Published On: Mon, Dec 12th, 2016

Michael Fassbender Says the Women of Assassin’s Creed Don’t ‘Depend on the Arc of Male Characters’ – “They have their own goals independent of the men around them.”

Assassin’s Creed tells the story of Callum Lynch (Michael Fassbender), who finds out that he is descended from a secret society called the Assassins. The Animus, a machine which Fassbender referred to as the “genetic DeLorean,” unlocks his genetic memories and he is then able to experience the life of his ancestor Aguilar during the infamous Spanish Inquisition in the 15th century. Confused? You’re not alone.

Walking into an early screening of this, three things plagued my mind: 1) Will this be the 2016 Cubs and finally break the curse? 2) Is this whitewashing? Why wasn’t Rodrigo Santoro in this? He should be in everything. 3) What about the women tho? Will they be walking ornaments like in the Final Fantasy XV game?  Director Justin Kurzel sort of addressed the former during a special roundtable interview with The Mary Sue, saying the story itself is “incredible material” and that “this is a separate piece of narrative from the game.” In other words, it exists in the the video game zeitgeist but is comprised of an original story.

Whiteashing wasn’t addressed during this discussion but Michael Fassbender did have a lot to say about the female roles in this film. Marion Cotillard’s Dr. Sophia Rikkin, in particular, is the film’s most prominent woman, recruiting Callum with the hopes of finding the Apple of Eden (an artifact which supposedly fixes the aggression trait in humans) via his ancestral memories. She’s a complex character, trying to make the world a better place but the way in which she goes about it isn’t quite honorable. Fassbender touched on her character and, naturally, I had some thoughts about what he said.

“She believes that she’s doing good,” Fassbender said. “It’s kinda like a colonist coming to a new land and seeing the natives there and saying ‘Oh my God! They’ve let the children run around here and they’re uneducated and they’re uncivilized. We need to take these children away from these people and teach them our ways…the ways of the West. And of course, the intentions are well-placed but the results are disastrous.” I see where he’s going with this because yes, colonization has has “disastrous” effects on the natives of the lands conquered,  but I’m not sure I entirely agree with this analogy, because it rests on the idea that the good intentions of colonists trying to “educate the savages” are not rooted in white supremacy.

Still, the fact that we can even make these comparisons is a testament to how developed her character is in the film. It’s particularly interesting to see her interact with her father, Alan Rikkin (played by Jeremy Irons), because he nonchalantly steals the credit for her work and at one point, a fellow Templar says her “time will come.” I couldn’t help but draw parallels between this and women throughout history who don’t receive credit for their work (an issue also addressed in Hidden Figures, which you should definitely see when you can!).

“I actually never thought about that,” she told me. “But what I thought was very interesting in this relationship was that it actually does exist a lot…behind a great man, there is very often a great woman…I think it’s interesting…is that the powerful person, the one who stands on her feet, the one who doesn’t need to steal anything is her [Sophia]. That she’s the real powerful and smart person there.”

That’s when Fassbender added: “But you know what? If you look at Henry Ford, he did exactly the same thing to a sum. So it doesn’t necessarily have to be a thing of the sexes. It’s just, sometimes, a very powerful person finds it very difficult to acknowledge the achievements of their siblings. Because he very much did that to his so. When the Model T was the only car to be created and his son came up with a version that was gonna keep them relevant amongst the other competition, his father took the credit for that. Never gave the credit to his son.”

Again, I see where he’s going with this and I appreciate it, but I also feel like this is a deflection. Yes, this particular thing happens to men as well, but history has also shown us that there is a significant difference between men and women when it comes to who gets recognized for their accomplishments more often than not. Saying that it “doesn’t have to be a thing of the sexes” downplays the role that sexism has played both in real life, and the video game world in which this movie is based. It’s also disconcerting to see him so dismissive of sexism knowing that in 2010, he had charges filed against him by ex-girlfriend Sunawin Andrews for domestic abuse (which were eventually dropped so as not to “ruin his career”).

He added: “The reason that I say that is when we were developing this, we really wanted to have female characters in this movie that did not….their objective did not depend on the arch of the male characters which happens so often. Especially in films like this. Both Sophia’ character and [Maria, played by Ariane Labed] are very much their own [people] and they have their own goals independent of the men around them. In fact, [Maria] is a mentor to Aguilar. Usually, it would have been the other way around. But, it was very important to have that in this film. ” ]

I can’t get into details yet (thanks, embargoes) but I can say that while Maria does kick some major booty in this movie, her role is limited to the shared goal of the Assassins and is only seen through Aguilar’s perspective so…yeah. To draw your own conclusions, catch the film in theaters on December 21.

(image via screencap)

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