Stu Presents, Men & Women Of Action: When Genre & Gender Collide!

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Movie Forums Squirrel Jumper
There are some Bond movies with mysognystic undertones, but those Bond movies were in the 60s and 70s though, where as people critcizing male lead action movies, are criticizing the genre as a whole, up to today it seems, and not just a few movies from back in the 70s and earlier. People who are criticizing it today, probably haven't even heard of Sam Peckinpah for example.



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We should take a moment here to recognize Michael Biehn who blazed a trail for the male "girlfriend" role of the 1980s. Love interest for Sarah Connor and Ripley, Biehn proved that a man could be manly and masculine and heroic while playing second fiddle to a female protagonist. And women loved him. He was a heart throb for many.

Indeed, if the "girlfriend" roles for films with male leads were written and acted as well as his part were, I think there would be much less objection to the "girlfriend" role in film.



Movie Forums Squirrel Jumper
What about a movie like Moonraker I just watched recently? The main woman in that is tecnhically second fiddle, but she is punching male villains, and flipping them over her head, and making more badass remarks, etc. So would she be just as well written as those Michael Biehn characters?



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What about a movie like Moonraker I just watched recently? The main woman in that is tecnhically second fiddle, but she is punching male villains, and flipping them over her head, and making more badass remarks, etc. So would she be just as well written as those Michael Biehn characters?

I don't know. I honestly don't remember Moonraker that well.

Just spitballing here in terms of I think Biehn portrayed on screen (and what was written for him on the page) he showed

1. Volition. Character makes their own decisions and has their own goals. They can and will say "No" to the protagonist. Ultimately, the protagonist is leading, but they're not following like a puppy.

2. Capability. The character is largely self-sufficient. They can act in self-defense either through cunning or force. If you're only job as Lois Lane is to be captured by bad guys so that Superman can save you, then you're not really a capable character.

3. Narrative Purpose other than "something to have sex with" and "something for protagonist to protect." They should play a part that forwards the the plot beyond being desired, conquered, and protected by the protagonist.

4. Respect. Sounds cheesy, but is the fundamental dignity of the character valorized or is the characters an empty vessel?

What else can we add? Plenty, I am sure. We could turn to the Bechdel test, etc. We could also add examples (e.g., Max Cherry in Jackie Brown).

Bond has had some capable women as partners, rivals, and enemies in the series, so I think that there is a lot that qualifies. And we have seen Bond respect some women in some movies, even getting married in one film.



Movie Forums Squirrel Jumper
Those are all good points. But I don't like how series feel they have to change their action heroes too women, i.e. James Bond, instead of just making original stories with women action heroes.



We should remember that there was a time when whites would shrug at complaints that non-whites were depicted in unsavory roles and when men would shrug at complaints of misogyny. Why should we expect today's audiences to be aware of their own short-comings?

It's hard not to cringe when Animal House features a 14-year-old girl hooking up with a college boy or Revenge of the Nerds which features what we now recognize as a rape scene framed as a seduction. Or how about Sixteen Candles when one boy basically hands off his drunk passed out girlfriend to another boy as a sort of prize. There were feminists complaining about this content, but nothing much changed at the time, right?
It's true; I mean, College Humor might be a hit-or-miss channel, but they hit the nail on the head with this one:

Sounds fair enough, but I don't really know what "equality" means. Does this mean representation proportional to the population? If so, leading roles for black males should be no more than about 7% of films, as that is there proportion in American society. Or does it mean a perfect rainbow of skin tones and sexual identities that over-represents certain groups to tick off the right boxes? Or is "equality" rather a sort of "correction" that normalizes certain ideologies and identities to shift the balance "more equitably in favor of the oppressed" - if so, we might have a pronounced shift in massive over-representation so as to "course correct" the sins of history.

Myself, I like the idea of a proportional representation that simply reflects actual societal demographics (a reflector rather than a director). That stated, if one wants to make an all-gay movie or all-black movie or all-male movie, I have no brief against that, in such case that it fits thematically and/or historically. In the main, however, I think the rule of thumb should be to hold up a mirror to the demography of the society depicted (e.g., it's OK for Chinese films to feature predominantly Chinese people).

One of my qualms with "girl power" feminism is that it is a rather unthinking repetition of masculine form (or other forms, as you note with imperialism). Part of the problem of re-purposing franchises like James Bond is that they simply re-inscribe a pattern. Our new 007 will undoubtedly have a license to kill and use it while uttering callous quips. In this sense, it cannot function as a substantive critique. It's old wine in new bottles (e.g., I don't think that the CIA has changed its spots in its new "woke" recruiting ads).

