The Stereotype Safety Net Isn’t So Safe Anymore

By Erin Bassler

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice may be lining the box office’s pockets, but the critics seem less than satisfied. Unswayed by giant CGI creatures and batsuits, or even Henry Cavill’s butt in spandex, the disappointed wails can be heard from the movie theater to the bowels of Internet forums.

Fans came to see an epic clash of ideals between two of DC Comic’s household names, complete with well-rounded supporting characters. What they got was a testosterone-fueled nightmare that butchered the leads’ core values and forced the female characters back into their prehistoric roles as cats stuck in trees.

When we are first introduced to Lois Lane (Amy Adams), a defiant, determined, and experienced reporter capable of venturing into dangerous locations for scoops and fending off predators, she is portrayed as a defenseless hostage of terrorists, which allows one to pretty much guess what will follow – two and a half hours of clichés with capes and enough ego to fill an Olympic swimming pool.

Portraying Lane as a damsel in distress ten minutes into the picture leaves a bad taste in the mouth. Yes, this is a superhero movie — a dramatic rescue for the love interest is part of the package, so long as it isn’t overdone. So, once? Okay. Twice? Fine. But four times? That’s beyond pushing it.

Lane and Martha Kent (Diane Lane) are portrayed as little more than pawns to better establish Superman’s (Henry Cavill) heroism. The two of them combined rack up a total of perhaps fifteen minutes of screen time, all of which involves being saved by their boyfriend or son.

Which isn’t to mention that in the climax of the film, when Lane finally takes charge and manages to get rid of one of the big bad super weapons, it’s suddenly revealed that our dashing heroes desperately need that big bad super weapon — leaving Lane as red as her hair.

But it’s not only the good girls that must suffer through terrible tropes; the bad girls do as well.

Mercy Graves (Tao Okamoto) is Lex Luther’s (Jesse Eisenberg) personal assistant and second-in-command of his plans — she is loyal to a fault, very capable, and the only person that Luther genuinely trusts with his legacy. So, what do you think happens? He lets her get blown up.

Luther has literally no reason whatsoever to let Graves die. She is completely in-the-know and on board with his goals. Why five seconds of the film couldn’t be taken for him to tell her to get out before he bombs the Capitol Building sky high is beyond me.

Of course he doesn’t tell her. The writers have already proven that their females are little more than props, so why not? Why should it matter that such a powerful and intelligent female villain was killed in a completely pointless, easily avoidable, nonchalant manner? Graves’ role is completely discarded within the plot, sacrificed only to further emphasize Luther’s villainy.

Out of all of the DC wonder women, only THE Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) was written as someone who can hold her own in a sticky situation — battling a giant monster in a leotard is no easy task, let me tell you, yet jabs were still made at the justice-seeking Amazonian princess.

Her main story arc revolves around retrieving information that Luther has gathered on her. She goes to great lengths to steal a data drive from Batman (Ben Affleck), but later returns it to him after admitting her inability to crack its security code. There’s no arguing that Batman is slightly more tech-savvy than Wonder Woman — being a billionaire with a dozen code-hacking specialty computers helps, so it’s not really an issue —but it is problematic that Batman then proceeds to break the “impossible” code while taking a nap. Wonder Woman’s efforts up to that point have been made pointless, since her story arc ultimately consists of waiting on Batman to do the job for her and then waiting again for him to give her what she needs.

What’s depressing however, isn’t just the shoddy writing that reeks of sexism, but that if this movie had been released ten-or-so years ago, a lot of fans (myself included) would likely have accepted it with nary a peep.

Here’s what I mean:

Over a decade ago, there was a common trend amongst the top billers on the silver screen— from Star Wars III to Night at the Museum, the stereotypes remained in place. The majority of female leads were used as tragic plot devices (Padmé Amidala) or last minute helpers that explained the painfully obvious (Sacagawea).

Movie-goers were used to seeing female characters portrayed a certain way and although they may not have approved, it was generally accepted.

But with so many progressive films being released these days, from The Danish Girl to Zootopia, there’s a certain expectation that accompanies the opportunity to make waves in the film business; timing is everything, and Batman v Superman completely missed the boat.

The fact that the writers not only chose to not move forward, but instead took one… two… at least five steps backward is what finally tightens the noose on this disappointment of a film.

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