Reply From Sarah Churchwell

Eyewear is glad to live in the digital age where replies can be fairly immediate. Dr. Sarah Churchwell (pictured) has kindly replied to my post on her column on The Bourne series (and agreed it may be reprinted here). Her complete email of today is below:

Dear Todd,
Thank you for your comment, which I read with interest.
I don't disagree with your assessment of the film, for the most part, although I'm not generally leaping onto the 'greatest thriller since le Carré' bandwagon. I think they are enjoyable films, and I have a lot of time for Matt Damon, who I think is a very intelligent and interesting actor. I found this film fun but so deeply silly that it is hard for me to take it seriously as a moral statement of any kind, except in so far as it is about taking responsibility, an idea which it deals with consistently, if rather overtly for my taste. But that's not a criticism, necessarily, it's just not my cup of tea to have things explained so carefully to me.
As for why I didn't give credit to what I like about the film -- I'm afraid that was for a very banal and demoralizing reason, called space. In fact the piece was edited for space after I wrote it (a very common occurrence) cutting out another 100 or so words I wrote, mostly about the novels, and the fact that Marie becomes less capable over the course of the books as well. But it wasn't a review and I simply wasn't given the room to give the film its due, which I would happily have done with either more space, or a different remit. But on the whole I think it's an enjoyable franchise, although I thought this installment had too many holes. (Why would a top-ranking black ops agent running from the CIA travel under his own passport, for starters?)
My point was simply that Stiles's character doesn't do anything useful, and I'm afraid I find it hard to see that she ever "acts quickly and expertly." When would that be? When she signed onto the CIA computer using her own name so they could trace her? When she rattled door handles? Dismantling her mobile phone so Bourne could follow her was mildly intelligent, but hardly expert. The washcloth? Dying her hair?
All I'm saying is that I can't see any reason why the script couldn't have given her a skill, an ability, an ingenious decision, anything. That wouldn't have been inconsistent with her lowly status as junior agent. She could still know how to do something other than rattle doors. I can't see what she was doing in the film at all, except to give Jason the chance to rescue her. The character has no function in the plot at all other than that, and I found it exasperating and unnecessary to watch a woman standing around being pointless and looking worried. It gets annoying.
The word misogyny never appears in my article; headlines are editorial. I don't actually think it's misogynistic either -- I just think it's tedious. Editors try to stir pots with headlines; it's their job.
Good luck with your site.
Best wishes,


Dr Sarah Churchwell
Senior Lecturer in American Literature and Culture
School of American Studies
University of East Anglia
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