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Massive Implosion . . .
June 14, 2013 10:12 AM   Subscribe

. . . when half the population is ignored: At the Movies, The Women are Gone Also: Joss Whedon pissed off about lack of female superheroes in films. Female roles in 2012 blockbuster films drop to lowest level in five years.
posted by weeyin (138 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite

 
Jesus. "Ted" was in the top-10 of 2012?
posted by Hoopo at 10:30 AM on June 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


Maybe they're just looking at the wrong movies. Also, didn't Joss get a chance to correct this in Avengers and instead gave us a weakly written sex symbol?

Just looking at my movie list I can point out a lot of female-driven or balanced movies: 13hrs, A Lonely Place to Die, Another Earth, Arang, Avatar (male lead but plenty of strong females), Beasts of the Southern Wild, Bumblefuck USA, Cloud Atlas (balanced, good female roles), Contagion, Dark Shadows, Diary of the Dead, Hanna, Gothika, God Bless America.. I mean I could seriously go on. I know not all of these movies are from 2012 but as a female my only real complaint with females in the movies is not the lack of them - it's some of the retarded, unrealistic choices they make.
posted by Malice at 10:30 AM on June 14, 2013 [5 favorites]


And when there is a movie made about women, can it NOT be about princess, helpless victims, or treating them as sexual objects!

I know that's a lot to ask.
posted by QueerAngel28 at 10:31 AM on June 14, 2013 [6 favorites]


In our cultural tradition, stories about men are stories about Everyone. We are taught to universalize men's experience, and taught that women's experiences can only be specific to women.
posted by rtha at 10:32 AM on June 14, 2013 [77 favorites]


Yeah, hm. Well, before Avengers Joss might not have had the pull to be part of the solution, but he really, really does now.

"It’s frustrating to me that I don’t see anybody developing one of these movies. It actually pisses me off."

You directed a $1.5 billion movie, man. I think you could get a studio to agree to a strong woman, even one who is not carefully shot for the male gaze, like Black Widow.
posted by gilrain at 10:34 AM on June 14, 2013 [6 favorites]


Joss Whedon pissed off about lack of female superheroes in films.

Maybe he could get in contact with someone who makes superhero movies and make a pitch?
posted by Tanizaki at 10:37 AM on June 14, 2013 [26 favorites]


didn't Joss get a chance to correct this in Avengers and instead gave us a weakly written sex symbol?

I thought Black Widow was pretty kick ass, but I know a lot of people disagree. Regardless, no, I don't think "The Avengers" leaves a lot of room to correct this. He does have to draw on the source material. I think now he probably has the clout to do something with another movie, though.
posted by Hoopo at 10:38 AM on June 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


It's astounding that movies with female leads or mostly-female casts are still things that you can pick out as outliers from the category of "movies."
posted by xingcat at 10:38 AM on June 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


Yeah, I am not privy to how Whedon dealt with the studio, but I am pretty sure they never said to him, "Here is $200 million. Do whatever you want."
posted by ricochet biscuit at 10:38 AM on June 14, 2013 [7 favorites]


And when there is a movie made about women, can it NOT be about princess, helpless victims, or treating them as sexual objects!

Frances Ha was pretty good.
posted by COBRA! at 10:40 AM on June 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Maybe they're just looking at the wrong movies.

It's based on movies available for viewing this weekend within 10 miles of Linda's home. Considering she lives in DC, actually not a bad methodology -- I especially like that she counted screenings and not films.
posted by lodurr at 10:44 AM on June 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I am not privy to how Whedon dealt with the studio, but I am pretty sure they never said to him, "Here is $200 million. Do whatever you want."

And my guess is, even after the success of The Avengers, they still aren't going to do that. We can of course play the Joss-is-a-hypocrite game if we want, but I'm of a mind that it's better to have somebody in his position saying these things out loud than the likely alternative, which is probably more like him not saying these things and less like him making Gloria Steinem: Secret Avenger or whatever.

You can easily say that anybody who works in this industry is part of the problem. But if you want the industry to change, you've got to have people with industry cred talking about these things, maybe even talking about them while still working in the industry.
posted by gauche at 10:45 AM on June 14, 2013 [5 favorites]


It's based on movies available for viewing this weekend within 10 miles of Linda's home. Considering she lives in DC, actually not a bad methodology -- I especially like that she counted screenings and not films.

I did read that though I guess I didn't consider it in my comment. Point taken.
posted by Malice at 10:45 AM on June 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also, I'm calling dibs on Gloria Steinem: Secret Avenger.
posted by gauche at 10:47 AM on June 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


I don't know, I think my mom is a superhero.

I'll see my way out
posted by Teakettle at 10:48 AM on June 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Not a film, but looking at the cast of Joss Whedon's new TV series, it seems he's got a 50/50 split. As the tie-in character is male, it's not exactly female-led, but it's not Avengers bad.

Unexpectedly enough, I've heard from people I trust that for all that it's the sixth sequel to a popcorn action franchise, The Fast & Furious 6 has some awesome female characters. And I want that so bad I'm currently watching my way through the entire franchise. Because it really is that rare.
posted by harujion at 10:49 AM on June 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


instead gave us a weakly written sex symbol?

If that's all you see in the character of Black Widow in Avengers, then I'm sorry your visions is so poor.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:52 AM on June 14, 2013 [26 favorites]


If the Avengers were based on the source material (so Ultimates minus some of the darker stuff) then Janet Pym would have been one of the leads. I'm guessing movie marketing execs nixed that since Ant-Man and the Wasp would have made terrible leads for the 18-24 male weekend crowd since they are nerdy scientists who do more labwork than anything else with most of their fighting happening at home. I mean, there's the potential that Marvel could capitalize on drama and god knows there are plenty of directors and writers out there who have produced fantastic SF dramas recently but my guess is that this would be seen as way too risky of a venture for a multi-million dollar summer blockbuster.

Quiksilver and The Scarlet Witch might be in the next Avengers if Disney gets the rights to the X-Men but that's basically the only other female lead eliminated. I'd guess this is more incidental than even a result of systemic issues. That doesn't excuse the fact that Agent Coulson was a balding white fanboy and not an educated black fangirl or something and I think the argument can be made that it would have been perfectly fine if he hadn't been a him. The other issue would be that the spouses of the respective heroes got very little if any airtime and none of them were really on the minds of the heroes who were somehow more concerned about team spirit than, you know, the more significant relationship in their lives being threatened by alien monsters.
posted by dubusadus at 10:54 AM on June 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


I continue to believe things like this will indeed get much better, with both effort and time. It may take another generation or so to see real changes. That may sound harsh. But sometimes the current power structure has to literally die off, and be replaced, before things can improve. My wife is an attorney. A mere generation earlier, for her mom, that would have been an outlandish goal. And one generation before that, her mom's mom was born before women could even VOTE. Progress has been made. Progress will continue.

A related example: I can recall the oldest member of my family, born in 1899, occasionally but very casually saying horribly racist things about people of other colors. Such comments rolled off her tongue without the slightest notion they might be wrong or offensive. She and her generation were literally from another century, another culture, another world. Sadly, the only thing that ultimately purged their ingrained, parasitic racism from society was for themselves, the host bodies, to expire. But that's progress. Not only will it happen, it cannot be stopped.
posted by azaner at 10:57 AM on June 14, 2013 [11 favorites]


It's also worth noting that Joss Wheadon didn't get the Avengers gig because he's JOSS WHEADON. He was seen as a cheap alternative over Jon Favreau, who was originally slated for the director's chair.

None of this is an excuse, because clearly Wheadon had some clout and might have been abel to influence the character selection. But he was far from the sole decider and I recall reading he was pretty much told what to do at times.

