Pop Culture · Superheroes

In Defense of Not Seeing Ant-Man

More than one person has asked me, knowing my penchant of superhero movies, if I have seen the newest Marvel movie Ant-Man. And I try to explain (calmly, without getting on any soapbox) no, I did not want to see Ant-Man. Sometimes that is enough, but most of my friends who know me look at me curiously, and I then usually follow up with “I don’t want to spend money on Ant-Man before any movie starring a super-heroine.” Because I mean, it’s ANT-MAN. If there was any superhero I did not want to see on the big screen, it was Ant-Man.

(And just for the record, I was not the only one apathetic by the idea of an Ant-Man movie.)

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Now before any one says anything about how Ant-Man has exceeded expectations and is very entertaining (some have even gone on record as saying it is the best Marvel movie to date), I know it has been doing well. I didn’t expect it to fail at all. All of Paul Rudd’s interviews and advertising for the movie have shown him to have all the charisma and charm of any of the other leading man in a Marvel superhero film.

However, neither Rudd’s charm nor semi-positive to stellar movie reviews will sway me to pay money for the privilege of watching a movie about Ant-Man. Because he is Ant-Man. He has the power to shrink down the size of an ant, somehow giving him super human strength and speed. I will forever be annoyed agitated aggrieved that Marvel decided that people would rather see Ant-Man on the big screen before any super heroine. Or if you’re tired of me hitting that drum, what about a movie staring a superhero (male or female) of color?

Just the other day I was talking to my friend and fellow-geek Jeff Leyco, and he bemoaned how he would love to see an Asian superhero. Because he wanted to see someone like him doing these amazing feats while struggling with moral and personal issues and overcoming them. In the same way that I want to look up and see a woman who is taking care of business herself, not as the damsel to be rescued; or the smart alack companion; or whose actions/death inspire the straight white male to continue fighting; or (most annoyingly) as the character that consistently displays that she is far more qualified in strength, smarts, and overall prowess but is sidelined because… of whatever unsatisfying excuse the writers offer.

I don’t even want this movie to be a “I AM WOMAN. HEAR ME ROAR!” movie, but someone who looks like me (in that she happens to identify as female) shown as a capable superhero that overcomes external and internal adversities just as straight, white, male superheroes have done before her. And the only difference is that she is a female.

And in a world where there are plenty of movies starring straight, white, men, I don’t understand how asking for something different, staring someone who does not meet all three of those qualifications, comes off as unreasonable. Why is asking for some difference in the title character seen as irrational?

Of course, I’ve heard reasons why:

No one wants to see a woman superhero movie.

Um, aside from you deciding that I don’t count as someone, there is clearly a community that wants one. And guess what? We’re growing, not only in numbers but also in volume.

Just because you (assuming you’re the one posing this argument) would not want to see a movie starring a female superhero, does not mean that your opinion reflects that of the whole entire movie consumer population.

BREAKING NEWS: it’s okay for other people to want and like different things. And it’s okay for Hollywood to pander to those other people every now and then, because you know what? We have money, too.

However, there is some good news! You (again assuming this is your opinion) don’t have to watch a superhero movie staring a woman! Just like I don’t have to watch Ant-Man.

Every attempt at a woman superhero movie before has failed.

p19491_p_v8_abThis is one of my favorites. Because you know, there was a time when it was thought that no one wanted superhero movies. That the idea of someone jumping around in spandex suits with powers and/or toys was silly and the general public did not flock to see these movies. Does anyone remember the first Captain America (1990) movie? What about Batman and Robin (1997)? Daredevil (2003) staring Ben Affleck (who some how got the role of Batman in the upcoming Superman movie in 2016)? Or the fact that there were TWO attempts at Hulk movies (The Incredible Hulk (1978) and Hulk (2003)) before a passable movie staring the man with a green anger problem (The Incredible Hulk (2008)) was produced?

Even now, in the golden age of superhero movies, a well-known character does not guarantee a good movie. (Green Lantern (2011), anyone? Or Ghost Rider (2007)? That last one even got a sequel that was (not surprisingly) worse than the its prequel.)

All of those movies failed miserably at the box office. But does anyone blame it on leading male character? Or any part of his demographic? Of course not! Fault in these movies can be found in that technology had not caught up to what the movie needed, or the script, or the director, or a number of other reasons, but NEVER what the character is (a straight, white male).

But when a movie featuring a female superhero fails? It’s because it was a female superhero. Period. No other reason. Not several re-writes and re-edits that left a less than cohesive movie (Supergirl (1984)) or a script that not even the most talented actor/actress or director of all time could save (Catwoman (2004)) or because  someone who did not care or have any respect for the character was put in charge and decided the only way the movie was ever going to sell was sex appeal (Elektra (2005)).

Nope, these films failed because a woman was the main character.

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Heroes that have had phenomenal movie flops have come back into the public’s good graces. (re: Batman, Hulk, Captain America, Spiderman, even Daredevil has had success in his own tv show.) So saying that the reason why we don’t have more female superhero movies is because previous movies featuring said female superheroes have flopped, really isn’t the best argument.

There is no way a female superhero movie will please all of you!

This just in: No movie has ever pleased everyone ever.

Believe it or not, some people do not like Christian Bale’s Batman. Fans loyal to the comic books will always find fault in the cinematic interpretation of the superhero. That’s life.

Now, if you’re talking about how female characters are often over scrutinized and never able to please the group that the character is targeting… you’re right. Audiences clamoring for female characters are often quick to tear down what few characters Hollywood throws at us. We as an audience need to come to terms with that every woman character is not meant to represent every woman.

That being said, it would not be an issue if we had choice in our woman characters.

The white, straight, male characters do not suffer from the problem because if you don’t like one character, there are others to look for common philosophies and likable characteristics. Think Iron Man is too brash? We have the reserved Captain America. Don’t like the steadfast Thor? Try on Hulk’s mood swings. Tired of these tried and true heroes? Here’s a troubled Loki.

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For women characters, we have Black Widow who is then forced to try and fit every person’s ideal woman instead of being treated as a character unto her own. There are no other women to choose from. So if you don’t like Black Widow but want a different take on a female superhero, well… you’re not going to find another one. Don’t like it? Well, according to Hollywood that just means that you don’t like women superheroes.

Hollywood needs to stop treating women characters as a variants of the male default and start treating them as characters in their own right, with their choices being effected by realistic character flaws and past experiences.

But you’re getting female superhero movies!

Yes. Finally. But not until 2017 with DC’s Wonder Woman. And Marvel? We don’t get a movie staring a woman until 2018 with Captain Marvel. (Sony might be showing a Spider-man spin-off with a female lead at some point in time, but the date (or the character herself) has yet to be announced. And this timeline was made before Sony and Marvel agreed to team up, so who knows if that’s even happening.)

CA_Supermovies_10-28-2014-21And we’re back to where we started. I am more than peeved that Marvel decided Ant-Man deserved a cinematic release THREE YEARS before any major female superheroine. Why? It’s not like Ant-Man had any more steak in the general public’s consciousness than Captain Marvel. (And if you’re all set to argue that Ant-Man does, then I will counter that goes equally so for his counterpart, Wasp, as BOTH characters founded the Avengers in the comics. But well, we know how well the movie handled that.)

As someone with limited funds and cannot afford to go out to the movies as often as I like, I choose to spend my money on movies I would like to see more of (re: Pixar’s Inside Out or Trainwreck).

When you give someone/some company money for something, you are saying “I want more of this” and when enough people give money to something, there will be more. Ant-Man is probably not hurt from my lack of patronage, but I find some solace in knowing I saved my two-cents for a movie that I would much rather see. And it’s not Ant-Man.

4 thoughts on “In Defense of Not Seeing Ant-Man

  1. Thought I’d leave a reply here, too. Question: Are you planning on seeing the Fantastic 4 movie? I think they were very bold in casting Michael B. Jordan instead of another white actor, especially for such an iconic character that’s following Chris Evan’s portrayal less than a decade later. And of course there’s Susan Storm. But it’s supposed to be a really bad movie (I might go see it anyway, I haven’t decided yet.) This is an actual question not trying to start an argument: Should we support movies with female super heroes even if the movie is bad? Should we go see a movie just because we applaud the fact that it has a woman? Even if Ant-Man (or any other male-led movie) is a better-made story? I’m probably going to indiscriminately give my money to every super hero movie because I love super heroes, but should me as a woman make it a point to see Fantastic 4 just to support the appearance of Susan Storm?

    1. I didn’t think you’re trying to start a fight. 🙂 (I’m just at work and wanted to wait until I had time to write out a thoughtful answer.)

      I’m not the biggest fan of Fantastic 4, although I was excited for the casting of Jordan as the human torch. But like you said, the movie reviews (and friends’ reviews) have been abysmal. Susan Storm was never a huge player on the team and was often treated as an object for Doom and Mr. Fantastic to fight over. The trailers alone painted her as a supporting character (a’la Hope Pym) for Reed Richards to fawn over rather than have any integral part in the story. So any support toward F4 will look like I’m trying support the F4 franchise rather than any specific character. (That and apparently, Sue Storm doesn’t get her powers by accompanying the team but indirectly, so she’s basically collateral damage at that point.)

      I struggle answering your second question “Should we see a movie just because we applaud the fact that it has a woman?” because the short answer is no. But then by saying no, we have to immediately forfeit any want for a female superhero movie? We can’t want anything different than what’s being produced right now? Because, honestly, I’m bored. No one has told me anything about Ant-Man that I can’t see in any other good-to-great Marvel movie with characters I would much rather watch for 2 hours. And there is nothing in the concept of a man shrinking down to ant-size that I find appealing or that compels me to watch the movie.

  2. until Captain Marvel is released, i’ll be buying tickets to films that value women and sneaking in to see Marvel’s wienerfests.

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