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Films of Sergio Leone => Once Upon A Time In America => Topic started by: cigar joe on April 23, 2011, 06:33:51 PM

Title: IMDb posts
Post by: cigar joe on April 23, 2011, 06:33:51 PM
an interesting last post on a topic that someone raised about sexism in Leone's films:

by jenner1973 1 day ago (Fri Apr 22 2011 16:48:33)    

I am confused why anyone would perceive this film or the filmmakers as sexist? Yes...I am a woman and nope - I find zero wrong with the way this film portrays women, or men for that matter. In fact, I might find it nearly impossible to think of another movie where each and every sex/rape scene was perfectly done and required to seam together the story. Am I naive to hope that true feminists and educated women have the "nuts" to discuss controversially depicted female characters and content without reducing themselves to attacking the creative minds behind the story and the film? I notice that when people, who are discussing sexism in film, discuss women as victims and men as the victimizer vs. looking at the weakness and tortured minds of the characters in these films. It’s almost as if any shock of sexuality in film blinds these people to the deeper meaning and motive within each character. I think it’s unfortunate that sex, or rape, on screen does this to a few people. With respect to the other comments I saw here, it's a cop out and far too shallow to say this film is about gangsters or criminals. I think this movie is singularly about friendship, loyalty and betrayal over years sprinkled with festering guilt and regret. I'd rather see the opinions directed at how and why the characters behave the way they do toward one another. As an aside, Carol and Peggy are two of the most incredible female characters to be depicted in film - IMHO. These women are a sharp contrast to the self-involved, idealized and ultimately flawed, pathetic Deborah. Could there be a less noble woman than Deborah (we learn this in the end, but are told this in the beginning when Moe is living below poverty above his family bar in Brooklyn and she’s off being a successful somebody).

With respect to why and how the rape scenes are delivered, I can only go back to the characters:

Peggy; She has always been willing and ready and has been one of the gang all along. She is not to be pitied and I don't see any problems with how the filmmaker portrays her values, or her desire for sweets and companionship. Her smeared lipstick and concern over Noodles at Fat Moe's Speakeasy comes from her being the bedmate of all these men, and it's implied (nicely and with subtlety) that Noodles first day out of prison is leading him into a hornet's nest of crime, personal greed (Max) and risk of heartbreak (Deborah). Perhaps Max and Deborah are already casually hooked up at this point in time?

Carol; A complete sick twist - she is self-loathing, therefore, devotes herself to a sociopath (Max) and aligns herself against Noodles - truly loyal to Max, therefore, her foe. Her rape scene during the heist is a crucial scene for an endless number of reasons both story-wise and character-wise. To show how much of a masochist she truly is so we can understand how it is she would be used by Max in later years to take Noodles down a false memory lane. She's there, at the Bailey Foundation, laying on more and more story line about Max’s death and his sick mind for Noodles, when it's clear she knows who the actress is, and, she's gone along with Max's staged death all along. What motivates Carol to ask for her rape is she needs to be abused…in every part of her life, which is why she works for the Bailey Foundation while Max, her true love, is now and has been for years, living with Deborah, Noodles true love. With respect to what motivates Noodles to "rape" Carol, possible he gives her what she wants as he is expressing the buildup of frustration and disgust with Carol being such an opposite to Deborah, but he can rage at her as a surrogate, with the permission she provides, as he cannot yet rage at Deborah directly. There’s more I can say about Carol, but I’ll limit this to Carol’s rape and why it was a crucial element of the film

Deborah; At the time of the rape in the limo, Noodles knows that after all these years of pining and idealizing, Deborah will be gone, in search of her personal fame, and she has never appreciated his devotion to her - so, he stops asking for it and takes it. In the future scenes, it becomes evident that the love story - so innocent and lovely as children - is reduced and falls victim to the core motivations of the two central characters, Noodles and Max. Don't forget, Carol tells Noodles, in so many words) at the Bailey Foundation that the saint actress has been around and involved in Secretary Bailey's life for 15+ years. This leads us to understand that Max, after faking death, reunited with Deborah in Hollywood. Also...the only tie Max (raised in Bronx and then Brooklyn) has to Southern California IS leads audience to wonder, how long has he really been intimate with her? When did this start? Max's motive being to take Noodles' girl and Deborah's motivation to exert revenge on Noodles by hitching up with, and she is now evidently complicit in CREATING 'Secy. Bailey' (Max). Deborah is not as pure as she has been idealized to be by Noodles' child-like mind. In fact, Deborah is so completely vindictive that she chooses Max, of all people available through her successful career and I believe she does this because Noodles picks Max over her and his loyalty belonged to Max in every way...she couldn't consume him, not even as a young boy, so she has to punish him.

