**WARNING: This article contains SPOILERS about the movie Taken.
Everyone knows the famous quote from the movie Taken:
“If you are looking for ransom, I can tell you I don’t have money. But what I do have are a very particular set of skills; skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. If you let my daughter go now, that’ll be the end of it.”
It was so popular at one point even Ellen did a spoof on it.
I had never watched the whole movie, so I got the chance to see it start to end…with my dad. Now, my dad is the kind of man who will never be friends with his daughter’s boyfriend. He’s the kind of dad that would embarrassingly call all of my friends’ parents when we wanted to hang out to see if they had any guns in the house up until I was 16. I knew this movie would be the perfect rationale for any future situation involving him saying “no” to something I wanted to do, because it would be “too risky” or that I am “too naïve” to handle it. Still, we sat down together to watch the movie, and what followed left us thinking long after it was over.
The movie started out normal enough with a cute background of a father who loves his daughter, despite the fact that her mother and him are currently separated and their custody situation is tense. As a retired CIA-worker, the dad imposes an extremely cautious level of parental authority over his family, leading his wife and daughter to convince and trick him into letting her go on a European tour with a gal pal. In classic movie style, the situation drastically goes south when the two young girls get kidnapped and “taken” by henchmen working for an Albanian sex trafficking ring. This is the part that is every father’s worst nightmare, and the movie plays on these sickening emotions by forcing the audience to listen along with the father to the screams of his daughter over the phone. Looking over at my dad, he was trying his best to stay calm while imaging his greatest fear play out on screen.
The rest of the movie follows an impossibly successful, wild goose chase in which the dad tracks down the bad guys holding his daughter as hostage with the help of his impressive CIA skills and technology, killing nearly 30 people along the way. It’s a very badass display, in which my dad, in his manliest voice, proclaimed he would do something fairly similar if anything should happen to his daughters. Ya, okay, Dad (cut to Liam Neeson tearing down a pipe while handcuffed to escape from danger).
I couldn’t help but do some imaginative thinking of my own while watching this movie. Clearly, it is quite far out of the realm of realism. On the other hand, the themes behind this movie don’t come from isolated events. Sex-trafficking is unfortunately much more common than we realize from our comfortable seats on the couch; it includes nearly 300,000 teens from the U.S. every year. According to research released by the University of New England, most victims are younger than college students, female, and faceless. I was shocked watching the cinematic recreation of the brothel in Taken, seeing the filthy warehouse with curtains serving as makeshift rooms for each sex transaction. Unlike the privileged daughter in the movie, victims of sex-trafficking are often left with no choice and turn to the industry either out of coercion or economic need. Left to put myself in the shoes of a victim, I was haunted by the brutality and unfairness of the traumatic situation, and puzzled over my own good fortune.
Luckily for Liam Neeson, the first Taken movie has a happy ending for his family, when he saves his daughter and they return safely to the states. But for millions of young women and children on the other side of the world and here, the nightmare perpetuates. Watching the movie with my dad was an interesting experiment in watching his fatherly, safeguarding love shine for me. I was left feeling loved, very blessed, but also restless, uncomfortable, and angry for those who don’t get to have the same. While I continue to live under my parent’s roof, it is my dad’s responsibility to play the overprotective figure and shield me from real (and more often, totally imagined) danger. And so it is my responsibility to find ways to advocate for women who can’t be so lucky to know sex-trafficking as only a movie; it is my responsibility to stay alert and to stay restless while this injustice continues. And of course, it is my responsibility to once and a while give in and let him look out for me.
I encourage you to do your own research on sex-trafficking and the false assumptions made in the movie Taken, though it did start out as an enlightening invitation for me to learn more. I found a information to begin my search here and here.