Gender Roles in Winters Bone

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Sewanee University of the South
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Winters bone, an independent indie movie directed by Debra Granik is an adaptation of Daniel Woodrell novel of the same name. the movie follows the life of Ree Dolly and her perseverance in her search of her father who jumped bail after having been arrested for manufacturing methamphetamine. In her quest to find her father, the movie presents Ree as she navigates through the oppressive and patriarchal world of her clan as well as the revelation of dark secrets and subverting gender roles stripped off their traditional definitions. Furthermore, the movie shows the relationships among women of the same family while at the same time examining the ability of an individual to subvert repressive stereotypes of female and male roles.

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One of the major prevailing themes in the film is the rigid and submissive traditional gender roles that women adopt throughout the entire film. From the beginning, the men in this society are always depicted in an authoritative position, with only a few of the women in the film standing up against mens authority and defying the stereotypes. In the Ozark mountains, from which the movie is set, in the community, men are portrayed as irrational and alien. They cannot be trusted, reasoned with, and are to be feared. These characteristics are made clear when Ree visits her uncle and aunt. During the visit, although her aunt, Dolly-pere is sympathetic to Rees predicament, her uncle, Teardrop, is uncooperative even going as far as reprimanding his wife when she attempts to push the issue.

In the movie, it is clear that there exist a clear social structure that involves individuals in the Ozarks community following a traditional gender structure. In this community men are the heads of the household; the women are caretakers who submit to the men and the clan is law. This laid out social structure in the movie is similar to the traditional attitudes towards gender witnessed in the south (Rogers 89). Similar to various southern traditions, the women in the movie are seen to have been socialized on the roles in the family and community from their birth. However, in the movie, some of the gender roles, through some of the characters, are challenged.

For instance, Ree is seen as the caretaker. She takes care of her mentally challenged mother as well as her siblings. Furthermore, she teaches her siblings hunting and survival skills so that they are in a better position to take care of themselves and the family. However, it is also through Ree character that some of the gender roles are challenged. When Rees father jumps bail leaving the house for bond, Ree is forced to go against her gender roles within the community and question her clan on the whereabouts of her father. In doing so, Ree takes on the role of other males in the community as she has to confront other men in her search for her father (Ross).

In addition, it is not only the women in the film that defy gender roles, men in the film have also been seen to be hesitant in following certain roles that the community expects them to adhere. Although at first glance the men in the Ozark community are seen as irrational, unpredictable and savages, the film however shows that these social gender roles are typically forced onto men. This is illustrated by Rees uncle teardrop, and thump. Although these two characters are portrayed as inherently psychotic, they behave in this manner as this the character expected of a man in the Ozark community (Bradshaw). However, they deviate from this behavior, for instance when teardrop turns up in defense of Ree when thumps women beat her up. In this situation, teardrop is seen as to be rational in that although he speaks on behalf of Ree, he did not see the need to intervene as it was the women who beat up Ree. In the event that Ree had been beaten up by the men, teardrop would have had to be violent.

Furthermore, the movie further confirms the forced social gender roles on men through Rees little brother. On one occasion, Rees younger brother attempts to fight on behalf of her despite the fact that he is no more than a child that can barely take care of himself. The brother in this regard is simply following what is expected of him by the community; to be a man is to be violent and irrational (Huttner). This behavior is not out of the ordinary as all the men in the community are irrational and violent, as such this is the only environment that Rees brother has ever known.

Overall, the film is an interesting albeit harrowing exploration of life at the mercy of human politics. It presents humanity as people who are completely incapable of escaping societal demands that are propagated by the various institutions in the community. However, through Ree, it is clear that we are not all doomed to social structure. Every person is free to choose their role in the community and finally escape the expectations of the various institutions that interact with our everyday lives.

Works Cited

Bradshaw, Peter. "Winter's Bone Review." 16 September 2010. The Guardian. WEB. 22 March 2017.

Huttner, Jan Lisa. "Winter's Bone." 24 June 2010. Women Arts. Web. 22 March 2017.

Rogers, J. O. E. L., and E. Wright. "American Society: How It Really Works." (2010).

Ross, Daniel. "Winters Bone A Jungian Film Analysis." 12 January 2011. The Ashville Jung Center. Web. 22 March 2017.

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