If you live in a bigger town or city, you might have seen these ads for the new X-Men: Apocalypse film floating around on billboards, buses, or the back of phone boxes:
I’ve seen them a couple times strolling through midtown Manhattan, and honestly hadn’t thought much of them, other than for how psyched I was to see the new X-Men installment. The general public, however, had a very different opinion.
Among those who voiced their thoughts on the X-Men: Apocalypse advertising campaign, which featured the actress Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique in a chokehold by Oscar Issac’s character in the film, Apocalypse, actress Rose McGowan spoke out against the marketing choice adamantly. After making a Facebook post about the ad on May 25th, McGowan explained later in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter that, “There is no context in the ad, just a woman getting strangled. The fact that no one flagged this is offensive and frankly, stupid.”
The stance that Rose McGowan and others strongly in opposition to the X-Men ad is understandable. For those with no insight to the context of the X-Men universe, what you may see when you look at these billboards are two actors in heavy body paint, and a woman being strangled by a man. As a fan of the comics and the film installments, when I look at the ads, I see "apocalypse". I see this film is sure to mean sheer chaos for my favorite characters. Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique has taken over the role that Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine used to monopolize, that of the mutant anti-hero who rises to the challenge and winds up taking a role of leadership among their band of superheroes. I see Mystique featured here similar to how I’ve seen Charles Xavier shown in the X-Men: Apocalypse trailers - literally crushed by the hand of Apocalypse.
Jennifer McCleary-Sills, director of Gender Violence and Rights for the ICRW, had a different take on the whole matter. “I understand that some might not see it as an issue,” she said, “because it is a film about violence … with male and female characters who are warriors and fighting each other as equals." But she goes on to elaborate that the fact that this is a fictitious depiction of mutants in a sci-fi world fighting against one another does not excuse how the image appears out of context.
But while I find that the ad is justified in the context of the film’s theme, I have to concede, that typically, the posters and advertisements for superhero movies tend to feature their protagonists in power stances - with the only recent exception being Deadpool, who featured the titular character in often more feminine poses for a more comedic effect. Other superhero movies which feature a similar theme of being “apocalyptic”, or spelling the end-of-days for our beloved heroes have not yet taken the same approach that the marketing team for X-Men: Apocalypse has. Iron Man 3, The Dark Knight Rises, and Captain America: The Winter Soldier, films in which our heroes lose to the villain somewhere around the midpoint of the film, all still feature either our heroes or our villains in a power stance; not our villain dominating over our main protagonist.