Now if Avengers 2 had as few female heroes as the first one, then he'll have some explaining to do.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:58 AM on June 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Whedon's major film project prior to The Avengers was an attempt at Wonder Woman. DC, currently one of the leading lights for bro-tastic casual misogyny in the comic book industry, passed on it completely.

Whedon is pissed about the experience: "You know, part of the process of dealing with the success of The Avengers has been discovering a vein of anger that I didn't even know existed in me. You do begin to think about when they let you do it, and you get it right, and then you think back to all of the times they didn't let you do it."

Here's someone who likes, who prioritizes telling stores with female leads. Yet, Avengers is the best he can do in the current climate. No wonder we're swimming in summer sausage.
posted by bonehead at 10:59 AM on June 14, 2013 [23 favorites]


It's fair to criticize Black Widow as a sex symbol (nobody else gets a costume that tight), but she is smart and badass and kicks Jeremy Renner's butt, all without a hollywood-compliant Feminine Moment. So, far better than could have been. We can hope the Witch will notch the bar up a little more (though I don't recall that character being terribly feminist).
posted by lodurr at 11:00 AM on June 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


I agree with Brandon & some others. Having watched The Avengers a couple of times, I think that Black Widow's early scenes invite a certain amount of objectification but that objectification is largely part of the con that she is playing with the Russians and by the end it is clear that her value is that she is just as strong and capable and smart as anybody else on the team.

Yes, she's Scarlett Johanssen in a catsuit and that's not without its problems, but as a character I think she's presented with as much depth and humanity as any other character in the film.
posted by gauche at 11:00 AM on June 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


If you listen to Whedon's commentary on Serenity, it's pretty clear that, while Mal is what drives the cast, Whedon sees River as the superhero of the story.
posted by dry white toast at 11:01 AM on June 14, 2013


If the Avengers were based on the source material (so Ultimates minus some of the darker stuff) then Janet Pym would have been one of the leads.

I'm not all that familiar with the source material of the Avengers comic books TBH; I was referring more to it being the culmination of the Thor/Hulk/Iron Man/Captain America flicks.

If that's all you see in the character of Black Widow in Avengers, then I'm sorry your visions is so poor.

I am with you on this, but man, I do not want to get into that Avengers thread territory again. Read it before I saw the movie. Then saw the movie and had to re-assess whether I ever want to read a Metafilter analysis of a movie ever again.
posted by Hoopo at 11:01 AM on June 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


No wonder we're swimming in summer sausage.

This is an incredible turn of phrase, thank you
posted by Hoopo at 11:02 AM on June 14, 2013 [11 favorites]


This bears further consideration, and might be fruitfully auto-linked to all threads about newly released movies: Read it before I saw the movie. Then saw the movie and had to re-assess whether I ever want to read a Metafilter analysis of a movie ever again.
posted by lodurr at 11:03 AM on June 14, 2013


Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media also has interesting reports and research on the roles women get in films.
posted by jetlagaddict at 11:05 AM on June 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


If you listen to Whedon's commentary on Serenity, it's pretty clear that, while Mal is what drives the cast, Whedon sees River as the superhero of the story.
posted by dry white toast at 13:01 on 6/14
[+] [!]


I've heard him talk about Firefly and Serenity and he seemed to view her as a doll and not a person. He has women parts*, I'm not sure if he has women characters.


*not that way
posted by samofidelis at 11:08 AM on June 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think that Black Widow's early scenes invite a certain amount of objectification but that objectification is largely part of the con that she is playing with the Russians and by the end it is clear that her value is that she is just as strong and capable and smart as anybody else on the team.

Isn't it kind of a bummer, though, that "she's objectifiable but not just an object!" and "look, she's just as strong and capable and smart as the men!" have to be part of the story they're telling about the one female Avenger?
posted by prize bull octorok at 11:09 AM on June 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


Also, didn't Joss get a chance to correct this in Avengers and instead gave us a weakly written sex symbol?

Aw man, I thought Black Widow was fucking awesome. I know the characters were pretty much handed to Whedon by the studio, as in here, "Here, this is what you get because of the tie-ins, now make them interesting." And he did.

Just for fun, I went back and did a comparison of Black Widow in Iron Man 2 and even her look is totally different. She looks like a teenager in IM2, long curly hair and careful baby-pink hued lips. When she's on screen, she's either being Tony Stark's Hot Assistant in expensive short-cut dresses or Fury's lapdog, sheltering under his arm in the diner scene in kind of a weird "loyal daughter" moment. Or, Jesus Christ, she's changing her clothes in the car while the chauffeur watches. In her big fight scene at the end-- and this really bothered me-- she, like, basically doesn't touch anyone. It's so stylized it actually looks lame.

Contrast, in Avengers: she is constantly flipping the tables on the things that men (or male gods) "know" about female superheroes. She gets the Russians to give her information through this and then has no trouble freeing herself when she needs to; she plays Loki by pretending to be weak and vulnerable and, in the end, not really being that bothered at all by all of it; she completely destroys Hawkeye in their one-on-one fight, and she constantly gets her hands dirty in the fight scenes by being, in some sense, more rough-and-tumble than any other character than hulk (Thor can hit people with a hammer, but Black Widow is straight up triangle choking aliens and learning how to use their weapons and riding around on their crazy speedracers.) When she's out of her catsuit she's wearing sensible jeans and leather jackets, and her hair and makeup are mature and stylish and don't try to make her look as young as possible.

Perhaps most telling of all, in the scene where they're rescuing civilians on the street, I started squealing with happiness in the theatre, because in a moment that could have had zero thought put into it and fallen into yet another unexamined trope, it's Hawkeye pulling children out of the bus while Black Widow holds off a billion aliens. Yeah, okay, there's only one superhero woman in the movie (unless you count Maria Hill, and I kind of do, because she is also awesome), but you cannot tell me Whedon did everything she could with her that the studio would let him, because every moment that, with a different director, would have gone the unexamined, easy, sexist way is either intentionally subverted or lampshaded or does the exact opposite.

And this leads me back to the topic of the thread: if Hollywood didn't have its head so far up its ass about how much money and attention lead women can generate, Black Widow would already have her own movie, instead of playing second fiddle as side-kick to Capt. America in his sequel.
posted by WidgetAlley at 11:09 AM on June 14, 2013 [58 favorites]


This week I am swooning in my love for TV women who are nobody's mother, wife, or girlfriend - women like Dana Scully, Kara Thrace, Grace Hanadarko, Myka Bering and Claudia Donovan, and Joan Watson.

Lots of love too for moms and partners like Kiera Cameron, Audrey Parker, Aeryn Sun, and Allison Blake.

I really don't need movies anymore. Joss Whedon's career is going the wrong way, as far as I'm concerned. if he wants to create stories with strong amazing women, he should return to TV. Movies are irrelevant to this woman media consumer.
posted by Squeak Attack at 11:09 AM on June 14, 2013 [10 favorites]


Character depth for so many of the female characters in the DC and Marvel Universes seems to me secondary to their costumes (or lack thereof). Many of these characters were (and are) designed and marketed to the priorities of teenage boys, often in bygone eras where there were different social norms for women.

New strong women superhero roles could be written directly for the screen, and could be good and could be taken seriously, or strong characters could be adapted from recently-written characters written by lesser-known comic creators. There is a huge challenge in writing a woman superhero for a modern audience that was originally designed for a different time, while still keeping the superhero widely recognized. Wonder Woman especially has this problem.

Also, re: Joss Whedon, I recommend this -- Joss Whedon on writing strong female characters. It seems apropos.
posted by tempestuoso at 11:10 AM on June 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yes, Black Widow was a strong character in many senses. Her character is that of a woman who has learned to game the patriarchy by learning what it wants and exploiting its power against itself. However, we would like to see strong women who don't even have to give a shit about the patriarchy.

