We live in a violent culture. In a violent world. We are violent beings who are inundated by images of blood, death, and gore in all forms of media. That is to say nothing of the horrors that unfold globally, daily.
There's a conversation to be had about brutality in film, but we also must ask ourselves why we draw umbrage with one image over another.
Today, 20th Century Fox made a formal apology for a billboard featuring Oscar Isaac”s Apocalypse strangling Jennifer Lawrence”s Mystique in X-Men: Apocalypse.
Take a look at the statement below:
“In our enthusiasm to show the villainy of the character Apocalypse, we didn”t immediately recognize the upsetting connotation of this image in print form. Once we realized how insensitive it was, we quickly took steps to remove those materials. We apologize for our actions and would never condone violence against women.”
Image via The Hollywood Reporter.
The advertisement came under criticism for depicting violence against a woman who is, ostensibly, naked.
“There is a major problem when the men and women at 20th Century Fox think casual violence against women is the way to market a film,” said actress Rose McGowan in a Facebook post to THR. “There is no context in the ad, just a woman getting strangled. The fact that no one flagged this is offensive and frankly, stupid.”
Adding, “The geniuses behind this, and I use that term lightly, need to to take a long hard look at the mirror and see how they are contributing to society. Imagine if it were a black man being strangled by a white man, or a gay male being strangled by a hetero? The outcry would be enormous. So let”s right this wrong. 20th Century Fox, since you can”t manage to put any women directors on your slate for the next two years, how about you at least replace your ad?”
Violence against women is not to be taken lightly. And certainly when we're thinking about how depictions like the one seen above impact a culture — or the victims of domestic abuse — a certain level of sensitivity is called for.
At the same time, we also need to ask ourselves why we respond negatively to some illustrations of savagery and not others. Though there are regulations for the way that guns are portrayed in movie posters, they're still frequently seen.
The MPAA Advertising Administration's rules state that, “Depictions of violence, including but not limited to: excessive gunfire or weapons around children; guns pointed directly at people or the audience.”
Yet guns — and a variety of fictional weapons if you're in a Marvel film — are used to evoke sex appeal, badassery, and aspirational wish fulfillment all too regularly.
This week, a gunman killed a professor and then himself at UCLA in Los Angeles, and yet no one is calling for guns to be pulled from all movie ads today. That isn't to make a direct comparison it's simply to ask why the pitchforks and torches come out in some cases and not others.
Last year a series of ads for the television series The Strain featuring a worm crawling out of a human eye were pulled after loud protestations from viewers. And yet every morning on my drive to work I saw a promotion for a film featuring a massive explosion that would have (in reality) killed thousands placed directly beside one of The Strain's billboards. No one seemed to mind the celebration of mass carnage in the other advertisement. (Personally, I loved The Strain's campaign and was irritated that they were called to change it.)
All throughout this season of The Walking Dead the show teased the coming of a beloved character from the comics with an image of a barbed-wire covered bat that he uses to beat people to death, and no one blinked.
Are we just numb to some acts of bloodshed? Or have we lost our ability to distinguish fantasy from reality?
I can't help but feel that this is in some ways a) much ado about nothing and b) its own form of sexism. X-Men: Apocalypse is set in a fantasy world where mutants are at war. This is an image of two blue people fighting. One who happens to be the main heavy of the film. In order to demonstrate the level of threat he presents, they have him taking on one of the central villains from the last film, and strongest characters in the series full stop.
If Apocalypse were strangling Magneto, would there be this outcry? Yes, there is a distinction between a man strangling a man and a man attacking a woman. However…It's two BLUE people fighting.
It's tricky, because it is important to examine these things, but also key to keep a sense of perspective. I don't necessarily think that any one of us can be the arbiter of when we should call foul and when we should shrug and move on.
I will say that Jennifer Lawrence is not naked in that ad. She is in fact in a blue body suit. In fact, the poor quality of the suit is almost more offensive to me than this billboard. The actress had grown increasingly tired of the 8-hour process it took to get her in the full body make-up necessary to effectively embody Mystique. As a result, the filmmakers manufactured more and more reasons for to her to appear in human form rather than as the blue mutant Mystique.
When she was forced to portray Mystique in her natural form in Apocalypse Lawrence looked as though she was wearing a blue romper. One could practically see the zipper in one sequence in the film, which makes it all the more challenging to take this current outcry as seriously as some do.
Take a listen to Lawrence describe the new costume below.
Perhaps more saliently, Jennifer Lawrence isn't shy about standing up for herself. In fact, admirably so. She'll raise her voice when she believes it necessary, as she has about the gender wage gap in Hollywood. So why not ask her what she makes of the billboard?
The point is: Are we getting it wrong when we bring attention to a woman in a onesie fighting a man painted blue and yet ignore the very real violence in the world?
I don't know. I'm not the captain of the morality police.
I'd be curious to hear your thoughts, though.