The 1999 film begins at The MET where a stolen valuable Monet painting brings together the self-possessed insurance investigator Catherine Banning and the culprit, self-made billionaire Thomas Crown. While Banning was not the lead investigator on this case, she took matters into her own hands and intrigued Crown by cutting straight to the chase leading on that she knew he was guilty. The two then begin what seems to be a game of cat and mouse ultimately becoming a whirlwind romance. Susan Bordo’s Beauty (Re)discovers the Male Body discusses how The disjunction between self-conception and external judgment can be especially harsh when the external definitions carry gender stereotypes with them.(134) Although the film may seem to reinforce stereotypes by subjecting Banning to the male gaze in her introduction, it instead is reinventing John Berger’s theory that men act and women appear because there is much more to Banning than is lead on.
Berger’s theory that men act and women appear is used to defy the male and female relationship. It implies that men look at women while the women watch themselves being looked at. An example of this is the Nautica ad where the men are unaware of their own appearances, but the woman nonetheless is aware of hers and of the men ogling at her. Much like the way Banning was introduced with her legs exposed to the male eyes and the way the camera slowly made its way up giving her a sense of mystery. However, the film reminds viewers to not be fooled by her character as Catherine Banning does nothing to please men it is all simply for her own amusement. She finds pleasure in the game she and Crown play as does he essentially making them the perfect match for each other. While Banning encounters typical feelings of self-doubt when she sees photographs of Crown with another woman, she greatly exudes confidence every other moment of the film.
As Banning and Crown’s relationship grows Banning begins to develop feelings for Crown and vice versa. When McCann shows these images to Banning it was expected of her to feel hurt as would any human but Banning confronted Crown and acted with courage showing that she was tough. In fact, she and Crown are very much alike, as Charles Taylor suggests Crown and Banning are mirror images of each other (par. 2) they both are these rags to riches individuals whose rigid personalities and wisdom has bought them to where they are now. They both defy the Industrial Revolution stereotype which implies that men should not worry about grooming they should worry about being the breadwinner. Crown, of course, is always well groomed as he is shown in various suits and getting tailored. Banning herself proves that she is her own breadwinner by showing she is sharper and more intelligent than McCann, the detective, solving the crime. Bordo furthers that women should worry about their looks and apparel, if failed to do so, they are labeled as feminist and the opposite goes for males, yet both don’t fret as their appearance comes naturally to them and does not create the audience to question their femininity nor masculinity.
As the two play, this game of cat and mouse they both fight over who has the upper hand in the relationship eventually being Banning. Although times are offered where she shows weakness, for example, the end scene where she is shown sobbing due to believing Crown has stood her up. However, when she sees him behind her, leaps over the seats and jokingly threatens Crown saying she will break both his arms, she regains her power. As Susan Bordo states Nowadays, the “act/appear” duality is even less meaningful, as the cultivation of the suitably fit appearance has become not just a matter of sexual allure but a demonstration that one has the “right stuff”: will, discipline, the ability to stop whining and ?just do it.’ (172-173) Banning herself has that will and ability, she truly wastes no time in getting down to business. She shows that she isn’t just the object of attention but rather a more complex woman who is willing to do whatever it takes to obtain what she wants.
To conclude, although the film seems to reinforce stereotypes it ultimately reinvents them. Banning starts as the center of the male gaze but she is in fact much more intricate offering an abundance of personalities. She has her moments of self-doubt, but she radiates confidence. Unlike Bordo’s student who had self-image issues and felt the need to hide behind makeup, Banning is assured and has such elegance that comes naturally. She and Crown are very much alike which makes them a dynamic duo. The two do nothing but lounge around and try to outdo each other in a game of cat and mouse that intrigues them to one another.
Overall, the film offered minimal scenes that showed Banning falling into the stereotypes but overall, she overpowered them like the larger than life woman she is. At length, all these elements appeal to the adult audience of both males and females as it represents norms being defied and teaches society that they do not have to settle for what they are set out to be by others.
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