In a very real way, Black Widow is someone whose whole life revolves around her mastery of the patriarchy. That makes her strong, even defiant, but it makes her yet another player in the game. Where's the superhero who is strong enough to throw the whole game out the window (possibly with super strength)?
posted by gilrain at 11:17 AM on June 14, 2013 [5 favorites]


Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media

I really didn't think she could be more awesome, but I was wrong.
posted by rtha at 11:17 AM on June 14, 2013 [6 favorites]


And don't even get me started on that one scene in Iron Man 2 where she gets in the boxing ring because it is so gross, it is so clearly Tony putting her on display so he can view her as a prized object (doesn't he even say, "I want one?") and an invitation to the viewer, who is default and therefore male, to feel the same desire for possession.

Compared to Black Widow's opening scene in Avengers: while still definitely objectified by the camera, at least we are not being explicitly invited to desire ownership over her, and most viewers, I think, are split between wanted to have sex with her and wanting to be her, which is at least a step in the right direction. Her skills are on display for a purpose and not just because Tony Stark told her to kick some ass because he wanted to see how she looked doing it.

Ugh. As an ex-fighter, I get mad about combat scenes for women in movies and it frequently ruins them.
posted by WidgetAlley at 11:18 AM on June 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also, there is a tone of "look, this strong woman has learned to manipulate men through the lust they are helpless to resist, even in the service of their government, just as all we men have known women do all the time!"
posted by gilrain at 11:19 AM on June 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


I thought Black Widow was fucking awesome.

Yes, she was very impressive. She is the least physically imposing and has the weakest weapons (Glock pistols). She loves her guns so much that she never thinks to pick up an alien laser weapon to use. Actually, I think she uses one for a minute and then goes back to her Glocks. Smart move fighting advanced alien energy weapons with gunpowder; she should teach tactics to Captain America.

Agent Coulson had better weapons. (which she never thinks to use)

Don't worry. Thor was pretty stupid, too. He must have forgotten that he can call down lightning so he fought the aliens in melee combat.
posted by Tanizaki at 11:22 AM on June 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Fast & Furious 6 has some awesome female characters. And I want that so bad I'm currently watching my way through the entire franchise. Because it really is that rare.

That series has always been renowned for having good ethnic diversity, in spite of its dumb nature. Glad to hear that the newest has gender parity as well.
posted by Apocryphon at 11:24 AM on June 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


It certainly does not have gender parity in the new one. It has a couple of female characters who fight and break stuff. But it does not have anything like gender parity.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 11:25 AM on June 14, 2013


Joss Whedon pissed off about lack of female superheroes in films.

He claims to be a big proponent of feminism, etc. but I don't think its borne out in most of his choices. It seems a bit like a pose, albeit a more positive one then most Hollywood people.
posted by cell divide at 11:26 AM on June 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


She loves her guns so much that she never thinks to pick up an alien laser weapon to use. Actually, I think she uses one for a minute and then goes back to her Glocks.

She spends a good bit of time blasting the Chitauri with an energy spear, actually, after she has been using guns for a while and presumably runs out of ammo/realizes that she can't just triangle choke all of them. Then, when she has that amazing exchange with Captain America where totally trusts her judgment, she vaults off his shield, lands on the back of a flying Chitauri sled, stabs the Chitauri with them, and then guides it with knives.

The Black Widow is legit the best part of Avengers.
posted by joyceanmachine at 11:29 AM on June 14, 2013 [8 favorites]


Back in 2006, Whedon offered up this amazing quote:
Q: So, why do you write these strong female characters?
A: Because you’re still asking me that question.
posted by schmod at 11:32 AM on June 14, 2013 [23 favorites]


Smart move fighting advanced alien energy weapons with gunpowder; she should teach tactics to Captain America.

And Hawkeye shooting his bow and arrows. Also, why aren't they all in Iron Man suits? Why don't they just put Hulk in a giant set of Iron Man armor? So stupid.
posted by Hoopo at 11:32 AM on June 14, 2013 [5 favorites]


Perhaps most telling of all, in the scene where they're rescuing civilians on the street, I started squealing with happiness in the theatre, because in a moment that could have had zero thought put into it and fallen into yet another unexamined trope, it's Hawkeye pulling children out of the bus while Black Widow holds off a billion aliens.

Yes, and the relationship between the two was great. They clearly cared for each other, but it was in a romantic way, but as friends with deep respect for the other skills and talents.

Having seen the film a number of times, with female friends, they're the ones who are pleased as punch about the amount of male T&A. Hawkeye and Thor's arms and shoulders, the big dumb blondess of Thor, Cap's butt in the boxing scene, Roberty Downey Jr. doing anything, the sweet handsomeness of Doctor Banner and the everyday manliness of Coulson. It's like a a goddamn buffet for some woman.

She loves her guns so much that she never thinks to pick up an alien laser weapon to use. Actually, I think she uses one for a minute and then goes back to her Glocks. Smart move fighting advanced alien energy weapons with gunpowder; she should teach tactics to Captain America.

She has her guns, the widow's sting electrical gadgets and picks up an alien weapon. Quite a versatile fighter.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:34 AM on June 14, 2013 [5 favorites]


It certainly does not have gender parity in the new one. It has a couple of female characters who fight and break stuff. But it does not have anything like gender parity.

Yeah, I like the recent F&F films as super fun cheesy action, but they're not exactly great in terms of gender representation. Actually, Fast Five was pretty decent, but several of the female characters got sidelined in 6.

(Still the most fun movie I've seen this year.)
posted by kmz at 11:35 AM on June 14, 2013


Isn't it kind of a bummer, though, that "she's objectifiable but not just an object!" and "look, she's just as strong and capable and smart as the men!" have to be part of the story they're telling about the one female Avenger?

I mean, I see what you're saying and I definitely agree that what you're describing is a worthy ideal. But at the same time, I'm not sure I understand how you would -- working within the medium not only of comics but of mainstream superhero comic movies -- tell a story about a female superhero in which you don't deal with her objectification at all. I think objectification is in the room, and you have to deal with it somehow. I'm not going to bat for the idea that Avengers was the only way to deal with it, or the best way to deal with it, I'm just not sure I'm seeing the option that you seem to want.

Just have her be like any of the other Avengers? I feel like, by her second scene in the movie, she's already there.
posted by gauche at 11:35 AM on June 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


I mean, this is not to say that Joss Whedon hasn't had some problematic stuff onscreen. The stuff that happened to Cordelia Chase after her actress got pregnant? The entirety of Dollhouse? Some of the stuff with Inara in Firefly?

On the other hand, Black Widow was legitimately the coolest, most badass badass in the Avengers, to the point where fanboys of other characters were bitching about Whedon's writing because she stole their favorite (male) character's thunder. Also, Buffy. Also, Zoe, River, Kaylee, and Inara in the non-shitty parts of Firefly? And also, he cast the voice for Mulan as the lead in his new TV series.

Seriously, the guy has a mixed track record, but the highs are really, really, really high.
posted by joyceanmachine at 11:42 AM on June 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


The problem is not lack of women in superhero movies. The problem is superhero movies.
posted by Decani at 11:45 AM on June 14, 2013 [8 favorites]


We are taught to universalize men's experience, and taught that women's experiences can only be specific to women

I think there's another layer beyond that which is just as damaging: when women do get the focus, we are taught to universalize white women's experience and taught that the experience of women of color can only be specific to women of color.

