into doing something bad by an actively malicious character and his reaction to realising that is pretty positive. Given which, some more nuance to his presentation in the inner frame would not have felt wrong to me; also, that undercuts any argument for the Wise man being necessary as a positive male figure.

Babydoll asserting something positive through her sexuality would have felt appropriate to me precisely because of the angle everything else in the frame-stories is taking to sexuality; it's not that they don't have bigger problems than their sex lives, it's that those problems are so strongly entwined with their sexualities that there's not really anything to distinguish whether the film is taking an anti-bad-sex position or an all-sex-is-bad position, and the latter is kind of repulsive to me.

Also, I find it hard to read an actively chosen self-sacrifice as empowering in a context where a choice to sacrifice self, to stay at home and support a husband's career frex, is an assumed default, as that 1955's external expectations seem to me.
Jenny Thrash
21. Sihaya
PS -Teresa, I'm sorry if I appear to be pounding on you with long posts. I'm not trying to troll. You probably are the only one I've seen who bothers to do a point-by-point discussion of this movie, and I appreciate it. What you saw in this film were the things I had actually hoped to see in the trailer. The film hints at real complexity.
Rowanmdm
22. Margo Eve
Actually, I found the old maleWiseman character to be perfect. See, I saw him as an allegory for God. Remember that whole bit about angels in the beginning? (Of course you do, you pointed it out in your last article.) Who better to direct the guardian angel that was Babydoll, with nonsense riddle like "wisdom" than some cryptic old man? I mean when is God's wisdom ever clear?

And, given your previous article, that this was all from Sweatpea's point of view, well it makes sense. Sweatpea was the one person who actually saw the Wiseman IRL and he actually saved her with no reason to do so... so why wouldn't he be "God" in her fantasy retelling?

Granted, it would be nice if God were portrayed as a woman, but we are not there yet... except in Kevin Smith films.
Teresa Jusino
23. TeresaJusino
Maac @16 - I actually find your comment a bit condescending. Sadly, there are several women who are friends of mine who've been through a rape. I'm well aware of triggers. I'm also aware that at least two of the women I know who've survived a rape would also love this movie for different reasons. I know this wasn't what you were trying to say, but just to be clear, I don't assume that every rape victim feels the same way about what happened to her. Just like I don't assume every woman will feel the same way about this film, or anything else having to do with being female.

Also, just because a film caters to male gaze, doesn't mean 1) that women can't/won't like it, and 2) that it can't explore female agency and empowerment. In fact, it's probably a valid choice to make a film like that that does specifically cater to the male gaze to get their butts in seats so that they can get the more important messages once already in the theater.

Sihaya @19 - I need to see this movie again! If only because now, I've only seen it once, and I'm arguing points with people who've seen it more recently than me and I can't remember enough about what I saw anymore to form opinions! :) And PLEASE don't worry about "pounding on" me. I can take it. As long as the comments are thoughtful and considered, which yours have been, I will always welcome the discussion! :)

Margo Eve @22 - Yes, it WOULD be nice if God were portrayed as a woman. I had that very thought. :) And that's the point. That we're "not there yet." But in movies like these, we could be. That's why I was so suprised that, when it was trying to subvert so many other things, that it stuck to this particular cliche. Also, that actor was horrible. :)
Emmet O'Brien
24. EmmetAOBrien
MargoEve@22:
Actually, I found the old maleWiseman character to be perfect. See, I
saw him as an allegory for God. Remember that whole bit about angels in
the beginning? (Of course you do, you pointed it out in your last
article.) Who better to direct the guardian angel that was Babydoll,
with nonsense riddle like "wisdom" than some cryptic old man? I mean
when is God's wisdom ever clear?

