7 Gender-Specific Ways Actors Are Constantly Screwed Over
If the trailer is any indication, it appears the only good part of the new Ghostbusters movie is going to be the controversially gender-swapped cast. Similarly, the new Rogue One trailer has a handful of internet dipshits clutching their pearls because there's yet another female Star Wars lead who isn't wearing a bikini or dying in childbirth.
Despite this tiny backlash, most of us are A-OK with Hollywood's push to create more strong and funny female role models for the kids. (Lord knows I'm happy to know that my niece can enjoy the same calculated merchandising tie-ins I did as a child.) But with that in mind, why stop at blockbusters? Maybe you haven't noticed, but almost every popular genre comes with its own bizarre gender hang-ups begging to be picked apart -- if only because it's boring not to.
Romantic Comedies Are Sexist As Hell (For Both Genders)
Romantic comedies aren't watched for realism but rather to pander to our depraved hope and emotions. They're like pornos for the heart, which is why so many of them utilize the same tired tropes over and over -- such as the male lead stopping a wedding at the last minute.
Optimus Prime is more realistic than this scene.
How many damn times does this happen? Along with The Graduate, there's Spaceballs, The Wedding Singer, Shrek, Made Of Honor, Wedding Crashers, and Wayne's World spoofing the trope itself. I'm sure there are other fictional wedding examples popping into your head right now -- all of which are being crashed exclusively by men. Because women are apparently so goddamn wishy-washy that they're looking for an upgrade right until the vows are done.
Even The Wedding Planner, a film about a woman pursuing an engaged man, somehow manages to end with that man trying to stop her wedding. It's like somewhere a room full of executives decided that wasting a bunch of catering food was the most romantic thing for a guy to do ... especially since every man is a child-like jerkoff in desperate need of a woman's touch.
He's basically that face-changing assassin from Game Of Thrones.
Don't get me wrong, Judd Apatow (who might be reading this); I love movies like The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Superbad like they were my own balls. But somewhere down the line this genre decided that for men to grow as characters, they also have to abandon their own friends and hobbies. Steve Carell has to sell off his action figure collection, Seth Rogen has to stop hanging out with his stoner friends, and even Superbad ends with the two sets of friends splitting apart to pursue the opposite sex.
You could argue that these bumbling doofs comically needed a change in life -- but that's exactly the problem. In the real world, getting stoned and collecting dolls is a common interest you would seek out in a mate. But the romantic comedy world ramps these activities so high that they become debilitating. Jimmy Fallon can't simply enjoy the Red Sox in Fever Pitch; he has to be stupid-obsessed with them so it's considered romantic to give up his season tickets. In the real world, that kind of ultimatum is the sign of a failing relationship. As is this:
"Alragh, alragh, alragh!"
That's from Failure To Launch -- a chilling, dystopian world where men are such hopeless chucklefucks that Sarah Jessica Parker professionally tricks them into moving out of their parents' homes. When Ramblin' Matt McConaughey learns that the woman he's dating was hired to sex him into getting over his dead fiancee (what the fuck, movie?), his friends and family tie him up until he forgives her for it. That's seriously the plot of a lighthearted rom-com and not some Roman Polanski thriller.
Female Superheroes Are Almost Always Morally Corrupt
There's never an occasion where dressing up like a futuristic circus barker and punching people to death wouldn't be considered morally ambiguous. More than ever are men of the Iron, Super, or Bat variety walking the line between hero and world-destroyer. Daredevil, The Punisher, and Wolverine constantly battle with the concept of killing, and of course there are the lovable thieves like Star-Lord and Ant-Man also trying to do good in the universe. All of these male characters are morally corrupt, right? So how come the only serious betrayers and line-crossers have boobs?
And lack their own solo movies?
Show me a male superhero who worked for the enemy, like Hawkeye or Cyclops, and I'll show you yet another brainwashing subplot. Meanwhile, Jean Grey not only willingly turns on her fellow X-Men, she kills Professor X with her out-of-control powers. Catwoman works for the enemy in both of her Batman appearances -- and before becoming an Avenger, Scarlet Witch causes them to nearly implode with crimson mind tricks.
See the difference? Sure, Wolverine can go a little overboard in the murder department, but it's Mystique who tries to brainsplode every non-mutant on Earth. Star-Lord starts off as a ruffian crypt-robber, but it's Gamora who's introduced as working for the villain. Thor might be redeeming past arrogance, but Black Widow is coming off murdering for the Russians. Even the out-of-control powerfuls like Hulk and Ghost Rider manage to aim that ferocity at only bad people, while Jean Grey and Rogue struggle with hurting the people they love.
"Take that, dutiful boyfriend!"
