Iron Man, Firefly and different layers of feminist analysis of pop culture
Jess McCabe // 6 May 2008
[Update: WOC PhD has posted a much more thorough expose of the problems with Iron Man, which is definitely worth checking out!]
I’ve been interested by the different reactions to the film Iron Man this weekend in the feminist blogosphere. I saw it myself on Friday night, and found it objectionable for a whole host of reasons that the soundtrack could not compensate for, running the full gamet of imperialist fantasy, racism and sexism.
One little example: every scene involving the lead character, Tony Stark, in his jet, which is staffed with women air stewards whose jobs seem to primarily involve being sexually available for him to use and as symbols to project his status, wealth and playboy lifestyle to the viewers. One big example: Stark realises that the arms trade is immoral because of his weapons ending up in the hands of Arab terrorists in caves (wonder who they’re meant to be!) Stark/Iron Man intervenes when the US military can’t because of pesky rules or something (let’s invade someplace! woohoo!); when the US army/he personally is weilding deadly weaponry, that’s OK, because they’re the good guys.
So I was quite surprised to read Patrick’s post at the Hathor Legacy, exulting the film because of the main female character Pepper Potts, Stark’s PA:
I never expected to see a superhero movie in which the female lead evades getting captured by her own wits, takes out the bad guy, and turns down the hero because of his personality. Amazing.
Lisa at Punkassblog, though, has another perspective on Ms Potts:
He can’t live without her! Because who else would schedule his meetings, get his dry cleaning, fix his coffee, and sweetly flub everything of cinematic importance she is cast to do on except when he’s on the phone with her giving her exact, minute, step-by-step instructions what to do. She never complains, except very passive-aggressively and with the shyest smile. And she validates him not once but twice in his total misogyny-she’s actually the only one who ever outright calls one of his easy conquests a slut and she tells him how he is with “girls” is “fine, of course!”
What this speaks to, for me, is not that either analysis is completely right or completely wrong, but that feminists may need to develop selective hearing or bypass the multiplex completely.
Which brings me on to the latest installment in Allecto’s deconstruction of Firefly. Go, read, and have illusions about Joss Whedon shattered.