(Best Conflicts and Controversies)
Sometimes it’s hard to focus on our film studies with all the contentious noise in the room. Call it outrage culture or righteous social justice, blame it on the internet age or accredit to a smarter up-and-coming generation. However you want to describe it, good or bad, folks are fighting over films, fan-ship, and representation. Let’s have a look at the three most distracting battles to spawn from movies this year.
3. Why is Black Widow a monster? (Age of Ultron): Fanboy royalty Joss Whedon went from a questionable script misstep into a tub of hot water when he shipped Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) with yet another Avenger, the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo). But it wasn’t the convenient romantic partnership that boiled some blood, it was his pairing of Natasha’s confession of her infertility with her self-diagnosis as a “monster.” It seems a very easy thing to catch, but the backlash was torrential, so bad that at one point, it was speculated that the hate and feminist litmus tests ran the director off of Twitter (which was proven not to be the case). (Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)
2. What did Katie do to Deserve That? (Jurassic World): It ended up being one of the biggest releases ever, so everyone saw it, and at least half of everyone wanted, for one reason or another, to talk about it. Perhaps the second most vicious death in any film this year (Bone Tomahawk just refuses to not be mentioned, doesn’t it?), assistant Katie’s death at the mouths of multiple monstrous dinosaurs, though gleefully choreographed, felt somewhat… harsh for a character who hadn’t done anything excessively worthy of our disdain. That might be a forgivable charge against a film, but this wasn’t just one singular script oversight (the way it might have been in Whedon’s case). Jurassic World works through a script that just can’t hide it’s indifference-t0-disdain for women, and Director Colin Treverrow did a poor job of explaining the death when he insinuated that her deserving screen crime was that of… looking at her phone too much. (Universal Pictures)
1. Rey is a what? (Star Wars: The Force Awakens): When Screenwriter Max Landis took to Twitter to criticize the most anticipated movie of the year, he didn’t pull his punches. And maybe he should have. Landis’ description of Rey as a Mary Sue rubbed, well, everyone the wrong way. While most were celebrating Rey for being an all-too rare strong female hero, Landis later clarified that he was attempting to illustrate that Rey’s successes were unearned compared to former heroes, Star Wars and otherwise . Maybe not an unfounded claim, but by then it was too late, as he had already been directly critcized by filmmakers Lexi Alexander and Guillermo Del Toro, who all were quick to point out that the infrequency with which these types of girl heroes are presented to consumers (particularly consumer kids) dictates that these sorts of criticisms need to be more thought and delicately handled. This is especially true considering that even with all the film’s success and Rey’s position as its hero, there are still group action figure packages in department stores that excluded her likeness.
Honorable Mention: Leonadro DiCaprio was raped by a bear?
2015’s Disciplinary Grade: Leonardo DiCaprio was raped by a bear, but these other fights at least pushed conversations in a fruitful direction. I can’t fail the class. B