Friday, January 31, 2014

Tough Love

Marvel, we need to talk. 

You know I love you.  I've watched The Avengers about 400 times (three times in theaters, approx 398 between DVD and Netflix), I've pleaded with you to give my favorite character some love, and so on.  I've even tried to deal with the fact that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is kind of disappointing (though there's a related issue there that we'll get back to in a minute).  And I couldn't possibly be more excited for Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier.  Which is why we need to talk about this poster: 


This thing is a hot mess.  But we're not even going to talk about the orange and blue-ness, or the fact that an aircraft is careening straight for Robert Redford, or the general ADD-chihuahua-on-meth business of it all.  We have bigger fish to fry.  Two pretty big fish, in fact. 

Problem One: The Black Widow blow-up doll. 
This is how Scarlett looked
in Iron Man 2.
How is this not good enough?

Scarlett Johansson is basically perfect, aesthetically speaking.  And that's certainly part of the reason she was hired to play the Black Widow – the target demographic here isn't really any secret (though I think it's more diverse than the marketing would suggest, but that's another post for another day).  And part of the BW character is certainly her beauty and balletic grace.  But she also happens to be a superspy assassin who we've seen beat dudes up while tied to a chair, take out multiple hostile aliens with their own weaponry, and take out a whole facility worth of heavies before Tony Stark's bodyguard even got passed one dude. 

So it's a bit upsetting to see her in a completely non-action pose here, laid out like a centerfold in a "look at my digitally-enhanced breasts!" stance.  It's even more upsetting that her skin looks like plastic, her eyes look lifeless, and her breasts and waist have been "adjusted." 

Cap and Nick Fury look like badasses.  Black Widow looks like a swimsuit model.   Now this isn't a new thing in comics, of course.  The internet is filled with jokes and angry rants about the difference in the way male and female characters are presented and the gap between the powers that be and female fans.  (Don't even get me started on Marvel Divas, it gives me rage blackouts.)  But wouldn't giving such a badass character a featured role in a movie about the American Dream incarnate be the perfect place to not fuck that up?  Apparently not. 

Problem Two:  The missing Falcon.
I could only find concept art of the wings; they'll probably be CGI.
Did you know that the Falcon is going to be in this movie?  Anthony Mackie is playing him.  He's even rumored to be in Avengers 2.   And he looks pretty badass in the pics released so far. 

But you wouldn't know any of that from this poster, because he isn't on it.  Robert Redford is tucked in there, and the antagonist is, (which makes sense since he's in the title), but no Falcon.  The character has shared plenty of comic book covers with Cap, but he didn't make the poster?

This might seem less bad without the fact that any black character on AoS has wound up either a victim, or an antagonist, or both.  (Told you we'd get back to that.  Though it does look like Michael Peterson will be back–  SPOILER ALERT as to how –  so maybe that's a step forward there.)  It's starting to look like if you're black and not Samuel L. Jackson, Marvel doesn't have a whole lot of use for you.  And that's a pretty big problem. 

Now it's true that the filmmakers don't have much control over the trailers and promotional materials once a film is finished.  But I have to think that Marvel does have a final say over their product and how it's being presented to the world.  And right now the message Marvel is sending is:  girls, your job is to be pretty spank bank fodder, and minorities, we don't need you unless you're Samuel L. Jackson or can do kung fu. 

That's a pretty big problem.  Because comic book fans aren't just little white boys.  Women read comics.  Minorities read comics.  And we want to be represented as more than accessories and sidekicks.  Marvel is putting out some really high-quality product these days, and they've played a huge part in making comics mainstream again.  They could use that platform to help move the industry forward.  And would it even be that controversial to show Black Widow looking like a badass or to show the Falcon at all?  These aren't things that would tank the marketing.  But they might make the whole experience more welcoming for a big part of the audience.  It's time to let go of the idea of the old boys' club of nerd-dom, because the rest of us busted down the doors years ago. 


  1. Right on all points! Aontaím leat.

  2. Huh. Damn thing ate my first comment. Well, much of it was speculation anyway. Except for the part where I bashed George Clooney who thinks Hollywood is some sort of Liberal oasis. Nuh uh, Hollywood has never been as Liberal as he (or Fox News for that matter) thinks it is. A Liberal Hollywood would've never let a propagandistic piece of crap like Zero Dark Thirty out there.

  3. My first ever comment on your blog, Tara, and not a moment too soon. Great article. Personally, I'm probably one of the few men in the world who don't find Johansson attractive at all, and don't find Black Widow particularly interesting, but even I still think she deserved far more dignity on that goofy poster than she received. The comparison of that photoshopped fiasco to a blow-up doll are, sadly, rather apt !

  4. I agree with you about Scarlet, but...

    "It's starting to look like if you're black and not Samuel L. Jackson, Marvel doesn't have a whole lot of use for you."

    Really now.

    Iron Man 1:
    Iron Man 2:
    Thor 2:

    And the Falcon has also been in both of the trailers, which are way more important in terms of marketing.