I'm a bit skeptical about looking for authentic blackness in the media. Nothing has been more commodified than the "authentic black experience." We've been selling that in exploitation films and historical dramas and music and comedy for many decades. Eddie Murphy was successful, in part, not simply because he was black or because he invoked his blackness in his comedy, but rather because he had a charm that had invited everyone into his brand of blackness. He did it in a way that made people feel welcome and authentically engaged. Such images filter into society, so young black people have, to some extent, been "sold" an image of themselves as it is depicted in various media. Where the authentic experience begins and the commodification ends is not an easy thing to sort. Nevertheless, black authenticity is considered terribly vital, as it there is a special spirit (i.e., "soul") associated with "the real thing." Of course, this is a consequence of being denied identity for centuries and living under white norms -- making the question "Who are we, really?" feel especially salient. Unless we cling to racial essentialism, however, the best answer is "Whoever you want to be." The best inclusion is probably just to be included and not to worry quite so much about the essence of blackness. If the political statement comes organically or is part of the story, then by all means make it, but don't force "Dr. Blackman" to be stereotypically black in some way or to sidetrack a story into obligatory pieties.

Personally, I found Black Panther's Wakanda to be closer to the Disney's The Lion King and Paramount's Zamunda than to any actual African nation. There was a disturbing naivete to it all (think Team America: World Police showing us how Americans imagine France).

I do like that it is a movie with a black hero in the lead with his own identity, rather than a re-purposed preexisting one (e.g., such as the Falcon becoming Captain America). I like the idea of a film that is unapologetically black, but also not entirely obsessed with the premise of being black as an obligatory overriding theme. Most important, I like that it "proved" what we already knew (i.e., that big black films can succeed). That's cool.
I guess equality would probably look something like proportionate representation, which, according to some reports I've seen, is something that Hollywood is actually getting close to on-screen, but if the representation of women/people of color ends up being somewhat disproportionate for a while in order to make up for the "lost time" of the lack of such representation in the past, I'm not going to raise a fuss over it, like the people who whine about there being a channel for "Black Entertainment Television", but supposedly no equivalent for white people, you know?

Anyway, you make a good point about the failure of the Bond films to say much of anything critical about the intersection of espionage with Western imperialism, even in the more reality-based turn it's taking during the Craig era, and I doubt that would change with a female version of the character, but that's still a seperate issue from if having a female Bond would allow the series to further reckon with its sexist roots, which is something I feel it could more easily do (since it's already done so to a certain extent), and do in a compelling manner if it was done thoughtfully (i.e. more like Fury Road than Captain Marvel).

And, as for the points about the portrayal of Africa in Black Panther, I've seen criticisms similar to those before, and while I respect them, I still have to repeat that I liked the worldbuilding of Wakanda, since it's not a mocking of its region like Team America, but a celebration of it instead, and for a continent where people often think of the worst aspects first, like child soldiers/warlords/civil wars, widespread AIDS, and terrorist groups (which is something the film acknowledges anyway in Panther's first mission), it could use some more positive portrayals in Western media anyway.



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if the representation of women/people of color ends up being somewhat disproportionate for a while in order to make up for the "lost time" of the lack of such representation in the past, I'm not going to raise a fuss over it, like the people who whine about there being a channel for "Black Entertainment Television", but supposedly no equivalent for white people, you know?
Couldn't agree more. What concerns me is the coding. We went from women being ditzes (I Love Lucy) to the informal requirement of men basically being oafs in need of a wife/mother figure to keep them from burning down the house (e.g., Home Improvement, King of Queens). That is, the sins of the past were covered by inversion. Comedy needs someone to be the butt of the joke, it needs a "straight" to provide the deadpan contrast for the buffoon. So, an easy fix or a family comedies was to flip the relationship.

Infantilization, however, is still infantilization, and we were subjected to comedies in which men were basically presented as oafish idiots who were only tolerable because they were lovable.

And now we've moved on to Kevin Can F--k Himself, which elevate this infantilization to be a form of male privilege which apparently needs to be criticized. Imagine a show called "Lucy can F--k Herself" in which a Lucille Ball character is seriously critiqued for being a destructive ditz who destroys assembly lines of chocolates, etc. Even though we laughed at Lucy, we still loved her. Kevin James? Well, I guess we know what he can do with himself (we might also note the clownish depiction of the obese as well, but why digress further?).

