Recently, actress Rose McGowen (Charmed) instigated a protest against 20th Century Fox Studios regarding a billboard advertisement for Fox’s latest super hero adventure X-Men: Apocalypse. The ad depicts the film’s villain Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac) holding Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) by the throat, throttling her. This has outraged some people, leading to McGowen’s protest.
As a result of this public umbrage, Fox has removed all the ads and issued this apology… “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 the material. We apologize for our actions and would never condone violence against women.” While this is considerate of Fox and good public relations, it raises the question…Was this ad really wrong or is this whole situation actually a confusing hypocrisy?
The character of Mystique, as played by Lawrence, is one of the toughest and most formidable characters in any movie franchise. She exemplifies the transformation in gender roles that has taken place in recent years. Lawrence’s other character, Katniss of The Hunger Games, is another great example of the modern trend of fist-fighting females in cinema. You could argue that it’s a compliment that, of all the X-characters, the ads focus on Mystique being the one to confront and struggle with the bad guy. She’s clearly front-and-center of the film’s advertising.
The confusing part of the controversy is this…if you look at the way most female characters are described by studio press, directors and the actresses themselves, words like “badass”, “tough”, “strong” and “kickass”, are generally used. The physical toughness of female characters and the fact that they fight fist-to-fist with males is often put forward as their defining feature. (Think of Agent May from Agents of SHIELD or Brianne of Tarth in Game of Thrones.) This is what makes the outrage about the ad so confusing and controversial.
Where is the line drawn between what is considered a “badass” female who battles men or what is considered gratuitous violence against women? Is it only permissible to show women beating up men but never taking a beating themselves? What’s the right thing to do?
Did Fox really do anything wrong in this case? What do you think?