It’s been a good few years for women in movies. There was Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel for a start, and the super-smart Shuri from The Black Panther films. I liked her!
Wonder Woman was especially praised for having that rarest of things – a female director in a mainstream movie.
But back in 1986, before those billion-dollar box offices and about a month or so after Ripley wiped out some Aliens, something else happened.
Not many people noticed, but I think it’s worth looking at again…
Whoopi Goldberg plays a woman who works at an electronic funds transfer terminal in a bank. She stumbles into an online conversation with a British agent named Jack, trapped behind the Iron Curtain. She decides to save him.
Sounds simple? Take that second sentence for a start: She stumbles into an online conversation. In 1986, Whoopi is online dating, and he’s not even in the same country. She’s never seen Jack or heard his voice (In a nice scene later in the movie, she hears his phone messages: From then on, all his messages are in his accent).
Whoopi is way out of her league chasing spies and helping him. But that doesn’t stop her from trying to help Jack out, despite people being shot and disappearing around her. She knows she’s out of her depth, and it doesn’t slow her down one bit.
She’s a capable and resourceful woman.
She doesn’t need to go to anyone for help on this. She’s a capable and resourceful woman, strong and independent. She improvises, she comes up with strategies and plans to help Jack out. She kicks ass when she needs to.
No men needed. I like that in a movie.
You know the other good things about this movie?
A black woman saves the life of a white guy. When was the last time you saw that happen anywhere in fiction? And the least interesting thing to any of the characters is the colour of their skins.
And when Jack appears, he’s not classically handsome (That’s Jonathan Pryce, who you might recognise from the Pirates of the Caribbean films). Whoopi fell in love with the voice and the character before she met him. That’s all that matters.
There’s still more…
You know who directed this film?
Yep. A woman named Penny Marshall.
Jumpin’ Jack Flash sits in bargain bins and cheap rate movie rentals, lumped under the genre of “comedy”. But look again, and you can see how many fences it kicked over. How different our movies today might be if anyone had noticed.
Do you know any under-appreciated movies? Let me know!