Secret Wars #1 had 2 black women in prominent positions on the cover. I would bet a tidy sum that no mainstream comic book since then has matched this feat. Superhero and epic fantasy movies (and video games and television shows) do a shite job with women of color. It makes me really sad to realize we'll likely never see Chris Claremont's mohawked, ass-kicking and team-leading Storm on screen. (That's why every episode of TWD featuring Michonne where she gets do more than grunt and be sullen elicits the same kinds of squeals of glee from me that Black Widow scenes got out of other people.)

It's a sad and sorry state, and it's more than a little ridiculous that Sojourner Truth's criticisms about some approaches to feminism still hold weight.
posted by lord_wolf at 11:49 AM on June 14, 2013 [7 favorites]


Fast and Furious 6 passes the Bechdel test (several times, IIRC). As opposed to a "rescue the damsel in distress!" movie it's "rescue the damsel...uh, who is kicking the crap out of us." It doesn't have gender parity but it does a damn sight better with regards to gender than Star Trek Into Darkness and Iron Man 3. For example, no female leads were required to strip down to their underwear.
posted by rednikki at 11:57 AM on June 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


See also Eric "Websnark" Burns snarking webbily about the subject.
posted by baf at 11:57 AM on June 14, 2013


In our cultural tradition, stories about men are stories about Everyone. We are taught to universalize men's experience, and taught that women's experiences can only be specific to women.

When I remember, I make a conscious effort to swap out male protagonists for female protagonists in my girl's bedtime reading*.

If you pay attention, it's somewhat sad how many kid's books feature male characters for no other reason than because it's the default.

*(Swapping out he/him for she/her, mostly.)
posted by madajb at 12:01 PM on June 14, 2013 [5 favorites]


i was just reading or listening to something that talked about how the movies hollywood chooses to make, especially the blockbusters, are more and more driven by the international market (especially china), which might account for even less lead female roles.

beyond that, what rtha says upthread is so true - men is everyone and women are special interest. this is a problem so much bigger than hollywood. you have elementary school girls in creative writing assignments not making women the lead - even if it's ostensibly about a girl, it's really about how she is saved. the way this changes is we just keep working to tell more stories about women, but i don't know that hollywood is going to help us with that fight.

related - i laughed quite a bit at Six Fairy Tales for the Modern Woman.
posted by nadawi at 12:03 PM on June 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


He claims to be a big proponent of feminism, etc. but I don't think its borne out in most of his choices. It seems a bit like a pose

This. Has anyone seen Buff the Vampire Slayer? She was a headcase and she unleashed a horrible demon by having sex.
posted by Tanizaki at 12:04 PM on June 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


I don't think Joss Whedon alone is obligated to undo every single evil in filmmaking with a giant studio movie based on existing intellectual property. He has another movie (also based on existing intellectual property, in the original productions of which all the female parts were played by men) out that's chock full of women, but unless you live in a big city you're probably not going to get to see it in the theaters.

That's really the problem. If you make a film about relationships or love or things that don't asplode, if you make a film with lots of lady-faces on the screen, distributors go meh and then studios pass on future projects that look similar and writers don't write scripts that won't get picked up and produced. You reach a point where one of the few things you can get hoisted over the transom is women-doing-"guy stuff" products that are considered SUPER EDGY and still sneered at by the establishment for vague handwavy reasons like "women don't sell movies".
posted by Lyn Never at 12:07 PM on June 14, 2013


This. Has anyone seen Buff the Vampire Slayer? She was a headcase and she unleashed a horrible demon by having sex.

I think the key with Buffy is that you need to have seen it from a teenager's perspective.
posted by Hoopo at 12:10 PM on June 14, 2013 [5 favorites]


with whedon, i've long had a problem with some of the moralizing about sex (especially the world ending buffy stuff), but i do think he does way better than most and i do think buffy changed the way women are written on tv (which comes up some in this ask.me). the perfect is the enemy of the good. i think people who want to see him as a white knight poseur are going to see that regardless of the evidence.
posted by nadawi at 12:10 PM on June 14, 2013 [6 favorites]


This. Has anyone seen Buff the Vampire Slayer? She was a headcase and she unleashed a horrible demon by having sex.

Kind of. She unleashed a horrible demon by making her boyfriend happy.
posted by gauche at 12:11 PM on June 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


This. Has anyone seen Buff the Vampire Slayer? She was a headcase and she unleashed a horrible demon by having sex.

But she killed the demon in Burger Palace, so it's all good.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:13 PM on June 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


Is this the thread, where I can talk about how fucked up it is that Joss Whedon named a black character after a fucking white supremacist, no matter who said white supremacist was related to? Cause, yeah....

Also, I'm glad his Wonder Woman didn't get picked up.
posted by nooneyouknow at 12:15 PM on June 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm always surprised that writers don't insist on making their films pass the Bechdel test, at least on a technicality. You could do it with literally 5 seconds of screen time. Black Widow: Did you see the thing blow up? Maria Hill: Yeah, that thing blew up just now eh. It's such a low bar to pass, it would cost nothing and would assuage a few reviewers.
posted by miyabo at 12:16 PM on June 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Brandon Blatcher: "If that's all you see in the character of Black Widow in Avengers, then I'm sorry your visions is so poor."

Heck yeah. She was an underwritten sex symbol in Iron Man 2, for sure. But in Avengers she and Banner surprised me by being my favorite characters.
posted by brundlefly at 12:18 PM on June 14, 2013


Joss Whedon named a black character after a fucking white supremacist

Who is it?
posted by Hoopo at 12:22 PM on June 14, 2013


He has women parts*, I'm not sure if he has women characters.

Inara and Zoe?
posted by nathancaswell at 12:25 PM on June 14, 2013


Who is it?

Presumably bounty hunter Jubal Early (in the unaired Objects in Space), named for the Confederate general that Nathan Fillion claims to be descended from. Unless there's some other source of weak-sauce outrage I'm not familiar with.
posted by figurant at 12:26 PM on June 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


with whedon, i've long had a problem with some of the moralizing about sex (especially the world ending buffy stuff), but i do think he does way better than most

The bar is set pretty low, but he generally does do gender better than most. Firefly has decent gender parity, and the female characters are pretty good. Hell, Kaylee even gets a sex scene of the slightly dirty, sex as a zesty enterprise, type that her character would not get from most shows.

Inara is a bit male gazey, and River isn't much of a character, but for a show on network television? Really good.

Joss Whedon named a black character after a fucking white supremacist

I assume he means Jubal Early in the last episode of Firefly. I didn't find it particularly fucked up, but I also think Jubal Early is a phenomenal name, so I might be willfully blind to the offense.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 12:29 PM on June 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


yeah, i mean, i don't really need to be constantly reminded of his barefoot girl fetish, and he writes women like someone who has never been one (hence inara being male gaze-y when i think he fully intended her to be powerful and bucking the stereotype). but - as you say - with a bar so low he's sure to medal in this particular race.
posted by nadawi at 12:34 PM on June 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, Whedon is definitely not the end-all be-all of gender, race, sexuality or any kind of diversity representation, but at least he gives me a higher class of offenses to yell at. The last movie I saw in theatres before Avengers was This Means War, which seemed very much like it was trying to rocket us back to a simpler time, when men were men! And women were.... objects!
posted by WidgetAlley at 12:37 PM on June 14, 2013


Who is it?

Jubal Early. And it is an awesome name. But still, white supremacist, confederate general? Nope.
posted by nooneyouknow at 12:41 PM on June 14, 2013


The problem is not lack of women in superhero movies. The problem is superhero movies.

