Cocaine Bear Is A Feminist Icon Of Single Motherhood


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Today is International Women’s Day and it simply must be acknowledged that the bear in Cocaine Bear is a mother, a fighter and a feminist icon.

When I sat down in the cinema to watch the Elizabeth Banks film, I was expecting an epic slasher-comedy. What I got instead was a compelling story of a mother bear doing everything in her power to protect her children from inept male drug dealers in a POWERFUL ode to single motherhood. 

The film’s inciting incident is a man inexplicably dumping bags of cocaine out of a plane and dying soon after. The scene is amusing — but it  also represents the invasive misogynistic attitudes that directly impact Ms Cocaine Bear’s quality of life. 

This appalling male entitlement is a running  theme throughout the movie. It is a never ending malignant force our fuzzy female protagonist is forced to defend herself against. As drug dealers, knife gangs, police and park rangers descend upon her home, single mother Ms Bear, left nameless as so many other powerful women in history, is FORCED to turn to the very substance these patriarchal parties are seeking to recover in order to protect the only thing that truly matters to her: her babies. 

In the frenzy to protect her home and two kids under two, Ms Bear mauls many, but all of them fired the first shot. And yet both the police and the drug dealers, who are responsible for the cocaine in the first place, fault her for the lost product. These victim-blamers then proceed to shoot and hunt her in an effort to reclaim the cocaine. This is, of course, a typical experience in our misogynistic society where women must bear the violent brunt, the cocaine-fuelled consequences, of men’s failures. 

It is worth noting that our titular bear does, in fact, also maul some women. In fact, a female hiking tourist is her first victim and she kills another two women in the film: a park ranger and paramedic. It would be tempting to use this body count to discredit Ms Bear’s feminist status, but a true feminist doesn’t blindly support all women, especially if they’re shooting at you and driving recklessly. In a truly equitable society, gender does not determine social status and this bear is living by a TRULY equitable ideology in which all individuals are accountable for their actions. 

Yet throughout the film, Ms Bear is constantly criticised and spoken of without acknowledgement of her internal life. It isn’t even until the halfway point that her womanhood is acknowledged in a scene where, big surprise, a MAN comments on her vagina. And we are meant to be surprised that she got a little mad after taking some cocaine? God forbid women do anything without criticism.

Finally, we must discuss the film’s climactic third act in which human mother Sari (Keri Russell) realises that Ms Bear did not kill her daughter and, in fact, Ms Bear took her to her cave to keep her safe with her cubs. As a fellow single mother, human mum Sari recognises that she, her daughter, the bear, and her cubs all share a bond, a sisterhood that transcends species, and so Sari turns her wrath on their shared antagonist: the useless male drug dealers who have invaded the cave to retrieve the drugs. 

In this moment, we witness a timeless battle between privileged men and those who have fallen victim to their greed. But, thanks to the silent solidarity between single mothers, the women triumph and deliver justice upon the head drug dealer Syd (Ray Liotta). 

But, of course, true rest is NEVER possible for women. At the conclusion of the film, nurse Sari is expected to treat the surviving drug dealer’s injuries and, like many women forced to endure unpaid labour before her, she does. 

As for Ms Bear? The work of a single mother is multifaceted and infinite, demonstrated with a chilling final shot that sees her tending to her cubs through the intrusive lens of a man’s cam-corder. It’s an ending that serves as a solemn reminder to women and those affected by misogyny that we are always objects of the male gaze. 

Cocaine Bear is in cinemas now.