And then the film, Captain America: Civil War began. And almost immediately a female character played by Scarlett Johansson began to ju-jitsu her way across the screen, smashing apart one muscular bad guy after another. She must have punched/kicked/strangled about 30 or 40 during the course of the movie.
And I couldn't help but wonder what image of women my son took away from all this. Women as highly physically vulnerable and emotionally sensitive? Or women as kick-ass heroines, who can more than match it with male aggression?
I didn't much enjoy the film (I was possibly not in the right kind of mood for it). Even when the men fought, it seemed to me to be missing the point. Each of them had a kind of gimmick that made them special in who they were: a shield, or armour, or an ability to change size. They belted each other throughout much of the film, relying on their gimmick for protection.
The thought occurred to me that the ordinary man has a chance to be something more than this. He has a chance to experience masculinity, in its essence, as a life principle imbued with extraordinary meaning, a meaning that makes up part of who he is - his own self - as a man. Better to turn to this, the greater thing, than to the lesser attributes of comic book superheroes.
As for the Scarlett Johansson character, I thought that Alastair Roberts framed the issue well:
Fictional worlds are places in which we can explore possibilities for identity and agency. The fact that women’s stature as full agents is so consistently treated as contingent upon such things as their physical strength and combat skills, or upon the exaggerated weakness or their one-upping of the men that surround them, is a sign that, even though men may be increasingly stifled within it, women are operating in a realm that plays by men’s rules. The possibility of a world in which women are the weaker sex, yet can still attain to the stature and dignity of full agents and persons—the true counterparts and equals of men—seems to be, for the most part, beyond people’s imaginative grasp. This is a limitation of imagination with painful consequences for the real world, and is one of the causes of the high degree of ressentiment within the feminist movement.
|Does Scarlett have to be severe (like her film character on the right) to win meaning?|