International Women's Day | Sucker Punch Theories & The Will to Survive.

Friday 8 March 2019

I have a long list of movies that I could watch over and over again without getting bored and Sucker Punch is one of them, the trailer sold me straight away, I chose not to read into what others were thinking about the release and went on my own gut. I was pleased to see that it starred a few female leads that I love which included Emily Browning and Jena Malone (her role in Donnie Darko was ace) so I was looking forward to seeing how they came across in this movie. One thing I want to make clear is yes this movie has a lot of awful things that take place but that is why it takes on the role of being about empowerment and surviving, the journey that Babydoll and Sweetpea take on in order to get out of the hell they're in. This post is going to be about the two main theories I have on the movie, it's a perfect fit for today as it's International Women's Day.

Sucker Punch is set in the 1960's, you would have thought that hysteria was something that wasn't used to put women into asylums anymore but unfortunately it was, the term hysteria came about in 1952, there were a number of things women were considered to be suffering from hysteria because of such as anxiety, fainting, being nervous, sexual behaviour, insomnia, and many more things. It's ridiculous that women were made out to have this illness yet men never were, in fact, it was believed men couldn't suffer from hysteria because they didn't have a uterus and many women who apparently suffered from it were sent to an asylum and forced to have a hysterectomy, how cruel is that! The movie takes place mostly in an asylum where a lot of women have been locked up because of hysteria, this was something that was all to common back in the day. 

Babydoll ends up in one through no fault of hers, in fact, it was a total accident thanks to the actions of her selfish and evil stepfather, what events that took place were heartbreaking and she was left in the worst possible scenario there could be. The stepdad is introduced by standing at the doorway of Babydoll's mother's room, she has just died and this scene makes you realise he is the one who has killed her or that's what the movie suggests, his grin when he looks at the sisters is creepy as anything and it's clear as the opening intro moves on that he was under the impression his late wife had left everything to him but she didn't.

The stepfather is obviously enraged over this and want's the girls dead, he locks Babydoll in her room and goes after her sister, Babydoll will stop and nothing to protect the one she loves so she climbs through her window along to another one and grabs her stepfathers gun to kill him but it hits her sister instead. This lead to the father being able to take the girls for everything their mother left them, he got her institutionalized, he managed to bribe an asylum orderly to forged the signature of the asylum psychiatrist so she can be lobotomized in order to stop her telling the truth about what really happened leading up to her sisters death. Lobotomy was used on so many people over the years both men and women were often put through them for no reason other than.

A lobotomy is a procedure used to calm people down who suffered from mental illness, the procedure has been around since the 1880's when a doctor named Gottlieb Burckhardt had performed the first surgeries on patients frontal lobes as well as other parts of their brains, then in the 1030's two men named Moniz and Freeman were credited for inventing the lobotomy but their work was based on Gottlieb's research. Lobotomies were never a cure like they made out, in fact, they often caused brain damage, people to commit suicide and even death, in the 1940s-1950s the number of people undergoing this procedure grew and it was mostly women who were given them. Babydoll would become one of these women along with another girl who was booked in to have one, luckily for her, she had 5 days to try to escape before the doctor who did them came back to the asylum.

I have two theories for the movie and my first is, once Babydoll was signed over to the asylum her life didn't get any better but she is able to shift from reality and fantasy, there are a few ways to interrupt the events that take place in Sucker Punch so I'm going to discuss what mine are and it's safe to say it brings me no closure at all. From the moment Babydoll sets foot in the asylum, her mind is forever changed, It's clear the club reality is in fact not the true reality and it's a coping mechanism for Babydoll but she is still able to come up with a plan to escape. Her psychiatrist plays a big role in this, she helps the girls by getting them to do theater it's supposed to be a good form of therapy, Babydoll is able to change this in her second reality and images that Dr Gorski is teaching the girls to dance which is what they do for a living in the club (brothel) they soon discover Babydoll is amazing at dancing and in order to get through a dance Babydoll images another reality in order to cope one where she and the girls from the asylum/club are warriors who fight back against men and their cruel ways.

They use Babydoll's dancing to their advantage and use her as a distraction to get what they need in order to escape, this concept is very similar to inception. After Babydoll has her lobotomy the Dr explains all the things she had done in just 1 week of being in the asylum, all the events that had taken place in her mind actually happened but in a different way and she did manage to help Sweetpea escape, it's not clear if Sweetpea ever made it or if what we see at the end is what Sweetpea is imagining happened to Sweetpea because she goes past a sign that says paradise diner and it's been implied from the beginning that Babydoll will be in paradise once she has the lobotomy.

My second theory is that Babydoll isn't real and Sweetpea has made her up in her head to cope with the fact she's going to be lobotomized, the trauma that Babydoll experienced is actually what Sweetpea went through but in her fantasy she creates someone new who is going through it and Sweetpea sister is alive in her fantasy for a portion of the movie. The opening scene we see Babydoll sat on her bed, it's like an open stage which we later see in the asylum except Sweetpea is the one sat on the bed which is what made me think she conjured up Babydoll to help cope with her own trauma, in her mind if it's happening to someone else then Sweetpea doesn't have to deal with it, none of the distractions that take place with Babydoll are real they're just what Sweetpea imagined in order to escape and find her paradise. She has given her body up so her mind can be in a better place where she doesn't have to deal with reality and Sweetpea is the one narrating the whole movie. 

This is made clear towards the end when Sweetpea is getting on the bus and we see a young boy who looks at Sweetpea, the same boy who was in one of Babydoll's dancing realities fighting a war, we saw him look at Sweetpea back then too. The bus driver is another giveaway as he actually plays 4 different parts throughout Babydoll's reality when she dances, when the police approach Sweetpea he covers up for her and tells them she's been on the bus for a while without question, as the bus drives along we see the sign paradise diner and we finally know she is happy in her own paradise that's in her head.

The soundtrack holds a big importance to the movie for both theories as they help open a new narrative for another reality to escape to in order to help the girls escape the asylum, each song fits perfectly with the scene, Emily Browning who plays Babydoll did the cover version of sweet dreams and asleep for the movie's soundtrack which made it that much more personal to her character. Although the main characters are women the movie shows that it's a Male dominated world and that these women will do what they have to in order to survive, this may not be everyone else's interpretations but I personally find the movie to be very empowering. On top of the music, the Cinematography and costume designs alone stand out and bring Babydoll's & Sweetpea's imagination to life without the movie feeling cheesy.

I've always felt that Sucker punch was released at the wrong time, if it was released now more people would understand the message behind it and appreciate how well it was put together, the retro style works really well but the movie also has a modern-day vibe, it's one of the biggest things that appeal to me about it besides Babydoll's and Sweetpea's journey to survive and escape.


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