If the take-home message is that for God to get one person to safety involves sacrificing four, that's either a kind of feeble God or a not very nice one; if we're looking to filmed SF for our theology, I think I'll stick with Roy Batty calling his maker to account.
Rowanmdm
25. Raskolnikov
Haven't seen the film and not particularly planning on it. For gender issues, one review I've seen recently made an impression:

" in a film where the plot isn't even remotely important, next to the spectacle of Baby Doll's various fantasies, and the omnipresent fact of five girls dressed in what amounts to themed fetish gear - Snyder famously would have it thatSucker Punch is a tribute to female strength, which he tries to jerry-rig by making ever non-imaginary male character a transparent slimeball, but a movie in which women only succeed by dancing so erotically that men literally cannot focus on the world around them is not precisely a feminist statement, nor is a movie that show how strong young women are by calling them "Baby Doll" and "Sweet Pea" and putting them in schoolgirl outfits."

...which, yeah. Is that what the film's plot and visual structure ultimately boil down to (it seems no two reviewers can agree on the plot)? If so, then all the protests about focusing less on clothing doesn't seem to insulate this movie against well-deserved charges of sexism. The surface quite often is the substance, and if the main energy of the movie is on females as eroticized subjects rather than subjects, then gender-wise it's deeply problematic at best.
R B
26. MasterAlThor
I have now read both of your post about this movie and I have to say thank you for writing them. I do not know if I would have saw the movie that way. I still haven't seen the movie but it is on my to watch list now.

My 17yr old son has said that he wants to go watch it. I may take him with me, but I do wish that you were around to explain it to him afterward. I don't believe that my words would do it justice.

I have to admit when I saw the previews I thought "hot women, swords, guns and a good amount of violence that's what I want to see."

Your review is the only one that I have read about the move. It seems to me that this film was well thought out and the director did a good job visualizing it.

Thanks for your POV. I appreaciated it.

Dragon
Rowanmdm
27. Margo Eve
EmmetAOBrien@24 - But were 4 really sacrificed in the "real world"?

That is questionable.

We do know Babydoll was sacrificed, but all other "deaths" happened within Sweatpea's Burlesque fantasy. (Remember, it's her fantasy. "This is Sweatpea. She's the star of the show." And Babydoll doesn't speak until she interacts with Sweatpea directly.) We don't know if those deaths actually happened or not.
Emmet O'Brien
28. EmmetAOBrien
MargoEve@27; if they weren't sacrificed in the real world, their not showing up in the real world at the end wants explanation, particularly Rocket, given SweetPea's attitude to her throughout.
Teresa Jusino
29. TeresaJusino
Raskolnikov @25 -
re: "Snyder famously would have it thatSucker Punch is a tribute to
female strength, which he tries to jerry-rig by making ever
non-imaginary male character a transparent slimeball, but a movie in
which women only succeed by dancing so erotically that men literally
cannot focus on the world around them is not precisely a feminist
statement, nor is a movie that show how strong young women are by
calling them "Baby Doll" and "Sweet Pea" and putting them in schoolgirl outfits."

What I would say to this reviewer is, having a movie that deals with the ways in which women suffer due to inequality without showing the ways in which they're objectified is like having a film about slavery without showing how the slaves were beaten and killed. The empowerment comes from the way the characters fight against these things, not from these things themselves.

MasterAlThor @26 - I would definitely take your son to see it. There's no reason why he shouldn't have fun at this movie at the surface level. Then, talk to him about why the fights and the girls seem so bad ass. Bring up how wrong it was that they were put into the situations they were put in in the first place. Just use your own words. They'll be plenty, I'm sure! It think that parents talking to their sons about stuff like this is just as important as daughters getting the message. You can't fix one side of an equation without fixing the other. Do it! :)
Rowanmdm
30. TheSartorialNerd
May I just say THANK YOU TIMES INFINITY FOREVER AND EVER for writing this? Your review was brilliant in every possible way and you've managed to say exactly what I've been struggling to tell people about Sucker Punch. It pained me to see this movie get ripped to shreds by critics I usually respect (A.O. Scott, I am looking at you, sir).

