It has been said that there are two kinds of women in Oliver Stone’s films, whores and mothers. This is very true. A lot of women in Stones movies are either the mother of the main character or the current love interest of the main character. But I feel that saying that all women are either a mother or whore does not quite cover all the different roles females have in these films. Thus I would like to amend or expand on the whore or mother grouping. The first group would be the whores, which can also include girlfriends, and mistresses. The second group is the mother group which also includes wives, because not all mothers are wives and not all wives are mothers.
Most female characters in Oliver Stone films are portrayed in a negative light. Some people might find this hard to believe, because how could you portray a mother in a negative light. But he does it. According one source Oliver Stone has been “charged with every thought crime, including misogyny,” this misogyny shows in the way he portrays mother, wives, whores, girlfriends, mistresses, and miscellaneous extra women on the screen.
In this paper I would like to give examples of the two groups, and discuss the negative shadow that is cast upon women in his films. To do so I will talk about characters from Alexander (2004), Heaven and Earth (1993), Wall Street (1987), and The Hand (1981).
The first group that I would like to talk about is Whores, which is the group that I would also like to put girlfriends and mistresses into. This is because I think just labeling all this whores is not correct. The term whore is surrounded with negative connotations that I do not feel explains this category of women correctly. This group of women in Stone films fills the role as lover, giving the males physical pleasure and fulfilling his fantasies. So yes this group is based on the fact that these women give men sex, but sometimes these men care about the women not just the sex. And the women care about the man not just the money.
Le Ly from Heaven and Earth can not just be called a whore. She does everything possible to not be, but for a little she is both a mistress and a whore. She has an affair with her master Ahn and becomes pregnant with his child. When this is found out she is accuses her of seducing Ahn and her mama suggests to Ahn’s wife that Le Ly becomes Ahn’s “concubine”. This idea is of course rejected and Le Ly is eventually left to fend for herself and her son. Because she is kicked out “Le Ly survives as a street hustler and a part-time prostitute.” A year or so after her first son is born she sleeps with two solders for money, temporally making her a whore. Le Ly’s sister, Kim, is an actual whore, who is selling her body on the streets of DaNang.
Darien Taylor is Gordon Gekko’s interior designer in Wall Street. When Bud Fox starts working for Gekko he has Darien go on dates with him. Fox gets richer we find that Daren is now his girlfriend. Although it still seems that she is at the beck and call of Gekko and that the two of them have been involved before, because Darien leaves Fox when he says he’s done with Gekko.
Stella Roche is Jon Lansdale’s student in The Hand. Jon and Stella sleep together on countless occasions thus making her Jon’s mistress, seeing as Jon is married. But as the film goes on it is found out that she is possibly sleeping with another instructor thus making her a whore in the scene that she is very promiscuous.
The second group I would like to discuss is mothers. As stated earlier I believe that the category of mother should also include wives too. Because even though most mothers in Stones’ films are also wives, not all are. And sometimes they play a very different role.
Oylmpias is Alexander’s mother, and Philip’s first wife in Alexander. According to Angelina Jolie Olympias is a mother who was “focused on her child.” She raises and cares for Alexander and pushes him towards greatness and even calls him “Alexander the Great.” Olympias is a “mother who really would push her son at a time that if he didn’t get the throne, he would probably just die or be killer or exiled” says Jolie. Even Alexander’s father King Philip notices Olympias and her persistence in trying to make Alexander a great man. “You dream of glory Alexander, your mother encourages you. There is no glory without suffering, and this she will not allow.” Says Philip. She is more a mother than a wife, seeing as she does not listen to or give into Philip and his desires, with “I will not” being her common response to anything Philip desires. Roxane is the barbarian princess that Alexander takes for a bride. She is at Alexander’s side at parties, travels Asian with him, and when he wishes it he visits her and they have sex. As Alexander is dying Roxane comes in crying telling him to wait, “Just three more months.” She says. Which shows that she really did love Alexander.
