On January 9th, the third and final installment of the Taken franchise will hit theaters. The film franchise follows Bryan Mills (played by your beau from Ballymena, Liam Neeson), an ex-government operative, and his attempts to rescue his family from various kidnappers. In the first film, released in 2008, Mills' daughter, Kim, is taken by an Albanian human trafficking ring during her trip abroad. The Albanians take Kim and her friend, Amanda, with the purpose of selling them into sexual slavery. This initial kidnapping is what frames the rest of the Taken film franchise.
Although the Taken films are set up as action-adventure romps, with gratuitous scenes of Liam Neeson punching his foes in the throat, the Taken franchise dabbles in a subject that is very real: human trafficking. The United Nations describes human trafficking as a serious crime and a grave violation of human rights. The United Nations goes on to describe human trafficking as:
"....The recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs."
According to a report entitled a Global Report on Trafficking in Persons, launched by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), 79% of human trafficking is sexual exploitation. Of that 79%, the overwhelming amount of victims are women and children. The UNODOC report also indicated that in some parts of the world, women trafficking women is the norm. The Polaris Project, a group dedicated to stopping human trafficking, reports that human trafficking impacts 161 countries worldwide, and an estimated 20.9 million men, women, and children, are currently in slavery because of human trafficking. Victims are both trafficked within and across international borders. As stated by a Bureau of Justice statistics report, in the United States, in cases of human trafficking that stated the race or ethnicity of the victim, 77% of women being trafficked were reported to be women of color.
In Taken, viewers get a glimpse of human trafficking, along with a heaping amount of patriarchal gender roles. Amanda, the friend of Kim that encourages her to come to Europe, is overtly lascivious. Amanda is cruising for a consensual sex partner and looks forward to having a good time. After sharing a cab with a stranger Peter, and revealing the location of where they are staying (a big international travel "DON'T"), Amanda proudly tells Kim that she is going to sleep with Peter. Kim is horrified, as they "just met." Kim's adhesion to her virginity is ultimately rewarded. When Bryan arrives to rescue the young women, he finds Amanda dead from an intravenous drug overdose in a make-shift brothel. Kim, being a virgin, is an invaluable commodity on the Black Market, and is sold to an auctioneer in an attempt to profit off of this social construct. Long story short; in Taken, the "promiscuous" young woman dies, and the "pure" young woman lives, after being rescued by her Father. I bet Kim really likes that karaoke machine you got for her birthday now Bryan, and she'll never ride that stupid pony that her useless Step-Father got her again!
That being said, for most victims of human trafficking there rarely is a happy ending . The 200 missing Nigerian Schoolgirls, abducted from Chibok by Boko Haram, are still missing and have not returned to their homes. The girls have been missing since April and according to members of Boko Haram, have been sold into slavery. There is no Bryan Mills to save these girls, nor has the Nigerian military attempted to recover them.
Human trafficking is a feminist issue, along with being a humans rights topic. The Taken films delve into an authentic subject that is a horrifying reality for millions of women, children, and men. Raising our voices in protest and supporting the victims who have escaped slavery are each ways that we can each channel our own inner Bryan Mills, and fight for those who have been taken.
If you know or suspect anyone to be a victim of human trafficking, contact the National Human Resource Center. The National Human Trafficking Resource Center can be reached by calling: