The other night, in a fit of nostalgia, I watched Romancing the Stone. Imagine my excitement when I realised that Kathleen Turner’s character was not just a romance novelist, but was published by Avon!
Not having seen the movie since childhood – when my critical faculties were not as finely honed as they are now and I thought Xanadu was a masterclass in storytelling – I was fuzzy on the plot details. To sum up, Kathleen Turner is Joan Wilder, a successful but lonely romance author who fantasises about her fictional hero, Jesse. When her sister is kidnapped in Colombia and it turns out that the treasure map the kidnappers are after was mailed to Joan, she must swap the streets of New York for the Colombian jungle. Of course, she gets horribly lost and meets adventurer Jack Colton, a very young-looking Michael Douglas, who turns out to be far more irritating and selfish than any romantic hero ought to be. They team up and after assorted shenanigans, including a quick break for dinner, dancing and sexy times, they rescue Joan’s sister.
Apart from the awesomeness of the combination of Kathleen Turner, Michael Douglas and Danny de Vito, what I found so interesting about this movie is how feminist it is. It came out in 1984, when arguably the battle for equal rights was not yet won (is it now?!), and yet the movie spends a solid half an hour setting up Kathleen Turner’s character before we even meet Michael Douglas. Even then, the focus is all on her journey; he is not much more than a cardboard cutout. And in the final battle at the end of the movie, [SPOILER ALERT!] she’s the one who defeats the bad guy. He’s too busy chasing after the giant emerald which has been swallowed by an alligator.
All this put me in mind of the excellent blog post by Nicole Murphy which we shared the other day, talking about how romance as a genre is actually a bastion of feminism. Who knew my trip down movie Memory Lane would be so empowering? Now, maybe there was something to Xanadu after all …
For a fun zip through Romancing the Stone in the form of screen grabs, click here.