Tag Archives: x-men

X-Men: First Class: 2 STARS`

*In the recent past (when you’re retired keeping track of the days is hard) Mark Ruffalo was trending on Facebook. According to the headlines this was because he had just written a biting put down of the ‘I’m not a feminist’ movement (thankfully I’ve vetted my Facebook friends so thoroughly I was not even aware that this was a movement). After a little investigation I discovered that what had actually happened is that he had re-blogged a post by Libby Anne Bruce in March. It is mysterious to me why this took 4 months to make news, nor why Ms Bruce’s name was mentioned only very sparsely in these stories – I guess there’s a reason that that Parks and Recreation episode where Ron Swanson was nominated woman of the year resonated with people – but it’s still a good story so well done Mark for being an ally and yeah not being a feminist is pretty dumb.Here’s a link to the original post, because Ruffalo’s blog, headed by a massive picture of his head which I found really funny and I’m not sure why, already has enough press http://dumbledoresarmy-againstbigotry.tumblr.com/post/92696008814/my-response-to-the-i-am-not-a-feminist-internet*

(SPOILERS. As ever. I should be clear however that this is not the most recent X-Men film (Days of Future Past, man how that title made it to the final draft I will never know) This is the first X-Men film since the McAvoy/Fassbender reboot. CN for violent interrogation/torture, violence against women of a variety of kinds and scenes from the Nazi concentration camps and SO MANY scenes with ladies in fancy underwear. I’m trying to find out whether that is what the 60s were actually like but I really think I would have heard about it if women only wore lingerie in the 60s, I just think it would have got back to me)

“They’re just guys being stupid” – Mystique

“Guys being stupid I can handle, I’ve handled that my whole life, but I’d rather they looked at me with my clothes off than how they just looked at me” – Angel

In a lot of ways this film is good. It is very aesthetically pleasing. It is a genuinely good reboot of a much loved franchise from our youth. It has an excellent, large cast of exciting actors. But it’s presentation of women is terrible. Unreservedly terrible. It falls into every pitfall a film can fall into. Using its female characters only to develop their male counterparts, casual misogyny that is not properly criticised, violence against women which is not sufficiently distanced from actual real life violence that women suffer, and so much objectification, all the objectification there is. What’s worse is that there are lots of women in the film, it could be a great alternative to exclusively/mainly male superhero teams. But that opportunity is not taken. In a lot of ways I still enjoy the film, but only in the way it’s kind of fun to hang out with someone you think is evil; just to see how far they’ll go.

The Bechdel Test

– Developed female relationships

(Ok so the above quotation is the only time they could have passed. But it lasts for 2 lines. And is about the endless misogyny women face from men and how this is compounded by other forms of prejudice. So it doesn’t pass. Even though Mystique, Angel, Moira and Emma are all characters who could totally talk to one another and form relationships. Once again we are shown that women talking to one another is not interesting. Only flirting is interesting (obviously we’re assuming everyone is straight, because that’s just what we assume in films right?) Oh and flirting normally includes a lot of paternalistic bull shit, but more on that later)

STAR: Non- stereotyped Female Characters

– STAR: Developed, prominent female characters

(I think Jennifer Lawrence takes this by herself. No one else is given much opportunity to develop as anything other than reformed/undercover strippers. Wow that is actually a description that fits all of the other 3 named female characters. I wish that was because the film was genuinely interested in exploring the idea of women exposing their bodies for the pleasure of male onlookers and how that might effect their sense of self, but I think it’s just an excuse to have as many scenes as possible in strip clubs. Anyway Mystique, played by Lawrence, goes on an actual journey where she realises she’s more politically radical than her old friend Charles and is no longer interested in hiding her mutation. However, this political journey is framed almost entirely around the men in her life, her father/brother Charles, her potential cute young boyfriend Nicholas Hoult/Hank with the promise of looking ‘normal’ or an exciting adult relationship with Fassbender/Magneto who wants her to be herself. OR DOES HE. Telling someone they are an exquisite creature, like a tiger, is not actually a great compliment because tigers are great and all but they’re not people, they’re not as clever as people, and they don’t have as many rights as people. So yeah didn’t love that. Also it’s what Kevin Bacon says to January Jones after he sends her to get him more ice for his drink. She can read minds and he sends her to get ice. In conclusion there is character development but it is surrounded by a disgusting sea of misogyny)