It's weird, right? Tell me it isn't weird. Point out that there are plenty of non-evil female cinematic superheroes like both Sue Storm and regular Storm, Wonder Woman, Kitty Pryde, and ... who else? Jessica Jones? Fuuuuck nope. Save for a few, the cinematic price of admission for lady heroes is to be ethically broken, whereas the men just have to decide how much ass they should kick.
Movies Are Insane About Romantic Age Differences
Despite Harold And Maude being a classic today, past critics were totally creeped out by the timeless love story between a young pre-goth and a weird old lady.
"Mmm, I can still taste those off-brand hard candies I gave you."
But these days the film is often listed as one of the greatest love stories of all time, right there next to The Graduate, for some reason. Because while we've seemed to grow out of our naked Brooke Shields Lolita stage, we're at ground freaking zero for older ladies getting all up in a younger man.
This single film resulted in an entirely new genre of porn searches.
Now, let's all grit our teeth and swap out the genders, making Harold And Maude a film about a 79-year-old man having a sexual relationship with a woman in her 20s. Still romantic? How about Stifler's father going all American Beauty with one of his female friends? It's weird, right? (And for good reason, as the majority of statutory rape victims are young women.)
(Not a logline for a time-travel movie.)
In other words: No one wants to watch Kevin Spacey plow into a high school cheerleader like it's some magical moment, but we're far more persuaded by the gender-opposite. Ironically, however, we are totally fine with seeing actors like Kevin Spacey plow women 20 years younger than they are -- just as long as the film doesn't make a big deal of it.
So, yeah ... I guess you can say this actually happens all the damn time, just on the condition that no one acknowledges it in the actual film. It's as if the act of a younger man finding an older lady romantically attractive is deemed a miracle of the heart, while young women are naturally expected to lay their dad's friends.
Any Underdog Sports Film Is Way Better With Female Athletes
My all-time-favorite sports movie has to be Slap Shot, the 1977 Paul Newman film about a podunk hockey team trying to earn fan attention by beating the God out of everyone they encounter. It's a great, all-American underdog film filled with leather pants and uncomfortable gay slurs that was later followed up with Slap Shot 2: Is That Stephen Baldwin? and Slap Shot 3: We Made Slap Shot 3.
Now available at Blockbuster ruins everywhere!
I'm not bummed they made two shitty follow-ups to King Cool's swank masterpiece; I'm bummed they made two shitty follow-ups and never took it to the logical next step.
"And then a Mighty Ducks spinoff, time permitting."
Imagine an unappreciated women's hockey team trying to make a name for themselves by resorting to ultra violence. It would be not only a fun twist but one that amplifies the original film's moral question of using violence over skill. This is actually the plot to a Futurama episode where Leela becomes a baseball novelty instead of a female role model. It's a great story about women's often-mocked role in sports and makes me wonder why every underdog sports movie isn't about women ... especially in a world where the U.S. Women's National Soccer Team is performing far better but making five times less than their male counterparts.
Why isn't Ronda Rousey already in a Rocky remake? How have we not made a Sandlot about little girls aspiring to be athletes? Fuck it, where's my goddamn lady Seabiscuit beating the statistical odds? Because female sports movies don't make enough money? Tell that to the highest-grossing baseball movie ever.
Get out of here, Tom Hanks. You're diminishing the point.
There's no excuse when every female-led sports film like Million Dollar Baby and Bend It Like Beckham goes on to make $216 million and $76 million on meager indie budgets. And yet studios continually go back to the male-dominated underdog genre like it's the safest bet in town.
This film cost more than Million Dollar Baby and made a third as much.
But this is by far not the most male-dominated genre in need of some dangerous estrogen ...
Non-Fictional War Stories Never Involve Women (And They Fucking Should)
Science fiction has long invoked lady war heroes like Private First Class Vasquez and Lieutenant Ripley in the '80s, the cast of Starship Troopers in the '90s, and Agent Carter and Edge Of Tomorrow's Rita Vrataski more recently. We're totally good at it, and even include military women in our comedies and dramas like Stripes and A Few Good Men. Every genre is covered! Except for any war film based on a true story.
Good question, strapline.
Of course, women were traditionally kept out of combat -- so perhaps there's just no good lady war stories to tell. At least none compared to Chris Kyle making 160 sniper kills, right?
Turns out there's like 300 dead Germans who would seriously disagree ...
Guys, meet Lyudmila Pavlichenko. Not only is her name as awesomely complicated as Vasquez or Vrataski, but Lyudmila also happens to be a Soviet WWII sniper with 309 confirmed kills. That's more people than Rambo killed in the entire Rambo series, according to this one publication.
Along with the badassery we've previously pointed out (like winning a three-day standoff with another sniper), Lyudmila also had to battle the inevitable sexism that came with her occupation -- having been constantly pressured to become a field nurse before finally being accepted into the 25th Rifle Division. When the war wound down, she became the first Soviet citizen to travel to the U.S., where reporters flooded her with bullshit questions about wearing makeup to battle instead of highlighting that she murdered more Germans than eight fucking Hindenburgs.
