We know now that Prada has it’s bags and sneakers stitched in China and Vietnam, and perhaps in other nations where labor is still cheaper.
But what struck me once was a statement I remember seeing somewhere in the New York Times. The statement was to the following effect: A French designer brand wants you to understand that while their products are “made”, in the purely physical sense of the term, in one of its ex-colonies, Vietnam, they are conceived of in France.
In other words, France is the site of the birthing–the conception or the brain work, that is, while Vietnam is where the mechanical production takes place.
The above reinforces a typical colonial relationship of superiority and inferiority, embodied by the head and the hands, respectively.
I was surprised to see the relationship reproduced in the film, “Oceans 8.”
A product of the #MeToo, era, “Oceans 8” is keen to show case gender parity between men and women. The message is that women too can conceive of and execute subversion that’s brilliant, grandiose and sexy in its own right.
Women have the power in “Oceans 8”.
But in the process of restoring gender parity, the film creates an ethnic disparity.
Let’s pare down the film’s action thus: Two white women, conceive of a plan for a daring jewelry heist. They come up with a very brainy plan. We admire the duo’s ability to deceive power, money and the establishment; they design a perfect crime that’s bloodless enough to have them get away with it.
Yet, there are members of the all-female gang who do the actual labor without which the heist would not materialize. A Chinese American, a career pickpocket from Manhattan’s China Town, is chosen to do the risky labor of stealing the 100 million + diamond necklace; an African-American does the work of hacking into the security systems–yes, she is brainy, but she still takes orders from the white duo at the helm of affairs (Sandra and Kate command Rihana, not the other way round); lastly, an Indian-American apprises the diamonds and in a near-nerve-wrecking scene, she comes precariously close to getting caught while dis-assembling the necklace into its individual pieces.
All three non-white women–a Chinese, an Indian and a Black–risk incarceration because of their constant proximity to the fetishized commodity, whereas the white duo get by with merely displaying their whiteness as stylish, empowering, regal, class-transcending and smart.
The film has a final thrust. Toward the end we see that the white duo was all along ruled by another woman. The celebrity from whose neck the jewelry was supposedly stolen is complicit in the stealing. Her plan is the archest of the arch plans in the film. She is the ultimate sovereign that rules the hands.
The ultimate sovereign, played wonderfully by Anne Hathaway, is lily white.