I’ve been fangirling over Jennifer Lawrence since Winter’s Bone (2010) so with the imminent arrival of Mother! (2017) I figured that now would be a good time, after hiding under a rock for the last year, to finally get around to watching Passengers (2016) for the first time last night. I was not impressed.
*Warning: Spoilers ahead!*
Supposedly an epic tale of love, Jim (Chris Pratt), a lowly mechanic, and Aurora (Jennifer Lawrence), a wealthy writer, team up to overcome all obstacles after they wake up 90 years too early on board the Avalon spaceship. It promises the perfect blend of romance, science fiction and even some action. Sounds promising so far right? Ignoring the controversy surrounding the issue of consent between Jim and Aurora after he deliberately wakes her up, all but sentencing her to death, there was something that bothered me greatly.
It’s pretty much accepted universally that domestic violence is not acceptable under any circumstances. It’s pretty incredible then that as recently as 2016 this only applies to the case of violence from a man hitting a woman. Passengers reaches new lows after Aurora discovers Jim has lied and manipulated his way in to her affections and, rightfully so, Aurora shuns him. Her anger is perfectly acceptable and I’m sure anyone would be furious to discover such a betrayal… but does this excuse the scene that follows?
Fast asleep, Jim is rudely awoken when Aurora enters his room and begins to punch him repeatedly; not only this but she then proceeds to kick him and threatens to hit him with a heavy object. Now you might be thinking to yourself that’s not so bad, she’s only a little woman and he probably deserves it but let’s flip it around for a second. Imagine the scene: Jim sneaks in to Aurora’s room in the middle of the night while she is fast asleep and he then proceeds to punch and kick her. I don’t know about you guys but I just cringed.
It is never excusable to raise your hand to another, regardless of gender. Even if you argue for a moment that sometimes things can happen in the heat of the moment that doesn’t apply here. After all Passengers have already revealed the big secret and Jim has felt the full wrath of Aurora’s anger after she moves her belongings out of their room and proceeds to ignore him. This scene shows her deliberately waiting until Jim is at his most vulnerable, fast asleep in bed, before she chooses, and yes she has a choice here, to attack him physically. In the context of the film it is a pretty pointless scene and doesn’t contribute anything new to the scenario they find themselves in as it is already clear Aurora has no plans to forgive Jim for his actions.
My question to the producers and writers of Passengers then is this, why include it? It is gratuitous violence for the sake of violence which does not raise the stakes or further the narrative in anyway. It’s unnecessary and, frankly, pretty tasteless considering the rise of domestic violence against men. As of February 2017, 1 in 3 victims of domestic violence in the UK are male (ManKind Initiative*). Already a sensitive subject which goes largely unreported I’m not so sure that this depiction of acceptable violence against men will encourage male victims to come forward and seek help. Let’s not compound the issue by trying to glamourise or justify it in mainstream media.
To Jim and Aurora of Passengers? You guys probably deserve each other after all the lying, manipulation and violence and choosing to spend the remainder of your days together anyway.
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*Male Victims- Domestic and Partner Abuse Statistics: http://new.mankind.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/30-Key-Facts-Male-Victims-February-2017-1.pdf