As someone who's been (unjustly) committed to a psychiatric institution for the crime of having actual feelings, Sucker Punch was a story I needed. My inital reaction to it wasn't focused so much on female empowerment but rather on a depiction of how the powerless empower themselves. I'm personally sick of the Anita Blakes of the sci fi world - women who are given power and privilege on a silver platter and are never made to earn it. A story about women (and young women at that) who create their own power when it is denied them is so amazingly powerful.

Like you said, institutions are horrible places, especially for women (who are often taken less seriously in mental hospitals due to the idea that women are prone to hysterics and therefore cannot be trusted with their own feelings). Even reading this as a straightforward escapist fantasy without the greater intricacies of the plot shows that Sucker Punch is about how unbearable reality can be. And when that happens, sometimes you have to make your own. Imagination is far more powerful than we think. As the women in the movie exercise the only freedom they have - that of creativity - we see them create their own destinies. At its heart, it's a story about choice. In a environment where the ability to make their own decisions was taken away from them, the women of Sucker Punch found a way to circumvent that and fought to create world where the basic right to choose (powerful thought, eh?) was restored to them.

I saw the movie last week and I'm still distraught over Babydoll's sacrifice but I don't think I would have it any other way. There is no choice more powerful than selflessness. I'm going to see it again tonight and even though I know how it ends, I'm still pretty excited.
Rowanmdm
31. AuttieB
David B @ 12.
I realize I'm coming to the party a little late, but in reading your post something just galled the ever-loving crap outta me.
"The problem is that throughout human history 99.99% of front-line troops have been men. It is a little difficult to write a WWI movie about women fighting in the trenches when there were basically no women fighting in the trenches. This is why most female soldiers are in sci-fi and fantasy settings not because directors are sexists. "
Let me enlighten you my man...there were many cultures throughout human history with mixed-gender soldiers (celts, several asian cultures, Russian woman battalions in WW1)...if you need to get more recent almost every Western Army has had women since the 1970s. I spent years in the service myself and my fellow female soldiers and I saw plenty of "front-lines". Did you know that it was a dozen women who got on hands and knees on the decks of the USS Cole so that the Fire Response could walk across their backs to get to the fire without stepping on the wounded? Did you know they spent days covered in blood, right alongside the men, saving who they could and sorting body parts while ignoring their own minor injuries? I think the point being made is...Why the hell aren't these stories being made into movies? It's not Science Fiction and it's not Fantasy...this is real life and THIS is what we're capable of.
Steven Halter
32. stevenhalter
Thanks for another good review, Teresa. I agree with all of your points, except for the wise man. As a couple others pointed out, he was the only positive male character, so that's probably why he was there.
Now, a wise woman would certainly have worked, but then I think some other character would have been needed as the "not all males are evil balancer." Probably not enough room in the film for another such character, but maybe an intern who helps or something could have been fit in.
This was a very interesting film. It required paying attention and that's a good thing for a film these days.
Rowanmdm
33. DangerousDac
"Lastly, I’ll say that Sucker Punch is an important film simply
because it gives a quintet of young actresses the opportunity to don
armor, fight viciously, and have lead roles in a sci-fi/fantasy film;
and it gives young women everywhere the opportunity to watch them do it.
This type of story—a war film starring women; a war film in which women
actually fight and fight brutally—is an opportunity afforded so rarely
that when it happens, we damn well better embrace it, if only for its
sheer novelty.


If only in the hope that one day it won’t be so novel anymore."

Well, that killed the entire review. If that is the simplest reason for this film to exist, whats wrong with doing it in a way that "actually" happens in the story, and doesnt have to involve women resorting to a fantasy world to actually stand up and take names? Was Rambo molested by a step parent in order to make him a bad ass? Did James Bond have to break out of a nut house?

Simply put, I feel this film does nothing for female empowerment in the way Zack Snyder says it does because in the story none of this actually happens. All they ever did was resort to using Baby Doll's "hypnotic" sexual dance to distract the men so they could run around and pinch things. None of this ass kicking you've mentioned because that never happened. All they did was steal, and when Baby Doll's "sexyness" wore off (Urgh) they were in the shit, got caught and half of em got killed because a woman sold them out.