So yes, put out those positive role models, but don't deprecate an alterity to valorize your preferred in-group. The problem of representation is not just quantity (how many black female bisexual electricians are we depicting this week?), but quality.

It is a serious problem that the last group that can safely be demonized is the straight white male. Everything else has risks. "That's racist!" "That's sexist!" "That's phobic!" -- White, being an alleged default with no substance, also has no dignity to defend. Masculinity, being toxic, has no core to rightfully defend. But when you over represent a demographic because its the easiest thing to do, trouble still follows.

Sure, writers need safe targets. They need villains. They need fools. They need foils. But in our sensitive age, we consider coding in ALL circumstances, save for what is allegedly dominant and oppressive. And now millions of men (who are dropping out college, retreating into video games, and/or getting active as Incels), are an army of lost boys waiting for a demagogue to give them a purpose, a movement, a war. Leave any group behind at your own risk.

And, as for the points about the portrayal of Africa in Black Panther, I've seen criticisms similar to those before, and while I respect them, I still have to repeat that I liked the worldbuilding of Wakanda, since it's not a mocking of its region like Team America, but a celebration of it instead, and for a continent where people often think of the worst aspects first, like child soldiers/warlords/civil wars, widespread AIDS, and terrorist groups (which is something the film acknowledges anyway in Panther's first mission), it could use some more positive portrayals in Western media anyway.
Wakanda is odd. It is this wonderful multicultural gem, which is hidden behind a magic curtain, and is also, therefore, the most isolationist nation on the planet. Diverse, but also an isolated monolith. This is an embarrassment driven by the necessity of an obvious question (where has this magical black kingdom been all this time?). Wakanda is so utopian that it obviously cannot exist (unless you're a stupid American who learns geography from movies) and must, therefore, be introduced as something that was hidden, as an overcompensation for prior portrayals of the continent. Wakanda is more advanced than other nations of the world, but they are divided into sectarian tribes who still dress like they're living in the bronze age. They're an advanced society, which determines leadership by mortal combat.

It bothers me that this is all rather patronizing. It seems like white people imagining noble savages in Africa. It seems like Americans trying to construct an African mythology from Disney cartoons. The African continent, as you well know, is huge. It has a great variety of geography and culture. From the site of old Carthage in Tunisia at the north end to the site of Apartheid at the south end, there is more going there than most American realize. Our view is that of the O'Jays song "Love Train" which lists various nations of the world and then name drops Africa as if it were a single country:
All of you brothers over in Africa
Tell all the folks in Egypt, and Israel, too
Well, Egypt is in Africa, so there's that, that curious Team America perspective, which even in attempting curtsy winds up stepping on toes. It is an embarrassing celebration. It is like that of the 2nd grader who celebrates the culture of Mexico by bringing in tacos and burritos as their cultural project.

Sure, the world of THOR is just as ridiculous. Asgardians have kings (OK?) and settle disputes by force, especially by those "worthy" enough to wield magical weapons of mass destruction. And if you're a member of the royal family, you basically get away with war crimes (i.e., Loki). This world was not, however, created "whole cloth" a few years or decades ago. It was not conjured mid-air to provide an apologetic mythology ("Here, feel good about yourselves!") to modern audiences. Black Panther seems to want to make up for the actual experience of those of African descent who have had to endure the "American experience," but it's tricky to stick the landing with this sort of thing.

Whatever, the film is fine for what it is and it is good to have a black-centric film and all that. There's just some details that make me cringe a little.



Well the thing about the idea of Bond being a woman, is my problem with giving that a chance is that, one of my key favorite things about Bond is his promisicuity. It's just entertaining to watch an action hero, get a lot of sex from mulitples in a series. But if they were to make Bond a female, they would cut out the promiscuity, and that is my problem with it.

They wouldn't be willing to keep the promiscuity and own it, because society is afraid of promiscuous female characters in fiction, unless they are villains. I am all for a female action hero that is like Bond, and would sleep with two or more men per movie. But society wouldn't accept that. So that is my problem with it, is that people say they want a female Bond, yet they would cringe at her having Bond's characteristics like that. It just feels hypocritical like they won't be able to put their money where their mouths are on it, if that makes sense.
Not necessarily; I mean, we're still talking about a hypothetical situation here, so we have no idea whether they would make a female Bond completely non-promiscuous. Of course, it's always possible they'd do that out of a general unease around female sexuality, but there's no guarantee they would, and we've already been conditioned for decades to expect Bond to sleep around some in just about every movie, so it wouldn't suprise me if they kept that tradition across gender lines (besides, the first Wonder Woman showed Diana deciding to sleep with Steve, so it definitely wouldn't be a stretch to do the same thing with a female Bond). Besides, advocating against a female Bond out of the fear that Hollywood will remove the sleeping around because of their/other people's fretting over female sexuality feels like using existing sexism as an excuse to keep sidelining women, which is the last thing the industry needs to do.



