The Great Optical Illusion
It’s when you see something over and over again, but don’t recognize it until someone specifically points it out to you. An optical illusion picture, where you only see one thing for the longest time, but once you realize that it’s two pictures inside of one, you can’t ever NOT see the second one. Like this for example:
An old lady facing left, or a young lady facing right? It’s both of course, but if you only see one, it can be very hard to see the other. You have to make an effort to see the second, because your mind loves the comfort and joy of recognizing something familiar and automatically jumps back to it. But when you see them both, you suddenly become aware that this face-value picture has more than one side.
The same thing can happen in real life.
Now, I am a MAJOR fan of the super-hero genre. I was slow to pick it up at first, because my parents personally weren’t that interested, and as such, didn’t have me reading comics in my diapers, but when I was introduced to the genre with The Incredibles, it stuck, big time. From then on, if something involved people with supernatural powers, I was there. As such, I know a fair amount about trends in the genre, to the point of which I can *mostly* predict fair amounts of standard plot points for certain movies, but still go crazy about them. Such is my gift. This was the one side of my optical illusion.
All right, now that we’ve established that I’m a sucker for superheroes, let’s talk about The Avengers.
First off, that movie was straight-up boss, and if you haven’t seen it WHAT THE NAR ARE YOU DOING, GO SEE IT NOW!
I went to see it with a group of friends, among which the A.W.S.U.M. were present. And it was sweet to an extent I could not have dared hope for and I will definitely be rushing to purchase it in blue-ray as soon as it comes out. At the same time, however, my eyes were opened, courtesy of one of my friends, who pointed out something I probably wouldn’t have noticed on my own.
She explained it to me this way, while we were in the midst of uncontrollable fan-squee:
Her: Say you’re a guy, which superhero do you want to be?
Me: Iron Man, hands down.
But you can’t be him.
-All right, Captain America then.
You can’t be him either.
-Fury. Agent Coulson, he’s a boss.
Nope and nope.
-Loki then, if you’re going for villains.
All right, now say you’re a girl. Who do you want to be?
Can’t be her.
-Er, Maria Hill.
You are a nerd. But can’t pick her either.
-Um… I seriously don’t want to be Pepper Potts…
Yes, Scarlett Johansson kicked triple-buttcheeks faster than you can say “Were you a Chernobyl baby?” Yes, Maria had her moments of awesome as well. But the male equivalent would be like having to pick between Hawkeye, Agent Coulson, or Stan Lee. You’ve got a cool partially-main character (like Black Widow), but if you don’t identify with them, your backup choices are an awesome, but still minor character (Maria Hill), or a person who’s essentially there for a cameo, (Pepper Potts).
This isn’t a comic book thing. You can do the same thing with Star Wars or Lord of the Rings, both series I love, and I have many friends both male and female who love it as well. But for a girl, you’re either Eowyn or you’re Leia, or you secretly wished that Boba Fett was chick under that helmet.
Now if you’ve waded through this much writery, I betting you’re hoping I’ll have a point.
I do, but it’s NOT to jump on the outrageous fembot bandwagon (let’s face it, such a thing would be both silly and ridiculous, even if I wasn’t wearing my pineapple suit), NOR is it to go on a rant about the benefits and drawbacks of being of a various race and/or gender in the modern day world, (John Scalzi’s Straight White Male piece covered that nicely). Such things tend to only scare people away from the subject, or force them defensively back into their own ideals anyway.
My point is just awareness. Noticing. So that next time you look at the trick picture, you can see both faces, not just one. That the next time you look at that TV show/movie/pick up that comic book you will, like me, notice little things like this:
Maybe you’ll think there’s nothing wrong. Maybe you’ll go on a rant. Maybe you’ll do nothing. But just noticing is a step in the right direction.
If you want to go a step further, here is my solution, tailored specifically to pass through a TV show/movie/comic book higher-up board meeting:
Don’t treat female characters like actual human beings in your work because you’re hoping to make a stand for female equality.
Don’t treat female characters like actual human beings in your work because it’s edgy and new.
Don’t even treat female characters like actual human beings in your work because females are actually actual human beings in real life.
Do it because you’ll make more money.
Say, perhaps some of the 50% of the population you’ve been ignoring stops by to see what’s going on. Say perhaps a few will make a purchase for the first time. Say that perhaps you have nothing to lose.
Is it too much for 50% of the population to request more representation than 12% of the cast?
I say no.
What say you?