I agree. When I saw Avengers in theaters I looked around at all the people in the theater with me and wondered how many of them could have been seeing another movie in the same building that they would've liked more. I almost certainly could have—I tend to favor characterization and shot composition over explosions and one-liners—yet there I was. I wish more people felt empowered to define and seek out the sort of movies that actually suit their tastes/perspective/whatever.
posted by quantity at 12:49 PM on June 14, 2013


But at the same time, I'm not sure I understand how you would -- working within the medium not only of comics but of mainstream superhero comic movies -- tell a story about a female superhero in which you don't deal with her objectification at all. I think objectification is in the room, and you have to deal with it somehow.

Look, I'm not much of a Joss Whedon fan, but I'll concede that he's hardly the face of this problem and if I knew his work better I might well agree that he's done more good than harm.

I'm pretty tired of self-conscious lampshading and lazy trope reversals, though.
posted by prize bull octorok at 12:55 PM on June 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Glad to see the call-outs to Fast Furious 6. I saw #5 on a whim with a friend and had a great time because it is so completely outlandish and over-the-top - great fun. #6 is almost as manic.

What struck me besides the showcasing of female characters is the screen time of all the characters. This is a heavy franchise to feature and Fast Furious 6 does a better job of giving each character some highlights and moments more than the newer Star Trek movie. Same challenge, different genre.

It's less jingo-istic than other action movies but there's still parts where you want to yell out: 'YEAH AMURICA! RUMSFELD!'
posted by ao4047 at 1:01 PM on June 14, 2013


Jubal Early. And it is an awesome name. But still, white supremacist, confederate general? Nope.

It's pretty amusing to have have the name of a white supremacist confederate general used by an insane black character

I wish more people felt empowered to define and seek out the sort of movies that actually suit their tastes/perspective/whatever.

Maybe they were watching a film that suited their taste and perspective, eh?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:03 PM on June 14, 2013 [5 favorites]


It's pretty amusing to have have the name of a white supremacist confederate general used by an insane black character

I think it's also part of the Western thing Whedon's doing, and I think he gave it to a black character more or less to say "I'm taking all the parts of a Western and rearranging them as I see fit. Enjoy." Like how the Independents aren't really Confederates, only they kind of are, but we also see Mal being expressly anti-slavery. One way to read this is as making it "okay" to like Confederates, but another is to see it is just as pastiche. It's possibly problematic, but I have trouble making that assumption on scant evidence.

I do wish they had more Chinese characters, but my understanding is that that was a network choice and that Whedon wanted River and Simon to be Chinese; might be misremembering, though.

Glad to see the call-outs to Fast Furious 6. I saw #5 on a whim with a friend and had a great time because it is so completely outlandish and over-the-top - great fun. #6 is almost as manic.

I'm so excited by all the positive Fast and Furious 6 comments. The Super Bowl trailer made me decide to watch all the movies and then see 6 in theaters. Unfortunately, I've had trouble making time for this project so I still need to watch Fast Five and then see Six. Four wasn't fantastic, and coming after Tokyo Drift which was actually really good, I was worried that my hopes would be dashed.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 1:12 PM on June 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


ao4047: "What struck me besides the showcasing of female characters is the screen time of all the characters. This is a heavy franchise to feature and Fast Furious 6 does a better job of giving each character some highlights and moments more than the newer Star Trek movie. Same challenge, different genre."

I've become a fan of the franchise with the last two films. As goofy and dumb as they are, the action scenes are well crafted, the actors are all charismatic as hell. They seem to have carved out a unique sort of niche: the team-centric action franchise. As opposed to something like Mission: Impossible, where Ethan Hunt might work with a team in an individual film, but he's always center stage and the "team" is swapped out from movie to movie.

I also like how the franchise has gone from hijacking semi trucks to harpooning massive cargo planes in order to stop a black market arms dealer from selling an EMP bomb to terrorists.
posted by brundlefly at 1:13 PM on June 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


Oh, and the stinger in the credits is great.
posted by brundlefly at 1:17 PM on June 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Maybe they were watching a film that suited their taste and perspective, eh?

If I understand you correctly you're suggesting that Avengers was a movie that suited the tastes of most of the people who saw it. That's certainly possible, but if someone would've told me, ten years ago, that superhero movies would become the main fair for casual moviegoers, I would've been really surprised. In my opinion, their status as A-list movies has as much to do with successful marketing as it does the basic accessibility of anything where costumes are used to do the dirty work of characterization.
posted by quantity at 1:21 PM on June 14, 2013


Fast & Furious 6 is extra relevant here because it did feel to me like a superhero team movie where everyone's superpower was driving fast cars.

If we do a strict Bechdel test, I don't know if it would pass? Like, strictly speaking, we get stuff like Gina Carano and Gal Gadot questioning a man to find out where the maguffin is while two male team-members hang back and talk about relationships.
posted by RobotHero at 1:42 PM on June 14, 2013


What if someone had told you ten years ago that the popular movies of 2010-2015 or so would feature larger-than-life characters fighting struggles internal and external and solving their problems through a combination of wit and physical violence?

I mean, yes, these movies are big and often kind of simple and explodey, trading on easy emotional beats and overwrought conflicts, but so was Die Hard. So was Lethal Weapon and Star Wars and The Matrix and a lot of war movies and westerns that I'm not remembering. I don't think people are betraying their values by going to see the same kind of movies that they've gone to see for decades now. That seems like a decline narrative just as facile as the plot of any superhero movie.

Pop culture gonna pop, you know?
posted by gauche at 1:46 PM on June 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


FFS, can't use the Bechdel Test if there aren't female characters to talk or not talk to each other on-screen.
posted by Dreidl at 1:51 PM on June 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


When I saw Avengers in theaters I looked around at all the people in the theater with me and wondered how many of them could have been seeing another movie in the same building that they would've liked more.

Given that The Avengers has a 92% on Rotten Tomatoes and received an (extremely rare) A+ cinemascore from audiences the answer is "not very many." Most people really, really liked it.
posted by Justinian at 1:54 PM on June 14, 2013 [7 favorites]


Fair points, gauche and Justinian. I'll bite the bullet and admit I don't have a lot of faith even in viewers' reports that they really like these sorts of movies (compared with other things they could've seen but likely didn't know much about), but of course that's very presumptuous of me and there's no way for me to prove it.
posted by quantity at 2:00 PM on June 14, 2013


rocket us back to a simpler time, when men were men!

Perhaps one day, we will reach the utopia when men are men, and so are the women.
posted by Tanizaki at 2:04 PM on June 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Theres obviously problematic elements to Joss Whedon's work, and its good to point them out, but a little unfair to lay on him like he is the root of all problems. His work on Avengers was heavily constrained: he didn't make the previous 4 films, and he won't be making many of the next 4, so he had some rules to work within, and tried to succeed at doing that. No doubt he failed in some ways, but seeing Avengers as entirely his product is a little mean.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 2:17 PM on June 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


friggin windows update erased my essay-length comment on race, gender, whedon, rucka, and wonder woman - probably for the best

A thing I like about Jubal Early and Black Widow and a number of other problematic but still awesome characters is that they start with a stereotype, like sexy femme fatale in a catsuit, and layer on tons of other attributes that take the character far beyond that. So Jubal Early is the worst, most untelevisably godawful stereotype there is - a black man using physical intimidation and rape threats to cow a wide-eyed white woman. Except that's so far from being the center of his character - a quotable, philosophizing bounty hunter who seems like he's got the space madness or whatever from his isolated, violent job - that his weird name (which I'm guessing is probably a pastiche of Jonah Hex and other ex-Reb bounty hunters in Western fiction) has become more of a sticking point for fans than this hurtful stereotype. And that's a character who had one episode to develop.

So I think this model of putting in good with bad, safe with problematic, ends up being a decent approach even when it ends up including negative, regressive, straight-up racist tropes like Early's rape threats. Like, I don't know why those stayed in the script - maybe they were integral to Early's psycho attitude? But it's easier to forgive regressive depictions and other mistakes when writers are obviously taking risks and making an effort to build deep or complex characters.

