Run Lola Run (Context of Representation)

The main character of the 1998 German film Run Lola Run by director Tom Tykwer is a young, heterosexual, Caucasian woman named “Lola.”  Though this film subtly acknowledges gender stereotypes prevalent in Hollywood, Lola is different in being a female protagonist who is strong, resourceful, and independent.  The theme of the film is primarily of life’s general fate and determinism, but Lola’s strength and her lack of sexual exhibition distinguishes this work from Hollywood films which overwhelmingly portray white males as the heroes; women being complementary trophy mates.  Unlike the few female heroes in Hollywood films (e.g. Charlie’s Angels and Tomb Raider), who are portrayed very sexually (as if that is their primary source of power), Lola is undeniably the greatest source of physical and mental strength and resolve in this story.

Lola makes three separate runs, all with slightly different beginnings that all alter future developments; however, they all follow her boyfriend Manni tearfully begging her to save his life.  We see that the female protagonist is viewed by her boyfriend as being capable of rectifying his mistakes, as he cries and pleads for Lola to help him come up with someone else’s 100,000 marks that he lost on the subway.  The woman did not make the mistake, but rather the white male clumsily left the bag of money behind.  Though he blames her for forcing him to take the subway (because her moped was stolen) he also describes himself as having screwed up.  From this common starting point we have a premise in which the white man made the mistake; the woman, on the other hand, could not control being unable to pick him up.  Moreover, she is the only one who can save him.  Desperate to return the money, Manni unscrupulously threatens to rob a store if Lola does not come up with the money quickly.  From this premise of the male’s reliance on the woman and cowardly resort to weapon use, various series of developments are shown.  Throughout each run though, Lola is a physically strong and determined savior of a white man.

Despite having a very feminine name, Lola is not provocatively dressed- throughout the film she constantly wears a tank top with her midriff showing (but not in sexual way) and bra strap visible that sometimes slips off her shoulder- seemingly only because she runs so much.  Her outfit is certainly not something that men would wear, but not revealing of feminine traits.  In contrast with her boyfriend who is prepared to rob a store, Lola’s conscience leads her even to refuse a man trying to sell her a stolen bike, opting to run on foot instead (hence the title of the film).  She capably comes up with the money herself in two of the runs; the only time she fails to, she only reluctantly stands by her man out of love and robs the store with him (ultimately getting shot to death as she flees).  So, the female hero not only has the strength to run endlessly, but the morality of a tragic hero.
One run very symbolically juxtaposes stereotypical female roles with Lola’s character; she accidentally bumps into a mother pushing a baby around in a stroller, who yells at her “fucking bitch.”  This distinguishes Lola from the conventional stereotypes of women as nurturers.  Soon afterwards, she runs through a crowd of nuns to symbolize her rebellion from conventional female conservatism.

In another scene, a guard condescendingly calls her a “princess” and advises “courtesy and composure are the queen’s jewels”- Lola stares him down as she enters the elevator, visibly irritated.  The viewer empathizes with her after the belittling treatment.

In another run, the dichotomy of female roles in this film and typical Hollywood films is portrayed as Lola robs her selfish, adulterous father and exits the building to dozens of male cops; they all assume a female cannot possibly be the robber and comically proceed to rescue her.  This scene represents female independence and capability as well as their often being underestimated by naive men.

Lola is not so much a fuck toy but rather she possesses the typical positive qualities of Hollywood’s white male heroes.  Though not perfect, she is scrupulous, resourceful, tough, and independent. She has the physical stamina and strength to run endlessly.  Though attractive, she is not objectified for gaze.  And though her name is Lola, she is not a very effeminate girl like the name often conjures.  The movie is primarily about contingency and the butterfly effect, but Lola is a positive representation of (especially young and heterosexual) white females that feminists everywhere should applaud.

Hahn Chiu