Tag Archives: Fingersmith

Male Directors Objectified Lesbian And Bi Women Is Still A Growing Trend

The talk about queer representation in the media is one that we’re constantly having, and with every validated right to do so. It’s not a cliché, it shouldn’t be considered one, no matter how much we discuss it, since it has only so many angles to see how it is reflected upon our everyday life, choices, and the formation of our personalities and identities.

I – shamefully – fear discussing trans rights – that legitimately happen to affect my life – with my parents, because I know from the beginning it will be a lost cause due to a harmful and problematic generalization they have formed in their minds because of Greek TV, and I also live in a society that constantly erases one part of my identity, bisexuality – urging even me to question it at times – because some popular series and films make bisexual girls a punchline, or outright refuse to utter the damn word, as if it carries smallpox.

When we discuss representation of queer women on TV, a lot of things can be said, some of them being rightfully optimistic. Contrasting to five years ago, European and American big and small screens can boast for several films and series that do have well-rounded LGBT women in them, queer women that are not the butt of the joke anymore, but actually realistic and interesting characters that other women can relate to.

Of course, there are some major issues due to which we can agree we have cried or ranted at least once: our favorite LGBT female characters will either suffer and die, suffer and break up (because no ending can be a happy ending in same-sex female relationships, while at the same time we’re flooded with a storm of unnecessarily cheesy heterosexual happy endings that the point in counting has been lost about fifty years ago), or sexualized and used as tropes by male directors, even when the characters are well-developed, such as Emma in Blue is the Warmest Color.

This year brought us The Handmaiden, a South Korean psychological thriller adaptation of Sarah Water’s Fingersmith that is considered cinematographically a masterpiece.

In Shannon Keating’s article on BuzzFeed, parallels are drawn between Park Chan-wook’s The Handmaiden, Todd Haynes’ Carol and Abdellatif Kechiche’s Blue is the Warmest Color that are seen as sharing certain elements that point out they were written by women and directed by men.

Respectively, Carol was written by Patricia Highsmith in 1952 and Blue Is the Warmest Color was based on a graphic novel written by Julie Maroh.


All three movies are seen as turning same-sex relationships between women into aesthetically pleasing compositions that focus on panoramic views of almost identical, thin, white bodies, catering to the needs of a mostly male audience, instead of depicting romantic and sexual feelings realistically in ways that lesbian and bisexual women usually experience them.

But how is that tendency explained?

Female sexuality is still perceived by society at large, as something that, in one way or another either belongs to men, belongs to them, can be controlled by men, or somehow exists to cater to their needs. Even queer women are not easily seen – or depicted, in art and popular media – as people who own, perform and share their sexuality with themselves or with other women. That is sadly seen in real life, with LGBT women facing the threats of hate crimes, corrective rapes, harassment and lastly, fetishization.

In many movies and TV series, lesbianism or bisexuality are often punch lines for “experimentation” or “can I watch” jokes, that make men entitled to women’s sexuality even when they’re not invited, depicting queer women as owing something to men who deserve it, either eye-candy, or the trophy of ending up with them after going through a phase. These are extremely harmful stereotypes, especially when lesbians and bisexual women have to fight all the time to have their identities accepted and validated.

Besides, women are denied the rights to their sexuality, while at the same time depicted as solely sexual beings. Marketing campaigns and ads that show women read as involved, usually underline lust and conventional beauty, with women staring directly at the photographic lens – and the viewer – instead of at each other. There are much fewer popular ads depicting women that share a deep emotional bond between them, forming a family together and being visibly invested in each other.


Now, even though representation standards are better met up to than they used to be, one can’t put their finger on diversity: most bi and lesbians in the examples of recent films are conventionally feminine, responding to social beauty standards, and usually white. The Handmaiden has South Korean women and The Pariah black (and less gender-conforming) teenager girls from Brooklyn, but these movies definitely are not the norm. Even in Orange is the New Black, the majority of the non-straight women loved by the fans – aside from Poussey but don’t even get me started on that – are pretty homogenous.

