This week’s Danger Gal post profiles Hancock’s Mary Embrey. This movie isn’t new, but I myself only watched it recently, so beware that spoilers follow.
I admit to having mixed feelings about this movie and about Mary’s character. Charlize Theron, who portrayed Mary in the 2008 movie, had this to say about the character:
“She makes this conscious decision to live in suburbia and be this soccer mum to her stepson and be the perfect wife—she lives in this bubble. But when people do that it usually means they are hiding some characteristic inside themselves that scares them. That is Mary’s case. She knows who she is and what she is capable of. I find it very complex when I get to play women like that.”
As visual evidence that Mary is not living authentically, we see her appearance change pretty drastically when she finally owns up to her true nature: Mary transforms from hippie housewife to black-clad superhero. The black eyeliner alone tells you not mess with her, right?
Turns out that Mary and Hancock are, in Mary’s words:
“Gods, angels. . . Different cultures call us by different names. Now all of a sudden it’s superhero. . .Whatever we are, we’re built in twos. We’re drawn together. No matter how far I run, he’s [Hancock] always there! He finds me. It’s physics.”
The only two of their kind left, Mary and Hancock have been breaking up and reuniting for millennia. The problem? When they’re together both lose their superhuman abilities and become vulnerable. By the way, when their powers are manifest Mary is the stronger of the two.
This is actually a great romantic concept: That love makes you vulnerable. Mary and Hancock, however, are subverting their destinies by periodically breaking up after particularly nasty events, perpetuated by outside forces, happen to them that nearly kill one or both. The most recent was a mugging that nearly killed Hancock. Mary stayed away initially so Hancock could make use of his superhuman healing abilities, but then decided it was best if they never reunited (or maybe they’re just “on a break,” we’re not told). He ended up with amnesia and therefore has no clue about his identity or the source of his powers. Hancock doesn’t know who he is without Mary.
You’d think they’d ask why this pattern keeps repeating? Is there a Big Bad out there with their demise as a goal? Or is it just that if you live long enough, bad things eventually happen? When together, proximity or love, possibly both, turn these two superhumans into regular people. Maybe they’re supposed to live a natural life together and die like the rest of us? Instead of sticking it out together when bad things happen they break up and become superhuman again.
So, what happens in the end? Do these two lovers learn how to live life being vulnerable both physically and emotionally? Um, no. Nope, the world needs a protector and Hancock is The One.
Never mind that Mary is actually stronger and therefore actually more qualified for the job.
Mary decides to stay in the bubble. Sure, she’s doing good work creating a stable environment for her step-son and seems to have a good drama-free relationship with her husband. I do like this twist on the fated mate motif, and Mary and Hancock need to form identities separate from simply being one part of an eternal dyad. So, if separating is what’s best for both of them — if the real romance here is between Mary and Aaron — I still don’t like that Mary decides to keep her superior powers under wraps. There’s a double-standard going on here in that Hancock isn’t permitted to shirk his superhero duties, so why should Mary get a free pass? The world needs all the help it can get. Why do either of them have to choose between family and career? If Aaron really loved Mary he wouldn’t want her to keep her light under a bushel.
Overall, I like the Mary Embrey character mostly because, despite this double-standard, she is not a reactive female character. To the contrary, it was Mary who decided to leave Hancock, Mary who decided to form a family with Aaron Embrey, Mary who decided to out her superpowers, and Mary who decided to remain with Aaron. The men in her life, and the world at large, have to accept those choices. I generally like the roles Charlize Theron picks because more often than not, she chooses to play active, choice-making characters like Embrey — even if I don’t always agree with those choices. For this alone I think Mary Embrey qualifies as a Danger Gal — the superpowers of course help.