WARNING!! GENDER POLITICS AHEAD! WARNING, GENDER POLITICS AHEAD!
So, disclaimer: I’m a white CIS male. I come from a working poor background. So, if you want to dismiss me on that basis…well you’re part of the problem, but hey, you do you.
There was a billboard for the new X-Men: Apocalypse movie featuring a similar shot from above. Namely: Apocalypse (the bad guy) choking out Mystique (the leader of the good guys). And some people lost their collective shit.
Now I could do a large scholarly write up on advertising images and how they compare to this billboard. I could even just pull up the other advertising images for this movie and see just how prevalent this image actually is.
But I’m not that guy. I’m the guy that just likes to argue on other people’s turf. So, let’s look at this from the perspective of those bitching.
1) This image promotes violence against women
This image is a promotional shot for a movie about violence. Whether one likes it or not and whether one agrees with it or not, American action films are about violence. They promote violence. Against everyone and everything.
There was a time (and still is to an extent) where the complaint was that women were not prevalent in such roles. You didn’t have female action heroes in the same way that you have male ones. Now, you have Jennifer Lawrence who has been at the head of two popular action franchises (the X-Men reboot and Hunger Games, for the uninitiated) and rather than celebrating her place, some people are complaining that she’s getting beat up.
I haven’t seen this movie yet, but I have friends who have. And it’s also a fairly standard superhero movie. So, spoiler alert: Apocalypse (that big bad guy choking out Mystique) loses. The woman wins. So, even if guys go into this movie because it somehow reinforces a stereotypical and unhealthy view on gender roles, it’s going to slap them in the face. The “big bad man” gets his ass handed to him by the “little weak woman.”
And that’s how it should be! The goal of equality is for all people of all races, sexes, orientations, identities to just exist in fiction like they do in the world. And this kind of complaining drags it back.
Because it’s not making a momentary exception to elevate women, it’s holding them back. “You can’t hit a girl!”
That girl is saving the world from a maniac. I think she can handle it.
2) But you don’t see men helpless like that
There’s an argument there. I don’t know how accurate it is and I don’t know how recently you can bring that argument to invalidate it. So let’s just look at this movie, because this movie is getting the heat.
The majority of the promotion (in the forms of trailers and video clips) shows the male hero/leader (Charles Xavier) being overpowered by Apocalypse and being completely limp and helpless. Say what you will about Mystique, she is still awake and able to fight in her position. Poor Chuck isn’t.
The villain is also employing two other female characters that cause all kinds of carnage.
3) But why did they pick THAT image?
Because it’s the hero versus the villain. It’s the protagonist helpless at the hands (literally) of the antagonist. And we love to root for the underdog. We love the plucky “little guy” that punches above their weight and wins the day.
It’s that simple.
But I can hear you now. “But Joe, it’s these micro-aggressions that lead to serious issues.”
Bullshit. Art is not a micro-aggression, art is art. Art can be wrong headed, stupid, and bigoted. But it’s still art. It’s saying what it’s saying and it’s how we react as a society that matters, not that the art is created.
No poster advertising a big dumb action movie contributed to that. Nothing in that big dumb movie contributed to that miscarriage of justice. Nothing in that big dumb movie could.
We all only have so much time and energy to spend on things in this world. There are every day things that every one of us can do to fight the kind of disrespectful attitude that leads to something as insane as a six month sentence for interrupted rape.
Raging out about a billboard that should be a sign of growing equality, however, is not one of those things.