In The Handmaiden, the two protagonists appropriate two Ben Wa balls used as weapons earlier in the film to use them as sex toys, in the symmetrical, aesthetically arranged final scene of the movie, in ways that have been criticized as non-realistic by women viewers who love and have sex with women. The two women engage in several occasions in role-play and symbolic dressing-up, only to soon return to their feminine – sexual – selves.

At this point though, I cannot forget the almost comical exaggerations of Blue is the Warmest Color, how I watched it while accepting my own sexuality and seeing it as a test I failed into: the torturously long scissoring scenes had seemed so boring to me it almost worked as an affirmation I should probably leave questioning sexualities to other people, more bi or more lesbian than I was. Of course, that was a ridiculous way to think at 17 but, if you think about it, it’s also not. Being with a girl, as a discovered later, was in no way as boring as that movie had made it seem.


Not to mention that, as Léa Seydoux said in interviews, a sex scene took ten days to shoot, while the two women were asked to do things that made them feel humiliated.

The Handmaiden also has a controversial – according to many – scissoring scene.

What’s even more eyebrow-raising worthy than the scissoring shenanigans is the entitled guy in the party in Blue is the Warmest Color who sees women as his muses and gives an inspirational ridiculous speech about female orgasms, in a movie, let me remind you, that features two female protagonists being in a relationship with each other.

In a much more refined way, Carol also shows an obsession with aesthetics – which is not a weird thing when you talk cinema – in ways that, according to Keating’s analysis, works into a pattern of women mirroring each other or comparing themselves to each other, just because they are both women.

Added to that, Keating adds that queer women have had enough of their sex lives being depicted as spectacles for straight men, depicting scissoring more often than not and avoiding explicit “finger-dialogues”, as they are often not seen as valid, “full sex” for cishet people. Heaven forfend if they ever show a strap-on on the screen, a woman or a gender-non-conforming person pleasing another woman or GNC completely satisfactorily in a way a male viewer has learnt to think only he would be able to.

All women, and especially queer women, should stop being viewed as owing their sexuality to men, whether that is its direct performance, or a pass for men “to share”. Men don’t own our bodies, our minds, sexualities and experiences, and they shouldn’t feel entitled to fit everywhere within those borders. Sometimes, depictions of queer women that do not come from queer women themselves, but are a product of a cishet male gaze, contribute to these problems, and this is an issue we can’t leave out of our conversation for representation.

‘The Handmaiden’ – A Tale Of Complex Desire And Female Sexuality

The director of Oldboy, Park Chan-wook latest provocation is The Handmaiden, started the summer as the hottest commodity in South Korea (topping the Korean box office before becoming the most widely distributed film in the country’s history). Now it is set for release in the around the world.

Working from the Sarah Waters novel Fingersmith, Chan-wook kept most of the essentials –  including its central lesbian romance – but updated the story to be set in the same period as Japan’s imperial reign over Korea. If you haven’t had the chance to see it, you can check out the trailer below.

The movie is filled with plot twists, torture, sadism, and all the sex you could possibly imagine; even though the story mainly follows a young Korean pickpocket who tries to get a hold of a Japanese heiress’s fortune.

The lead character is portrayed by Sook-hee, who ends up developing feelings for Lady Hideko, the heiress, played by Kim Min-hee, and both end up developing a steamy yet loving relationship.


Perhaps the reason the movie is causing such a stir is due to the explicit sex scenes between the two women, who some have praised while others have criticized.


In the light of all this controversy, Vice interviewed Chan-wook, to try to know more about not only the director himself, but also about his choices when it comes to directing and portraying explicit gay sex (you can read the full interview here).

When asked about which themes Chan-wook chooses for his movies, he made quite the distinction between Handmaiden and his earlier work:

This film is a bit different—quite distinctive—because this film, rather than dealing with an ethical dilemma, is about love and greed.”

Although the movie can be seen as one of his most “pro-love and pro-sex” works, Chan-wook noticed how the truly “pro-love and pro-sex” vibe of the movie stemmed only from the female relationship, which is crudely contrasted by the depicted greedy and violent male perspective, which he describes as it as a ‘kind of rape in my mind – gang rape.’

