It's been a while, but I've seen the movie two or three times before. Once my memory of it started tracking I switched to Thought Experiment Mode and did a little time-travelling of my own, getting Willis and Stowe to switch roles, just for kicks.
|"Wait, are you sure about this?"|
Not only that, but the feminine occupies a definitive space in Gilliam's work as muse and liege, in the Romantic tradition — again, very much in line with Campbell's narrative apparatus. But where other Hollywood filmmakers take a Cliff's Notes approach to these sorts of women's roles, reducing the gals to eye-candy or emasculating harpies, Gilliam's is more nuanced and mischievous. His women are frequently more actualized than his hapless masculine heroes. In Brazil, Sam Lowry's muse Jill is a trash collector who is physically stronger and more adept than the scrawny, balding protagonist. Or think of Mercedes Ruehl in The Fisher King, portraying a long-suffering woman who can no longer wait for her “boy”friend to become a man.
For Gilliam, non-actualized women are girls who voluntarily fall in line with the expectations of a stunted/immature masculine perspective.
Gilliam's is, I think, a shrewd POV that performs a necessary mischief. Currently there is justified hue and cry over what an infantilized masculine sausage-factory Hollywood has become. The now-famous Bechdel Test highlights the problem, but too much critical energy is devoted to changing the numbers. Sure, a Disney blockbuster meets the numbers (and rakes in the $$$), but really it only passes the Bechdel Test by 51%. There remains an untouched, very rich vein of narrative ore sitting right in front of our faces, just waiting to mined.
For a glimpse of that glitter, a writer could do a lot worse than monkey with one of Gilliam's scripts. Lemme tell you, the version of 12 Monkeys I “watched” the other night is one hell of a show.