Taken: Racist, Sexist and Insane
Oh Taken, a film series that does to its audience as it does to its antagonists. The original contains many qualities. It has clear coherent fight choreography based in reality filmed competently despite shaky cam shenanigans, something the sequel lacks, in addition to the famous quote where Liam Neeson plans to find you. Is the quote awesome or kitschy? Both? I cannot tell you this, but there are some things I can tell you about Taken.
First off, it is insane. Two American girls decide to go to Paris and end up being kidnapped by Eastern European human traffickers who sell white virgins to rich Arabs? For a film that tries to base its violence in reality it fails to base its plot in anything resembling the real world. The villain given exposition duties justifies the theft of white American tourists by saying it is cheaper than smuggling women from other lands into the country.
Now colour me cynical, but generally speaking when nice looking white American girls of any age disappear, especially the blonde ones, the entire world tends to go into a media-frenzy in search of said girls. So Taken is suggesting that these enterprising Eastern European criminals would not just be stupid enough to try this scheme, but that it would also be successful and ignored by the world at large. In fact the corrupt Paris police in the film go out of their way to pretend it isn’t happening also. That’s just insane.
It doesn’t take a genius to spot a racist subtext in this film. Eastern European immigrants are human traffickers; people from the Middle East are venomous rich people who like buying virgins to rape. Even the French police are bad, but they’re white so they’re just corrupt rather than actively evil. And then there is the even more insidious patriarchal subtext to Taken.
Liam Neeson’s character Brian Mills is a down on his luck single father. He’s lost his beautiful wife to a superficial rich man with his superficial rich man ways. His daughter won’t listen to him and he has no money. Oh woe is Brian. Don’t any of them know he is the one with the knowledge of the real world?
When he hears his sixteen year old progeny wishes to travel to Paris with her nineteen year old friend he refuses to sign off on it. The world is dangerous! Anything can happen! Now in real life the way he goes about ‘protecting’ his daughter would be known as ‘controlling’ and ‘paranoid’, but not in Taken. In this universe the paranoid fears of fathers come true. “Don’t go to Paris! You don’t know the world like I do! It’s filled with human traffickers who peruse middle class suburbs!”
Eventually dear Brian relents, he wants his fickle daughter to love him after all. We then follow daughter Kim and her friend Amanda on their journey. This journey is used to establish that Kim is a virgin, Amanda is promiscuous however. When they get kidnapped guess who is found dead within twenty minutes? I’ll give you a clue, it wasn’t the virgin.
Luckily Brian manages to save his daughter by punching, shooting and Guantanamo Baying his way through the foreigners. When he rescues her the lesson is clear, daughters do everything your father says and don’t fuck anybody, otherwise you die.
In fairness to Taken there are other female characters other than ex-wives victims, prostitutes and victims, there’s also the corrupt police officer’s wife. Oh wait, Brian shoots her in the leg to force her husband to give him information… I guess she’s just another woman/object to drive the conflict between two male characters. It was nice of Brian to leave the police officer alive afterwards though, nobody else got a pass. I doubt the fact he was the primary white antagonist was connected. Pure coincidence!
And another thing…
When I started writing this piece I realised something I had never noticed before. Taken qualifies as a ‘hard body’ action film. Hard body cinema was identified as those films popularised by figures such as Stallone and Schwarzenegger in the 1980s. Essentially they’re Reaganite fantasies about the All-American individualistic down-on-his-luck working class man, who rises above his problems so he can save society by slaughtering a load of foreign people. These are real men, with muscles and are anti-intellectual who solve cultural differences through violence. Now Brian isn’t very muscular, but I feel Reagan would still be proud. Brian is living the real American Dream.
Now I know nothing about the personal lives of the producers, screenwriters and director of Taken but it isn’t much of a stretch that they may be fathers. Perhaps their subconscious has an axe to grind. Maybe their daughters don’t do everything they say. Maybe they even sleep with people. However if they’re anything like the girls in the film they don’t need to worry, the real world isn’t quite this insane. Unfortunately it might be this racist and sexist.