Stark Sexism

I was quite looking forward to this new Iron Man film adaption. I’ve been a big Iron Man fan for decades (particularly fond of the alcoholism saga and armor wars of the 80s and 90s).

Well, last night, I saw an advanced screening of it at the Balboa Theater. I love this theater. With the special deal of advance-purchased tickets, my wife and I saw this film and had a “small” (what most movie theaters call “large”) popcorn with real butter, a jumbo hot dog, and a small (what most theaters would call “kids”) soda—all for US$23. The management gave out free posters to everyone and welcomed us at the beginning of the show, had two trivia questions with prizes, and apologized for the terrible Louis Vuitton commercial we had to sit through before the previews. It’s sad that independently-owned theaters like this are falling by the wayside in favor of megaplexes like the Metreon. The Balboa has personality and affordability. More importantly to me, it has a good mix of mainstream and artsy films. But I digress…

In terms of remaining faithful to the spirit the comic book and in terms of thrilling action and laugh-inducing jokes, the film is a success in spades. What is up with the sexism, though? I cannot imagine a film about a billionaire woman who is drunk all the time, sleeps around with and uses men like tissue, and is so incompetent that her personal assistant must do everything for her being doted on and admired by said personal assistant with the basic attitude of “Well, she may be a mess, but she’s my mess, and even though she’s kind of an asshole, I love her.” Who would watch that?

Of course, most people don’t really care if a male character is an asshole, as long as the film has laughter and well-animated violence. It just made me angry how the (terribly miscast) Gwyneth Paltrow assistant character is so pathetic. She’s basically Bond’s Moneypenny but without the wit and the sex appeal. Instead of Moneypenny, she’s a bit more like Sandra Bullock’s character from Two Weeks Notice. The only other prominent female character in the film is the sorority-looks-with-a-liberal-conscience reporter whom Stark has a one night stand with and then basically ignores.

My first reaction was to think, I thought we’d made some progress. I thought this was 2008. What is this? The 1940s? Then, I thought again and realized that roles for women in 1940s films were much better. You had the fast-talking Katherine Hepburn types and the film noir femme fatales. Most personal assistants and secretaries in films of those days had sass and could banter. Now we get the “You’re so bad and undeserving but I adore you. Tee hee!” women? I hope this backlash will abate soon, and third-wave (or are we on the fourth one?) feminism will come back in full swing.

Is it a sin to want an enjoyable action film with humor and just a little less sexism and misogyny?


  1. Hear! Hear!
    Where is the female superhero movie?
    And I am not talking about lame-o Elektra.
    I mean, Wonder Woman, someone who doesn’t get a movie cause she is a spin off from a male superhero!

  2. You know, I was beginning to think that I was the only ne who felt that Gwyneth Paltrow AND her character just didn’t do anything for the show at all.

    It’s an interesting take on the film… I guess I’m so used to women being portrayed as the token sex symbol/helpless damsel type of characters in action movies that I don’t really expect anything more than that.

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