HUSTLERS (by Lorene Scafaria) may be another feminist film set in a strip club in New York City. The film is based on the 2015 New York Magazine article entitled "The Hustlers at Scores" by Jessica Pressler. It is the story of a group of New York City strippers conning their Wall Street clientele.
One of the interesting scenes in the film is the "hustling scene" where Ramona (Jennifer Lopez) acts as a teacher to Destiny (Constance Wu). She gives advice on how to handle the Wall Street clienteles. As a newbie, Destiny listens, observes, and practices the "hustle" inside the strip club. These men have social hierarchy and notorious for their trading. But the "sisters" (as they call themselves) know their right target to execute their hustle.
The first half of the film is set in 2007 where everybody just having a good time, hustling and making lots of money. When the song Gimme More by Britney Spears plays in the background, it helps heighten the hustle scene and it foreshadows one of America's worse financial crises which happened the following year.
The 2008 financial crisis had a bad ripple effect to the global economy. It is considered by many economists to have been the most serious financial crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s, to which it is often compared. Just like their clienteles, Ramona, Destiny and other sisters lost their job in the strip club. They are forced to come up with better strategy on how to survive the tough life in New York City.
"We can't dance forever," Ramona said to Destiny. Ramona strategizes a plan to level-up their hustle. Destiny has no other choice but to join with Ramona and her new formed group. Destiny is a single-mother and has no decent job to support her daughter.
"Everybody's hustling. This city...this whole country is a strip club. You got people tossing money. And people doing the dance," Ramona says to the journalist towards the end of the film. Ramona wants to reiterate that everybody does "dirty little things" for survival.
The "I depend on me" is also the mantra of this film. It became Hollywood's brand of feminism where female characters only depend on themselves and scorn the role of men in the society. For many years, this "illusion of control" is saleable to most women viewers, shunning the complex issues surrounding feminism and gender studies, and how Hollywood capitalizes this illusion.
Films that have female leads are subject for feminist criticism like the case of Captain Marvel vs. Wonder Woman. Both films have strong female protagonists but differ on its interpretation on women empowerment. Many applaud the inclusivity of Wonder Woman which highlights the role of men/boys and women/girls on women empowerment. It is admired for its portrayal of feminine traits that has a universal necessity for the survival of all humankind. While Captain Marvel only tackles "shallow feminism" and fails to explore the abilities of women and how they empower themselves to live as they choose to, not simply according to the standards that men have established.
Despite the fact that Hustlers has female director-writer and female leads, you cannot dismiss its portrayal of the strippers in this film. It glamorizes this kind of job and fails to present the complexities of the characters and their struggles. Since it focuses on the point of view of Destiny, the other characters become one-dimensional as if they are shallow individuals who only want money and expensive items. The film only takes the viewers on the surface level where it only shows the beautiful façade. (Genory Vanz Alfasain/Contributor)