Sin City

If you’re a fan of comics or movies then you’ve probably already read or seen Frank Miller’s SIN CITY. With its dark, gritty environment, rugged protagonists, psychopathic villains, and general chaos, it deserves a legendary spot in both the comic book and movie world. One of the recurring traits of Sin City is its scantily-clad, dangerous women who work the streets and risk death every day. Some have made the argument before that the depiction of women in Sin City is, in a word, sexist.

Is it, though?

Sexism is such an arguable and subjective topic. A man might feel it is sexist if he is expected to pay for a date. A woman might find it sexist if she feels like she is just a sex object in society. Many argue that the women of Sin City are the latter – overly-sexualized whores and nothing more. But is that the case when these same female characters are as deadly, if not deadlier, than the male characters? Is this is the case when they aren’t just used for sex but used as protective figures and excellent villains? The discussion remains open.

Sin City

An article entitled This is why “Sin City: A Dame To Kill For” Is Full of Infuriating Sexism by Shanee Edwards states:

If you’re keen on broads, whores and sluts, however, put those 3D glasses over your peepers and take a gander at the most un-female-friendly picture show of the year.

To be clear, we understand that Sin City: A Dame to Kill For is a movie made for dudes. Probably dudes ages 14 to 29, to be specific. At my screening, a 20-something man was sitting next to me. I made sure to monitor his reactions to the film since I figured he was the target audience.

Every time a naked lady appeared on the screen, the young man would nervously bite his nails. By the end of the film, all 10 of his fingers had been chewed down to stumps.

She goes on to explain that Sin City, at least “A Dame To Kill For” is full of female stereotypes, violence towards women and generally a non-female-friendly story in general. In short, it is infuriatingly sexist. However, while “A Dame To Kill For” might fall short on its own merit in some ways, the comic and original movie seem to succeed.

I’d argue against that, actually. “A Dame To Kill For” might not be the best representation of the women of Sin City but the comic book has convinced me that these bad beauties are actually cases of strong women.

READ: Need more noir? Check out Black Girl Tragic: Misogynoir on the CW.

The first point I want to bring up is that Sin City is no less friendly towards men than it is to women. In fact, the prostitutes are dangerous; they are the judge, jury and executioners in their part of town. They are equipped with a slew of guns, a Japanese assassin and a dominatrix that axed a crime lord; to summarize, these ladies are no laughing matter.

Sin City

While the male characters do tend to play the rescuers of the ladies in Sin City, quite typically, they also often depend on the likes of Gail, said dominatrix, and Miko, said Japanese assassin, to take out the baddies. Then you have Delia aka “Blue Eyes”, a stone-cold killer who sleeps with her victims (the ones she likes, at least) before ruthlessly killing them. You also have Ava who is the very definition of a sociopath who uses her gorgeous body to play and kill men. These do not sound like weak characters, do they?

Daisy Beta in her article “Sin City 2: A Dame to Kill For” and the Problems with being a Feminist Nerd claims that:

These women are prostitutes, and are deigned interesting enough to get screen time not because they are independent women, but because they have accepted their roles as inferior to men. They are smart enough to know that sex is all they are good for. And they are cool enough to enjoy it. And although it may be wrong to hit them, watching it happen for two hours is valid entertainment.

This is a fair point, but Sin City has a bit of an angle on it that makes the situation different to the standard objectification tale. Let’s go back to the male characters for a second. You have Marv, the lovable psychopath who falls in love with any woman who gives him the time of day, Dwight, who is obsessed with his ex, Wallace, an ex-war hero/artist set on rescuing a woman he saves from suicide and Detective Hartigan who saved a young girl from being horribly tortured and raped by the governor’s son AKA “That Yellow Bastard.” These men don’t live the happiest lives; they take work where they can get it and largely accept their fates without trying to get better as Sin City is a place that “soils people.”

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It sounds like these men are doing what they can to get by in the torrid city and have plenty of their own struggles with safety, kinship and steady work. They use their few skills to survive in a city that wants them dead. In reality, this is exactly what the female characters are doing as well. They’re toting guns, they’re killing people, they’re protecting their own and are surviving the city that kills indiscriminately. They’re using their wiles to get by and survive the harsh and corrupted area that is Sin City, yes, but I don’t see how this is any different than Marv using his muscles to get by or Wallace using his commando skills. The male characters are just as willing to kill as the women are, except the prostitutes have an entire gang that even the Sin City police don’t mess with.

The earlier article mentioned that violence against women is a prominent theme in Sex City and, no question, this is true. Sin City unbiased in which gender it chooses to be violent towards. This is going to be a major point of contention for some. People are going to be in an outrage at the very idea that this isn’t sexist but I’m already in hot water so here we go: I don’t think showing violence against women, in this case, is sexist. These women are violent, just as willing to ruthlessly kill and manipulate and many of them don’t exactly need a man to do so. If one of them gets hit then they are quick to hit back. Ava, for example, gets hit and loves it. But Ava is also a lying, manipulative sociopath who immediately cries victim to whatever man will listen. She’s not helpless and she knows what she’s doing. The damage she has done is immense, so actually seeing her get her just desserts in the end is completely justified and even satisfying.

Sin City

I think, for a lot of feminists, any violence against women is considered inherently sexist. Violence in general, to be clear, is not all right. However, this is a fantasy world where everyone can die, everyone has to get by with what meager skills they have to survive, the city is run by corrupted psychopaths and it’s everyone for themselves. As a woman, if I needlessly hit someone then I believe they are fully within their rights to hit back. If a man pulls a gun on a prostitute then I don’t think its sexist at all if she and her gang shoot him up. Its gritty, its violent and its pretty damn satisfying.

READ: Want to see more Frank Miller? Check out Batman Part One: YEAR ONE, or How Legends are Made.

In the end it is all entirely subjective. I happen to find that women who are sexually expressive are much stronger and more secure in themselves than women who are repressed. These characters are all just using what they can to get by and being a prostitute seems like it would be safety in numbers in Sin City, doesn’t it? With how many jerks, corrupt cops and sexists there are in Sin City then I would much rather join up with the dominatrix and her gang than be out on my own.

Again, this is all personal opinion. I like these characters, and while the male leads can be a little “white knight-ish,” I still respect the female characters who don’t take any nonsense from anyone in a gimp suit, naked or not.

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