Is This X-Men: Apocalypse Poster Really Promoting Violence Against Women?
Rose McGowan and Salon think so. I don't.
They live among us: people born with genetic mutations that give them awesome power—the power to be constantly offended by things that wouldn't bother a normal, reasonable human.
"Yes, we all understand that action movies are not reality and that mutants are not real women," writes Salon's Mary Elizabeth Williams. "That said, do you think anybody at Fox gave a moment of thought to the issues of offscreen violence to women when it decided that an image of Jennifer Lawrence's Mystique being choked was a hot idea as the symbol of its new blockbuster? Or as actress Rose McGowan puts it, 'F—k this s__t.'"
Maybe they didn't think about those issues because this poster doesn't really involve them?
Here was Rose McGowan:
"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. There is no context in the ad, just a woman getting strangled. The fact that no one flagged this is offensive and frankly, stupid. 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?"
But doesn't this argument only work if the poster is suppose to inspire viewers to take the side of Apocalypse, the man (if you can call him that) doing the choking? Obviously, it's not doing that. It's not saying violence against women is good. It's not supporting or promoting it. Violence is something the villain of the film is doing. Bad guys, like Apocalypse, hurt women. Hurting women is evil. That's it.
I've not seen this latest X-Men movie, but I've seen the rest of them (even the truly abhorrent X-Men Origins: Wolverine). They depict plenty of violence between men and women, women and women, men and men, humans and non-humans, blue people and other blue people, etc. Female characters aren't relegated to damsel-in-distress status: in fact, some of the most awesomely powerful X-Men characters are women (including some of the villains). Mystique, the character being choked by Apocalypse, is actually responsible for a whole lot of violence herself, and not always in service of the forces of good. She's an outright bad girl in the first X-Men movie, and (SPOILERS!) an accomplice to attempted genocide in the second.
If the poster had depicted Apocalypse choking, say, Magneto, would we accuse it of advocating violence against men? Against Jews? I don't think so.
Update: Twentieth Century Fox has issued an apology and clarified that the company doesn't condone violence against women. If that was unclear. Here's the statement:
"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."