Pretty Little Johanna

I chose to create a vid examining gender and power through the character of Johanna in Tim Burton’s horror-musical Sweeney Todd. Set in Victorian England, the women in this film are perpetually under the control of men. Lucy is sexually abused, and both Lucy and her daughter Johanna are ceaselessly passed between different men who seek to control them. Mrs. Lovett, the sole other female character, breaks this mold; however, at the end of the film, she is killed by the man she loves.

This video isolates the character of Johanna, commenting on the way men in her life objectify and covet her. I titled the vid “Pretty Little Johanna,” a reference to Mrs. Lovett’s envy-tinged description of the young girl. Despite Mrs. Lovetts jealousy, it is beauty that has Johanna trapped. Without her beauty, she would be free from the desires of Judge Turpin and perhaps be in control of her own life as Mrs. Lovett is. “Pretty Little Johanna” also references the fact that the men in her life consider her delicate, pure, and therefore infantilized and devoid of agency. She is not granted personhood besides what little character is projected by her delicate appearance and sweet singing voice.

While Judge Turpin’s objectification of Johanna is portrayed negatively, Antony is also guilty of this overprotective, possessive objectification. Antony is Johanna’s love interest and savior, and the film constructs him as loving, pure, and guileless. However, without the lens of romance, his actions are as unsettling as the lecherous gaze of Judge Turpin. I determined that the redemptive nature of ‘romance’ rested in the mutual affection between Johanna and Antony. After removing the few indications of Johanna’s eventual affection for Antony, his immediate vow to “steal” her for his own becomes more sinister. From the instant he glimpses her through her window, Anton becomes an obsessive youth who stalks Johanna relentlessly. He rescues her from the madhouse, but it now appears as a selfish gesture — he is stealing her for himself, not rescuing her so much as changing. It takes the most minor of alterations to expose how unacceptable many of his actions are.
In this altered reading of the film, Johanna lacks a savior hero. This absence leads to the fate of continued entrapment, making Johanna’s complete lack of power more tragic and therefore more visible.

DIY media is the ideal way to discuss and critique a movie because of the accessibility: a vid has the potential to reach the movie’s fanbase rather than circulating among academics as many texts might. Furthermore, DIY media is necessary to “articulate alternate perspectives, particularly in terms of gender and sexuality” that The Media rarely addresses (Coppa, 25). Vidding and DIY media in general allows fans to proactively take control and create a media that is truly representative of the fanbase instead of representing the elite white males that generally have power in the media.

Coppa, Francesca. “Women, Star Trek, and the early development of fannish vidding.” Transformative Works and Cultures, 1 (2008). Print.

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