I guess equality would probably look something like proportionate representation, which, according to*some reports*I've seen, is something that Hollywood is actually getting close to on-screen
Sorry to butt in, I was just reading through this thread and have been enjoying the rare sight of such lengthy discussions on here between relatively civil people who aren't constantly on the defensive.*

Anyway, I got to your reply the quote is from and I have a couple questions concerning the above comment (which generally relates to overarching elements of the thread as well):

How does this representation in Hollywood, or American media at large, translate to genuine material change in society?*

Can the social goals involved with this trend even be quantified in material means?*

Would it not be fair to say the people working in the emergent "diversity industry" have a serious interest, conscious or otherwise, in representation goals (or social oppressions, for that matter) not becoming satisfactory? Since their job security, income, and field as a whole is entirely dependent on the continued existence of disproportionate representations/oppressions. There are D&R firms and independent lecturers that are paid tens of thousands of dollars every couple months in corporate contracts, sponsored events, academic grants, et. al.*

Is it realistic to assume the people within this relatively new and profitable field are working towards a defined goal that, once attained, will end their efforts? Or is it going to remain active and profitable by stressing the importance of maintenance, setting identical goals on other subfacets of media/industry, or possibly perptually working towards equal representation in Hollywood itself?

All this compels me to wonder, again, how do these things turn into material changes for public life? I mean, if the idea is that it's important for minorities to see themselves represented in such media, that appears to ignore a large swath of people who don't have the means to afford to spend $30-40 to go to the movies, or own the luxuries of streaming devices/subscriptions, just to see people who look like them in a product, made by (and with the assistance of) some of the most globally and socially destructive conglomerates to exist.



Movie Forums Squirrel Jumper
Not necessarily; I mean, we're still talking about a hypothetical situation here, so we have no idea whether they would make a female Bond completely non-promiscuous. Of course, it's always possible they'd do that out of a general unease around female sexuality, but there's no guarantee they would, and we've already been conditioned for decades to expect Bond to sleep around some in just about every movie, so it wouldn't suprise me if they kept that tradition across gender lines (besides, the first Wonder Woman showed Diana deciding to sleep with Steve, so it definitely wouldn't be a stretch to do the same thing with a female Bond). Besides, advocating against a female Bond out of the fear that Hollywood will remove the sleeping around because of their/other people's fretting over female sexuality feels like using existing sexism as an excuse to keep sidelining women, which is the last thing the industry needs to do.
I see what you mean, I don't mean to come off that way. It's just if they are going to do a female Bond, I want my favorite part of the character, the promiscuity, kept with that. I don't want women to be sidelined of course. I just want the character to be the same character overall. And Hollywood has been afraid of promiscuous female characters as the heroes, in the past so I feel like my favorite part of the character will not be kept likely therefore, if they make it a woman.

But also, are women really sidelined a lot? There are plenty of movies with females in them, and in the lead roles, so are they really being sidelined much still, unless I am missing something?



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If this thread does not give props to Diana Rigg, I am going to riot, btw.



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paging Dr. Freud






Do you think when it comes to these sexual situations in comedies like Revenge of the Nerds or Animal House though, that maybe we take them too seriously when they are just supposed to be over the top dumb comedies? I can't speak for 16 Candles because I do not remember that one well.

When Horrible Bosses came out (2011), I was bothered by the idea of the man being rendered unconscious by his female boss, and the female boss, took pictures of him and her naked together, and did who knows what else with him. I felt it was wrong and in bad taste perhaps.