Le Ly, the main character of Heaven and Earth is both a wife and a mother, like she was born to be. “Butler…does not want her as a prostitute, but as a bride.” However, Le Ly is a mother first – seeing as her first son is born out of wedlock- and she only a wife for about 10 years, because Butler commits suicide. Le Ly loves and cares for her 3 sons and loves, admires, hates, and tries to help her husband Steve while he was alive. “Le Ly’s fiery mama,” is both a mother and a wife. She teaches, cares and worries about her two sons and three daughters. She also loves, respects, and obeys her husband, and gets mad at herself when she argues or disagrees with him. Mama is fierce when it comes to her children, calling Le Ly a “flirt” and a “stupid girl”, and sending her boys off to war. And mild with her husband, weeping when she “dishonors” him. Madame Lien is only seen as a wife, she is the second in charge of the house, because she gives orders when her husband is away. And she is very jealous and upset when she finds out when Le Ly has slept with her husband. She is never seen in the same room with her son, therefore it is hard to call her a mother, when she never cares for them, and rather she gets other people, like Le Ly to take care of them.
Mother Fox in Wall Street is mostly a wife. She cares and weeps for her husband when he is hurt and agrees with him. But she is physically there for Bud when he goes to court. So she is a mother too.
Anne Lansdale in The Hand is both a wife and a mother. She is shown concern and love for her daughter. She also cares for Jon when his hand is removed and they sleep in the same bed, until the marriage starts to fall apart and she leaves him. Even after they are separated she calls and visits to make sure he is doing well.
There are so many ways that a negative light can be cast on women in Stones films. What fallows is just my account of a few of the ways women are portrayed negatively in a few of his movies.
Before, during and after Alexander’s’ time Greece, Macedonia, and other civilizations were ruled by patriarchy. This patriarchy made it so that women were like second class citizens. Per the laws of the time Oylmpias is supposed to be submissive wife to husband but is not. When Philip forces himself upon Olympias, he says, “Proud bitch I am still your king. You will obey me.” Her response is, “I will not.” Another scene that shows that women are inferior to me in is at the taming of the horse Bucephalus in this scene women are either at mans arm or side or they are under a tent behind and separated from men and the action. Also Roxane is only a mannequin at Alexander’s side. He sleeps with her when he wants and doesn’t listen to her when she is worried. The fact that women are not treated equally and are separated from them men paints them as weak, which is a negative portrayal of women.
The assassination of King Philip does not seem to bother Olympias. In fact some people say that Olympias “plots to murder her king.” On the day of the assassination Olympias acts kindly towards the Philips second wife and new baby. She looks smug and proud on her throne as she waits for him to enter the arena. When he is stabbed for moment she looks shocked, but the shocked looks slowly turns cold and uninterested. And her looks turns to triumphant when Alex is named king. After the funeral when Alexander questions her she is bland, cold, and unconcerned about his death. Showing “no mourning for his death,” according to Alexander. Once Alexander leaves to go to war Olympias has the new wife and son killed. The fact that she is cold towards the other wife and baby shows she is jealous, which is negative, or at least it is in the way that she behaves, by having them killed. Also the fact that she may have had something to do with her husband’s death and at least does not care that he is gone, cast an evil dark shadow around her that if full of negativity for her character.
Through out Alexander’s life and the movie Olympias tries to control Alexander. Olympias tells Alex who he should marry and whines about being left in Pella, saying “bring me to Babylon like you promised.” She tries to turn him from his friends saying, “beware most of all of those closest to you. They are like snakes and are easily turned.” She says this in the hope that she will be the only one who influences him. At one point in time she even goes so far as to say to Alexander “Your soul is mine.” Her want for control and willingness to do anything to get it makes her diabolical and ruthless towards all people, which makes her look bad.
