The Real Definition of Real Cinema. Hint: It’s More Gatekeeping.

When I first saw the after-credit scene of Iron Man way back in 2008, where Samuel L Jackson talks to Robert Downey Jr about ‘the Avengers initiative’, my eyes widened. After all, Marvel Studios was a new face on the scene, not yet owned and supported by Disney, and going up against what seemed like the unstoppable Juggernaut that was DC Comics and Warner Bros, having just finished the Nolan- directed Batman trilogy to high acclaim.

“This is a huge gamble,” I thought, because Marvel Studios did not have, and wouldn’t have for many years, the rights to their more successful characters of Spider-Man and the X-Men from the comics. And arguably, it hasn’t been Captain America, Thor and Iron Man that were Marvel Comics’ flagship, but Spider-Man and X-Men.

11 years and many, MANY films later, the MCU is a thing that now exists, a huge, financially successful franchise with its penultimate film, Endgame, having knocked James Cameron’s Avatar from its place of largest blockbuster ever. Needless to say, the genre of superhero films is very much no longer a niche thing anymore, but a viable, powerfully successful film genre in and of itself.

But that’s not to stop certain detractors from rearing their heads, turning up their noses, and sniffing as though they smelled something bad their dog did.

I know I raised an eyebrow when I saw a clip of Comedian Marc Maron saying that superhero movies were for grown men who live in their mother’s basements. Now, to be honest, as someone who’d been bullied and picked on for liking superhero comics in the 90s, I felt a bit defensive over this. And to this day, I still feel a bit defensive, because some of that stuff from high school sure as hell sticks with you for years.

However, I found Marc Maron’s comments dismissive because it ignores the scores of people from across the gender spectrum that enjoy superhero movies and contribute to the fandom in terms of cosplay, fanart, fanfiction, creating panels at conventions, and even being critical of the media. After all, as Feminist Frequency puts it, we should be critical of the media we enjoy.

What I didn’t know, and only found out prior to writing this article when I went looking for the clip in question, was that Marc Maron continued to open his mouth, aim his foot carefully, and then wedge it firmly between his teeth. Much of his commentary about how the Joker is a REAL film minus all the capes and tights runs parallel to what Joker director Todd Phillips and, more recently, Martin Scorcese have said, denigrating the genre as something not to be taken seriously, or at least as seriously as other ‘real’ cinema.

Of course, Todd Phillip’s comments on the matter (as per my last article), as well as his personal opinion on how SJWs are ruining comedy these days, are well known at this point, but it’s been Academy Award Winner Martin Scorsese’s added commentary about how they’re also not real cinema that’s pushed this sentiment from just a couple grumpy old dudes into gatekeeping, in my opinion.

Why? Well, it comes from the very fact that they are straight, white old men who have enjoyed success over the years and are now poo-pooing over something relatively new that’s become incredibly successful. It’s also amazingly dismissive of the acting and hard work that’s gone into the films, starting with an actor who had all but ruined his career due to a terrible bout of addiction to drugs and alcohol, who then went on to push for his fellow Avenger actors in receiving higher pay.

It’s also a telling sign of gatekeeping when a member of the old order starts to wag his finger and dictate what is and is not a ‘real’ part of whatever entertainment industry they’re a part of. Martin Scorsese saying that superhero films are more theme parks than cinema carries with it an edge of discrimination when one considers the successes of Black Panther and Captain Marvel, as well as being wholly ignorant of the themes that they explore.

Black Panther? Colonialism.

Captain Marvel? Sexism.

Captain America – Winter Soldier? Security vs freedom in an ever increasing police state.

Avengers Endgame? How people cope and deal with loss (even if it fudged up pretty bad in its treatment of Thor).

I also couldn’t help but agree whole-heartedly with this thread on Twitter:

And it’s not like something that women love has been dismissed as not being real before. If women enjoy it, and enjoy it a lot, then it’s ripe for dismissal by men. Example? The romance genre of fiction, or even young adult novels for that matter.

What Marc Maron, Martin Scorsese, and Todd Phillips all share in their digs against superhero movies is a hatred, or at least a dislike, against something they see as frivolous and shallow. Now, that’s their opinion and they’re more than welcome to it, but dictating what is and isn’t a real film?

You can bet they’re going to be called out on it, and rightly so.

I’m 41 years old, and been online for just over half that time, so I’ve come to see and recognize what gatekeeping is, both in and outside various fandoms. So it comes across as telling that these three have said, so far as I can see, nothing about superhero movies in all the time that they’ve starred and been directed by white dudes, but suddenly have something to say once the people making and starring in them have started to diversify, if only a little.

Trust me, guys, you’re not looking the best right now.

Tripping Over The Low Bar – ScarJo’s Learned Nothing

We all make mistakes.

It’s all part of growing up, living, learning, and just being a human being in general. We make mistakes, we learn from them, and sometimes we don’t make them again.

Which makes it all the more frustrating that Scarlet Johanson, in a recent interview with As If magazine, she made yet another mistake, in which she said that as an actor, she “should be allowed to play any person, or any tree, or any animal because that is my job and the requirements of my job.”

Considering her past mistakes, this line, and others in the interview, is really telling of her ignorance of her own privilege as a straight, white, cisgender woman.

One also can’t help but think about how that line in particular pretty much equates playing trees and animals to playing transgender people and people of other ethnicity. It’s very insulting, to say the least, especially with the demonization of transgender people that transphobes regularly engage in.

