A Rhetorical Analysis of the Movie “The Pacifier”
By: Candice Yeboah
In society today, many movies have a certain depiction of how men and women should behave, as well as what roles each of these genders are supposed to fill within society. Woman are seen as the caregiver of the children, and reliant on the male figures in their life, whereas the males are seen as in control and the protector of the female. I have chosen to do a rhetorical analysis on the movie, “The Pacifier,” from a feministic perspective. This movie was released by Walt Disney Pictures, and therefore is targeted at a younger audience between the ages of 10 and 16. The messages that are portrayed in this movie challenges the status quo of society, as to what activities, and behaviors are meant to be done by males, and what is meant to be done by females.
The movie begins with Vin Diesel, as Lieutenant Shane Wolfe, on a mission to save a man by the name of Howard Plummer from a group of Serbian rebels who are after Plummer’s classified documents for the government. The aftermath of Wolfe’s mission results in his own hospitalization, but more importantly he fails his mission as Mr. Plummer is killed within the deadly encounter. After two month’s in the hospital, Wolfe is assigned to protect Plummer’s family while Mrs. Plummer goes away to receive a safety deposit box that her husband had left behind. When Wolfe arrives to the Plummer residence, he is greeted by five children, Zoe, Seth, Lulu, Peter, and baby Tyler, and a nanny by the name of Helga. As the days go by, Wolfe finds himself having to babysit the five children, due to the absence of Helga. It is up to Wolfe to now not only protect these kids from people who are trying to get their dad’s project, but also cook, clean, and ensure that the kids attend school. When Mrs. Plummer returns home, two ninjas who reveal themselves as her two North Korean neighbors, Mr. and Mrs. Chun, take the kids as hostage in order to find Mr. Plummer’s government project located in the house. After finding the vault where the project was stored, a fight occurs ending in Mrs. Plummer knocking Mrs. Chun out, and the kids school principal, Claire Fletcher, knocking Mr. Chun out. The ending of this scene is crucial because it displays irony as these women end up saving the day from Mr. Wolfe.
Wolfe being a strong, powerful, in control man agrees with masculine hegemony in many aspects. He is a Lieutenant in US Navy Seal whose duty is to serve and protect under any means necessary and can be seen as a model. This is evident when he goes to save Mr. Plummer from the Serbian rebels. The audience automatically identifies with Wolfe as the hero, or good guy of the movie. He executes the mission with no fear at all, and a type of determination to fulfill his duty of getting Mr. Plummer home safely to his family. Even though Wolfe was unable to accomplish his mission, he did take a bullet for Mr. Plummer and that shows that he is the “ultimate protector;” willing to risk his life to complete the job. Many males may look at Wolfe and strive to be like him because of the brave and courageous traits he portrays. In a sense, Wolfe can be seen as the ideal man who is muscular, attractive and fears nothing at all. On the other hand, Wolfe may also be seen as bending hegemony when he takes on the role as the Plummer’s family babysitter. Despite, Wolfe’s manliness being part of the US Navy, he does have to take on the role as caregiver and “mommy” to the family. In one scene of the movie, Wolfe is required to take Lulu and her girl scouts to Costco to sell their Girl Guide cookies. Initially, Wolfe refuses to take the girls but once he sees them all looking at him with excitement in their eyes he agrees to take them saying, “…here’s how it’s going to be, tonight I am your “dead mother,” that means if you want to live to see tomorrow you do exactly as I say”(Shankman, 2005). The fact that Wolfe refers to himself as “dead mother,” shows that he has accepted his role as not only protector of the family, but also a mother figure to the family while their real mother is away. When Wolfe says, “…here’s how it’s going be…if you want to live to see tomorrow you do exactly as I say” (Shankman, 2005), he still takes on the masculine in charge role. Even though he is in a feminine role, he reiterates that he still is a male, and he is the one who is in control and must be obeyed. After that scene, Wolfe is seen taking the troops and the two youngest children, Peter and baby Tyler, to what appears to be a children’s arcade. When Wolfe is on his way home from the arcade he looks in the backseat and realizes he had forgot Peter at the arcade. He drives back to the arcade and finds Peter playing in the ball pen. This incident verifies the hegemony of why woman have a hard time leaving their children with men, and reinforces the ideology that men are irresponsible. Wolfe being put in the position of “mommy” to the Plummer’s is a bit unusual and may pose as difficult for other males to identify with because it is a feminine role. This aspect of Wolfe’s character is not the ideal idea for a male, but Wolfe still tries to maintain his masculinity despite being put in this position.
Seth Plummer, the second oldest child, also bends the rules of masculine hegemony and can be seen as an anti-model for males. He is a twelve-year-old boy who is of average build, and portrayed as an outcast student who gets picked on by the jocks in his school. At the beginning of the movie Seth is part of the school wrestling team but is not very successful at it and skips practice. Seth ends up quitting the wrestling team and joining a play in his community called “The Sound of Music.” He does not tell anyone that he is part of this play but Lt. Wolfe follows him one day and finds him rehearsing for the play. Seth quitting the wrestling team, and joining a musical does not agree with masculine hegemony. When younger males in society see this, they see Seth as undesirable and do not want to be like him. They see it as “gay” that Seth had quit the manly sport of wrestling, to be part of a musical play, and in turn don’t favor Seth as an ideal male character.
Furthermore, the movie “The Pacifier” challenges hegemony and can be identified as an inflected oppositional reading. Although characters such as Lt. Shane Wolfe and Seth Plummer bend the rules of hegemony, they still maintain a bit of masculinity. Wolfe is the ideal man in terms of attitude, appearance, and dedication to his career as a US Navy Seal. Seth is not portrayed as the best male model for teenage boys in society, and is also not the most desirable male character in the movie. This movie was excellent in showing that while societal gender norms do exist within our society that individuals do not have to confine themselves to these stereotypes.
Shankman, A. (Director) (2005). The Pacifier [Web]. Retrieved from http://www.putlocker.com/file/A1FB9D00B29E924D