The Omnipresence of Male Movies, Starring Men Doing Manly Things

Much like every other person on the planet, I have a serious crush on Chris Hemsworth. I mean, have you seen this guy? He’s just the pinnacle of human perfection. So, I’m naturally excited whenever he’s in a new movie. Up until recently, I was really looking forward to the newest Hemsworth film, In the Heart of the Sea, which will premiere in December.

This movie, directed by Ron Howard, tells the true story on which the novel Moby Dick was based: a bunch of guys hunt a big whale in the 1800s or something. (In case you couldn’t tell, I’ve never read the book.) When I first saw the trailer, I confess that I wasn’t too grabbed by the plot, but it stars Chris Hemsworth! I love Chris Hemsworth! And it seemed like a deep and meaningful subject, right? So, I decided to be excited.

But I was discussing the movie with my mom recently, and she told me she just wasn’t interested in the film. I asked her why not— after all, she loves Chris Hemsworth! — and she told me that she was sick of seeing movies focused only on the trials and tribulations of (primarily white) men. The male struggle against nature, or humanity, or other men just didn’t entice her anymore.

This got me thinking about other upcoming movies I had professed to be excited about, not only because of their leading men but also because of their directors or cinematography. For example, I thought I was really excited about the movie The Revenant, which will be released in 2016. It stars Leonardo DiCaprio and is directed by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, who directed last year’s Academy Award-winning Birdman. There’s a lot of star power behind this movie, so it seemed worthy of excitement. But now I’ve seen the trailer for the movie a few times, and if I’m being honest, I’m not too impressed. It features all (primarily white) men, fighting battles and surviving off the land.

Another movie I professed some interest in was Steve Jobs, which just premiered, starring Michael Fassbender as the titular lead character. Everyone’s been raving about how brilliant it is — this story about a flawed, genius man and the rollout of Apple products. Before it came out, I pretended to be excited for this movie as well — after all, it’s written by Aaron Sorkin, and I love Aaron Sorkin. But actually, I could not care less about the real Steve Jobs or the movie Steve Jobs. Why should I watch yet another male-centric story in which the lone wolf genius triumphs? Haven’t we seen that trope played out enough?

Last year, I wrote an article for Jumbo Beat about how all the Oscar nominees for Best Picture revolved around the struggles of (primarily white) men. I was angry then, and I’m angry now, about the lie that stories of women and people of color are less important. I’m also angry at myself, however, for believing that lie. I’m mad at myself for professing to be excited about films about the brave or genius actions of talented men, even when they didn’t actually interest me.

Just because there are more movies starring strong female characters, or more movies targeted at women, it doesn’t mean that the patriarchal values which dictate our media have disappeared. Jennifer Lawrence’s essay about the disparity in pay between men and women in Hollywood reminds us that the stigma is real, and it can be obvious. But sexism can also float under the radar, in the viewers themselves, when even the most staunchly feminist movie-lover perpetuates the idea that male-centric movies are the only ones which matter.

So here’s the thing: I love Chris Hemsworth. I like a lot of his movies. But right now, the movie of his that I’m most excited to see is the female-led version of Ghostbusters, premiering in 2016. Male stories aren’t the only ones that matter.

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