For a quick reminder, ScarJo took on the role, then backed out and apologized, of Dante Tex Gill, a transgender male mob boss in 1970s Chicago, as well as taking on the role of Motoko Kusanagi, a Japanese woman, in Ghost in the Shell.

She’s since apologized for what she said in the As If magazine, claiming they had been taken out of context.

They weren’t.

Personally, I prefer this explanation for her apology from one of my favourite people on Twitter, Clarkisha Kent:

At this rate, I feel like the main question to be asked is when does she stop getting chances to screw up, because she’s been doing a darn good job of that, at least once a year for the past 3 years on some very important discussions of representation and diversity in our media. Yes, we’re allowed to make more than one mistake a year, and to expect perfection of people is downright impossible and inconsiderate.

However, we’re not asking for perfection, just some basic empathy and for ScarJo to stop making the same mistakes over and over. Whenever something like this comes out, it feels as though any forward momentum we’re making is slowed, even stalled, to explain, once again, why this is a bad thing.

At times like this, I’m reminiscent of when I first learned about her, in her role as Black Widow in Iron Man 2. By Avengers, I know a lot of MCU fans were eager for a Black Widow movie, something to break up the monotony of straight, white, male-centric movies that continues to be much of what Marvel Studios puts out. When Winter Soldier came out, we were certain that a Black Widow movie was coming out. Under the direction of the Russo Bros and that incredible script, we got a really nuanced, intriguing character in Black Widow.

Now though? She’s pretty much killed off any and all enthusiasm I’ve had for the Black Widow movie that is finally coming out, after Captain Marvel and the end of what’s been basically the Infinity Gauntlet Saga in Endgame.

(On a side note, part of the delay in seeing any kind of female-lead movie from Marvel Studios feels like they were waiting to see if DC’s Wonder Woman would sink or swim instead of simply having faith… but that’s a topic for another day.)

This is in total opposition to what Brie Larson has done in the PR work for Captain Marvel, where she actively worked to include more diverse voices in the discussion of the movie, as well as push for more diversity onscreen. This isn’t an attempt to pit one woman against another, but to highlight how one recognizes her power and privilege and use it to push for diversity, and the other remains ignorant.

And another thing that makes me frustrated?

As I and others have expressed our desire not to see the Black Widow movie, it means that if it under performs (and the goal posts for the success of any movie lead by anyone who’s not a straight, white male are easily moved by people who think only straight white dudes can sell a movie), then some people will take it as evidence that women can’t sell movies.

A lot of those people are still in charge in Hollywood, either as casting directors, heads of studios, etc, and will believe only that despite the success of movies like Wonder Woman, Captain Marvel, the Resident Evil series, and others. It feels a bit like a Catch-22, where people continue to push a self-fulfilling prophecy in spite of reality, and then assume that is the reality. This has resulted in movies like Supergirl, Catwoman, and Elektra, to name a few.

They weren’t bad films because they starred women, they were bad films because they had bad writing and directing, and I sure as heck don’t recall them being advertised as much as their male superhero counterparts.

At the very least, ScarJo only appears to make this kind of mistake once a year, and as it’s happened in July, we won’t get any others for the rest of the year.

I hope.

But I’m not gonna hold my breath or anything…

Fatphobia & Trauma – An Avengers Endgame Problem

Avengers Endgame is the culmination of 21 films spread out over 10 years and a TV series, and acts as a swan song for some characters, their final bow as Phase 3 of this grand experiment comes to an end.

Endgame did many things right, but also stumbled on others, and it came to mind when I saw the following tweet from pop culture commentator Clarkisha Kent:

Warning, from here on out, there be spoilers, as well as trigger warning for fat shaming jokes, and discussion of depression.

Spoilers Sweetie...

Continue reading “Fatphobia & Trauma – An Avengers Endgame Problem”

Black Panther And The Impending Doom Of Hollywood’s Mediocrity

Recently, the success of Black Panther has exceeded even the most wildest of expectations, having passed 1 billion world wide, then 1.25 billion, and now has sailed past the record set by Titanic by James Cameron.

Heck, Black Panther will also be the first movie screened in Saudi Arabia after its 35 year cinema ban ends. Quite the extra achievement there.

Continue reading “Black Panther And The Impending Doom Of Hollywood’s Mediocrity”

Spider-Man Homecoming – A Review

Hey everyone!

Fresh off the viewing of this movie with my niece, who is as big a Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) fan as I am, I’ve had time to think about this movie, and, well, you might not like those thoughts.

Because I left the theatre feeling pretty underwhelmed.

Why?

Because I’m pretty sure I paid for a ticket to see a Spider-Man movie, not an Iron Man movie, and that could be a reason why a shared, cinematic universe has its weaknesses.

Now, before we go any further, I will advise everyone that there are majour spoilers ahead, so read at your own risk if you haven’t seen the movie already.

Alright then, away we go…

Continue reading “Spider-Man Homecoming – A Review”

Brain Food – Episode 54

Hello everyone, and welcome to a new episode of Brain Food!

Today’s episode has me reviewing Margaret Stohl’s book, Black Widow – Forever Red.

However, as much as I wanted to like this book, I couldn’t. It was boring, slow, and was more or less, as the youtube reviewer Reeder Skeeter put it “Forever Red, guest starring Black Widow.”

Check out her review of the book, as it’s got some additional, interesting insights I glossed over, more or less because I was so bored with the whole thing.

Plus, she’s smarter than me. She got hers from a library whereas I spent actual money on my copy.