Why does this matter to the main thread? Because there are characters out there with flat-out terrible tropes in their roots (Wonder Woman, eg, whose creator was really into bondage) who could nevertheless end up being great roles for women in blockbuster superhero movies, and the approach I see in Whedon series and movies of taking those tropes and adding redeeming qualities onto them is an accessible approach that deserves consideration. But as much as I want to believe in that kind of anything-goes, good-with-the-bad process, the problematic parts of Whedon characters clearly stick with viewers long after the show ends, so maybe total reboots or at least Captain America-style redesigns are necessary instead.
posted by knuckle tattoos at 2:36 PM on June 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


I like exciting movies. I have to read serious books, but/and movies, for me, are purely for fun.

Anyway, one of the things l like about fun, exciting movies is that the underdogs have their day. The little nerdy guy suddenly executes some righteous revenge on the big, vicious evil guys, and so forth.

So what I can't understand--what I really, really can't understand--is why females don't feature more prominently as protagonists in these movies. It's gratifying to see smaller, physically weaker people suddenly become powerful. It's gratifying to see the disrespected have their day. To my mind, female superheroes (broadly construed) are a natural.

I'm skeptical about any allegations that there are political or moral obligations in this vicinity... I just think it's obviously the right thing to do from the perspective of good, exciting, not-serious fiction like superhero movies.

My guess is that the money guys in Hollywood have a pretty good idea what sells and what doesn't, and that if something isn't getting made it's a money thing. We might lament the fact that big movies are all about money...but those are (or so I'm told) the facts on the ground.
posted by Fists O'Fury at 2:42 PM on June 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


that his weird name (which I'm guessing is probably a pastiche of Jonah Hex and other ex-Reb bounty hunters in Western fiction)

Jubal Early was actually a Confederate general.
posted by Sticherbeast at 2:44 PM on June 14, 2013


I think I used "pastiche" wrong. I meant, like Bulgaroktonos wrote upthread, that Firefly drags in elements of Westerns in a haphazard way, and that one such element of Westerns is ex-Confederates. So name-checking an actual Confederate is one such reference, even though it's a weirdly literal way to do it (kind of like actually transporting cattle is a weirdly literal way of referencing cattle drives, which Firefly also did).
posted by knuckle tattoos at 2:51 PM on June 14, 2013


My guess is that the money guys in Hollywood have a pretty good idea what sells and what doesn't

"Nobody knows anything" is the motto in Hollywood. The big guys in Hollywood are awful about predicting what will sell and what will not. Too many of their strategies "polish pebbles and dull diamonds". Even a movie like Ghostbusters would never have gotten made today - it's very weird, it mixes genres, it was a sorta-action movie that had no action stars, it tested poorly IIRC, and so on.

When the movie suits think about female superheroes and superhero-type characters, they're mostly recalling bombs: Elektra, Catwoman, Salt, etc. They see the returns on Catwoman and say to themselves, "well, I guess nobody wants to see a female superhero". They really are that stupid. It doesn't really occur to them to make movies that aren't as bad as Elektra, Catwoman, and Salt.

On the other hand, for however much or little they're worth, the Underworld and Resident Evil movies have been very successful franchises.

In different but related news, there's also the somewhat surprising trend of remaking horror movies, and changing/refocussing the protagonists to women. For example, The Thing, Evil Dead, and Dawn of the Dead.
posted by Sticherbeast at 2:58 PM on June 14, 2013 [5 favorites]


Why does this matter to the main thread? Because there are characters out there with flat-out terrible tropes in their roots (Wonder Woman, eg, whose creator was really into bondage) who could nevertheless end up being great roles for women in blockbuster superhero movies

Funny, I was going to try and make a point similar to this by positing an alternate reality in which a Power Girl movie was opening this weekend instead of yet another ponderous iteration of Superman...and IE ate the comment. Likewise, probably for the best.

I guess where it would have differed from what you're saying is, I'd rather see more of a ground-up approach where it's not so much a response to the stereotypes and problematic tropes, and can't be defined solely in terms of what it's positioning itself against, if that makes any sense. Like, turning the formula on its head is fine and all but it's been done before and it's nothing new at this point, and I don't think telling a story about a female superhero where it's just taken for granted that she's a complete badass and we don't need the director drawing big outlines in Sharpie around the fact that her femaleness is not a weakness, girls can do anything boys can do, etc is too much to ask for in a mainstream summer blockbuster. It may have been important to draw those outlines in the past and it may be important for some people to see it repeated now, but it's not an adequate stopping point for the development of strong and culturally relevant superheroine-type characters in popular media.
posted by prize bull octorok at 2:59 PM on June 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


If that's all you see in the character of Black Widow in Avengers, then I'm sorry your visions is so poor.

I don't think it has anything to do with my 'visions' being poor. I just thought her role was weak. She did not impress me or stand out in any way.
posted by Malice at 3:02 PM on June 14, 2013


Movies are like supermarkets. Best to shop only around the edges.
posted by telstar at 3:12 PM on June 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


Tanizaki: Don't worry. Thor was pretty stupid, too. He must have forgotten that he can call down lightning so he fought the aliens in melee combat.
Thor's a frat boy. He's a brawler. Going all "Lightning Bolt! Lightning Bolt!" on enemies is his least favorite thing to do.

She-Hulk FTW. Some scientist trying to follow up on Banner's flawed success; almost gets it right; brains, brawn, ignoring, fighting, or walking through gender-stereotype barriers (any of the 3 at her choice); and no need to make her costume Stripperella: tattered and torn is sexy, but can remain couth.
posted by IAmBroom at 3:26 PM on June 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Hoopo: Also, why aren't they all in Iron Man suits? Why don't they just put Hulk in a giant set of Iron Man armor? So stupid.
Tony's ego won't let them.
posted by IAmBroom at 3:34 PM on June 14, 2013


prize bull octorok, that totally makes sense. Where I'm coming from is that superhero comics and movies can be so stuck in the past that pointed girl-power rhetoric or trope subversion can still be a step forward. Kind of like how Brave got plaudits for being more progressive than the typical Disney princess movie, regardless of what a low bar that is.

Your mention of PG and Superman does remind me that the Superman reboot featured a major redesign without the creators saying much about it, and all that happened was it generated buzz for the movie. Well, I guess some negative buzz, but still. So surely PG could get a more modern suit, the fandom could squabble about it, and there would be no need for actual lampshading or trope subversion within the movie itself.
Although I would have said the same thing about giving Wonder Woman a decent pair of pants in the comics, and that was a no go.
posted by knuckle tattoos at 3:35 PM on June 14, 2013


Sticherbeast: "When the movie suits think about female superheroes and superhero-type characters, they're mostly recalling bombs: Elektra, Catwoman, Salt, etc. They see the returns on Catwoman and say to themselves, "well, I guess nobody wants to see a female superhero". They really are that stupid. It doesn't really occur to them to make movies that aren't as bad as Elektra, Catwoman, and Salt. "

Also, after a series of flops (Mission to Mars, Mars Attacks!, Red Planet, John Carter) some in Hollywood have come to the conclusion that... audiences have something against the planet Mars. Which makes total sense.
posted by brundlefly at 3:35 PM on June 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Malice: If that's all you see in the character of Black Widow in Avengers, then I'm sorry your visions is so poor.

