For those of you who have not yet seen Passengers, starring Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence, you may still be under the impression that it’s Titanic in space.
Well, you would be wrong.
As Kristy Puchko writes in her CBR review, Passengers is actually “a repulsive, tone-deaf drama” steeped in rape culture. The movie stars Pratt and Lawrence as two of the 5,000 passengers on a spaceship on a 120-year journey to colonize a new planet. As Pratt’s character discovers he has woken up too early, he “struggles to get himself back into hibernation.”
Poor guy, right?
When Jim (Pratt) sees a beautiful woman in a hibernation pod (Lawrence’s Aurora), he begins to obsess over her instead of ending his own life. He watches her interview video, reads her writing, gets to know what she does for a living, and basically convinces himself they would make the perfect couple … if only she weren’t hibernating. Although he has the ability to wake her up, early-movie Jim knows he would be subjecting her to a life aboard the ship with very limited human interaction.
But that’s okay, he’s lonely. Totally excusable.
“It’s not that I have no sympathy for Jim’s dilemma and pain,” Puchko writes. “But the moment he breaks Aurora from her hibernation, the film crosses a line it refuses to fully acknowledge, and so the romance is not fun, but FUBAR. This is not the premise of a love story: Boy sees girl. Boy becomes obsessed with girl from afar, decides he loves her, decides they are made for each other, she just doesn’t know it yet. Guy rips the girl out of her life, abducts her to live with him in a bunker she can’t escape.”
As the movie continues, we see Aurora realize her pod did not malfunction and that Jim woke her up early. He not only cyber-stalked her while she was asleep but he kidnapped her with only himself for company, essentially forcing her to fall in love with him.
By the final act of the film, the audience is given the director’s real opinion about their main characters’ relationship: “What Jim did was wrong, but Aurora is so beautiful, can you really blame him? Yes. Yes. Yes. Over and over again.”
Nope. Sorry, Jim, but when a woman says “I would not date you if you were the last man on earth”, that does not mean you just kidnap her in the middle of space. That loophole is not okay.
Puchko further notes the contrast between Jim and Aurora, the latter of whom “doesn’t own sweatpants, and is smart and funny, but not so smart or so funny that Jim feels threatened by her. When it comes to fixing stuff, she’s so clueless her only job is holding the flashlight. Even her rage over Jim’s betrayal feels part of his fantasy. His guilt demands to be assuaged, so she has to be angry at him, but not for too long.”
The entire film, though visually stunning and could arguably be worked into a commentary on the future of space travel, instead focuses on Jim and his obsession. The object of his obsession, the only other conscious human being on an automated spaceship, is reduced to a soundboard for his own insecurities. Furthermore, she is highlighted as a sex object through her costumes and aforementioned lack of sweatpants.
According to Pajiba, Morten Tyldum, the movie’s director, has acknowledged the outrage many are feeling over the blatant sexism:
“That’s what we do. It’s a desperate need, that you do at a desperate hour. And I think it’s interesting that characters do that. They they make dark choices. I think it’s also, and I think it’s big kudos to Chris [Pratt]’s character. This is something people, everybody’s been afraid of that. “Will we sympathize with him? Would you like him?” But the thing is that you understand him. That’s some of his power as an actor is that you can really identify with his this man who goes through this and does this, because I think it’s something most of us would have done.”
I’m sorry…”something most of us would have done”? If Jim were such a tech wizard, why didn’t he just design a girlfriend? Why steal Aurora away from the life she was trying to make for herself just to fulfill his own needs?
But don’t worry, folks: this is just your typical love story in space.
Passengers is now playing at a theater near you.