But now watching it again not too long ago, maybe I was taking it too seriously and I should have just appreciated it as a dumb comedy? If it were the other the way around and a man knocked out a female subordinate and took naked pictures of him and her to blackmail her, people would be in an uproar, but maybe I should just accept the double standard, and laugh and not take the movie seriously, along with these other dumb comedies with bad sex situations? What do you think?
Sorry, but I can't think the position that such perverted behavior shouldn't be taken seriously because of the movie they occur in is any more valid than the "it's just a joke" defense that people make to excuse harassment; culture inevitably has an effect on real life, and it matters whether or not it's just a "dumb Comedy".
There are some Bond movies with mysognystic undertones, but those Bond movies were in the 60s and 70s though, where as people critcizing male lead action movies, are criticizing the genre as a whole, up to today it seems, and not just a few movies from back in the 70s and earlier. People who are criticizing it today, probably haven't even heard of Sam Peckinpah for example.
I'd be willing to agree with you on that point if I could recall examples of people "throwing the baby out with the bathwater" when it comes to gender portrayals in modern Action movies, but literally none come to mind; I mean, I haven't seen anyone else criticize the John Wick films, which are obviously recent Action movies with a male lead, even though they could do so with certain aspects of that series' gender dynamics. So, you'll have to be more specific here; could you describe any examples you've seen of people doing that to the genre?



We should take a moment here to recognize Michael Biehn who blazed a trail for the male "girlfriend" role of the 1980s. Love interest for Sarah Connor and Ripley, Biehn proved that a man could be manly and masculine and heroic while playing second fiddle to a female protagonist. And women loved him. He was a heart throb for many.

Indeed, if the "girlfriend" roles for films with male leads were written and acted as well as his part were, I think there would be much less objection to the "girlfriend" role in film.
I wouldn't necessarily describe Biehn's role in The Terminator or Aliens as a second fiddle or love interest, respectively, but just the fact that he was arguably the co-lead to a woman in an Action movie in 1984 is pretty significant on its own. As for the latter example, I think the significance of his presence in that one was meant to come from him and Ripley not falling in love; sure, there might have been some underlying romantic/sexual tension intended there (like when he shows Ripley how to use the pulse rifle), but that depends on how you interpret those interactions, and that might be biased from our expectations that the male/female leads in a Hollywood movie always need to fall in love, whether it's good for the story or not. I think just the fact that they don't explicitly fall in love is significant on its own, and maybe Cameron was only trying to imply a "happily ever after" fate for them later on, after the film ended, or maybe he was leaving room open for a sequel to explore their relationship further in a natural way, so it wouldn't be too jarring if they really did fall in love later (which of course, is something we know that Alien 3
WARNING: spoilers below
choose to completely threw away; bleh.


But, you do make a good point about girlfriend roles in male-lead movies; like, if every love interest contributed as much as Melina in Total Recall, the industry would historically be in a much better place when it comes to its gender portrayals.
What about a movie like Moonraker I just watched recently? The main woman in that is tecnhically second fiddle, but she is punching male villains, and flipping them over her head, and making more badass remarks, etc. So would she be just as well written as those Michael Biehn characters?
Being a well-written character isn't just about being the lead, or being as badass as the people around you, though; I mean, those aspects can contribute to that, but that's all still meaningless if they don't characterize someone who feels like a real, three-dimensional person in the first place.



Movie Forums Squirrel Jumper
Sorry, but I can't think the position that such perverted behavior shouldn't be taken seriously because of the movie they occur in is any more valid than the "it's just a joke" defense that people make to excuse harassment; culture inevitably has an effect on real life, and it matters whether or not it's just a "dumb Comedy". I'd be willing to agree with you on that point if I could recall examples of people "throwing the baby out with the bathwater" when it comes to gender portrayals in modern Action movies, but literally none come to mind; I mean, I haven't seen anyone else criticize the John Wick films, which are obviously recent Action movies with a male lead, even though they could do so with certain aspects of that series' gender dynamics. So, you'll have to be more specific here; could you describe any examples you've seen of people doing that to the genre?
I can't think of any examples of movies particularly but just people often complaining about how male action movies are toxic, etc, which seems like a general attack on the genre rather than just complaining about the bad apple ones more so.



Movie Forums Squirrel Jumper
I wouldn't necessarily describe Biehn's role in The Terminator or Aliens as either second fiddle or love interest, but just the fact that he was arguably the co-lead to a woman in an Action movie in 1984 is pretty significant on its own. As for the latter example, I think the significance of his presence in that one was meant to come from him and Ripley not falling in love; sure, there might have been some underlying romantic/sexual tension intended there (like when he shows Ripley how to use the pulse rifle), but that depends on how you interpret those interactions, and that might be biased from our expectations that the male/female leads in a Hollywood movie always need to fall in love, whether it's good for the story or not. I think just the fact that they don't explicitly fall in love is significant on its own, and maybe Cameron was only trying to imply a "happily ever after" fate for them later on, after the film ended, or maybe he was leaving room open for a sequel to explore their relationship further in a natural way, so it wouldn't be too jarring if they really did fall in love later (which of course, is something we know that Alien 3
WARNING: spoilers below
choose to completely threw away; bleh.