I don't think it has anything to do with my 'visions' being poor. I just thought her role was weak. She did not impress me or stand out in any way.
Meh, that's just personal taste. The two most-memorable scenes out of The Avengers for me were (in order): Black Widow demonstrating that she could turn the tables on a gang of thugs at will, as intentional strategy, and then doing the same thing to a god (who, I just realized, was in the same relationship: superpowerful prisoner, who apparently allowed himself to be captured as part of his plan.
posted by IAmBroom at 3:38 PM on June 14, 2013


They see the returns on Catwoman and say to themselves, "well, I guess nobody wants to see a female superhero". They really are that stupid.

Not really. The issue is that you can get audiences to accept the impossible but not the improbable. I can accept a demigod alien who calls down lightning with his hammer but what are the chances that the firefighter who can sling me over their shoulder and carry me out of a burning building will be a woman? Sexual dimorphism exists. Joss Whedon cannot do anything about that no matter how many nerds think he is God.
posted by Tanizaki at 4:04 PM on June 14, 2013


What? You don't need to be able to power lift to kick somebody's ass. Or be a hero.
posted by brundlefly at 4:12 PM on June 14, 2013


When the movie suits think about female superheroes and superhero-type characters, they're mostly recalling bombs: Elektra, Catwoman, Salt, etc. They see the returns on Catwoman and say to themselves, "well, I guess nobody wants to see a female superhero". They really are that stupid. It doesn't really occur to them to make movies that aren't as bad as Elektra, Catwoman, and Salt.

There's a quote from David Goyer, who wrote The Man of Steel, about how Wonder Woman is such a tough character to do on the big screen, which I found totally fucking baffling, because they're ham-fistedly making a grim-and-gritty Superman, entirely missing the point of the character, but can't figure out how to make a big-budget action movie with a character that's steeped in Greek mythology, and who gets to have both Superman powers and Batman training, beating up gods and killing monsters. No sir. That's too much of a stretch. I can't even grasp it.

She-Hulk FTW. Some scientist trying to follow up on Banner's flawed success; almost gets it right; brains, brawn, ignoring, fighting, or walking through gender-stereotype barriers (any of the 3 at her choice); and no need to make her costume Stripperella: tattered and torn is sexy, but can remain couth.

They're more modern, but I have high hopes for the Carol Danvers Captain Marvel and Spider-Woman in Avengers 2. They both have ties to SHIELD and have had pretty high profiles in the comics for a while now.

Not really. The issue is that you can get audiences to accept the impossible but not the improbable. I can accept a demigod alien who calls down lightning with his hammer but what are the chances that the firefighter who can sling me over their shoulder and carry me out of a burning building will be a woman? Sexual dimorphism exists. Joss Whedon cannot do anything about that no matter how many nerds think he is God.

You know "super strength" is a thing, right?
posted by Amanojaku at 4:13 PM on June 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


Or, you know, have Thor-level lightning control. Super powers kind of take sexual dimorphism out of the equation don't they?
posted by brundlefly at 4:14 PM on June 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


I can accept a demigod alien who calls down lightning with his hammer but what are the chances that the firefighter who can sling me over their shoulder and carry me out of a burning building will be a woman?
Really?

P.S., you're aware that plenty of women are firefighters right? Dimorphism exists, but amongst the general population it's... pretty mild.

Your little squib there also doesn't really explain why the demigod alien is pretty much never, ever a woman. (Or black or anything other than a straight white dude).
posted by kavasa at 4:14 PM on June 14, 2013 [7 favorites]


I don't think it has anything to do with my 'visions' being poor. I just thought her role was weak. She did not impress me or stand out in any way.

Curious, did you find any other roles in Avengers weak? Which ones did you view as strongest?

It was a good ensemble cast, something Wheadon excels at. But for weakest, I'd have to go with Thor, for constantly trying to make peace with his brother, who tried to kill him so many times. It was child like sentiment, which was strange for a "god".
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:16 PM on June 14, 2013


Or, hell. Put on a robot suit. If that works for Tony Stark it works for Pepper Potts (and did briefly in Iron Man 3).
posted by brundlefly at 4:16 PM on June 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Your little squib there also doesn't really explain why the demigod alien is pretty much never, ever a woman. (Or black or anything other than a straight white dude).

Thor did make a point of having Black, Asian, and female demigod aliens, so I'm not sure that criticism really holds.
posted by Amanojaku at 4:26 PM on June 14, 2013


They see the returns on Catwoman and say to themselves, "well, I guess nobody wants to see a female superhero". They really are that stupid.

It's not just that; it's also that when action movies with men flop (see above in re John Carter), no one says, "Well, movies about men are over! There's just no money there!" The Ang Lee Hulk "only" made $100 million, so they just made another one five years later (which also made "only" $100 million). Like, it was actually the same movie.

But something like Mamma Mia makes literally five times that and it isn't a sign that women will go see a fun, silly romantic comedy with a mature woman lead multiple times in the theater; it's just a fluke: "Citing the lack of copycat movies generated by female-driven hits such as The First Wives Club, Something's Gotta Give and The Devil Wears Prada, Silverstein says, "The way Hollywood perceives this [success] is, 'Oh, that's so interesting."
posted by Snarl Furillo at 4:35 PM on June 14, 2013 [15 favorites]


I don't think it has anything to do with my 'visions' being poor. I just thought her role was weak. She did not impress me or stand out in any way.

To me, she was the weakest part of the movie simply because of the casting choice.

Letting Robin Scherbatsky have the role would have been a much better choice than Scarlett Johansson.
posted by madajb at 4:36 PM on June 14, 2013


Tony's ego won't let them.

I buy that; mostly I was being sarcastic. It's a thing I have with a certain kind of criticism of movies. People expect more rational decision making in extraordinary circumstances in completely outlandish movie scenarios than we actually get in reality most of the time.
posted by Hoopo at 4:42 PM on June 14, 2013


But something like Mamma Mia makes literally five times that and it isn't a sign that women will go see a fun, silly romantic comedy with a mature woman lead multiple times in the theater; it's just a fluke: "Citing the lack of copycat movies generated by female-driven hits such as The First Wives Club, Something's Gotta Give and The Devil Wears Prada, Silverstein says, "The way Hollywood perceives this [success] is, 'Oh, that's so interesting."

Also see: The deluge of comedies with women that Bridesmaids was supposed to lead to. (And should have, if there was any justice.) The Hangover made $275 million on a $35 million budget, domestically, and got two sequels. Bridesmaids made $170 million on the same budget, and ... nothing.
posted by Amanojaku at 4:43 PM on June 14, 2013


And when there is a movie made about women, can it NOT be about princess, helpless victims, or treating them as sexual objects!

I know that's a lot to ask.


Ask and ye shall receive said the Lord.

yes she might be a victim. ssshhh! it looks good.
posted by QueerAngel28 at 6:08 PM on June 14, 2013


(Mission to Mars, Mars Attacks!, Red Planet, John Carter)

You left out Mars Needs Moms.
posted by WhackyparseThis at 6:40 PM on June 14, 2013


madajb, you do realize that Robin Scherbatsky is a fictional character and not an actor, right?
posted by evilDoug at 6:48 PM on June 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


It occurs to me, because I am slow on the uptake, that maybe some of the righteous indignation at Peter Jackson/Philippa Boyens/Fran Walsh for increasing the roles for Arwen and Eowyn in LOTR, and now creating a new kickass female elf in The Hobbit is not just because of the blatant disregard for canon but ruining a sausage fest as well. I stand corrected.
posted by Ber at 8:25 PM on June 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


If we keep seeding the phrase "She-Hulk legal thriller" throughout the internets, maybe it'll happen. Clap! Clap for Tinker-Hulk!
posted by asperity at 9:05 PM on June 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


It's fair to criticize Black Widow as a sex symbol (nobody else gets a costume that tight)--lodurr

Tigher than this?
posted by eye of newt at 9:45 PM on June 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


I would happily trade every Captain America, Thor and Hulk film (past and future) for one Black Widow film written and directed by Joss Whedon.
posted by zanni at 10:10 PM on June 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


but if someone would've told me, ten years ago, that superhero movies would become the main fair for casual moviegoers, I would've been really surprised.