No excessive air of misogyny

–  No rigid adherence to gender norms

(No more stars for you X-Men. I mean I’ve kind of covered this with the whole ‘exquisite creature’ phenomenon. Professor Xavier also accuses Mystique of being ‘awfully concerned with her looks’ while she tries to come to terms to that fact that she is BLUE. Disguising women’s struggles with racism, objectification or eating disorders as vanity is textbook and from the future leader of the X-Men PhD it is disturbingly normalised. I’ve already mentioned that Bacon sends Emma Frost to seduce Russian politicians and do menial chores when she has the same power as Professor X and that power is MIND CONTROL right? I think I might have. Why does she sit in her actual underwear while that Russian general thinks he’s having sex with a spectral version of her? Why would that require her to actually take her clothes off? And can’t she just tell him to do what she wants in much the same way that Prof X tells people to get into cars and stuff? I think the answer to all these questions is that although she has the most amazing mind in the world her body is seen to be more interesting to viewers. Maybe)

No Excessive Female Exposure or Sexualisation

– No objectification of the female body

(Yeah so every scene with January Jones involves sparkling underwear, Magneto’s tiger argument to Mystique is that she should not only always be blue, she should always be naked (is she not cold? being naked is cold). He definitely had no vested interest in making that suggestion. Also a lot is made by the FBI that Moira is a woman and so will probably be shit at her job and just start kissing her colleagues (which is kind of what happens so we’re not exactly directed to scoff at this institutional misogyny). On top of this her first scene involves her going undercover in the first of many strip clubs. This is not an assigned mission it is one she takes on herself, because women love taking off their clothes. They also love wearing incredibly fancy underwear to stake outs. Stake outs where you sit in a car for hours. That’s when you definitely want to be wearing a garter belt. Obviously. Oh and Angel’s super hero costume looks very much like the costume she wore when she was a stripper. So that was great)

No Gratuitous or Trivialising Scenes of Rape or Male Violence Against Women

– No threat of male violence against women

(So this is the section I find most unforgivable. You can make an argument that Kevin Bacon is mean to Emma Frost because he’s evil, that Professor X is rejected by Mystique for his paternalistic nonsense and that Magneto is, that dreaded phrase used to excuse misogyny everywhere ‘morally ambiguous’. But his moral ambiguity stretches to trying to strangle 2 women to death, one of whom (January, obviously) is in her underwear at the time. One of them, Moira, he blames for shooting his friend, even though she was clearly trying to shoot him and shooting him is not dangerous at all because he can control metal. You can see how he justifies that to himself. But Emma Frost, although she’s working with Shaw, the Nazi who killed his mother, would only have been a child like himself when the Nazis were in power and has now dedicated her life to the mutant supremacy cause, a cause he continually advocates. When he needs a telepath he manages to put her association with Shaw behind him. So maybe he didn’t want to kill her because of that, maybe he just likes strangling women, Like the superhero he is)

So 2 stars (absolutely pathetic) and 5 bonus points for representation which is a surprisingly high number although, as always it does not measure the quality of the representation involved. 1 is for Jane Goldman who co-wrote the screenplay, all I can really say about her is that I really liked Stardust which she also co-wrote and I like her red hair, other than that I’m basically out. 1 for BME women although this is a bit tricky. Basically Zoe Kravitz (daughter of Lenny Kravitz) plays Angel. So far, so rockstar daughter. However Angel’s last name is Salvadore suggesting to me that she is supposed to be Latina. One again the demon of interchangeable brownness rears its head in Western cinema. White and non-white are not the two kinds of people that there are Hollywood, come on. (House of Cards is also a big offender for this with the wonderful and very palpably South Asian Sakina Jaffrey playing Linda Vasquez, just FYI). 1 for working class women because Angel is a stripper by trade, 1 for women in masculine roles because being in the FBI/a superhero is masculine however little actual action The Men let you see and 1 for explicit discussion of feminist issues (see top). So in conclusion a bad show all round, everything good to be said comes with a massive qualifier, and the bad stuff ranges from laughable to genuinely horrifying. For a team which is 50% female the X-Men sure do live up to their name.

*A note on the comics. I am woefully uninformed on this so this is less a note and more of a question: Does anyone know whether all this bullshit originates there or whether it’s new to the films? It is definitely in the previous 3 films from our childhood, none of which I think pass the Bechdel test, but it would be interesting to know whether it’s in the comics. Do let me know if you have any info on this dear internet folk*