(My belated Mother’s Day post)
Stop. Before you read any further, you and I need to be on the same page.
So, drop what you’re doing and go watch this 4-minute 42-second video review of Salt (2010) starring Angelina Jolie.
Done? Good. Now on to the post.
I enjoy a good spy film. The Bourne trilogy (2002-2007) was just magnificent. The Mission: Impossible series (1996-2006) was watchable, dumb fun. Spy action comedies such as Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005) and Get Smart (2008) have been great recent entries into the genre as well. At one point in the last few years, I was even able to use a few of these spy films to make something of a breakthrough with my husband regarding my feelings on feminism and religion.
That said, there have not been a lot of spy movies that center around female leads. Sure, there’s almost always at least one strong heroine in spy movies who helps the male protagonist carry out his mission, who may or may not turn up among the villain count or the body count or both by the end of it all. But female spy movies? Not a lot of ’em. Geena Davis’ The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996) and Bridget Fonda’s Point of No Return (1993)—which was itself a remake of the 1990 French film Nikita—are some of the few exceptions that come to mind.
So I was kind of excited to hear about Salt and its production history, what with the late decision to change Edwin A. Salt into Evelyn Salt and cast Angelina Jolie in the title role instead of Tom Cruise. I found myself asking, “How will this film be different now that it’s about a female spy instead of a male spy?”
And indeed, there were things in the film that were definitely affected by the gender swap. At one point in the movie, Evelyn is working on breaking out of confinement and needs to cover up a surveillance camera so that her captors can’t see what she’s doing. She happens to be wearing a nice, beige skirted suit. So how does she cover up the camera? By reaching up her skirt, removing her black panties, and hooking them over the lens of the camera, that’s how.
As exploitative as that may sound, the film doesn’t make a big deal about it, and I was left with the realization that I was definitely watching something that I never would have seen from a male protagonist in a movie about a male spy. A man wouldn’t be wearing a skirted suit to anything, so he wouldn’t view his underwear as a tool that could be quickly removed and used in a pinch.
There were a few other areas where you knew you were watching a spy movie about a woman. The film opens up with a scene wherein Evelyn is rescued from torture and captivity in North Korea by her future husband, who has used his international political connections to facilitate her extraction, a scene that another character later refers to as a “white knight” routine. Late in the movie, Evelyn goes undercover by cutting her hair short and dressing as a man; I’m not sure how many male spies in film have carried out missions by dressing in drag. If anything, they tend to dress up as other men.
Those examples aside, the real surprise for me was how little the gender swap had changed the film. I’m not sure that any other moment in the film was any different from what you might see in a male spy film. The action, the plot twists, and the innovative spy weaponry were all about the same. Even Evelyn’s passionate, almost frantic search for her significant other was hardly any different from what we saw from Tom Cruise in Mission: Impossible II and III or Matt Damon in The Bourne Supremacy. Overall, watching a film about a female spy was not all that different from watching a film about a male spy.
Mother’s Days have been a little rough on me since my own mother passed away from pancreatic cancer in 2008, at the age of 51. The holiday has become something of a painful reminder of my own motherless existence, and I tend to grit my teeth and hope it will pass quickly.
But this year was a little different. This mother’s day, I found my thoughts turning again and again to God, almost involuntarily, which struck me as odd given that God repeatedly identifies himself as “God the Father” in the pages of the Bible. It was this aspect of God’s personality that appealed to me so much at age 16, when I re-dedicated my life to Christ—a time in my life when my own father was not being much of a father to me. At the time, I had come to the realization that it did not matter whether my earthly father cared for me or wanted me, that I had a Father in heaven who saw all of my flaws and failings and weaknesses and still loved me and saw me as a person of infinite worth. It inspired me, and made me feel that I had found something worth believing in.
I don’t believe God has a gender. I think he had his reasons for choosing to reveal himself to humanity as “Father,” but all that matters for the purposes of this post is that I don’t believe a cosmic Y-chromosome was part of that equation. Point being, I think God could have chosen to reveal himself as “Mother” if he’d wanted to.
And this got me thinking: how would a “God the Mother” be any different from “God the Father”? I see God the Father as:
. . . among many other things. So, which of those attributes would cease to be God’s if we had a God the Mother instead of God the Father? Or, as was the case with Salt, would a swap from male to female make for very little change in the long run?
Please don’t misunderstand me. The form of my prayers has not changed at all, nor am I advocating for Bibles that call the Father “God the Parent.” I’ve simply come to a realization that in a very real sense, God is both Mother and Father to his children, and that I’m no more “motherless” now than I was “fatherless” as a teenager, because God is still God.
This past Mother’s Day, it was almost as if I could feel God telling me, “Yes, I am both.” It gave me great comfort, and even joy.