Monday, April 19, 2010

Angelina Jolie, Salt, and the incredibly sexist double-standard in action movies.

The cover story of this year's Entertainment Weekly summer movie preview concerns the behind the scenes scoop of the new espionage thriller Salt, directed by Phillip Noyce and starring Angelina Jolie, Liev Schreiber, and Chiwetel Ejiofor. Much of the 1.5 page article is a group 'pat on the back' for the seemingly amazing progressiveness symbolized by the fact that Angelina Jolie ended up playing an action hero originally written for a male star like Tom Cruise (he bailed when the script began to too closely resemble a Mission: Impossible picture). Fair enough, such a thing really shouldn't be a big deal in 2010 and the fact that they are falling over themselves in self-congradulation is the very opposite of progressive. But the real kicker occurs at the top of page 38. A direct quote:

"In the original script, there was a huge sequence where Edwin Salt (the original male protagonist) saves his wife, who's in danger," says Noyce. "And what we found in the new script, it seemed to castrate his character a little. So we had to change the nature of that relationship." In the end, Salt's husband, played by German actor August Diehl (Inglourious Basterds), was made tough enough that he didn't need saving, thank you much.

So, hidden in an article centering around just how the making of Salt is oh-so empowering for female action heroes is this tidbit. To put it in plainer terms, the filmmakers believe that it was perfectly OK for the spouse to be rescued from mortal danger if said love-interest was a girl, but not if the spouse was a man. So it's great if the action hero is a girl, as long as they don't have to opportunity to one-up any male counterparts and/or reverse the oldest cliche in the action-film handbook. Saying that girls can be portrayed as helpless damsels in distress but boys can't is about as old-school sexist as one can get.

Scott Mendelson

7 comments:

dave said...

The cliches portrayed and disseminated by Hollywood are troublesome. But things change slowly, but they do indeed change. One of the biggest obstacles to change is polarized (and polarizing)ideological nut jobs from both the left and the right. Right-wing nut jobs (in the specific area of sexism, not on issues such as depiction of violence and sex)would say there is no problem. Left wing nut jobs (like you) are never happy with with incremental progress.

dana said...

Incremental progress can never occur without someone to point out where more progress can be made.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if Angelina knew of this change. Do you think she has enough power to have influence over something like that. If so, what does that say?

dark-aura016 said...

I don't really see this as progression. We've had female action heroes. What would be progression is if there was a female action hero who wasn't so obviously objectified and who looked like she could actually throw a punch.

I have read the original script and his wife was a "damsel in distress" but to a certain extent, she was portrayed as a regular working women against trained Special Agents. Trying to be a badass with those odds would be disingenuous to reality. This is why i'm upset. A regular guy would be in the same situation. It wouldn't be "castrating", it would just be logical. The mature thing for him to do would be to let his ass-kicking wife take care of the extremely highly trained assassins.

I was pretty appalled by the wording in this article. Thanks for noticing it too.

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dave said...

The cliches portrayed and disseminated by Hollywood are troublesome. But things change slowly, but they do indeed change. One of the biggest obstacles to change is polarized (and polarizing)ideological nut jobs from both the left and the right. Right-wing nut jobs (in the specific area of sexism, not on issues such as depiction of violence and sex)would say there is no problem. Left wing nut jobs (like you) are never happy with with incremental progress.

dark-aura016 said...

I don't really see this as progression. We've had female action heroes. What would be progression is if there was a female action hero who wasn't so obviously objectified and who looked like she could actually throw a punch.

I have read the original script and his wife was a "damsel in distress" but to a certain extent, she was portrayed as a regular working women against trained Special Agents. Trying to be a badass with those odds would be disingenuous to reality. This is why i'm upset. A regular guy would be in the same situation. It wouldn't be "castrating", it would just be logical. The mature thing for him to do would be to let his ass-kicking wife take care of the extremely highly trained assassins.

I was pretty appalled by the wording in this article. Thanks for noticing it too.

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