As Cool As A Fruitstand

…and maybe as strange. A movie blog.

Iron Man & Gender Politics

Posted by Hedwig on May 9, 2008

I haven’t written a review of Iron Man here yet. It’s partly because I already wrote one, partly because everyone else already seemed to have said their bit (and gotten responses), but mostly because I didn’t really think I could add anything different to the discourse.

Good thing there’s such a thing as commenters.

Some background for those of you who cannot read Dutch: in the last paragraph of my review (which was largely positive and ended with a 3.5 star rating) , I said:

“it’s too bad that Favreau dosne’t quite manage to keep the movie tight enough, giving the viewer time for questions that should not be asked in these kind of movie (do you get cell reception at that height?)”

As I hope it clear from the above, it’s not the unlikeliness of cell phone reaction that’s my issue. Rather, it’s that with the best movies of this kind (The Bourne Ultimatum is a nice recent example), you get so caught up in the action that you don’t notice the plot holes or strange details. I don’t mind that Iron Man contains some illogical things: it’s a movie about a man who makes a power source out of a fist and makes an indestructible armor, for chrissakes. What I minded was that Favreau gave me time to pause on some of the less logical details, when all I should have been thinking was “Whao! Cool!”

However, in a comment on filmtotaal, someone who refers to (presumably) himself as “poepiescheet”, took me to task. He said “of course you can ask yourself these thing, but come on! […] Instead of expending a lot of thought and attention to these kinds of details, you can also just watch the movie”.

This, I’ll admit, is a fair point. I AM, after all, a bit more prone to overthinking things, and might require more distraction than a regular viewer. But in the next paragraph, he goes into dangerous territory, and says:

“Great elements like gorgeous women, fast cars and cool gadgets that just make male blood flow faster . Due to all the explosions and a lacking love story it’s probably more of a men’s movie, but don’t comics get read more by boys anyway?” [emphasis mine]

And that, my friends, is how you get an offended and very aggressive Hedwig. I hate caps-lock, so I won’t use it, but you can imagine it below.

What?! So it’s because one of my chromosomes is a bit longer than yours that I can’t “just enjoy” a “men’s movie”? My gender automatically determines what I can and cannot like, and disqualifies me from having a relevant opinion on a movie admittedly geared towards teenage males? Because I have boobs, I cannot experience an on-screen explosion the same way a guy can??

Hey, I’m not going to argue both genders are equal, and I know that on average, girls like rom-coms and guys don’t, while guys like loud action movies and girls don’t. On average being the important word here, and the one most people tend to ignore. Because I’m a girl, it’s true, you might assume I love Notting Hill and Kate & Leopold and am looking forward to the Sex and the City movie. Or that I probably don’t like Tarantino, comic book movies and 300. But anyone who knows me can tell you that in both these cases, you’d be wrong two times out of three.

The thing that makes it complicated is that my gender absolutely inform and influences the way I look at movies. I think that’s a good thing, too: film criticism is a rather male-dominated world, and being a girl, I sometimes might have a different perspective on things. But that doesn’t mean my opinion is not relevant. Even in cases like 300, where I’ll freely admit that my lack of testosterone might be one of the reasons I just don’t get it, I think my opinion has value. Why? Because I’m a critic.

Yep. I dared to use the big C-word. And I’ve only just gotten used to calling myself a physicist, too. But I feel that now that I’ve been writing reviews professionally for a year, while I still have so much to learn and so many movies to see, I do think that I’m watching movies in a detailed, informed, and analytical enough way that my opinion is something you can’t just dismiss out of hand on the grounds that I don’t have a penis.

I suppose, though, that’s it’s more than just that. After all, when a fellow reviewer described Speed Racer as a movie for boys, I felt a tinge of annoyance too. I like cars too! And another colleage mentioned that instead of playing with cars, he always held tea parties with his stuffed animals. I guess the big conclusion is: don’t generalize, because there are plenty exceptions to every rule.

