By: Autumn Barszczowski
Before I begin, I should note that there will be spoilers. For my purposes, I cannot avoid them. I apologize in advance if you care enough to eventually see the Emoji Movie.
With every new animated movie, feminists like myself are scouting for strong female characters who do not fall subject to the typical romantic plots that overshadow their ambitions and dreams. We are looking for characters who have more than marriage as their end goal.
Walking into the theater at promptly 4:40 p.m. on July 28, I wondered what I would get out of the movie. I admit, I had grown to ironically love the movie. Everyone around me was sick of hearing “Emoji Movie, coming July 28.” I kept reminding myself that I had this ridiculous, silly movie to look forward to amidst the nightmare that is the United States.
We could escape the serious implications of our president’s actions for an hour and a half to listen to stories about emojis.
However, as the movie progressed, I stopped thinking about the pure joy that came from watching this cinematic masterpiece, and instead began to consider how Jailbreak, a female emoji, would be as a character.
In this movie, Gene the meh emoji is on a mission to fix the fact that he expresses too many emotions. In a society that expects him to only be “meh,” he has to fix his “malfunction” so that he will not be deleted. He ends up meeting Hi-5 who agrees to find a hacker that will help Gene solve the issue before the anti-virus bots can send him to the trash.
Jailbreak, the “emo” female hacker, starts out as our representation of people who successfully go against society’s roles and expectations. In the snippets I had caught before seeing the movie, she seemed to be Gene’s guide in his journey to the firewall where he would be able to restore himself to his original purpose as a “meh” emoji and rid himself of malfunctions.
Everything I knew about her led me to believe she could be a strong female character amongst the wild creation that is the Emoji Movie. I thought for a second that maybe, just maybe, we could salvage something from this movie.
Boy, was I disappointed.
There were clear moments where it seemed like the writers had considered establishing Jailbreak as a feminist character . In fact, I would guess that they had put a solid thirty minutes of research about feminism that they could sprinkle into her character periodically.
For example, the writers start by “surprising” Hi-5 and Gene, who wrongfully assumed that the top hacker would be male. Instead of a male, they find Jailbreak and are forced to say “she” instead of “he.” As a result, the writers show that the best in an industry are not always male.
Then, when she first meets Gene and Hi-5, she tries to brush them off, but she quickly realizes that by helping them, she could help her own hidden mission and dream. It is only when she finds out that she can benefit from the mission that she decides to help them. Thus, Jailbreak isn’t written to be willing to help wherever she is needed, the usual female role. Instead, she has purpose and seeks missions that benefit her goals.
Later, she encounters a moment where Gene and Hi-5 interrupt her thought and begin to claim an idea she has for their escape as their own. Instead of letting them, she firmly reminds them that the idea was in fact hers and she would not stand to have it taken from her. By standing up for herself, she shows that females do not always have to take what is given to them.
But the turn comes in the scenes that follow where we continually hear about how she helped a princess emoji to escape the phone through the cloud. Instead of discussing that journey, she lets Gene and Hi-5 ramble on about the stories they had heard. This is when my brother turned to me and said “I bet you $10 she is the princess emoji.”
I didn’t have to bet him anything because I knew that he was right. I watched as her princess crown is revealed and any hopes of her achieving her goals was lost.
Sure, the writers tried to develop her back story with minor emoji history details, like saying that she had left Textopolis (their world) because women could only be a princess or a bride in the first set of emojis.
What they seem to forget though is the underlying romantic plot they thread between Jailbreak and Gene. The moment that plot starts, all hope is lost for the seemingly feminist character.
By the end of the movie, Jailbreak is willing to give up her dream of escaping the phone to stay with Gene. Instead of watching out for number one like she had always done, she remembers that Gene asked her “What good is it to be number one if there aren’t any other numbers.”
In that moment, Gene is telling her that she does not need to put herself first because her ambitions are useless without someone else to share it with. Unfortunately for Jailbreak, by not putting herself first, she gives up the opportunity to escape. Instead, she returns to a slightly improved Textopolis for a guy she has just met.
Overall, the movie was everything I expected it to be: Garbage.
But man, I loved watching every second of that train wreck. If you’re into lame jokes and the recycled plot line of Wreck-It Ralph, this is the movie for you. 10/10 would recommend.