we_need_talk_about_kevin_badass_femmesBadass Femmes is a bi-weekly column written by So from So’s Reel Thoughts about all the Badass Females in pop culture that shaped her life.

When I first watched Lynne Ramsay’s unnerving We Need to Talk about Kevin, it was merely a week after the horrific 2012 Aurora theater shooting. You can imagine my shock when the real life event crossed over into the terrible events of the film, which features a mother coping with a terrible school massacre committed by her son. Fast-forward to present day where I’m in my mid-twenties and all of my peers seem to be getting married or having babies. With the myriad of films about marriage and children this year (Gone Girl, Force Majeure, The Babadook to name a few), it seems as though the idea of marriage and motherhood is feverishly taunting me, knowing that I’m nowhere near that point in my life. With that in mind, I decided to revisit We Need to Talk about Kevin, because of it’s exploration of nature vs. nurture and the “shocking” notion that not every woman may have the maternal gene that society likes to project.

Tilda Swinton plays Eva, a tortured woman confronted with her first-born son Kevin’s innate evil behavior, as well as her own ambivalence towards maternity. It would seem easier to simply imply that Eva’s inadequacy as a mother figure would be instrumental in turning her son into pure evil, but that doesn’t seem to be the truth. Through Eva, we get the idea that both traits may coexist in parallel fashion, with both characters seemingly struggling with their own nature apart from each other. Eva’s nuanced, complex inner turmoil proves to be a different type of badass femme, not one that exists in the male-centric gaze of a superhero (for lack of a better example), but someone who struggles with real problems we may never know about if we were to meet her by chance on the street.

Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of Eva’s struggle is the maternal doubt she’s confronted with Kevin’s birth. At that point in her life, she’s made quite a career for herself as a successful travel writer – it’s just too hard for her to give that up so abruptly. This gives way to a different side of parenting rarely seen on film, a woman who isn’t innately affectionate towards towards the idea of offspring. Despite all of this, we get to see her stick through Kevin as much as humanely possible, going out of her way to do the best she can with her responsibilities as his mother. Eva and Kevin eventually realize that they may be cut from the same cloth when they share a vulnerable during the film’s climax. In the end, both characters share a type of twisted bond, but not one of sentimentality. Instead, these two are bound by their almost innate ability to be unhappy with their lot in life. It’s something more tragic than we could ever imagine, and it’s a dichotomy that excels as giving Eva a unique perspective.

As someone who isn’t anywhere near ready to have a child, I resonated with Eva because of her uncertainty and hesitation in relation to motherhood, especially because of the raw realism involved in Tilda Swinton’s portrayal. People expect woman to bear a child and instinctively and automatically become this “mother” figure which is not always a woman’s first instinct. What’s for sure though, is that everyone has unrealistic expectations for a lot of things in life, child-rearing especially, and Eva is the best example of how difficult it can be to give up your own desires and wants for someone you can’t really connect to. Above all, Eva is a rare breed in film and real life, showing us that it’s okay to to not want what society says you should. It’s okay to be confused, and conflicted every once in a while – these are the things that make us human.


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