Hell, the whole reason this story happens is because Baby Doll can't point a gun straight at the start, explicitly stating that she's just an ickle girl who can't do anything except stand there and look pretty, which is ultimately what she does, in order to escape.

Yes, that was all in the first "level" of fantasy, but at the end we are shown that these events did happen in the real world, but the way in which they were executed are unknown, but probably involved Babydoll being used as a distraction because Sweet Pea survived and managed to escape, just like in the first "level" of fantasy. Which is all that empowerment is, a fantasy.

In the real world, the protagonist failed because her female friends were not strong enough, then the movie makes a switch to the "real" protagonist who only escaped because her other "sexy" friend acted as a distraction, which ultimately cost her her life, because I wouldnt count being lobotemised as living.

So in the end, 4 people died in order for 1 to escape, and the only reason they died is because their entire plan hinged on them exploiting a woman's sexuality.

The Alien, Resident Evil and Tomb Raider franchises are much better examples of female empowerment because they give actresses "the opportunity to don armor, fight viciously, and have lead roles in a sci-fi/fantasy film; and it gives young women everywhere the opportunity to watch them do it" but actually mean something in the context of the story. Unlike Sucker Punch which while claiming empowerment served it up in a way in which it didnt really happen and therefore mean anything.
Steven Halter
34. stevenhalter
One thing we haven't mentioned very much in this thread is the way in which the music frames the story. The images provide the scenes and the plot points, but the music provides both the entrance to the various scenes and the backbone for each scene. From a bit of memory and some searching, I think that this is the song sequence (and singer) with each scene:

"Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)" -- Emily Browning -- Opening scenes - Babydoll at the house fighting with her stepfather.
"Where Is My Mind?" -- Yoav featuring Emily Browning -- As Baby Doll checks into the hospital.
"Asleep" - Emily Browning -- In bed at the brothel, with Baby Doll crying
"Requiem In D Minor, K. 626: Introit: Requiem Aeternam" -- Slovak Philharmonic -- First kitchen fight
"Army Of Me" -- Björk -- Temple fight
"White Rabbit" - Emiliana Torrini -- WW I trench fight for map.
"I Want It All"/"We Will Rock You" Mash-Up -- Queen with Armageddon Aka Geddy -- The Mayor's arrival
"Search And Destroy" - Skunk Anansie -- Dragon Castle
"Stabat Mater: Quando Corpus Morietur" -- Cologne Concert Orchestra -- Potato peeling
"Tomorrow Never Knows" -- Alison Mosshart and Carla Azar -- Train bomb
"Army Of Me" -- Björk featuring Skunk Anansie -- Baby Doll tells Sweet Pea to go on.
"Love Is The Drug" - Carla Gugino and Oscar Isaac -- Credits

The use of redone and in many cases very familiar music provides a starting point, with a difference.
Rowanmdm
35. Matt Curry
This is Cathy C's(in Denver) boyfriend, Matt. We watched Sucker Punch together, and we both agree strongly with the points that you are making in your review. This is the best review that I have read of this move, and one of the best reviews of any movie I have seen. You need to get a 'screener's pass' (or whatever) so you can review films before they come out. I usually use rotten tomatoes to decide if I want to go to a movie, and if you could contribute to that it would be amazingly helpful.
Rowanmdm
36. ElyKitty
Oh my goodness. You have just said the exact words that I've been telling people who say this movie sucked. But I've been telling people the dumbed down version of this post:
Women understand it because men don't have to worry about some of the concepts that are presented in the movie. Men weren't put in asylums and taken advantage of but women can go and fight a war the same as men.