But, you do make a good point about girlfriend roles in male-lead movies; like, if every love interest contributed as much as Melina in Total Recall, the industry would historically be in a much better place when it comes to its gender portrayals.Being a well-written character isn't just about being the lead, or being as badass as the people around you, though; I mean, those aspects can contribute to that, but that's all still meaningless if they don't characterize someone who feels like a real, three-dimensional person in the first place.
Oh but I thought that the Bond woman in that movie was just as well written as other action hreoines unless I am wrong?



I don't know. I honestly don't remember Moonraker that well.

Just spitballing here in terms of I think Biehn portrayed on screen (and what was written for him on the page) he showed

1. Volition. Character makes their own decisions and has their own goals. They can and will say "No" to the protagonist. Ultimately, the protagonist is leading, but they're not following like a puppy.

2. Capability. The character is largely self-sufficient. They can act in self-defense either through cunning or force. If you're only job as Lois Lane is to be captured by bad guys so that Superman can save you, then you're not really a capable character.

3. Narrative Purpose other than "something to have sex with" and "something for protagonist to protect." They should play a part that forwards the the plot beyond being desired, conquered, and protected by the protagonist.

4. Respect. Sounds cheesy, but is the fundamental dignity of the character valorized or is the characters an empty vessel?

What else can we add? Plenty, I am sure. We could turn to the Bechdel test, etc. We could also add examples (e.g., Max Cherry in Jackie Brown).

Bond has had some capable women as partners, rivals, and enemies in the series, so I think that there is a lot that qualifies. And we have seen Bond respect some women in some movies, even getting married in one film.
Good points, and as for the one about women in Bond movies, I'd say that Vesper in Casino Royale more than holds her own as a strong character against James, and there's no way I can imagine that movie being as good as it was without her presence, definitely.
Couldn't agree more. What concerns me is the coding. We went from women being ditzes (I Love Lucy) to the informal requirement of men basically being oafs in need of a wife/mother figure to keep them from burning down the house (e.g., Home Improvement, King of Queens). That is, the sins of the past were covered by inversion. Comedy needs someone to be the butt of the joke, it needs a "straight" to provide the deadpan contrast for the buffoon. So, an easy fix or a family comedies was to flip the relationship.

Infantilization, however, is still infantilization, and we were subjected to comedies in which men were basically presented as oafish idiots who were only tolerable because they were lovable.

And now we've moved on to Kevin Can F--k Himself, which elevate this infantilization to be a form of male privilege which apparently needs to be criticized. Imagine a show called "Lucy can F--k Herself" in which a Lucille Ball character is seriously critiqued for being a destructive ditz who destroys assembly lines of chocolates, etc. Even though we laughed at Lucy, we still loved her. Kevin James? Well, I guess we know what he can do with himself (we might also note the clownish depiction of the obese as well, but why digress further?).

So yes, put out those positive role models, but don't deprecate an alterity to valorize your preferred in-group. The problem of representation is not just quantity (how many black female bisexual electricians are we depicting this week?), but quality.

It is a serious problem that the last group that can safely be demonized is the straight white male. Everything else has risks. "That's racist!" "That's sexist!" "That's phobic!" -- White, being an alleged default with no substance, also has no dignity to defend. Masculinity, being toxic, has no core to rightfully defend. But when you over represent a demographic because its the easiest thing to do, trouble still follows.

Sure, writers need safe targets. They need villains. They need fools. They need foils. But in our sensitive age, we consider coding in ALL circumstances, save for what is allegedly dominant and oppressive. And now millions of men (who are dropping out college, retreating into video games, and/or getting active as Incels), are an army of lost boys waiting for a demagogue to give them a purpose, a movement, a war. Leave any group behind at your own risk.

Wakanda is odd. It is this wonderful multicultural gem, which is hidden behind a magic curtain, and is also, therefore, the most isolationist nation on the planet. Diverse, but also an isolated monolith. This is an embarrassment driven by the necessity of an obvious question (where has this magical black kingdom been all this time?). Wakanda is so utopian that it obviously cannot exist (unless you're a stupid American who learns geography from movies) and must, therefore, be introduced as something that was hidden, as an overcompensation for prior portrayals of the continent. Wakanda is more advanced than other nations of the world, but they are divided into sectarian tribes who still dress like they're living in the bronze age. They're an advanced society, which determines leadership by mortal combat.

