The French Connection is a world of men and masculinity. Popeye couldn't do a better impression an urban cowboy if he was wearing chaps, and he has two main vices: one is alcohol, and the other is taking women home to his basement apartment full of beer cans and old newspapers. (What a catch.)
But Popeye isn't the only model of gender in this story, as slick Sal, upper-crust mastermind Charnier, and sad-eyed Cloudy seem to understand that violence and control are functions of their manhood. And the women? Well, there aren't that many in this movie; this flick fails the Bechedel Test pretty hard.
Questions About Gender
Compare Angie Boca and Marie Charnier, both female partners of criminals. How do they subscribe to or reject traditional domestic ideas of what a woman should or shouldn't be? How are they alike, how are they different?
Popeye is known as a ladies man, and taking them home is either a hobby or a vice. What's the function of the female gender, culturally, for the cops in this movie?
How does Angie Boca's blonde wig help or negotiate her role as a criminal's wife, and as a criminal herself? What does it communicate to you as a viewer?
If you asked Popeye himself about what a man is, which of his own decisions do you think he would point to in order to explain his definition? Why?
Chew on This
The men in The French Connection see women as objects, not people with their own ideas, rights, and freedoms.
Charnier and Popeye are not only opposite in terms of their "professions," they also model upper class and working-class idea of male power.