Really? They were pretty standard fare ten years ago, hell, the 90s were pretty ripe with them too.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 6:50 AM on June 15, 2013


I can accept a demigod alien who calls down lightning with his hammer but what are the chances that the firefighter who can sling me over their shoulder and carry me out of a burning building will be a woman?

I hate to perpetuate the derail, but one of my friends from high school is a firefighter who could sling you over her shoulder and carry you out of a burning building. I know this for a fact, because that's her job. She is also competing in her 25th triathlon this morning.

I'm assuming that, being a man and all and therefore by definition better than her in every way, you have probably competed in at least 50 triathlons, right? And for that matter, that you could totally carry people out of a burning building any time you want and that you haven't today is just because you don't feel like it?

Or is it possible that these issues are more complex than you like to pretend and that there is an awful lot of variation around the means on this issue?

Oh and also, is it possible that women (and men) are allowed to want to see women having lead roles in movies because that's awesome? And that Joss Whedon's Wonder Woman would be really fun, maybe even as much fun as Fast and Furious 6?
posted by hydropsyche at 6:51 AM on June 15, 2013 [9 favorites]


Oh and also, is it possible that women (and men) are allowed to want to see women having lead roles in movies because that's awesome?

I have this fantasy about Skyfall being remade so it's about Judi Dench's M. I mean, Bond could show up once or twice, but I think you would have a better movie if they had just went full political thriller.

I want more women having leading roles because I think that there's a crap load of REALLY talented women out there that don't get a chance to play nearly as many interesting of roles as they should.

Plus it would mean more Judi Dench, and that's a good thing.
posted by Gygesringtone at 7:57 AM on June 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


interesting you should mention bond - as the story goes, the powers that be asked angelina jolie to play a bond girl and she responded that she would only accept the role of bond. they decided that could never ever happen and they found salt for her (which, as touched on upthread, not the best movie).

i would love a judi dench bond political thriller.
posted by nadawi at 8:05 AM on June 15, 2013


I can accept a demigod alien who calls down lightning with his hammer but what are the chances that the firefighter who can sling me over their shoulder and carry me out of a burning building will be a woman?

Boggling at the stupidity and irrelevance of this comment. In my comment above, I named nine women TV characters who are the leads or co-leads of their show, and none of them are heroes because they are written to possess physical strengths unrealistic in a woman. Instead, they're smart, brave, loyal, reckless, level-headed in an emergency, dogged, compassionate, observant, flawed, and all sorts of other delicious traits that I find compelling to watch.
posted by Squeak Attack at 8:05 AM on June 15, 2013 [6 favorites]


I have this fantasy about Skyfall being remade so it's about Judi Dench's M. I mean, Bond could show up once or twice, but I think you would have a better movie if they had just went full political thriller.

Arguably, you could view The World Is Not Enough as a battle between Sophie Marceau's Elektra King and Judi Dench's M, with Bond and the main male villain being borderline-disposable foot soldiers.
posted by soundguy99 at 8:32 AM on June 15, 2013


I mean, not that that movie doesn't still have plenty of issues (*fry-squint at the Denise Richards character*) but I do think that the producers/directors/writers took advantage of the opportunity presented by casting the marvelous Ms. Dench to at least poke the classic sexism of the Bond films with a stick every so often.
posted by soundguy99 at 8:40 AM on June 15, 2013


as the story goes, the powers that be asked angelina jolie to play a bond girl and she responded that she would only accept the role of bond.

I think a female 007 could be good. I'm not sure who I'd cast, but I'm pretty sure it wouldn't be her. Actually, now that I think about it, Naomie Harris could have been a Bond just as easily as a Moneypenny.

Arguably, you could view The World Is Not Enough as a battle between Sophie Marceau's Elektra King and Judi Dench's M, with Bond and the main male villain being borderline-disposable foot soldiers.

From the very beginning her M is definitely more of a person with motivations, history, and a greater impact on the plot than earlier incarnations.
posted by Gygesringtone at 9:58 AM on June 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


I continue to believe things like this will indeed get much better, with both effort and time. It may take another generation or so to see real changes.

I'm not so sure that the future will bring progress. If you've ever seen Molly Haskell's From Reverence to Rape: The Treatment of Women in the Movies, the book shows that women were more prevalent as screenwriters in the 1920s (because men didn't see much money or glory in it) than they were in the 1970s. Haskell's book suggested that the generation of the "movie brats" actually represented a step backward for women compared to all the Katharine Hepburn and Bette Davis movies of the Golden Age of Hollywood. I can imagine that the replacement of movie brat auteurism with blockbuster fanboyism has only made things worse.
posted by jonp72 at 12:38 PM on June 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


I assume this is one of those ha-ha devil's advocate conversations and we're all actually on the same page about blockbuster superhero movies being the boringest, pablumest fucking thing
posted by threeants at 2:41 PM on June 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


[Let's skip the bizarre women's upper body strength derail, why don't we? ]
posted by restless_nomad at 3:02 PM on June 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Hangover made $275 million on a $35 million budget, domestically, and got two sequels. Bridesmaids made $170 million on the same budget, and ... nothing.

Bachelorette was The Hangover meets Bridesmaids. If it wasn't pitched as that, verbatim, I'll eat my shoe.
posted by nathancaswell at 4:20 PM on June 15, 2013


Actually it was probably pitched as "Bridesmaids meets The Hangover."
posted by nathancaswell at 4:23 PM on June 15, 2013


(I would like to make it clear I totally agree with the tenor of the thread that there isn't enough content being made for, by and starring women in Hollywood. Also, I loved Bridesmaids but Bachelorette was sad and creepy).
posted by nathancaswell at 4:33 PM on June 15, 2013


Jubal Early was actually a Confederate general.

...and according to Wikipedia Nathan Fillion is a descendent of his.
posted by Hoopo at 8:25 AM on June 16, 2013


The Hangover made $275 million on a $35 million budget, domestically, and got two sequels. Bridesmaids made $170 million on the same budget, and ... nothing.

There is The Heat which looks like it's going to be fun.
posted by nooneyouknow at 9:35 AM on June 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


I really appreciate all the people who have pointed out some new movies coming out with women in leads or all-women ensembles. But at the same time, it's like- this state of affairs is completely insane. "Well, there's going to be three or four movies, at least, with women in the next year or so! There might be as many as five or even six!"

Same thing with Black Widow: "Well, there was one lady superhero in the recent superhero ensemble movie, and surely we're all grateful for that!"

And, you know, fucking forget it if you a woman of color.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 11:21 PM on June 16, 2013 [6 favorites]


From the very beginning [Dench's] M is definitely more of a person with motivations, history, and a greater impact on the plot than earlier incarnations.

I've always assumed that was basically part of the contract. I've imagined her saying "look, fellas, you came to me...."
posted by lodurr at 9:39 AM on June 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've imagined her saying "look, fellas, you came to me...."

I just spent about 30 seconds trying to decide if the her was Judi Dench or M before deciding that I like the idea either way.
posted by Gygesringtone at 9:47 AM on June 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Finding out Dame Judi was cast opposite Brosnan was almost enough to make me go see a Bond in the theater.
posted by lodurr at 10:06 AM on June 17, 2013


One of the most disappointing moments in my mainstream cinema watching over the past couple of years was the "moneypenny reveal" in Skyfall. Seriously, can't someone find Naomi Harris another real part and stay the hell out of her way for once?
posted by lodurr at 10:09 AM on June 17, 2013


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