The way men talk about women shows their negative view of them. Alexander says to his mother, “You lie and lie and lie. So many lies you spun like a sorceress, confusing me.” And Philip warns Alexander when he his young about women saying. “All your life beware of women. They are far more dangerous than men.” The fact that men view women in a negative way only solidifies the negative portrayal that we see of women.
According to most people Heaven and Earth is about “how a Vietnamese woman is exploited and abused.” First Le Ly is “tortured by government officials.” They electrocute her, put snakes down her shirt, cover her in honey and let ants crawl on her. Another example is when she is when she is taken by the Viet Cong soldiers and is about to be shot in the head. She says she would leave and never come back if they let her live. So the leader rapes her and leaves her there. This is another example of how she is “savagely mistreated by men.” Later in the movie Le Ly is also “seduced by a wealthy man in Saigon who gets her pregnant and leaves her “fending for herself on the streets of DaNang selling contraband.” The fact that she is constantly a victim of men and their desires shows that men do not care about women and portrays her as weak, both of which are negative.
Le Ly is submissive to husband. When the first become separated he takes more than he is supposed to and she says “no its ok, let him go.” Later she says she will drop the charges like he wants if he comes home with the boys and “we will make it right.” The fact that she is so submissive and lets Butler walk all over her is another sign of weakness and forgiving too easily, which again is a negative portrayal of women.
The fact that “waitressing and prostitution are the only means of employment,” for women in this movie is a very sad thing. It means that most women like Kim have to be “a part time prostitute for American GIs,” in order to survive. Being a prostitute is not a very becoming job, but most women in this movie take it, which does not say much for them. Also prostitution is seen as a negative thing by most people in the movie, and to most viewers. Thus another negative light is cast upon women.
Mamma Ly bows to everyone and agree with husband. These two acts show submission and respect. But mostly submission, which is not how all women are, and she is so submissive that is negative. Madame Lien is a cruel and “jealous wife” who “kicks Le Ly to the streets.” The fact that she does not care about Le Ly’s situation at all, or that she does not care about how her husband feels or what he wants, shows how vicious she is. Her viciousness is a negative portrayal of women.
Darien Taylor is an artificial and materialistic spender of other peoples’ money. She finds paintings and nick-knacks she likes and tells Gekko to buy them in the beginning and towards the end. And in the middle she is doing that with Bud, his apartment is all her doing, with his money of course. Darien leaves Bud when he says he is going to go against Gekko. This would mean Bud would stop making money. And this Darien can not handle. So she leaves Bud and goes back to Gekko the money man. The fact that Darien is only with Gekko or Bud because they have money doe not speak well for her. It shows that she is very shallow and materialistic, thus casting a negative light on her. Momma Fox is weepy at the bedside of her husband, which shows her as week, thus putting her in a negative light.
Anne Lansdale, is a needy castrating bitch. She wants to be somewhere new; she needs to be with someone who can provide money and emotional support. This supports the idea that females’ are needy obstacles to the protagonist. When Jon can no longer provide for her and stops agreeing with her, she gets mad, and her anger causes Jon to lose his hand. Once his hand is gone she finds another man who is sensitive to her needs and leave Jon in the dust. The fact that she is so needy, and that she is only with her husband until he is hurt, makes her casts her in a negative light. This negative view is only helped along when she leaves Jon for her Yoga instructor at Christmas time. Stella Roche sleeps with Jon Lansdale, who is one of her professors. And then a little more than half way through the movie we hear that she is going to go to Los Angeles with another one of her professors, Brian Ferguson. The fact that Stella is sleeping with two of her professors seems kind of scandalous, and paints her has a slut, which is in and of itself negative.
Even though there are plenty of different kinds of women in Stones films he still portrays them in a negative fashion. There is no apparent reason why, he just does. Alexander, Heaven and Earth, Wall Street and The Hand are movies in which women can be placed into two categories, whore and mothers. But both of these categories of women are portrayed negatively, from Anne to Olympias and Stella to Le Ly. Women are either needy and weak or conniving and evil, according to Stone.