Rarely in the middle of a cinematic experience do I feel the need to whip out my notebook in the dark theatre and start scrawling notes. I did that last night.
NOT because the film was bad. But because it was very good. SO good, that the problems I had with it were that much more upsetting and disappointing. Nothing kills me more than lost potential. (Goddammit, Prometheus)
Problem 1: Where My Ladies At?
First and foremost, this film not only fails the Bechdel test, it is a prime example of why the Bechdel test exists in the first place.
If the comic books did not dictate that a particular character exist and, in fact, have a vagina…that character did not have a vagina.
Lara, Martha, Lois, and Bad Kryptonian Lady were the main females. I was not disappointed with their portrayal. Not at all. Well cast, written just fine for their purpose.
My PROBLEM, however, is with all the women that were NOT present. There were so many peripheral characters that could have EASILY been played by women. The scientist, the General, the air force pilot, the other reporter at the newspaper…I could go on. In spite of the fact that women exist in real life as scientists, generals, pilots, and reporters, every single one of these roles were played by men.
But, you say, there was that girl at the Planet! And there were some female soldiers!
The girl at the Planet was an intern, and she not only barely spoke, but when she did it was mostly to fall apart at crunch time and beg the men to save her in spite of the fact that their lives were in danger. Way to not only NOT be brave, but endanger the lives of others by being a weepy, whiny waste of space.
The two female soldiers that were even a little memorable were A) tiny in stature for some reason and B) eye rollingly annoying. One of them had to ask what terraforming was and looked like she was about 17 years old. The other was a Captain, but her only line was to mention how hot Superman is.
I am SO GODDAMN TIRED of this SAME GODDAMN ARGUMENT.
Women exist in positions of power IN REAL LIFE. Women exhibit heroism every day IN REAL LIFE.
It’s time we start seeing that portrayed in pop culture in something other than cable networks and what Joss Whedon has written. NOW.
Stop it with the Jesus symbolism. Heroic deeds and self sacrifice happen every day. Ask anyone who knows a member of the armed forces, or anyone who knows a cop or fireman. Taking a super hero film (I’m looking RIGHT AT YOU Spiderman and Matrix: Revolutions) and randomly throwing in a SUPER OBVIOUS crucifixion pose is just annoying. Stop it. It’s unnecessary.
In a post-9/11 society, you should never portray a catastrophic loss of life without showing the consequences. Too many people all over the world are intimately aware of the grief and trauma involved with major disasters. Terrorism, tsunamis, tornadoes, wildfires…we have all seen more wanton destruction than our brains can properly process. Please do not subject us to entire cities being reduced to ash while ignoring the fact that mothers, fathers, spouses, brothers, and sisters are inside those buildings that you are destroying.
It’s only a movie?
Well, I don’t know about you, but I can’t watch a skyscraper fall to the ground without my heart stopping for just a moment. Without feeling that ghost of grief like a phantom limb. Without being haunted by it hours after.
If you must do it, make sure it MATTERS. Make sure it has a true MEANING.
Don’t ever do it because you just want to one up the last guy.
Man of Steel is an unfortunate reminder that we have a very, very long way to go before Hollywood stops being a vapid and shallow boys’ club that treats their audience like a collective group of seventh graders.
It’s time we demanded better. Loudly.