How Women Defeat Themselves at the Movies

There has been much jaw flapping and anger as of late in regards to the treatment of women in films. Avenger’s director Joss Whedon left Twitter among the complaints about the film’s treatment of Black Widow. But are these arguments justified? Aren’t there other movies that are even more of a farce in regards to feminism? The answers are: No; Yes.

Let’s take a minute to look at The Avengers: Age of Ultron. In the sequel to the comic book based mega production, Tony Stark accidently creates Ultron, an AI that is intent on killing every human on the planet. The Avengers assemble to defeat this great evil. But along the way, much needed character development is introduced and our superheroes stop being one dimensional stereo-types. Thor shows real fear, Cap starts to adapt to his surrounding, and Black Widow and Hawkeye delve into the world of personal relationships. (Stop here if you’re avoiding spoilers).Avengers-Age-of-Ultron-Black-Widow-and-Hulk

It seems that Black Widow having a real conversation about not being able to have children is unfeminist and liking children as a women is unfeminist. I thought it was a great way to round out a character who is tough as nails: having a real conversation with her relationship partner about what may or may not be in her future. She is not whining or pining or acting like that is her only calling in life, she is having a logical conversation about events that have happened in her life. There are other examples against Black Widow, and the movie as a whole, but I would like to make another point.

I know that Black Widow is not a perfect character. Like so many comic women she is over sexualized (and really if she would wear less tight pants she could run faster). These are not faults of Whedon but with the way women are perceived in comic book and Hollywood culture. It’s especially infuriating when women perpetuate it.

I saw Hot Pursuit and came out steaming mad. The movie wasn’t very good but that wasn’t what angered me so much. It was the outright stereotyping of women that had been crying out about after Ultron, but no one was saying anything about it in this movie.

Hot PursuitHot Pursuit tries to flip the usually male-centered cop and detainee story by casting Reese Witherspoon and Sophia Vergara as the stars. Like so many of these stories, a cop is in charge of a member of witness protection but things go south and the two must go on the lam. Include bad cops, rednecks in trucks, and thousands of shots of Vergara’s butt and that is the entirety of the movie’s plot.

The movie is one giant cliché. Weatherspoon plays Cooper who is trying to make it in a man’s world and jokes fly about how girly she is not. There are jokes about her height, her hair and her fashion. Vegara’s character is nothing but the caricatured mamacita with no depth or realism. In the first fourth of the movie, Vergara wears a dress whose top looks just like one of my bras! The movie goes over the top with menstrual jokes and the awkward and creepy romantic relationship Cooper pursues. There was no way Cooper could stay single huh? That was the ultimate make-over for the character: dress in high heels and get a boyfriend.

I shouldn’t have to say that these flaws were at the very heart of the Ultron criticism expect that this movie was directed and produced by women. This was one of Witherspoon’s pet projects. She or director Anne Fletcher could have stood up at any point and say when things went over the line, or could have agreed not to do it at all. This is when feminism is defeated, when women defeat themselves.

So we ask ourselves do we want our females is low cut tops and kicking ass or in see-through dresses making out with each other? The answer: neither, but I will take the girl who is kick ass and rounded as character any day.

Whedon’s Talent Pales on the Big Screen

Joss Whedon is best known for his TV projects: Buffy the Vampire Slayer and its spin off Angel, Firefly and the ill-fated Dollhouse. Each TV show pushed the limits of reality as well as told moral stories in new and intriguing ways. His big screen work has been minimal with his best work in the screenplays of Toy Story and Atlantis and culminating in his last two big screen productions Cabin in the Woods and The Avengers. Neither of these lives up to the Whedon reputation.

Vacation, I’ve got to Get Away

Cabin in the Woods, Blu-ray & DVD

Written by Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard

This is possibly one of the worst horror movies I have ever seen. I was hoping that the Whedon half not responsible for Cloverfield would balance out the movie. But I was very wrong. The problem with this movie starts with the trailers.

