I have done a comprehensive survey of all the male characters in Chinatown and there are precisely four (five if you count ones who die) who do not reveal themselves to be at least partially terrible. Given that there are many more than four males in this film this is worrying. I am going to assume everyone in the world has seen Chinatown, and will discuss it now as such – so if you have not this will almost certainly ruin it for you. Now, the film is at least partially about how Jake, who, traumatized by his once failure to protect a woman on his old Chinatown beat attempts to stop history repeating itself and save the woman he loves. I say loves, what he actually does is has a quick tumble then packs her off to Mexico, given that the film is inherently sexist I am going to read this as a simulacrum for love. Unfortunately it all goes tits up and she gets shot through the eyeball. Jack, sorry, Jake, is told -“Go home Jake, I’m doing you a favor”. What the bent copper is telling him that he cannot change the balance of power, that Noah Cross will do as he pleases with the water and the land and it is simpler just to accept this and get on with other things. Its frankly, a bloody terrible end to a film. So we return to the ridiculously small percentage of good male characters in the film (I’m not counting Jake as good, for reasons which will become obvious). Because the least of Noah Cross’ crimes are his land/water schemes the whole thing becomes inextricably tied up in mens treatment of women. Jake desperately attempts to change, marked by his consistent catching of his own bad language when he is around Evelyn – but ultimately he cannot protect her. As he is told that he cannot change the way the way Chinatown operates, he is also told he cannot change the way men operate, and it turns out men operate in a mode known as asshole. So there you have it, Chinatown is all about male chauvinism and how all attempts to change it will fail. Theres hegemony in the water in 70’s L.A.


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