My point here is that this is basically A League Of Their Own with violence. And it took until 2015 for Russia to make a low-budget movie about her. Meanwhile, no such films have been made for Eileen Nearne, a British spy who was tortured and interrogated (to no avail) before escaping the Germans; Nancy Wake, who organized a French resistance and fucking karate-chopped a man to death; or Sgt. Leigh Ann Hester, who killed at least three close-range combatants when her squad was ambushed for 25 minutes during the recent Iraq war. She even got her own fucking action figure, already giving her a leg up over most female characters.
At the behest of Kylo Ren, probably.
So why not make a movie about it? Well, it might have to do with the fact that women killing men in movies is never seen as heroic; rather, it's seen as an act of vengeance or just plain hilarious ...
Women Murdering And Ruining Men Is Portrayed As Empowering Or Funny
I'm not dense; there's a long history behind why women fictionally brutalizing men is considered less severe than the opposite scenario. For that reason, in movies it's nearly always a case of sweet revenge as opposed to ugly malice. Stories like Kill Bill or Thelma & Louise are considered to be justifiably empowering, even when the latter takes place in a bizarre world where nearly every male character is a rapey dirtbag.
And Christopher McDonald dresses like '80s Lionel Richie.
Don't get me wrong: I'm absolutely rooting for these ladies as they shoot at truckers and tear-ass across the States. But, remember, they kill Thelma's near-rapist not out of defense but rather after the fact when he's no longer a threat. Thanks to the context of the murder, we're able to cheer -- but in no condition can their story be gender-swapped and still considered a classic tale of friendship. Best-case scenario we get a Fight Club-like cautionary tale about the struggles of masculinity.
But while there's a pretty justifiable motive for The Bride or Thelma and Louise, at times this trope can really get away from us.
"Hi, um, 9-1-1?"
Chicago is the only film where the characters celebrate murdering people over trivial annoyances and we're expected to like them for it. And yeah, I get that the original play is a satire based on true-crime stories -- but a satire on what, exactly? That women are manipulative masterminds who can kill in cold blood and come out the victim? Dear god, playwright Maurine Dallas Watkins, who have you hurt?
See, it's not that these films don't recognize that it's morally wrong for women to abuse or kill men; they just always channel that message through a condescending smirk. It's as if abusive women are so rare in real life that it's considered a forgivable joke in films like John Tucker Must Die or My Super Ex-Girlfriend. And what's weirdest is that most of these films go hand-in-hand with female bonding like the only way women can get along is if they eat a dude, like in Fried Green Tomatoes.
And if you think that's messed up, consider that male friendships are treated even worse ...
Male Bonding Is Treated Like A Big Dumb Joke About Getting Laid
The 2010s subverted a lot of unbudging female archetypes, with films like Frozen and Brave focusing on family instead of romance, or Bridesmaids and Trainwreck giving women a leading role in screwball comedies. No longer are "chick flicks" restrained to Steel Magnolias or those godforsaken Traveling Pants movies. And with this new terrible-looking Ghostbusters, female camaraderie has finally begun to cross into the sci-fi genre. It's a feminist win to take women out of their sappy roles, but it would be even more of a victory if films also replaced those mushy characters with men.
What I'm saying is: Where's my Fried Green Tomatoes with men bonding over cannibalism?
Close enough, I guess ...
In films, sincere male friendships are never the focus of a story without it being some kind of hackneyed gay joke. In terms of coming-of-age films, boys are exclusively trying to get laid and wasted, whereas ladies are dealing with dead parents and celebrating friendships. It's American Pie and Superbad versus Now And Then and Mystic Pizza. And while there are always exceptions (see Turn Me On, Dammit! versus Stand By Me), it's on the fringes of the larger genres. Movies like 50/50 or I Love You, Man absolutely explore male relationships, but have to disguise themselves as silly comedies to do it.
And it gets way worse once the male characters grow into adults, when their friendships either still center on finding sex and booze (The Hangover, Animal House) or take place in fucking jail.
Maybe the age of sappy movie friendships is simply behind us, and maybe we just don't need serious stories about men being platonic pals -- but it's certainly worth exploring, right? The more we portray women as screwball sports and war heroes, the more we should normalize male sensitivity and friendship, giving us a whole new range of original characters to explore. And isn't that the goal? To make these genres stronger while challenging the cultural restrictions on gender? Otherwise, guys are left either as Butch Cassidy and Sundance or accidentally drinking jizz at a house party.
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For more things Hollywood needs to stop getting hung up on, check out 18 Baffling Tropes Hollywood Can't Stop Using and 5 Unwritten Rules Hollywood Needs To Stop Following.
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