DangerousDac @33 didn't get it, obviously. One of the major points in the film was that women and men are different (duh!) but can use those differences to get what they want. Men use strength and power (which is why Babydoll ends up in the asylum and lobotomized), why can't women use their sexuality? A woman has the power to make a man look at her and nothing else. Apprently, rainbows and fornicating rabbits just don't cut it. Sure it'll distract your line of vision but at some point you have to look away. Think Memoirs of a Geisha.
Rowanmdm
37. exception
"the Wise Man being the only man who's not a scumbag"

Of course he's not. The whole thing is his fantasy world, not Sweet Pea's. The entire movie takes place inside his head, a man's fantasy of girl power.
Rowanmdm
38. DZERB
Honestly, after reading the comments and the review itself, i have to say i never actually thought the ending in the way that you have all portrayed it, being that it was sweetpeas fantasy instead of Babydoll's. However, my take on this movie was the concept of an attempted understanding about a visual manifestation of a vicarious soul. Simply put, aside from the visual effects and the fighting and whatnot, I believe that whether or not it was Sweetpea's fantasy or Babydoll's, the lobotomy was the key point in the entire movie. My opinion was that Babydoll, after being lobotomized, vicariously lived out Sweatpea's life at the end of the movie. I suggest this because lets consider the flow of the movie: The girls require an item, Babydoll dances as a distraction, cue fantasy/action, end fantasy/action, item acquired. Now at the end of the movie, Babydoll requires "the fifth item" to escape. If we consider the element of consistency, if she herself is in fact the fifth item, in order to require it she needed a fantasy, this time not through music or dance but through the medium of the lobotomy. The lobotomy granted her an arbitrary hallucination, where she could vicariously live out Sweatpea life after her escape. Another piece of evidence I will use to support this is that yes, in every fantasy/action scene we see the wise man, and in the trenches we see the boy. Given that these characters are in fact imaginary, it goes to say that the ending scene is in fact a fantasy; Babydoll's fantasy.

However, i do see how you would think it was Sweatpea's story and not Babydoll's. My counterargument to this however is that if you say the wise man was a product of Sweatpea's mind, then how would she have had her fantasies within the asylum that included the wiseman before ever actually seeing him? Also, even if that was the case, it's borderline supernatural that the wiseman in her fantasies in the asylum is an exact match for a real world man who drives a bus....that she's never met before. The last piece of evidence i'll offer is that the dialogue at the end of the movie makes a point in emphasizing that Babydoll "isn't here". They say the line multiple times, as if the constantly hint that although her body is there, her mind is literally somewhere else; In my opinion her mind is either a spectator of, or the actual being in, Sweatpea's life of freedom.

/end rant

sorry for being 3 months late to this review discussion, i just bought the movie on DVD and though i'd comment.
Rowanmdm
39. Evilpie93
I'm sorry to say that a) Amber and Blondie probably had labotomies instead of being shot. I say this because Blue was able to forge Gorskies signature. And you could easily say that it happened on the fifth day because in the "Brothel" they did die on the night of the high roller coming in.

b) I got the extended cut and the sex scene wasn't really a sex scene at all. It also added a little more to Babydoll's story. He said that he was told to de-flower her (lebotomize) but he doesn't want to do it if she doesn't want her. He then continues to speak of wanting her to want him. In the end she does want him and it becomes consensual. As he kisses her it flashes back to the actual lebotomy and he says the line "It's weird. In that last moment it looked like she was begging me for it. " Therefore the lebotomy was her escape. I did enjoy your entire perspective though. I read both parts. If you haven't seen it yet, here's a link: http://youtu.be/JG3xECfUrzM enjoy!
Nate Thomas
40. Atomicshot
From A Guys Perspective I thought the movie was generally a great movie... I was kinda confused towards the ending... What confused me is that her step-father sent her to the institution... So he gets away?? Now as far as the clothing goes, i thouht it was very mellow, and exotic. i think it went well with the movie, It showed the actresses attractiveness.... Now for the feminist part, I don't think it was feminist in anyway... The guys were A**holes except for the wise man.... In general to me the movie was great... I liked how they made the female characters bada** and stand up for themselves unlike other movies.... Females just get the crap beat out of them without fighting back....
Rowanmdm
41. Joshua Knight
I lovee that chinese girl, she was soooo hott!
Rowanmdm
42. AM
What Sucker Punch does is mirror ‘real life’ by asking questions of men/women relationships, and the use of power. I bit like Emily Browning latest Sleeping Beauty. Why some did not like it is that it does not give you the answers to the questions it’s asks.
Rowanmdm
43. jc geronimo
i hope ther is part 2
Rowanmdm
44. Deadguy71
I liked your review, and thank you for the effort in your posts, since I too, am frustrated by the negative reviews of it. To me, the entire film took place in Babydoll's head, I recognize that this doesn't fit with the character saying "this isn't my story, it's yours," except that, it's still within her own head, and is therefore the realization that she herself has nowhere to "escape" to. That portion of herself which remained behind had no future worth, the portion that got away was "most likely to succeed."

