elektra hearts

Elektra & orientalism: Elodie Yung fights the script

much commentary has pointed out the pitfalls of contrasting Elektra & Karen in Daredevil s2. It has quite accurately noted that Elektra & Karen are openly contrasted as potential love interests and as people, and that the “exotic,” dangerous, and morally compromised Elektra seems pretty damn Orientalist in contrast to Karen’s whole Madonna/pure/good characterization. not to mention that old white guy Stick, who has KILLED AN UNARMED CHILD, is accepted as the good side, while mysterious Asian organization is evil mostly because it’s doing mysterious things and involves ninjas running around. this thesis is well-documented and basically accepted at this point; in any case, I accept it. the script is Orientalist and has racist undertones. 

HOWEVER, the finished product of Elektra in the series is more than a racist caricature of a foreign sex demon, and it’s largely thanks to Elodie Yung.

First of all, we know that Elodie is aware of the tropes and the language surrounding Elektra. In a Rotten Tomatoes interview, the following happened: 

Q: Elektra is mysterious and exotic. What is your take on her?

Yung: Yeah, that’s what they keep saying. I don’t see myself as exotic.

Not only does Elodie reject the term exotic, she goes on to substitute a term she thinks is better, a term which does suit Elektra and which DOESN’T have all those nasty racist undertones: mysterious. And why?

Yung (cont): She’s mysterious, yes, because she comes back into Matt’s life out of the blue… And she hides most of her life from Matt, so in that sense, yes, she’s mysterious. 

And again, in the same interview, Elodie displays the same consciousness of stereotypes and their context:

Yung: I do feel privileged to play Elektra, because definitely she is a strong female character. She’s a strong character. It would be nice if eventually we’d just say she’s a strong character, not a strong female character.

here, Yung questions the usual narrative (let’s cheer this character for being a Strong Female Character) and suggests that in the ideal future, roles for different genders will be so on par that she won’t have to describe her character in terms of gender but focus on the particularities of the character instead.

so okay. We know Elodie is aware of this bullshit and smart as hell and not having any of it. 

Now let’s look at her performance. She’s often given flirtatious lines, but rather than giving the rote performance of a typical seductress, she imbues some of them with a kind of playfulness that (FUCKING WINS OVE RMY HEART) elevates Elektra to a rounded character with, as Elodie herself says, “layers.” Take, for example, the moment when she says “You’ve been working out, by the way. I appreciate that.” The little frown and the poke of the fry at Matt’s face–is that purely sexual, exotic, calculated, manipulative? No. That’s fucking cute, okay? It’s a little bit flirty, but it’s not hugely sexual. 

Moment #2: when Elektra figures out the way to make the secret door open using the little bonsai tree, she turns to Matt and says, “I’m a genius.” There’s something so genuine in her eagerness, her delight, the childish gesture, the smile just a little too wide. Like, this is lopsided, puppyish excitement, and it’s shared with Matt; no wonder he lights up with a smile at it, because she’s FUCKING CHARMING SANS ARTIFICE, OKAY? That was an acting decision. She could have gone in the other direction, acted like Elektra wasn’t half as excited and pleased as she was, played, it cool, but no. Elodie won my heart with that, okay?

Moment #3: when Elektra’s dying, she says, “I know now what it feels like to be good.” The hurt in Matt’s face is obvious, and Elodie turns the rather hammy line “does it always hurt that much?” into a moment of dark humor, drawing one last half-smile from him with the way these odd, painful things can still make her laugh.

Like, yes. The script is pretty terrible in places. But Elodie Yung’s performance consciously transcends the stereotypes it’s given and gives us a fucking glorious character that has not only captured Matt’s heart, but ALSO MINE.

TL;DR

script: ur exotic

Elodie Yung/Elektra: No. I am so much more than that. I’m a badass, and I’m REALLY FUCKING LOVABLE

some of the things my dad said while we watched Daredevil
  • Reyes: *gets shot*
  • Dad: I think DA stands for dead asshole now
  • **
  • Army of ninjas attack the hospital
  • Dad: that’s a lot of ninjas for a tired old fighter guy
  • Me: he’s not that old
  • Dad: that’s a lot of ninjas for a beat up, bruised, tired, fighter guy. he better hope they’re a bunch of 12 year olds
  • **
  • Frank: *lectures Karen about how Matt loves her and what she should do about it*
  • Dad: he’s a murdering psycho/dexter/shrink
  • **
  • Claire quits her job
  • Dad: now she's going back to her shitty apartment in shitty hell’s kitchen in a shitty city. ain’t got no job. how’s she gonna feed her cat now?
  • Me: she doesn’t have a cat. she’s allergic. come on man!
  • Dad: I knew she didn’t have a cat. I was just saying that. because of the story
  • Me: uh huh
  • **
  • Matt can't hear the ninjas because they're hiding their heartbeats and moving silently
  • Dad: can’t hear em because they’re dead! secret ninjas
  • **
  • Matt beats a guy's head into the floor
  • Dad: yeah, that guy’s dead. he’s not just unconscious
  • Me: don’t tell him that, you’ll break his heart
  • **
  • Elektra: Because you love New York.
  • Matt: And I’d give my life for it. But there’s one thing in this world that makes me feel more alive. And that’s you.
  • Dad: WHAT ABOUT KAREN?

I was just thinking how much I loved the last scene in Daredevil when Matt’s fighting the ninja on the roof (after watching Elektra die..my poor heart </3 </3) and Frank starts shooting at them. I loved the fact that Matt doesn’t even look at Frank, he just keeps walking towards Nobu because he knows that Frank was watching his back. That was absolutely my favourite moment in all the season!!!