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What I Learned About Gender Roles From Watching The Trailers For Every Summer Action Movie

By Alyssa Rosenberg  

"What I Learned About Gender Roles From Watching The Trailers For Every Summer Action Movie"

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Watching the trailer for Thor: The Dark World that was released yesterday, I was struck by a sense of how annoyed I would be if my boyfriend went missing for an exceedingly long time, and then showed up only to port me to an alternate universe without even giving me time to let my kicky astronomy colleague Darcy know where I was going. And it got me thinking about what women are allowed to do—or at least what movie studios think audiences will be psyched to see women doing—in trailers for the action movies that will be released this year.

Thor: The Dark World: If you’re a lady in Asgard, you apparently get to be anxious, get kidnapped, and walk around tables. On the upside, you also get to be in battle, which is a great setting for having your hair whip artfully around your face.

Fast and Furious 6: Appear in black-and-white surveillance photos. Be counted among the crew when the gang gets back together. Hang out with The Rock in a professional capacity. Attend parties where they wear miniskirts. Hang from jeeps. Shoot guns. Specifically at Vin Diesel. Have fist-fights in subway stations.

Man of Steel: Kal-El’s mother gets to be pessimistic about her son’s chances on earth. A neighbor lady gets to be perceptive about his abilities. Faora gets to stand near General Zod, though it’s a blind-and-you’ll-miss-it appearance considering she’s supposed to be a significant villain. And in a rare exception, Lois Lane gets to talk about her reporting.



Pacific Rim: It takes a long time for the trailer to make clear that there’s actually a lady in one of those spacesuits, but in fact, women do get to carry umbrellas, do martial arts, and fight giant monsters.

Mortal Instruments: City Of Bones: See secret writing. Also cute demon-hunters. Hunt shadows. Wear leather and carry excellent weapons. Wield flamethrowers. Use light embedded in their hands to fight demons.

Star Trek Into Darkness: Lots of looking traumatized. Some giving pep talks. And because in the nautical tradition, spaceships are female, survive tremendous damage:

Iron Man 3: Pepper Potts gets to receive necklaces, be told that Tony can’t live without her, get blown backwards at high speed in an explosion, be kidnapped, and wear a sorts bra while looking righteously pissed. Assorted other ladies get to fall out of planes and ask questions in press conferences.

After Earth: Lecture Will Smith.

World War Z: Be married to, or the daughter of, Brad Pitt. Turn into zombies, presumably.

White House Down: Report the news. Yell in confusion. Get hugged by Channing Tatum.

The Lone Ranger: Talk to Armie Hammer. Run brothels, particularly if you’re Helena Bonham Carter. Stake claims and offer grim warnings. Slap Armie Hammer.

Red 2: If you’re Mary Louie Parker, you get to hang out with John Malkovich and eat junk food. If you’re Helen Mirren, you can be hired by MI6 to kill your friends, wear fantastic clothes, and dissolve bodies with acid. And if you’re Catherine Zeta-Jones, you get to wear a lot of very aggressively tailored menswear:

R.I.P.D.: Again, Mary Louise Parker gets to hang out in a support role, dispatching Ryan Reynolds. Other ladies get to have their bodies commandeered by Jeff Bridges.

The Wolverine: If you’re a lady, you can look for Hugh Jackman and apparently get on private planes with him, work for dying Japanese millionaires as a sexy scientist, fight people with a katana, and smooch a guy with some very impressive sideburns. Also, get your face torn off.

Elysium: Apparently the future’s worked on its gender imbalance when it comes to CEOs, because Jodie Foster is running an enclave for the 1 percent. Also, women can get great medical treatment if they’re rich. But it also seems like little girls can get kidnapped by robots, so maybe the future isn’t such a great place.

Percy Jackson: Sea Of Monsters: Girls get to be the children of greek gods. Also, women still have the prophecy game cornered. Girls get to rappel down ropes and go on adventures.

Kick-Ass 2: Beat up Aaron Johnson. Report the news. Have a lot of fun with nunchucks. Wear truly excellent purple wigs.

In other words, if you’re a teenager, Lois Lane or Helen Mirren, you’re allowed to have a lot of fun. But otherwise, you’d better hope you end up in the Fast and Furious universe, or you best be prepared to do a lot of hollering for help.

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