Saturday, April 21, 2018

'Abuse of power & knowledge' and 'misandry' in 'Dukun' (spoiler alert):

I've heard of the movie 'Dukun' from one of my friends. It was said to be based on the Malaysian high-profile murder case that happened in 1993 involving a famous 80s singer turned witch doctor (some said she was just a traditional medicine practitioner) - Mona Fandey. She was known to have sliced the body of a politician into 18 pieces with the help of her husband and assistant. All of this revived talk about Mona Fendey is all because of the release of the movie 'Dukun', after 12 years of its finished production. The movie release was postponed and no official statement was given due to the controversy that surrounded the movie regarding the main character 'Diana Dahlan' (played by Umie Aida. Her acting was sexy and convincing. I LOVE IT!) and Mona Fendey (FYI, her first album was titled 'Diana'). The movie is loosely based on her, but not everything in it is entirely true. This topic also took me back to the time when my friends and I went to see her house in Shah Alam when we drove around the area back when we were undergraduates. We didn't go inside of course. 

Okay, let's move on with my analysis of the movie.

Earlier in the movie, my interest was caught on the traditional notion of 'dukun perempuan Batak' whereby only women can be a shaman. I don't know how correct the depictions are between the real life 'dukun perempuan Batak' and the movie but this already gave the impression that women can be empowered by a position that's been passed down for generations within a tribe. However, according to Diana's background story, she fled from Indonesia to escape from the Batak tribe that retricts the female shamans from having children. She wanted to break out from this restrictive rule. Having no man to conceive with, she had chosen 'Nadia' to be her child, the daughter of the lawyer who was her defense attorney, whose wife she had helped to conceive Nadia using her 'magic' 17 years ago. So to repay her, after 7 years, the wife was obligated to give Nadia to her so that she could inherit her 'black magic skills' to Nadia. Even with the unique position given by the community on the female shamans, their role would still be determined by the community that she's in. She can't even have children, and it's not even by choice. Diana only wanted to have a child - a typical desire driven by a woman's maternal instinct. However, with the position that's been ingrained in her mind, she thought she could do anything she wanted in order to get what she desired, but her approach was conducted inhumanely - she killed Nadia's mother after refusing to give Nadia to her.

Perhaps a subtheme of this movie, I think misandry in its verbal and physical form have been portrayed in this movie. Verbally, hatred toward men was shown when Diana had talked of how men are weak and all they can think about is sex. She had reduced the value of men and only knew how to use men for her own gains. Even if she had praised men for their strength, it was just to lure men into her trap and manipulate them, just like the part when she talked of the postive qualities of men to Datuk Jeffrey (the man she killed). As for misandry in its physical form, in the movie, a cemented coffin (?) had been discovered buried underground which had been used to gather the remains of men. Only men have been her victim which means she had been murdering men for years before she was arrested. 

Perhaps Diana's character is a symbol of misused power as a woman. Of how a woman can go through different means of gaining what she wants but at the expense of the lives of other people. Although she is seen as a powerful woman and is efficient in obtaining her needs and desires, her approach is not an ideal way for a rational person to gain what he/she wants. 

p/s: The concept of 'dukun perempuan Batak' reminded me very much of Bobohizan, a high priestess from the Kadazandusun community which I myself am from. Yes, only females can be a Bobohizan. They had a similar role with the Batak female shamans such as the power to heal the sick. However, just like the Bataks, ever since Christianity and Islam came into the land and spreaded, the practice has now become non-existent. As told by my father, my grandmother was a practicing Bobohizan when he was little before the whole family converted to Christianity in the 1960s.



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