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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

oh, and here’s why strong female superheroes matter

thoughtwewouldntnotice

As I was preparing that last post, about how little girls get female superheroes better than grownups, a small amount of hell was breaking loose on Twitter as British film nerds starting sharing a horrendously awful questionnaire the U.K. multiplex chain Cineworld had just sent out by email. You can see the whole cringe-inducing thing at the site of critic Craig Skinner [warning: PDF], via whom I first learned of this. But here are the tasty outtakes — and by tasty, of course, I mean clueslessly sexist, blinkered, and stupid.

Superheroes are all dudes:

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(Of course gay men could answer question No. 8, but there’s no comparable question for straight men or lesbian women. And there’s no analog for women for question No. 11, unless Cineworld is thinking about cross-gender casting.)

(Also note that on top of all the other awfulness, they spelled Nicolas Cage’s name wrong.)

Superheroes’ “love interests” are all women, and are only there to be rescued:

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(Note here that it’s not that the creator of this survey is unaware of female superheroes such as Black Widow or Catwoman… it’s just that it never occurs to this person that they actually are superheroes. They’re chicks, so they must be “leading ladies” subordinate to a man, whom they are only present to be rescued by.)

(Again, I’d love to think Cineworld was inviting men to think about playing female characters who must be rescued, or inviting women to think about rescuing characters, but somehow, I doubt such things crossed the mind of the writer. Such as that mind is.)

(I look forward to a world in which you could populate the responses to these questions with male love-interest characters who get rescued by both male and female, gay and lesbian superhero protagonists. In which case these questions might not be sexist and heteronormative.)

(Oops! Scarlett Johansson’s name is misspelled.)

When women think about men, they think about “dating” them (see above). When men think about women, it’s all about the sexy:

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(Carey Mulligan. They’re spelling it wrong.)

Cineworld does concede, however, that men were once sexy, but only in the 1980s:

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(To be fair to the sexist bullshit of our world, most of those guys are still working today. A comparable list of 80s actresses would make Cineworld’s demographic go, Who?)

Mostly, however, men are the super badass headliners of all the coolest movies, and are destined to reign forever:

cineworld8

(You can almost smell the oily funk of desperation as the writer flails around trying to come up with a single franchise headed up by a woman. I guess it means something that the attempt was made, even if it ended this badly.)

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(Perhaps needless to say, there is no question about which of today’s actresses will stand the test of time. Because, of course, they’ll all be dried-up old hags in 30 years’ time. See also: the lack of a question of sexiest 80s actresses.)

This shit matters. Shame on Cineworld for not getting it.



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  • Bluejay

    Hear, hear.

    Love the gif. And it reminds me that the Avengers crew have, in fact, noticed the lack of (and/or horrible depiction of) female superheroes. Whedon, Johansson, and company have aired some of their thoughts on the matter.

  • RogerBW

    …and that’s to say nothing of most questions probably favouring whichever one’s been in the news most recently, but that’s inevitable in a popularity-contest poll…
    Considering the sucess of Twilight and its kin in treating young male actors as slabs of meat (hey! Equality!), I think they’re missing a trick even by their own low standards.

  • teenygozer

    I remember thinking that Ellen Ripley was the beginning of a great era of amazing heroic leading roles for strong women, even though they mommed her in the second movie. It’s as if they feel they have to show a woman’s “soft” side by giving her a tiny adorable child to protect, or we’ll all think she’s too butch or something, but darned if it didn’t work, and would have worked just as well if they’d stuck a male leading character with a child (plus Newt turned out to be wonderful), so I accepted it. Then they went straight down the tubes with the next films in the franchise. So awful.

  • I cannot claim credit for the GIF. I went looking for images of Tony Stark being sarcastic and found this.

  • Newt wasn’t just wonderful: she was tougher than some of the Colonial Marines.

    So of course she had to be eliminated in the next film.

  • Danielm80

    (Also note that on top of all the other awfulness, they spelled Nicolas Cage’s name wrong.)

    I don’t think there’s one question on the survey without multiple, painful spelling errors. I expected to see “Spider-Man” misspelled, but not every single name on the list. It’s also puzzling that so much of the survey is devoted to Big Daddy. Honestly, I hadn’t even remembered that Nicolas Cage was in Kick-Ass.

    So, in summary, the survey was put together by idiots. That doesn’t excuse the sexism, but it might explain it. Every day the world gets a little stupider.

  • heatherbelles

    And despite the fact they included all the other Avengers on the various lists, poor Hawkeye’s not even an option (is that cos he’s not ‘Super’?)

    That is a horrendous questionnaire on so many different levels. Who the hell compiled it or thought it would be a good idea>

  • Captain_Swing666

    If you are a true Alien aficionado you don’t talk about Alien 3.

  • I also just noticed that Henry Cavill’s name is spelled wrong in one place.

  • Danielm80

    Also Pepper Potts and Angelina Jolie. And then there’s “Superhero’s” in question 12.

    Remarkably, I think Schwarzenegger is correct.

  • Ack! I missed those.

    That’s how much this thing totally fried my brain.

  • Dokeo

    I’m hoping we’ll get an update from the “real” Scarlett Johansson guy (oh please, oh please, oh please!).

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