What’s Wrong With This Picture? It’s All About ConteXt-Men
There’s been a mini-controversy rolling around the past couple of weeks. Technically, since it’s the internet age it was a controversy for a couple days and then most people moved onto the next thing, but it’s kept popping up into my view and certain things about how it was presented to me irritated me so much that I wanted to say something about it on the only real platform I have. Now, to start things off, I’m as much of a feminist as a middle-aged white male can be. And what really brought me to action here was when I did the one thing that you should never do: I read the comments.
Above is the billboard in question, it seems simple enough as it’s a notable image from the film and from the trailer. But when you look at it from a more feminist perspective, you begin to see the problem. This is a billboard that glorifies violence against women. It’s impact may be small, but that’s not exactly the issue here, the issue is that there is an impact, and largely that’s because this image is given without context. And what brought this controversy to light, as is often the case in one of these controversies, was from the social media involvement of a celebrity, specifically Rose McGowan. While not the initial post, here’s a tweet of her sharing part of the story.
When I read her side of the story, and the eventual apology from 20th Century Fox, it made perfect sense to me. She wasn’t asking for the removal of the scene from the film, just from their use in the marketing materials where it’s being presented without the crucial context of how it plays out within the film. A few days went by and I saw the story pop up again in my Facebook feed, but there was a difference. The headline of the story had a slight sarcastic bent to it “…aaand Fox has to apologize for this one. We wonder why.” It’s entirely possible that the sarcasm was unintentional, especially since the actual article seemed to be mildly in favor of the removal of the billboard. But what irritated me the most were the comments. Dozens of comments all questioning why the billboard was removed by a bunch of whiny SJWs who “need to die … as well”, and they included several arguments as to why there was nothing wrong with the billboard, and I thought I’d address the most prominent one.
“Mystique strangled plenty of men in the movies”. Yes, this fact is true. But this entire argument isn’t about the film. It’s about the marketing. While Mystique has strangled men in the earlier movies, none of those were used as prominent billboards advertising the movie. McGowan wasn’t calling for the removal of the scene from the film. She was just asking for the removal of the billboard. The important difference here is context. Yes, there are many people who can look at this billboard and read all the contextual clues. They are familiar enough with the X-Men as a whole, or they have seen the trailers. But there are plenty of people, especially children who don’t get that context and just see a man strangling a woman and it’s being presented as if there is nothing wrong with it. On top of that, when you see the scene in the context of the film, or even in the context of the trailer you understand more of the context. But not only that, the strangling is only a tiny percentage of the entire trailer, and it’s an even smaller percentage of the entire movie. When it’s put on a billboard, it becomes 100% of the ad. There are no other characters, there is nothing else to dilute this image of a violent act being committed towards a woman. So yes, I do agree with Fox and Rose McGowan for the decision to remove the billboard and I hope this is something that doesn’t happen again in the near future. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.