This week I went to see the film everyone is talking about “Where Do We Go Now?” By Nadine Labaki. I was really excited and expected a good show. And a good show it was. It made me laugh, it made me cry and it made me upset! The story is one that if it doesn’t preoccupy every Lebanese person I met, it at least affects them in some way or form in their everyday life. That isn’t what upset me, my issue with the story is it’s reinforcement of some of the most ugly gender stereotypes. Stop here if you don’t want any spoilers.
The film depicts the village women as the gate keepers of peace, the ones that are conniving, calculating and manipulative. It doesn’t matter that they are portrayed as such for a good reason. It matters that they are portrayed
as such. In the film they are seen more than once sitting together plotting and planning. And who do they manipulate? Who do they conspire against? The buffoons, the stupid, war mongering, blood lusting men. The men can’t who can’t think for themselves, are driven by machismo and testosterone to fight like this is the only solution. The men don’t think to question the news, they don’t think to talk about what
is happening. Instead they plot little attacks or pranks in the church or the
mosque that later escalate into standoffs, as if that is the only way the men can express themselves and their affiliation with their sect/ religion. They only time the men are shown to co
me together and talk is when they are planning attacks and strategizing about where to keep their weapons. And to add insult to injury, when the women’s tactics don’t work they bring in skinny, blonde, half-naked women to distract the men, thus appealing to their basest instincts, the distraction is bought to it pinnacle with the women drugging the men and making the skinny blonds dance for them as they hide all the arms.
These portrayals were done with such craftsmanship and artistry that you leave the film with a feeling of satisfaction that can easily makes you forget these stereotypes and the problems they present. I also feel (and I could be completely off base) that since sectarianism in Lebanon is at the heart of the film that these issues will be overlooked and take a backseat in the discussions around it. If I am wrong, and there are discussions about the gendered presentations within the film, please link me to the critiques and discussions or alternatively, start one in the comments section below. I am disturbed by this representation and how it reduces both men and women to these ugly vignettes. I think that characters and the story could’ve been built without both lumping women and men into one of two camps, the complexities of the situation could’ve crossed the gender line and ultimately presented a more interesting, and maybe even a more realistic story.