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The Life of David Gale (2003)

The Life of David Gale is one of those films which the critics hate and the moviegoers love. It is a thriller, has a political statement, and has star actors as leads. But, the critics believe the argument is weak, and the film, in general, is confusing and not compelling. I want to open up a conversation from another perspective, which is the females’ role in David Gale’s life.

David Gale (Kevin Spacey) is an author and scholar of philosophy and an anti-death penalty activist in Texas. Ironically, he is sentenced to death after being accused of the rape and murder of his activist friend, Constance Harraway (Laura Linney). Gale summons the reporter Bitsey Bloom (Kate Winslet) for a final interview to share his story.

I think it is worth mentioning how all these females shape David Gale’s life. The film not only puts women into categories instead of structuring them as deep characters, but they also work as symbols and puppets to define his life. To me, it is evident that these female characters are products of the imagination of men.

At some point in the film, two females repeat the same hard-to-watch action: one seemingly ruining Gale’s life, and one in an attempt to save it. It is almost as if the female characters around him define the main character’s life. David Gale seems to be at the mercy of the women in his life. Even though the final twist might seem to be defying this claim, I want to elaborate more on how I perceived the film around this subject.

In the first few minutes, Bitsy’s coworker Barbara states, “I’m a fat black woman” to get herself out of the picture, which sounds quite irrelevant in the context. Is this line supposed to de-feminize her? Because, in the following scene, when Bitsey is confused about why David Gale summons especially her for the interview, Barbara assumes it is because she is a beautiful woman. Right at the beginning, the filmmaker categorizes women as attractive and not, which comes with all its consequences.

The first woman to trigger the downfall in David Gale’s life is Berlin. She is a “cool girl” with such a cool name. She is his student who is always late for class and would do “anything” to pass. You might remember the old story of the harlot that ruins our hero’s life: the “promiscuous” and attractive Berlin seduces David Gale before slandering him of rape. Even though the charges are later dropped, its effects remain. Therefore ruining his reputation, the first woman to trigger the change in his life is Berlin, an attractive and young female student.

Following the accusations, David Gale cannot teach in any institution due to his ruined name. As the downfall begins, his wife leaves him and moves to Barcelona, taking their son. Since the beginning, it was rumored how gorgeous David Gale’s wife was. I believe this stands as a symbol of the wonderful life he once had and now lost. His attractive wife defines his life before the scandal as beautiful and perfect, and her separation leaves him with a deteriorated life.

After his wife leaves him, David Gale spends more time with his friend and fellow activist Constance. Constance is supposed to be an unattractive woman only because her skirt is longer, and her hair is pulled back. It is often repeated that David never looked at her sexually or even saw her as a female. She calls herself as sexually inactive. The character is mainly associated with her cause, anti-death penalty, and is more of a symbol of it than a deep, complex female character. She is stripped from her femininity and is the engine of the story who has the most significant impact in David Gale’s life.

Finally, Bitsey Bloom is chosen to be the last woman to shape his life and memory. She is a passionate journalist who spent a week in jail as she refused to give her resources on a child porn piece. She seems to be autonomous in her decisions, but a closer look into the script reveals how all her actions are a reaction to where the men lead her.

In the car, she is on the driver seat with the intern Zack (Gabriel Mann) by her side, which literally suggests she steers the wheel. However, Zack keeps pointing out the fishy aspects of the story that fall short to be convincing, whereas she is caught up in Gale’s narrative. It seems that Gale has left his destiny to Bitsey, but not without manipulating her enough to make sure where the story is going. Thus, even though Bitsey seems to hold a man’s life in her hands, she is merely a puppet.

Even though some critics found it shallow and confusing, the film is rated 7.6 on IMDB. You might want to watch the movie to decide for yourself. I’m not sure if the issues around females I point out will change how you perceive the film, but I wanted to come up with a different approach than to simply give thumbs up or down. You decide.

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