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Women in Media: 3 Questions & A Quote

Last night I saw The Avengers. This is not a review, although I enjoyed it and think it was the first superhero movie I have seen in theatre. Superhero movies are a genre that is distinctly lacking in my life.

Anyway. Prior to the viewing, I was chatting with two lovely ladies who had already seen the flick, and of course, we discussed the women on the big screen (Scarlett Johansson, Gwyneth Paltrow, Cobie Smulders). Karen brought up a very interesting series of questions that she asks about movies and their portrayal of female characters. They are:

  1. Is there more than one female character?
  2. Do the female characters talk to each other?
  3. Do they discuss anything other than other male characters?

Huh. Insightful questions.

Reminds me of a conversation with Wendy back when I watched my first Bond movie, and I wondered if we really have come all that far in the world of feminism and portrayal of women in film.

The answer, I believe, is yes and no. I know there are a lot of complex factors (women want to see romance played out on the big screen, etc etc), but I always appreciate the chance to think critically about the media I feed myself.

Related: this blog post from author Rachel Held Evans, someone I've recently discovered and come to admire.

But the way I see it, TIME gave us a something of a gift. By stripping that cover of all pretense, it revealed in plain language the lie behind so much of the media’s messages for women: If you aren’t a sexy, put-together, powerful, super-mom, who breastfeeds her kids until they’re four while baking apple pies, making crayon art, and investing in a successful career,  then you’re a failure. You will always fall short. You will never be enough. Such an idea is so absurd, it should elicit laughter, not groans.  It’s like millionized lashes and fortified fruit science—too stupid to take seriously!
And yet a small part of us believes it.

For the record, the female characters do not talk to each other in Avengers. And each one exists primarily in relation to a more/equally dominant male character.


Christina said…
Ah but they do talk to each other in Iron Man II, where in fact, the Black Widow temporarily works for Pepper.
jonathanturtle said…
Also, notice the difference in how Scarlett Johansson is portrayed in this movie poster compared with the men. Nice assets...
Beth said…
Christina - this is interesting. And they talk about things other than men? And this is in the movie, or in the comic book series?

JT - I KNOW, right!? I felt like there were so many shots of her butt. And Cobie's. Even in black plastic, they find a way to add some sexineiss.
jonathanturtle said…
It's central to the plot.

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