I don't see Deborah, or any of the women deserving of "rape", not even when they literally request it (Carol). It's not about's about what the female characters inspire the male characters to do. While Deborah doesn't deserve to be raped in that limo, she really does deserve what she ultimately gets - exposure. She is standing in the mansion of the worst best friend ever and she is ashamed...she's always been this way and now Noodles can see her. Throughout the film, she is clearly living in the family home which is being fed by crime, funds passage to Hollywood, dressed to the nine's on this same money and ends up with Max once he has immense wealth and power. I keep returning to this - you have to wonder how long she'd been sleeping with Max. One thing I see you've missed from this opinion is that Noodles turns Carol down for the threesome, and also the "foursome" she suggests with her hand on his man parts. He turns her down and walks out berating her for being someone who likes to be hurt.
Title: Re: IMDb posts
Post by: Groggy on April 23, 2011, 10:40:15 PM
Nice post.

I think discussions of sexism re: this movie are completely misplaced, in that they don't consider the context. The protagonists are gangsters, they aren't going to treat women well.
Title: Re: IMDb posts
Post by: Dust Devil on April 24, 2011, 01:24:08 AM
I think discussions of sexism re: this movie are completely misplaced, in that they don't consider the context. The protagonists are gangsters, they aren't going to treat women well.

That's generalization. Besides, seems like you haven't met Jeff Costello, have you.
Title: Re: IMDb posts
Post by: dave jenkins on April 25, 2011, 12:46:02 PM
That's generalization. Besides, seems like you haven't met Jeff Costello, have you.
Jeff Costello isn't really a gangster; he's a creature from another planet.
Title: Re: IMDb posts
Post by: Groggy on April 25, 2011, 12:57:18 PM
I'm sorry for all the street punks and hoods I've offended with my post.
Title: Re: IMDb posts
Post by: drinkanddestroy on April 26, 2011, 07:03:29 PM
Nice post. OUATIA can be interpreted in an infinite number of ways.... However, I strongly disagree with her, in her paragraph about Carol, where she says that Carol has gone along with Max's fake death. The reality, IMO, is that Carol was as duped by Max as was Noodles (which isn't surprising, considering that Max never gave a damn about Carol, which he says to her face). This will probably be further evident in the new scenes that will be released, in which there is more dialogue by the elderly Carol telling Noodles about Max's death.

(Furthermore, we never see the young Debora and Carol ever meet; Carol doesn't know who she is, and is as clueless about the real story as Noodles is, and perhaps has been living with 35 years of misery similar to Noodles)
Title: Re: IMDb posts
Post by: drinkanddestroy on April 27, 2011, 03:31:02 AM
RE: her discussion of Deborah being a snob for having abandoned her poor brother:

Yeah, on the one hand you can look at it like that; she becomes a big star and abandons her brother, who is broke and living in what has become a run-down neighborhood in the old family store.

However, you can also look at it another way: Deborah was pressured by Bailey to avoid contact with Moe, for fear of blowing Bailey's cover. Perhaps a man as powerful as Bailey could "convince" his girlfriend not to talk to her "loser" brother, for he is one of the people that would know Bailey's true identity. I mean, I am not condoning her abandonment of Moe, just saying why, once we learn the truth about Bailey, it is somewhat more understandable why she has cut off contact with Moe.

Another possibility could be that she is not (only) trying to protect Bailey's identity; rather, she is trying to protect herself . Imagine Deborah's embarrassment if Moe would find out the truth: that Deborah is living with the man who betrayed their friends years ago and had them killed (Patsy and Cockeye) or banished (Noodles), just for his own selfish motives of "moving up" in the underworld (and stealing their money). That would be a mighty shameful thing  for her brother to find out about her. Therefore, (whatever you think of Deborah's decision to be with Bailey), it is certainly understandable that she would then cut off contact with Moe. (Again, while I am not condoning her actions in a moral sense, I am just trying to discuss why she would do it, at least in a cinematic sense).

Remember, Deborah was always only interested in pursuing her dreams at any cost (including losing the man she loved, Noodles); so it is certainly understandable that she would have no qualms later about going off with a powerful man, even if he is one who brutally betrayed his own friends.

btw, I absolutely do not believe that Deborah had any prior knowledge of Max's plan or any plans to meet him later on the West Coast.... Rather, I believe that they must have had a chance meeting years later as often happens with successful people; they move in the same circles. Perhaps they met at some big politician or movie star's million dollar party in the Hollywood Hills.....