Considering Girls and Captain America

Sorry about the hiatus everybody. Life just got crazy and I’ve been dealing with some stuff that didn’t really leave me a lot of time to write. BUT…. I’m back! And you may have noticed I’m trying out a new look. Other than that, everything’s the same. So let’s just jump right in.

This last weekend I went and saw Captain America:. I LOVED it, but not just because it is a great movie (even though it is). Before I tell you why I loved it, let me kind of explain my thought process a little bit.

My freshman year at Utah State I took a class called Media Smarts from Prof. Brenda Cooper. This class taught me to critically analyze media for cultural assumptions. This class was simultaneously the best and worst class I took in college. It was the best because I loved every second of it.  It was the worst because it turned me into THAT person. The person who can’t just enjoy a movie, but critically analyzes every part of it.

I’ve learned to not talk about any of this out loud or else people stop wanting to see movies with me.

What I learned in that class is that you could say movies like Captain America are JUST a movie, but millions of people see blockbusters, in the opening weekend alone. They have an impact on our culture and our behavior and our assumptions about the world. They may not be real, but it’s a glimpse into the collective consciousness of our society. We can see, in our movies, our assumptions about how the world works.

For example, have you ever noticed that men are always the Superheroes and women are the damsels in distress? Most of the female leads in Superman, Spiderman, Batman, Ironman etc. are the love interest who gets kidnapped and then rescued.

And then gives weird upside-down kisses.

This brings me to Captain America: The Winter Soldier. I won’t give away spoilers, but if you don’t like knowing anything about a movie before you see it, you should probably just stop reading now.

While watching Winter Soldier, I realized that of the five main heroic characters in the movie two are women, two are black men, and only one is a white guy.

Just take a second to think other action movies you’ve seen recently, and you’ll realize that this is kind of a big deal. There was no damsel in distress. Black Widow (Scarlett Johanson) beat up plenty of guys. No woman was just there to be the thing the hero is trying to save.

I think it’s important to point this out about Captain America because it shows how we are changing our assumptions about movie heroes.

Since this is Considering the Middle and I have to give at least two sides, so let me just say this: Not every movie/television show/book has to have strong female leads. Some things are just about boys. I heard some pretty compelling arguments to this point concerning the HBO Series, True Detective. 

I would also love to see a stand-alone Black Widow movie, which doesn’t seem completely out of the realm of possibility, but hasn’t been announced yet.

But girls can save the world too. And I’m just really excited at the prospect that girls can fight alongside boys equally, without romantic undertones, and fully clothed.

marvel animated GIF

And when you spend as much time thinking about the cultural undertones of movies as I do, this made Winter Soldier a pretty awesome movie to watch.

Considering the Oscars

Saying the Oscars are self-promoting is stating the obvious. The Oscars are all about congratulating each other on how great they are in the movies. I would say this year’s Oscars were self-promoting in a different way. This year, it felt like it was about how great everyone in the theater is compared to everyone else in the world. I’ll try and consider the argument and counter argument about this point.

The Theme

First of all, the theme of the night was “Heroes in Movies.” Yes, movie stars often portray heroes, and bring stories to light that we, as the public, may not otherwise know. (See: 12 Years a Slave). Does that mean they deserve a whole montage dedicated to their heroism? Maybe not.

Counterargument: The people portrayed in the montage were heroes to the people sitting in the theater. Audience members used to think they wanted to grow up to be the people in the montage. So, yes I could see how they would be seen as heroes to those people.

Pizza and Selfies

Is it a little presumptuous that producers thought the most entertaining thing for viewers would be watching actors take a selfie and eat pizza? Unless you were sitting in the first three rows of the Dolby Theatre last night, there was no entertainment. Really, not one dance number, Ellen?

Counterargument: It was kind of funny – and we broke a Twitter record.

Women? Women?

My social media was annoyed with the lack of women in the “Heroes” montages. So many men and so few women!

Counterargument: Men have most of the hero roles in movies, even now. The fact that Cate Blanchett felt the need to point out in her speech that movies with strong female leads were not “niche” films, but movies people want to see speaks to the current state of the industry.

Also:

  • For the first year ever both the Golden Globes and the Academy Awards were hosted by women.
  • We didn’t have to endure a “We Saw Your Boobs” song.
  • The Winner for Best Animated Feature, Best Original Song, Best Actress, every technical award Gravity won, and Best Documentary were all movies principally about a woman.

Progress. Slow and painful progress. But progress.

Best Picture Winner

YES YES YES YES YES!!!  This fact makes most of the past transgressions forgivable.

The last few years with The Artist and Argo, the Academy has chosen movies about movies and how great they are. It’s the epitome of self-promoting behavior. For that reason, I guessed  Gravity as Best Picture because I thought it did the best job at showcasing how wonderful movies are. I’m so glad I was wrong!

12 Years a Slave was a much more important movie, a much better script, and a really well made film. I’m so happy it won.

And so is Steve McQueen.