Warning: Shark-tastic spoilers ahead.
Today is a monumental day: Mandy Moore’s shark movie finally hits theaters.
It’s called 47 Meters Down, and it’s popcorn entertainment at its finest—bonkers, thrilling, and 100 percent satisfying. The flick centers on two sisters, Lisa (Mandy Moore) and Kate (Claire Holt), whose shark-diving excursion goes horribly wrong after the rope on their cage breaks, sending them to the ocean floor. What transpires over the next hour is a claustrophobic fight for survival, filled with blood, fear, and the most deranged, flesh-hungry sharks alive. Seriously, they make Blake Lively’s menacing beast in The Shallows look like Nemo.
The film is utterly ridiculous, but that’s what makes it fun. It never takes itself seriously—save for two moments. One is harmless (but annoying): At the end, we’re led to believe Lisa and Kate escape the cage, make it back to their boat, and live happily ever after. But it’s just a hallucination: Kate is very much dead, and Lisa is still stuck on the ocean floor, losing her mind. Deep-sea divers eventually come to her rescue, but still: Talk about a mood-killer. Why does an absurd movie like this need such a bleak, realistic finale?
The second “serious” moment, however, is more than just annoying. You see, Lisa originally planned this trip with her boyfriend, but he broke up with her, so she brought Kate instead. And his reason for dumping Lisa? She isn’t fun. Yup. That’s the justification he gives for ending things. Obviously, he’s a colossal douche and not worth an ounce of Lisa’s time, but she spends the majority of her vacation sulking—which is totally understandable. Breakups are hard! However, things become suspect when Kate tells Lisa to get wild just to prove him wrong.
So the sisters go out, get drunk, meet hot guys, and dance until sunrise—all to spite Lisa’s ex. This is why they go shark-diving, too. On the boat beforehand, Lisa’s having second thoughts about the whole excursion, but Kate convinces her by saying something akin to, “Come on, sis, fun people swim with sharks! What would your boyfriend think?” That’s pretty much all it takes for her to suit up. Mandy Moore’s character quite literally plunges to her (almost) death just to show some man that she isn’t lame.
Her motivation is more asinine than the actual sharks, to be honest—but, unfortunately, it’s pretty common in pop-culture. After all, Monica only loses weight on Friends after Chandler says she’s “fat.” Sandy completely changes her look in Grease just so Danny will date her. The whole reason Elle Woods attends Harvard Law School in the first place is to show Warner she’s “serious.” The “Girl Does Thing to Prove Boy Wrong” trope is as old as time.
And we really should retire it. Monica, Sandy, and Elle are all interesting female characters, but their male-centric motivations, in a way, strip them of their agency. The choices they make in their respective narratives are inextricably linked to (and controlled by) men. If Warner decided halfway through Legally Blonde that Elle was “smart” enough for him, would she have ditched Harvard? Would Monica have lost weight had Chandler not fat-shamed her? We’ll never know for certain, but it’s not far-fetched to think these women would’ve altered their paths in some way. They’re all essentially at the mercy of the f—kboys who dissed them. (As is Lisa in 47 Meters Down. On some level, she thinks jesting with Jaws will save her relationship, which is why she does it.)
Granted, a campy shark movie isn’t exactly the best anchor to wax poetic about women in film. 47 Meters Down is a silly summer blockbuster—plain and simple. And it’s highly entertaining! Moviegoers aren’t expecting some kind of feminist masterpiece. But the fact this trope exists in 2017 confirms many people still think a woman’s main job in life is to please the men around her. Cringe.
It’s mind-boggling screenwriters can’t think of other reasons why a woman would lose weight, go to law school, or swim with sharks—and it’s even more mind-boggling they keep placing men in narratives that don’t require them. 47 Meters Down doesn’t need an ex-boyfriend subplot for audiences to understand why Lisa would drink, dance, and go shark-diving while vacationing in Mexico. She’s on vacation. That’s what people do on vacations!
End of story. No dudes necessary.