Just don’t tell me I have a “male” taste, please. What I have is simply my taste. Which happens to include both cheesy action movie and cheap romance novels, both lego technic and baking, both Tarantino and Sofia Coppola. And don’t tell me I can’t “get” Iron Man just because I happen to get PMS.

(I know, I said this entry would be shorter… I can write short entries, truly. This one just got slightly out of hand. I guess the lesson is: don’t get me worked up, because I’ll write and write and write until it stops stinging)


7 Responses to “Iron Man & Gender Politics”

  1. Alison Flynn said

    Amen, sister.

  2. I hesitate to get caught up in gender issues. I’m a boy, but I like what I like and in my opinion it doesn’t always conform to a stereotype. I hated 300. Hated Rambo even more. Does that make me a girl?

    Sure, we’re probably guided by societal training and perhaps even hormones to like or dislike certain things, but there’s little value in making presuppositions about a person’s taste based on their sex.

    Oh wait, didn’t I start out by saying I hesitated getting involved in gender issues? oh well.

    Anyway, I couldn’t agree more with this: “What I minded was that Favreau gave me time to pause on some of the less logical details, when all I should have been thinking was Whao! Cool!” Not so much as it applies to Iron Man, but as it applies to movies in general. I don’t go into a movie, especially a summer movie, looking for things to hate about it, but if I have time to find stuff anyway, the movie is doing something wrong. I’ll forgive all manner of nonsense if I’m properly entertained. If I’m thinking too much, it’s the movie’s fault, not mine.

    But then, what do I know? one of my chromosomes is missing a leg.

    And congrats Hedwig on getting over the C-word. It’s about time. You most definitely are a critic. “Hedwig Van Driel – Film Critic/Physicist” has a nice ring to it, don’t you think?”

  3. katrine said

    I’d go for: “Hedwig van Driel – Film Critic/Physicist/Feminist” 🙂
    Since that last one is also something to wear with pride..

  4. sarcastig said

    I like it! Thank you Katrine – Philosopher/Feminist 😉

  5. Kaj said

    I thought you went easy on Iron Man. It never really got my blood going, and just keeps building up and up, only to Peter out in the end. The only thing that kept the movie moving at all was Robert Downey, Jr., who was excellent like always in recent years. 300 was one of my least favourite movies last year, I don’t think a lack of testosterone has anything to do with not appreciating it. (In fact, I remember it got a very positive review on FilmTotaal by another female critic) Speed Racer looks awful to me, and I did play with cars as a little boy. At that age I might’ve liked it, but these days I like my car chases with burning rubber that you can almost feel while watching, not with candy canes.

    I do feel that the female/gay male writers of FilmTotaal were a bit to nice to summer fare last year, but I don’t think that that has anything with gender and/or sexuality. The only time I ever suspected gender might’ve come into play with your reviewing of a movie was you’re (in my eyes) misinterpretation of Goodfellas (at least, the way you interpreted the psyche of Henry Hill and co.), but even that could very likely be chalked up to a lot of different reasons than gender.

    So really, I agree with you, your taste is your taste, irregardless of gender. Having said that, I’m not entirely sure that ‘poepiescheet’ was directly writing about you being a woman and because of that enjoyed the movie less. I think his whole story stems from that ‘just turn of your brain and watch’ attitude that your cousin Ruben has been railing against for years, and that poepiescheet’s describing himself as a testosterone driven male is merely his attempt at justification for his general ignorance.

  6. Daniel said

    Great post here. I love overthinking things, and I won’t try to hide feminine side when it comes to viewing films. Sure I liked the explosions, but I have some of the same questions as you do as well. So often the action in these movies kicks logic to the side. In the final battle of Transformers, why didn’t one of the bots just pick up Shia and deposit him on the roof instead of telling him to find his own way there through the explosions while they provided cover?

    Anyway, I say stick with your own taste, your own voice. There are enough people thinking and saying the same old things in this world.

  7. Merijn said

    Whoa. I guess it *did* bother you more than I understood.

    (also, ‘rom-com’? what the hell, who came up with that)

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