Geiger's Culture Counter: Abolish the ceiling
The Harvey Weinstein news is only the latest scandal to highlight the long history of toxic masculinity and gender inequality in entertainment. We’re long overdue for equal pay and equal representation in front of and behind the camera for women actors, writers, directors and producers.
Last week Tessa Thompson, who plays Valkyrie in “Thor: Ragnarok,” approached Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige about the idea of an all female super hero movie like “The Avengers”. As someone who has been waiting for a solo Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow movie I’m glad that something like this may finally happen. We have Scarlet Witch, Wasp, Gamora, Pepper Potts and others in the Marvel Cinematic Universe that do stellar work beyond being a sidekick.
Please, we need more women visible in the industry. I don’t have the column inches or breadth of knowledge for a deep dive why that is so I’ll only focus on recent events.
This spring Patty Jenkins showed that the new films in the DC Comics lineup can be good and feature strong female characters. “Wonder Woman” became the highest-grossing film and had the biggest domestic opening for a woman-directed and female-led comic book film.
Of course, we can’t have nice things and folks get worked up over the “unfairness” of an all-women’s screening that one theater did. To protest some men bought tickets anyway. These idiotic men are the same type that doesn’t want to be alone with a woman at work because they can’t control themselves. Seriously? I can’t sigh loud enough.
Then director James Cameron criticized Jenkins for making a movie that was a “step backward” for women in Hollywood because it objectified the Amazonian warrior. Yeah, that’s a bad opinion. The fact that Jenkins has to defend her work from other directors shows how far we have to go.
Looking towards the future we’ll get to enjoy the women-lead “Ocean’s Eight” next year. The movie will likely have the same casino heists we know and love but will feature actresses such as Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway and Mindy Kaling. I don’t doubt that it’ll ruffle the same feathers of men’s rights activists and I look forward to drinking their tears.
Not every studio needs to make an all-women movie. However, you should at least make a film that passes the Bechdel Test. Created by cartoonist Alison Bechdel, a work of fiction passes the test if two women talk to each other about something other than a man. Does that sound difficult? Unfortunately it’s a rare occurrence.
Yet if the cast does pass, the key characters may end up getting “fridged.” This is a trope that references a comic book in which the Green Lantern finds the body of his girlfriend inside his refrigerator. Once a woman begins to add depth and complexity to a story they die only to motivate the male lead to action. To make matters worse there has been a resurgence of killing off lesbian characters in television. Executives claim they pass the Bechdel Test and promote diversity in one episode, and in the next the couple is gone for the sake of drama.
Even if things are reasonably well portrayed on screen, there can be issues off in the world of marketing and toys. With each installment in the MCU, Black Widow has become a more prominent and important character. Yet her toy selection tells a different story. There’s a scene in “Avengers: Age of Ultron” where she helps out Captain America by riding a motorcycle that would translate into a neat piece of merchandise. However, toy makers decided to have Captain America ride the bike and not include Black Widow at all. Excuse me?
Leading roles are also getting short changed. There is no arguing that Daisy Ridley’s Rey is the star in the new “Star Wars” trilogy. It’s extremely refreshing to see both her and the late Carrie Fisher’s Leia front and center on the poster for “The Last Jedi” but Rey is noticeably absent in the toy aisle. Hasbro made a new Monopoly set that included Luke Skywalker, Finn, Darth Vader and Kylo Ren but Rey was no where to be found. They claim that they didn’t want to spoil the film but that’s a poor excuse when she has high billing. Companies learned their lesson and “Rouge One”’s Jyn Erso was more prominent but I feel like common sense should have been used.
If little girls can’t buy toys of their inspirational icons then what’s the point of having them in the first place? The cycle of sexism will keep perpetuating.
As a straight white dude it's not really my place to tell you life's bad for women and minorities. But to an extent it's my place to tell other white dudes to shut up, listen and amplify the voices of the disenfranchised. Use current events as a catalyst for positive change.