With a repertoire of not only female-centred movies, but also well-written and complex female characters, Chan-wook claims his passion and drive to tell women’s stories, didn’t happen on purpose, but rather a result of his own growth,

I suppose getting old, becoming mature as a human being, also means you become more of a feminist.”

Have you watched The Handmaiden? What did you think about the movie? Let us know in the comments!

Park Chan-wook’s ‘The Handmaiden’ Gets An Official Release Date, And A New Sexy But Twisted Trailer

Following a brief foray into English-language filmmaking with Stoker, South Korean director Park Chan-wook returns with The Handmaiden.

His new thriller is actually an adaptation of the Sarah Waters’ novel Fingersmith, with the action moved from Victorian-era Britain to Japanese-occupied Korea.


The story focuses on an orphan girl (Kim Tae-ri), who is hired by a con man (Assassination‘s Ha Jung-woon) to win the trust of a wealthy heiress (Right Now, Wrong Then‘s Kim Min-hee), only to end up falling for her.

The new promo is light on plot and completely devoid of dialogue (perhaps to avoid scaring off American audiences), but it’s full of sensual imagery and high-stakes intrigue.

Above all, The Handmaiden looks sexy in a kinky way, like the movie Fifty Shades of Grey wishes it could be.

If you adored the sumptuous style and twisted vibe — The Handmaiden should be worth a peek.

First Teaser Trailer For Park Chan-Wook‘s ‘The Handmaiden’ Has Been Released

The first trailer for Park Chan-wook‘s The Handmaiden has been released.


Inspired by the British novel Fingersmith by Sarah Waters, The Handmaiden takes place during the Japanese colonial period (1910-45).


download (9) 2016 - The Handmaiden

The story focuses on an orphan girl (Kim Tae-ri), who is hired by a con man (Assassination‘s Ha Jung-woon) to win the trust of a wealthy heiress (Right Now, Wrong Then‘s Kim Min-hee), only to end up falling for her.



Amazon To Distribute New South Korean Lesbian Thriller Based On Sarah Waters ‘Fingersmith’ 

Inspired by the British novel Fingersmith by Sarah Waters, The Handmaiden takes place during the Japanese colonial period (1910-45).

The story focuses on an orphan girl (Kim Tae-ri), who is hired by a con man (Assassination‘s Ha Jung-woon) to win the trust of a wealthy heiress (Right Now, Wrong Then‘s Kim Min-hee), only to end up falling for her.


The film is slated to be released in June in Korea, but this week it has been reported that the films director Park Chan-wook was pre-sold to 116 territories during the European Film Market (EFM). Amazon Studios will handle U.S. rights for the lesbian thriller.

The film will also be distributed in Japan (Phantom), Taiwan (Catchplay), Hong Kong/Macau (Edko), Australia/New Zealand (Dreamwest), Mongolia (Bloomsbury), Turkey (Kurmaca), Poland (Gutek Film), Czech Republic/Slovakia (Aero Films), Hungary (Mozinet), Greece/Cyprus (AMA), German-speaking territories (Koch Media), French speaking territories (The Jokers) and Latin America (Swen).


Director Park Chan-Wook Starts Filming New Adaptation of Lesbian Classic ‘Fingersmith’

Oldboy filmmaker Park Chan-wook has started making a new adaptation Fingersmith in Nagoya, Japan, last week.

Established actress Kim Min-hee (No Tears for the Dead) and newcomer Kim Tae-ri will play lovers Sue and Maud from the Sarah Waters’ Victorian-era crime novel, but director Park Chan-wook’s film will take place in “Korea and Japan in the 1930s, when Korea was under Japanese occupation.”

Fingersmith was made into a two-part BBC mini-series in 2005, starring Elaine Cassidy and Sally Hawkins.

Fingersmith-01 Fingersmith

Park’s long-term screenwriter Chung Seo-kyung (Sympathy for Lady VengeanceThirst), has written new screenplay.

Fingersmith is Park’s first Korean-language directorial piece in six years, since the Cannes-winning vampire film Thirst in 2009. In between he made his English-language debut, the ill-fated Stoker, in 2013.

The completed film is set for a 2016 release.