August 2010

Better on Second Glance, or Why Ariadne Wins at Everything

Now, to begin with, we should note that this entry contains plot spoilers for Inception. If you haven’t seen it and don’t want to be spoiled, don’t read beyond this point.

So. Ariadne.

The first time I saw Inception (and yes, there have been several), I was a little disappointed. It occurred to me that apart from Cobb, any character of the team could have just as easily been female. And they weren’t. With the exception of Ariadne, it’s a boys’ club, and it wasn’t until I read Sister Magpie’s entry (link pending on approval from her) on fandom’s reaction to the movie and to Ariadne that I really begun to love her as a character. See, as magpie writes, Ariadne and Arthur may well have been gender-switched*, and had they been, their respective relationships to Cobb has been much more stereotypical.

Perhaps more important, Nolan could just as easily have made it an all-boys-club; it wouldn’t have been unusual for a summer action movie, and Nolan’s women tend to be more like Mal – ethereal, glamorous and dead – anyway. Ariadne didn’t have to be a woman, but she is, and I am happy she is, in her own resourceful, opinionated, intelligent, feeling way.

New Yorker columnist Emma Rosenblum pities Ellen Page for having to wear the “rags” that are Ariadne’s outfits, and I go “uhh, what, now?” I don’t know what Ms Rosenblum normally wears when running around in action dreams, but I was personally very relieved to see a female character in sensible clothing. Men’s glam clothes are pretty practical; they’re usually just more fitted, expensive versions of daily wear. But women’s dressed-up, the stuff Marion Cotillard’s Mal wears, is highly unpractical. Your fall in heels, you can’t run in dresses. I love that Ariadne wears pants she can run in, t-shirts and cardigans, and that she doesn’t need to flash her curves in every single scene. Rosenblum calls it asexual (although desexualized might be a better term), I call it realistic. It’s relieving to have a female lead who does shit instead of smooches her hero boyfriend, and who wears clothes she can accomplish things in. Speaking of desexualized, by the way, didn’t Arthur steal a kiss? And didn’t Ariadne seem to like it, in a darling, smug sort of way?

The real problem with Ariadne is that she is a kind of  audience surrogate; through her ignorance, we are given answers about what is going on. A lot of the time, her dialogue is pure exposition. Now, I admit to loving exposition like I love ice cream, but with a lesser actress, it would undoubtedly have become boring, or at least tiringly transparent after a while. Not with Page. She does a great job of making her lines sound authentic. I believe her, all the way through.

And look at her. Not only is Ariadne a star student at what appears to be a prestigious Paris school, she supposedly a better Architect and maze-maker than Cobb was, she immediately calls him on his shit in a way Arthur never has. She has skills and a fetching personality, and Arthur seems to like her from the start. She is the only person in the team to question the morality of inception, and when Cobb gives up, she’s the one who takes command and makes sure they all get out alive. It pretty much doesn’t get more kick-ass than that.



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