Slandering Others Anonymously

All things movies – news, reviews, and podcasts

On superheroes and casual misogyny

First off, hey all. The site is not dead! Extremely rarely updated, yes. But not dead. My attentions have been occupied elsewhere.

Anyway, as you probably know, the first few months of the year are often completely awful for movies. You get the odd indie gems (like Spring, which you should all watch immediately), but they’re few and far between. Thankfully, summer is almost upon us. Blockbuster season! This means you can expect more writing about films here in the coming months.

But hey, even during slow periods, sometimes stories fall into your lap. So let’s get to the subject of this post’s title. In this case, it’s the story of a press tour question gone bad. Have a look at the video above, and then let’s dive in.

Oh man… Ouch, right? There are a few things to unpack here. First of all, you have the usual range of reactions. Everything from, “Oh who cares? They were just kidding,” to rather more… uh, condemning remarks.

That last tweet mentions apologies, and yes, both Chris Evans and Jeremy Renner apologized. One of them managed to do it correctly, and the other? Well, let’s see…

Evans: “Yesterday we were asked about the rumors that Black Widow wanted to be in a relationship with both Hawkeye and Captain America… We answered in a very juvenile and offensive way that rightfully angered some fans. I regret it and sincerely apologize.”

Renner: “I am sorry that this tasteless joke about a fictional character offended anyone… It was not meant to be serious in any way. Just poking fun during an exhausting and tedious press tour.”

As you can see, Evans opted for the sincere route, whereas Renner went with the always delightful, “I’m sorry you can’t take a joke,” non-apology.

Look. As a straight, white, middle-class dude, I’ll be the first to admit I’m not particularly offended by anything either of these guys said. It was a stupid question to begin with, so they gave a stupid answer. But what I don’t get is the dismissive attitude toward those who were offended. Whether these guys were joking or not, their remarks were clearly offensive to some people. So why not just apologize? It’s not hard.

Instead, Renner basically doubled-down on his original dumb joke. He weirdly referenced his “exhausting and tedious” press obligations as though that somehow gave him license to be a dick. And he jumped on the same line of reasoning many of his defenders used on Twitter, saying he was talking about a “fictional character.” But what does that even have to do with anything? The characters may be fictional, but the movies are still watched by real people. And in the case of superhero movies, a good percentage of that audience is made up of young, impressionable minds. Imagine a young kid out there who sees Captain America and Hawkeye casually joking about Black Widow being a “slut” and a “whore.” These guys are role models of a sort, and, well, to borrow a phrase, “With great power comes great responsibility.”

I know what you might be thinking. “Look, everyone knows it was a dumb joke. It’s fine.”

Incorrect.

You know it was a dumb joke. And I know it was a dumb joke. But to a random kid out there, it’s, “Hey, this is how my heroes are talking, so it must be okay.”

I’ve been frustrated with this whole “outrage culture” thing before. This mindset where everyone gets offended by seemingly every-goddamn-thing. In the past, I probably would’ve been right there alongside those saying this whole episode was no big deal.

But it is a big deal. Consider the recently released study of female filmmakers in Hollywood, which found that for the top 1,300 highest-grossing films released from 2002 to 2014, the ratio of male directors to female directors was a little more than 23 to 1. This is an industry where women are pigeonholed, and just don’t get the same opportunities guys do. That’s a problem.

Okay, so casually throwing around a bunch of outdated stereotypes might not necessarily “hold women back” as one of the Twitter commenters sarcastically put it above. But it speaks to an underlying mindset in the culture. One that says it’s okay to put women down as long as “everyone knows” we’re “just joking around.”

One of the questions I always come back to when looking at my behaviour (or anyone else’s, for that matter) is, “What if the shoe was on the other foot?” In this case, what if I were a young woman, interested in making movies? I see two popular actors making dumb comments about women, and then I see the Tweets and comments chiming in with more dumb jokes, and trying to stifle those who took offense. I think, “Maybe this industry isn’t for me after all.”

Maybe you think I’m blowing things out of proportion. But I love movies. I love movies of all kinds that show me different people’s perspectives. And the world needs more Mary Harrons and Ava DuVernays and Susanne Biers and Sofia Coppolas and Gina Prince-Bythewoods and Michelle McLarens and Patty Jenkinses and Katheryn Bigelows. If the kinds of comments so casually leveled by Jeremy Renner and Chris Evans cause young women out there to think twice about a career in film? Well fuck that.

And before you get all nutty, I’m not saying that Renner and Evans have singlehandedly deprived us of the next generation’s great female filmmaker. But what I am saying is their comments are contributing to the “old boys’ club” culture of Hollywood, and that’s not cool and they damn well should be called out for it.

It’s always been strange to me how people get really uptight when you try to tell them to be nice. For as many people as there were who took offense to this whole thing, there were at least as many who took the opportunity to rage about political correctness run amok. And I can sort of understand that. I believe in freedom of speech. I don’t like censorship. Personally, I’m of the belief that anything can be funny (including jokes that use words like “slut” and “whore”).

The problem here is the context. A press tour is not the time and place for this shit. In a comedy club? Give me the filthiest, darkest comedians on earth. Give me George Carlin and Louis CK and Bill Hicks and Sam Kinison and Doug Stanhope all day. Let them say whatever horrible, bizarre stuff they can come up with in the name of getting a laugh. It’s understood they’re trying to be offensive on purpose. But on the press tour for your multibillion dollar franchise film? Keep it classy. I don’t think that’s too much to ask.

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