It bothers me that this is all rather patronizing. It seems like white people imagining noble savages in Africa. It seems like Americans trying to construct an African mythology from Disney cartoons. The African continent, as you well know, is huge. It has a great variety of geography and culture. From the site of old Carthage in Tunisia at the north end to the site of Apartheid at the south end, there is more going there than most American realize. Our view is that of the O'Jays song "Love Train" which lists various nations of the world and then name drops Africa as if it were a single country:
All of you brothers over in Africa
Tell all the folks in Egypt, and Israel, too
Well, Egypt is in Africa, so there's that, that curious Team America perspective, which even in attempting curtsy winds up stepping on toes. It is an embarrassing celebration. It is like that of the 2nd grader who celebrates the culture of Mexico by bringing in tacos and burritos as their cultural project.

Sure, the world of THOR is just as ridiculous. Asgardians have kings (OK?) and settle disputes by force, especially by those "worthy" enough to wield magical weapons of mass destruction. And if you're a member of the royal family, you basically get away with war crimes (i.e., Loki). This world was not, however, created "whole cloth" a few years or decades ago. It was not conjured mid-air to provide an apologetic mythology ("Here, feel good about yourselves!") to modern audiences. Black Panther seems to want to make up for the actual experience of those of African descent who have had to endure the "American experience," but it's tricky to stick the landing with this sort of thing.

Whatever, the film is fine for what it is and it is good to have a black-centric film and all that. There's just some details that make me cringe a little.
I get that about the inversion of coding, but just speaking for myself as a man (as well as Caucasian/hetero/cis, i.e. the least discriminated-against groups in human history), it doesn't personally bother me, because it historically feels like there are just as many positive portrayals of men in media as there are negative (and probably many moreso), so when The Simpsons has Homer "acting stupid" because Marge wasn't there to stop it, I just find it funny rather than offensive, because men are still objectively the more privileged group, so it's just harmless punching up to me (as opposed to how poorly the constant gags about Smithers being an obsessed gay man have aged).

Anyway, those are fair points about Black Panther, and you can also make the case that the film pays lip service to anti-colonist sentiments in Africa by literally calling Agent Ross a "colonizer", while still having him join the side of the good guys at the end without ever renouncing his job or employer (which partially cancels out the point of having the villain be a former Navy Seal)... but, despite the portrayal of Wakanda being a mixed bag, I still feel the good still outweighs the bad for the reasons I've already detailed, along with the obvious difficulty they would have in trying to create an original, completely fictional African culture that was part of the continent like every other nation in it at one point, but divided itself a long time ago (and it's not like adding the Afro-futurist spin doesn't make Wakandan culture somewhat unique anyway, you know?).



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I wouldn't necessarily describe Biehn's role in The Terminator or Aliens as either second fiddle or love interest,
He was definitely the love interest in The Terminator.

He was definitely second fiddle in ALIENS.

but just the fact that he was arguably the co-lead to a woman in an Action movie in 1984 is pretty significant on its own.
That he did it twice under the Cameron formula is also noteworthy. Also, Jack is the love interest and second fiddle in Titanic. Titanic is a white girl's fantasy. Guy just like watching the ship sink.

As for the latter example, I think the significance of his presence in that one was meant to come from him and Ripley not falling in love; sure, there might have been some underlying romantic/sexual tension intended there (like when he shows Ripley how to use the pulse rifle), but that depends on how you interpret those interactions, and that might be biased from our expectations that the male/female leads in a Hollywood movie always need to fall in love, whether it's good for the story or not.
There is sexual tension. They even form a small family unit before leaving LV-426. They didn't have time to consummate the relationship, but this is a mistake that Ripley rectifies in ALIEN 3.

a well-written character isn't just about being the lead, or being as badass as the people around you, though; I mean, those aspects can contribute to that, but that's all still meaningless if they don't characterize someone who feels like a real, three-dimensional person in the first place.
Sure.

