Don't Judge a Superhero by Her Movie Poster Jessica Tholmer

I am going to begin this by admitting that I am not the biggest superhero movie fan. I do not mean that I do not enjoy superhero movies, I mean that I cannot rattle off the statistics about them, I cannot tell you how many actors have played Superman, I cannot take part in a conversation about movies versus comic books concerning original story lines. But I do like them–for what it is worth–I do enjoy watching an action packed filled story that is backed with emotion. Yes, even if Ben Affleck will be playing Batman (who has always been my favorite superhero).

But there is something I can talk about, superhero or otherwise, and that is equality. (Shocker, I know.) I have become absolutely enamored with the actresses who have played strong female roles in superhero movies over the last few years, and not just because their characters are badasses, but because the actresses themselves have spoken up.

Interviewer: Firstly Robert, in Iron Man 1 and 2, Tony Stark started off as a very egotistical character but now learns how to fight as a team, so how did you approach this role bearing in mind the kind of maturity of the Tony Stark character and did you learn anything throughout the movies that you make?

And to Scarlett, for getting into the shape of Black Widow, did you have anything special to count as a diet, any specific food or that kind of thing?

Robert Downey Jr: If I’ve learned anything, it’s that people are much more interested in your second question to Scarlett than any answer I have to give.

Scarlett Johansson: How come you get the really interesting existential question and I get the rabbit food question?

I should not have to point out how incredibly insulting that question is because Black Widow is a complex, mysterious, awesome character, and Johansson did a supreme job representing that in the role. Yet…we cannot get past what she ate to not bulge out of the suit? All superhero costumes are tight, yet men are never asked that question.

The wonderful Anne Hathaway is also known for shooting down dumb interview questions, namely when she called out an interviewer for asking her about fitting into the suit she wore for Catwoman.
anne

I can almost guarantee, if you are a wise reporter, that these two lovely superheroes (in real life and on film) have helped curb the inane questions about fitting into their costumes in the future. However, who is going to call out the artists and production teams who create the movie posters?

I have known Justin Huertas since middle school and thanks to social networking, I have been able to creepily stalk and support his work in theater and as an artist. I could not stop thinking about something he posted the other day, his recreation of the posters for the second Captain America movie. It was almost a casual find, simply stuck on my newsfeed alongside pictures of breastfeeding, Seahawks pride, and funny e-cards about being single on Valentine’s Day. This is better than that, though. This is above what anyone ate for lunch.

The caption was simply: “Today’s sketch is brought to you by Feminism.”

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Like one of those “spot the differences” picture games, I stared at the sketch for quite some time. I didn’t even notice how silly Captain America looked at first because I was so stuck on how fierce Black Widow looked. It is absolutely insane that, even in a picture where the female character is holding a gun in each hand, the producers still attempt to make her seem dainty and over-sexual whereas Captain America’s stance is broad and tough.

Take some time to spot the differences, and make your own conclusions.

It is great that women have roles greater than the damsel in distress in superhero movies, absolutely. But a better interpretation of Black Widow exists in Huertas’ sketch than on a poster that likely cost millions to create and disperse, which is, simply put, pathetic.

Thank you to my old pal for calling attention to something that even the loudest, proudest feminist almost missed.

I wish we were taking strides instead of baby steps, but beggars can’t be choosers.

Huertas sketch via permission from the artist, Anne image via feminspire.

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  3. I know the author said that she isn’t familiar with the comic storylines but the interesting thing here is that Black Widow is much less sexualised in the Marvel films than she is in the comics. Comic book characters are often named after their powers…think about that…”Black Widow” What are black widows known for? Being extremely dangerous and backstabbing their lovers….in the pages, Black Widow is an untrustworthy spy/assassin who uses her sexuality to manipulate heroes to get information from them. I actually appreciate the fact that aside from a few butt shots and maybe the movie posters, Black Widow is actually a strong female character in the films as opposed to the “man eater” persona of the comics… I do have to disagree with the author on the body question though… Downey Jr. was not asked about his diet/workout because he wears a robot suit but go check out any other interview with any male action star and you will see that they are also asked about these things…

  4. I agree with both Dustin and Johanna. Too often we point the feminist finger and say: THAT’S SEXIST! When, really, it isn’t sexist or anti-feminist at all. We have to be careful about doing this because it undermines those who are battling TRUE sexism. This article bothers me for this reason. Stop, everyone, please stop, overusing the term sexist and calling every thing that feminizes women or masculinizes men as sexist. IT ISN’T SEXIST to paint women as feminine beings and men as masculine beings. IT IS, however, sexist to say that ALL women are feminine or that ALL men are masculine. IT IS SEXIST (to BOTH sexes) to make all women out to be weak and powerless and all men out to be overbearing and powerful pigs. BUT THIS ARTICLE DOES NOT POINT OUT TRUE SEXISM; NOT ONE EXAMPLE IT GIVES IS TRULY SEXIST because the questions (as Dustin points out in his comment) are fair, and Black Widow is (as Johanna points out in her comment) a woman who uses her feminine sexuality in order to subdue bad people. So, let’s stop focusing on ridiculous false accusations of sexism and actually deal with the examples that truly exist and matter. End Rant.

  5. I think the point about the diet question is rather unfair for two reasons.

    1) Men DO get those types of questions. Hell, I still have a copy of an article that was published when 300 came out where the cast were asked to go into detail about the workouts they did to get into that kind of shape. I also remember a huge deal being made about Christian Bale’s bulking up for Batman Begins and how he did THAT. At best you could argue that this ONE INTERVIEWER had off-balance interests, but to pretend that doesn’t happen to men is patently false.

    2) The questions seemed rather fair to me as Stark had changed a lot over the course of the movies where Black Widow hadn’t. Don’t get me wrong, I love the character and she plaid it quite well, but by and large she’s fairly static in terms of her personality, there hasn’t been the drastic change for her that there has for Tony. Her biggest change was hair style between Iron Man 1 and 2. What sort of serious existential question would you like her to have been asked?

    I’m also very much in agreement with what Johanna had to say about the posters, and I have very little to add to that comment so I’ll just say “Yeah! What she said!” lol

  6. But the Black Widow is a character who owns her sexuality, and uses it to her advantage… Generally, I would agree with you, but here, I think the poster is very much in line with what the character is, both her and Captain America… so yeah, I don’t see this as that bad. I actually think she looks pretty damn fierce & deadly!
    What I am MUCH more annoyed with when it comes to Marvel movie posters is that they pretty much ALWAYS push the women to the back, even when they are central to the story! It’s most apparent on the X-Men ones, especially Origins: Wolverine, where Gambit, who has a tiny tiny part in that movie, is more central than Kayla, who is one of the major players.
    That’s definitely messed up!