… as embodied in a critical examination of the role of women in The Martian.

For the record, I haven’t read the book of The Martian. I have seen the film, however, which I’ve summed up as, “Women, PoC everywhere drop everything to attend to whims of unlikable, overly-self-congratulatory white guy.” Unsurprisingly, every white guy I know loves the shit out of this tedious Gary Stu wankfest, while everyone else seems to find it kind of dull and unengaging. Go figure.

Speaking of The Martian: a female friend of mine was trying to articulate why she didn’t enjoy the film, despite not minding the book. I pointed out that it was probably due to the fact there’s absolutely no sense of threat whatsoever in the movie. Which means that, unless you’re projecting yourself hard into the protagonist, then there’s really… nothing all that interesting going on in the narrative. There’s no question, given the tone/genre/casting, that Matt Damon1 would die on Mars. So the environment isn’t conspiring against him, but the problem is that he isn’t conspiring against himself, either; he makes no wrong decisions throughout the entire course of the film. The only misfortune that befalls him occurs outside of his own making.2

One of the old canards about plotting when you’re a writer is that at least one of the major crises in your narrative has to come because, in effect, the protagonist fucked up. They have to perform a wrong or foolish action, which has Consequences, which they then overcome in order to grow and learn by the end of the narrative. Aladdin lies about who he is, Ariel makes a deal with the sea witch, the Beast has a temper tantrum, and look I’m sure there are examples that don’t come from Disney films, too, but the point is it’s a really, really common. And my younger self always used to scoff at this advice; it sounded too cliché, too formulaic. And, yeah. It kinda is. But the point is the formula is there because it works; classics are a classic for a reason. You don’t have to abide by it, in the same way you don’t have to abide by any writing “rule”, but…


When you don’t, you get The Martian. And if you can pull it off, more power to you.

  1. I don’t even remember the character’s name. That’s how little impression he left on me. []
  2. I’m sure that, at some point, someone much smarter than me will write a lovely essay about The Martian-as-analogy-for-white-male-entitlement which, yeah. I was thinkin’ it. The whole. Goddamn. Film. []