A lot of films are an exercise in the narcissism of the protagonist. The Action Hero is the narcissism of ME. Everyone "not James Bond" in a classic Bond film is an NPC to liquidate or boink. The purpose of the action film is to make David feel like Goliath, to make us all feel like heroes. We cannot be made high, however, unless others are made low. The super-efficacious action hero reflects our frustration at playing life on HARD mode and wanting, just for an hour or two, to imagine that we're playing it on GOD mode. The more the world pushes back. The more "thin" characters get "thickened" and have a mind of their own, the more our protag has to cooperate and grow, less we experience the joy of GOD mode. Sometimes, you just want to feel like a God. Thus, romantic interests in action films are always in danger of being rather hollow (male or female). I think the female fantasy that Cameron keeps entertaining naturally makes space for the agency of the male, because his films are typically little romances (I came across time because I love you!). That is, his action films are romances -- he blends genres (i.e., a love story stuffed inside an action, A Trojan Heart).

The romance genre is typically the narcissism or WE. The apotheosis of this is Romeo and Juliet letting their hormones start a gang war and with mutual suicide when they're died the objection of their affection. However, it requires space for two to dance. Gorman is (and needs to be an idiot), but Hicks needs some space to shine (albeit space cultivated by his cougar-civie girlfriend). Thus, Cameron pulls it off, because of the genre blend.



Sorry to butt in, I was just reading through this thread and have been enjoying the rare sight of such lengthy discussions on here between relatively civil people who aren't constantly on the defensive.*

Anyway, I got to your reply the quote is from and I have a couple questions concerning the above comment (which generally relates to overarching elements of the thread as well):

How does this representation in Hollywood, or American media at large, translate to genuine material change in society?*

Can the social goals involved with this trend even be quantified in material means?*

Would it not be fair to say the people working in the emergent "diversity industry" have a serious interest, conscious or otherwise, in representation goals (or social oppressions, for that matter) not becoming satisfactory? Since their job security, income, and field as a whole is entirely dependent on the continued existence of disproportionate representations/oppressions. There are D&R firms and independent lecturers that are paid tens of thousands of dollars every couple months in corporate contracts, sponsored events, academic grants, et. al.*

Is it realistic to assume the people within this relatively new and profitable field are working towards a defined goal that, once attained, will end their efforts? Or is it going to remain active and profitable by stressing the importance of maintenance, setting identical goals on other subfacets of media/industry, or possibly perptually working towards equal representation in Hollywood itself?

All this compels me to wonder, again, how do these things turn into material changes for public life? I mean, if the idea is that it's important for minorities to see themselves represented in such media, that appears to ignore a large swath of people who don't have the means to afford to spend $30-40 to go to the movies, or own the luxuries of streaming devices/subscriptions, just to see people who look like them in a product, made by (and with the assistance of) some of the most globally and socially destructive conglomerates to exist.
You're not "butting in" here; don't be silly! Anyway, those are all good points, and I think the best answer is obviously to continue to push for more equal representation in art for marginalized groups, but to not just be content with that, but instead combine it with a real-world push for economic & societal equality for those groups at the same time; I mean, the former is naturally a good thing, but it should clearly never be accepted as a substitute for the later, since it's not some either/or dilemma between the two, you know? We can, and should, have both.
I see what you mean, I don't mean to come off that way. It's just if they are going to do a female Bond, I want my favorite part of the character, the promiscuity, kept with that. I don't want women to be sidelined of course. I just want the character to be the same character overall. And Hollywood has been afraid of promiscuous female characters as the heroes, in the past so I feel like my favorite part of the character will not be kept likely therefore, if they make it a woman.

But also, are women really sidelined a lot? There are plenty of movies with females in them, and in the lead roles, so are they really being sidelined much still, unless I am missing something?
If the study I linked to earlier is accurate, then there are (or at least were, pre-pandemic) more female-lead movies coming out of Hollywood now than before, and that's obviously a good thing, but, while recent Bond movies have made progress with its female representation, the women are all still supporting characters to Bond as a protagonist, so when it comes to just that individual series, I don't think its repudation of its sexist past won't be complete until it finally elevates a woman to being the main character, just like Connery, Moore, or Brosnan were in their entries. And, it's not like we haven't seen similar things done with other series before, like the increasing capability of the women in the Mad Max series, from the relative
WARNING: spoilers below
"fridging" of the mostly defenseless wife in the original, all the way until Fury Road presents Charlize Theron not just as an equal to Max, but the new heir apparent to his franchise-throne (hopefully, the young Furiosa prequel will eventually make its way out of development hell and complete the process, eh?).



Although it's funny that this topic should come up in here now, since I just noticed this story on Youtube (which I obviously don't 100% agree with, but still, it is relevant):