Whale Rider Assignment

by zohal yasin

1) Paikea is a female counter-stereotype because in films you usually see women being used for sex. “She is never fully recognised as a human subject; either a Goddess, or a Whore, an animal who is only valuable because of her body parts that can give pleasure to men, procreate to continue the patriarchal kinship lineage.” (Female directors, Female Gaze, Rubaiyat Hossain, 2011) In this film we see a young girl trying to take the role of a man and become the leader of her tribe which is not what we normally see in movies. This film does not show females being used as objects. We see a girl striving to be accepted by her grandfather and make him realize that she can also be a leader. Instead of moving away with her father to a city she stays with her tribe. I expected her to leave because in most movies we are expected to see the female character rebel and become someone that is just used as an object. Although Pai did rebel, she rebelled in a positive way because she wanted to be apart of her culture and she just wanted her grandfathers acceptance and affection.”…with his unwillingness to recognize her puissance, Pai simply showers him with love, compassion and companionship;…” (Whale Rider, Maria Garcia)

2) Whale Rider is a statement of empowerment for women and girls because the main character is a young girl who follows her dreams and what she believes in, which is becoming the tribe leader even though she is not a male. Throughout the movie we see how she is very mentally strong for her age because of all the bullying from the other first born boys and the resentment from her grandfather wishing she was born a male. This is shown when she gets into a fight with one of the boys but she uses the staff of male power to defend herself. “…or when she wields the staff of male power to trounce an opponent, Caro doesn’t turn the music up.” (Whale Rider, Maria Garcia.) Despite the fact that she gets no encouragement from her main father figure –her grandfather, Pai is still interested in the traditions and leadership. She challenges gender expectations and secretly learns by watching the boys in school and also has lessons with her uncle even though her grandfather specifically said to not be apart of it. We see this in the scene where she is peeking through the window of the boys school and the lessons everyday from her uncle.

3) This film is counter-cinema because it has what typical Hollywood movies don’t; real issues women face. “Hollywood films do not represent the real lives of most women in North America –they fail to represent real issues facing women today (complexities of life, hard-hitting subjects)” (Hollywood Kord, S., & Krimmer, E. 2005). When a movie has a female lead the actress is a stripper, prostitute, dancer etc…these movies degrade women instead of empowering them or inspiring them. “At their worst, movies ridicule, denigrate, deny what real women have long achieved, and replace it with specters from the past.” (Hollywood, Kord, S., & Krimmer, E. 2005) Whale rider on the other hand, has cultural issues that a young girl faces with her family. It doesn’t have a fake ending like some films where women forget what these men have done to them and they fall in love, it has an inspirational ending with the fear of death which is more realistic.