From watching the trailer, I had a very different movie in mind. The trailer portrayed people being psychologically tested at their vacation cabin. The movie itself even hints at this with people in lab coats at a testing center and the two way mirror in the cabin. The movie abruptly curves away from that idea. Suddenly, the vacationers are being attacked by monster so they can be sacrificed to a god. The people in the test chamber are releasing the beings as the victims unknowingly call them out and take bets on what monsters they will choose. The sacrifice only counts if the victims choose their method of slaughter of their own free will. This begs the questions: What the hell are all the people there for? Just to house the beasts?

The movie becomes a more bizarre version of The Hunger Games as those in the control chamber cause an avalanche so the victims can’t escape. (It seems that that their free will can only go so far.) Zombies, mermaids, slashers, and a variety of mythological monster are released on the victims as well as the center itself leading to a blood bath that knows neither end nor reality. The twist? The people we are rooting for escaping can only save the world if they are killed.

In what is supposed to be poking fun at stock horror characters, each character is based on a movie stereotype: the jock, the slut, and the stoner. But any humor or sarcasm that was written in the screenplay was lost when portrayed by the actors. Chris Hemsworth does a horrible job, and I wonder how he went on to play Thor. Whedon alumni Amy Acker, Fran Kranz and Tom Lenk are the only actors that really put in a good performance. And it seems Kristin Connolly thinks she is Felicia Day but does a horrible job imitating the actresses.

The film does not know how to contain itself. It knows no limits to what is believable or what people want to see. Stealing evil creatures from other movies seems less like homage than a lazy stealing of other people’s ideas. Like Cloverfield, Cabin lacks a focus that keeps the viewer intrigued.

After watching the film, I totally understand why it took two years for the film to get a distributor. Sloppily thrown together, the characters never develop and the plot never makes much sense. Instead it seemed like I was watching Mystery Science Theater with out Mike, Servo or Crowe.

How Many Superheroes Does it Take to Save the World?

The Avengers, Blu-Ray & DVD

Written & Directed by Joss Whedon

I can hear you now, “What? You don’t like The Avengers? Are you crazy?” It’s possible that I am, but this movie was not a great move, superhero or otherwise. The characters are one sided and stereotyped, the plot is stilted, and the writing is weak.

The plot is easily divided into three sections: putting the team together, the team fights with each other, and the team beats up the bad guys. It’s this final third of the movie that finally has good kicking evil’s butt. I had no fun watching the team squabble with each other and try to beat each other up. You’re all superheroes; no one’s going to win. It seems they forgot they had to work together to beat up the bad guy. But when this happens, the movie is everything it could be: gorgeous fight sequences, teamwork, and defeating evil. Each team member comes alive as they use their unique talents to win and the movie should have focused more on this.

It also suffers from one dimensional characters. The characters are stereotyped to a fault because there is no time for character development in this mess. Hawkeye and Black Widow have the most depth out of all the characters.  But if Hawkeye hadn’t been hijacked by Loki, the two would have been reduced to stereotypes. The Hulk is a giant nerd, Iron Man shows nothing but sarcasm, and Captain America is so anal I wanted someone to remove the stick from his butt. I have seen the movies that focus on these characters alone: the characters are all well developed with a variety of emotions and desires. But Whedon has pared them down to one note characters that you don’t even like. (I loved Captain the America the best out all the movies but hated his character in The Avengers).

Whedon, the king of witty comebacks (see any episode of Buffy) looses his magic here. Dialogue is childish and very rarely funny, even when it was meant to be. For such simple character and plot delineation, the movie was often time confusing. Why are the characters where they are? What is the point to this other than looking cool? That is the movie’s fatal flaw: looking cool without substance.

I think that is overall my issue with the movie. Whedon has written for Marvel and can write good comic book issues. But a movie is not a comic book, and this translation into live action leaves me wanting more.  With this current reincarnation of Batman and the X-Men franchise, I have become accustomed to much more depth in my comic based movies. I expect characters I care about, deep storyline, and real life parallels; Avenger falls short on all of that.

It looks good, there is a lot of butt kicking, but the story is at a loss.

“You’re a Thundering Loonie!”

From badly accented demi-gods to pot heads, the latest of Whedon’s work is sub par. When not writing for Disney, his work on the big screen falters, and he cannot recapture that magic from Buffy. Many of his big screen works are simplified ideas of characters and themes. Long live the Whedon TV show!