A billboard depicting a major fight in X-Men: Apocalypse has caused a huge uproar over the way female characters are depicted in the media. Why couldn't Fox see the issue in the first place?
Drivers in cities across the country have been confronted with the billboards, which feature Oscar Isaac's Apocalypse choking Jennifer Lawrence's Mystique with absolutely no context for the image. And that's a huge problem.
While it's amazing that strong female superheroes are finally being presented in action films, this image in no way represents that strength. In fact, it completely undermines it.
As Rose McGowan explained to The Hollywood Reporter in a Facebook post, "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?"
To be clear, the issue is not that the movie depicts a physical fight between a male character and a female character. Mystique has certainly proven that she is an equal fighter. The problem is that, out of all the images Fox could have chosen to promote X-Men: Apocalypse, it chose an image of Mystique being victimized instead of showing her strength.
Also troubling is the fact that violence against women has become so normalized in the media that no one at Fox thought this billboard might be a problem.
"I understand that some might not see it as an issue because it is a film about violence... with male and female characters who are warriors and fighting each other as equals," explained Jennifer McCleary-Sills, Director of Gender Violence and Rights for the International Center for Research on Women. "What really is the challenge here is the intentionality of it. You could have chosen any from the thousands of images, but you chose this one. Whose attention did you want to get, and to what end?"
Even huge X-Men fans and experts like Jay Rachel Edidin of the podcast Jay & Miles X-Plain the X-Men agree.
"It's gratuitous; it's offensive in completely useless ways. Offensive isn't always necessarily bad, but this is offensive in ways that serve absolutely no purpose, and while it does depict a scene from the actual film, it's also a terrible representation of the movie as a whole," Edidin said.
Fox has since apologized for the billboard. In a statement to The Hollywood Reporter, Fox said, "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."
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