For the sake of understanding my perspective, let's just assume that it's indeed within her own head, and go from there. As she's led into this asylum, she see's faces, and overhears bit's of dialogue, and uses these to give faces to own aspects of her personality, AND to the faces of the world she's now trapped within. Counsellors take on the aspect of dance instructors, etc.

This partially explains why no one has any "real" names, she has to name everyone within her reality. The "dancing" is a metaphor for therapy sessions, and she feels as though she's being viewed as a sex object. She is also at least aware that doctors are being inappropriate with patients, OR, that's given to her by the uncle that may have attempted to molest her in the past.

As she travels through (or experiences) the asylum, she projects aspects of her own psyche onto the people she feels are somewhat like her. Like Sweatpea is apparently the one she feels the most kinship with, perhaps based solely on appearance, and she gives her the role of the girl trying to protect her little sister. Which was her own role as protector, shortly before accidentally shooting her own younger sister.

Sweatpea is an embodiment of Babydoll's courage and strength. She's the one "most likely to succeed" and is indeed, the part of babydoll's mind that escapes as the lobotomy occurs.

Amber is her empathy and compassion, which gives her the desire to help everyone, and typically took more of a support role (pilot), possibly because she didn't really like the conflict. As far as I can tell, she only shot her gun when the orc was on catapulted onto the front of the bomber.

Blondie is her faked tough guy persona. Always cynical and yet the first to confess of the plans to the dance instructor in a momemnt of weakness. The exploitation of this weakness, also permitted the badguys to find out what the girls were doing.

Rocket, was sort of a visualization of babydoll's younger sister, as evidenced by the scene in which they sit and talk about how they regret doing certain things. Babydoll is referencing the accidental death of her sister.

The wise man, may have been an inmate, or may have been her real father, or a school teacher, "sent" as a guardian, or her spirit guardian. I think the reason he was personified as an older male, without any apparent hedonistic vices simply to suggest to her that he's sexually "safe" and therefore not a threat to her despite being male because he has no aspirations of his own beyond assisting and guiding her.

She knows she's to be lobotomized soon, and she makes the visualizations of the high roller, based on how this is a person of importance, spoken of with deference and respect by the counsellors/staff and even other inmates.

She's also aware that she has to "escape" before the lobotomy. She imagines parts of herself dying-off as she struggles to escape the prison of her own mind. Some of these deaths can be attributed to failures on her part, in terms of confidence in herself, others can be viewed as acceptances of her fate, or an understanding that these parts of her are no longer needed.

The survival of a very small part of her mind through the lobotomy process is achieved by letting go of herself. As the doctor noted.. she seemed glad to be escaping her prison as he lobotomized her. It was her last moment of conscious thought which had the strongest element of herself fleeing successfully in the bus under the protection of her spiritual guardian. She held that thought as her final thought. That part of her was free, and the rest of herself was gone by that point.

The last section to "die" was her sense of self. Her own place within the story. She gave that up in-order to save what she could of herself. Also, did you notice who rode the bus ahead of Sweet Pea? It was the boy soldier from the trenches during the map quest, but without any wounds. It's the one that Blondie had lifted up the helmet of, in the trenches.

So in effect, she DID escape beyond anything anyone could do to her from that point forward, or at least her spirit did.

Might I suggest you have a look at the Sucker Punch wikia.. great stuff there:
http://suckerpunch.wikia.com

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