TRON’s only legacy is sexism

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Do you remember the “TRON: Legacy” trailer that was playing at nearly all the big mainstream movie theaters this summer? In case you don’t, here’s a brief summary; Sam Flynn sits on a leather couch and emotes while an older gentleman tells him that there may be some new information regarding the mysterious disappearance of his father. Sam whizzes through the dimly-lit city on his motorcycle and into a building so dusty it’s a wonder that he doesn’t have asthma. He drops a coin, discovers a hidden room, and suddenly finds himself in another world where there are blue lights and strange machinery. Then there is Olivia Wilde wearing a cat suit as she turns her head to one side. Next the tribal drums begin to beat, and Sam throws a discus. His father appears menacingly and the sexy blonde in a cat suit takes two steps forward. Sam walks purposefully into a glaring light, and “TRON: LEGACY” flashes onto the screen.

It’s just your standard action movie fare, right? Take a closer look at the difference between the men and women in the trailer. What are the men doing? Why, exciting and important things that advance the plot, of course. What are the women doing? Well…pretty much nothing at all. They just hang around and look sexually appealing.

This is a problem. Trailers are designed to pique audiences’ interest. Did the trailer’s producers actually edit the women’s scenes so that they look like mute sex objects in order to get people to see the movie?

To give the trailer’s producers the benefit of the doubt, I considered that maybe they were just accurately portraying the movie’s content. Maybe the female characters in this movie really do just hang around sexily, and those were the most interesting shots they could find. So I looked up “TRON”, and was informed by that Olivia Wilde’s character, Quorra, is a “fearless warrior.” A fearless warrior? Then why is it that the only trailer-worthy thing she does is lounge about in a cat suit while turning her head slowly to one side?

The men in this trailer are not portrayed as sex objects, and their value as characters is in no way based on their appearances. Sure, you might find Garrett Hedlund attractive, but his scenes in the trailer are not dependent upon his sex appeal. Conversely, if Olivia Wilde wasn’t widely considered to be a sex symbol, would there be a shot of her lying on the couch in a cat suit? Absolutely not.

The “TRON” trailer is hardly the only one with this glaring discrepancy. Take “Iron Man 2” as another example. Where are the women in this film? Well, we’ve got Gwyneth Paltrow standing around and kissing the Iron Man helmet, for one. I suppose Scarlett Johansson does slam a man to the ground, but only after pointlessly (and sexily) getting out of a car. Johansson certainly doesn’t speak. For the rest, there are a lot of bikini-clad babes shaking their butts. Silently.

Trailers are designed to make us want to watch the movie. Thus, by definition, the makers are showing us what they think we want to see: women who are beautiful and sexy, but mute.

I understand that “TRON’s” production company (like those of most action movies) is clearly going after the coveted 18-35-year-old male demographic. Now, this is already a dicey issue for me, since I think that an enormous number of people outside of that demographic might well be interested in seeing an action movie too (but let’s leave that notion aside for the time being). In essence, I just don’t think that this kind of advertising does 18-35 year old males any justice. I suspect that many of them do have interest in female characters who are more than just dolls, and that they would be compelled by a woman in a movie who was original, independent, and not reliant upon her sexual appeal.

I realize that about half of the University of Massachusetts campus is made up of the exact demographic to which the “TRON” trailer is trying to appeal. Therefore, I leave it to you, 18-35 year old males (and everyone else who watches action movies); Is it important to you that women in cinema be portrayed as something more than mere sex objects? If it is, you can show that to the movie industry by not responding the way it expects you to. Next time you see a trailer that shows women doing nothing more than standing around and looking pretty, make your point by not going to see the movie. Or at the very least, wait until it comes out on DVD.

Sophie Kaner is a Collegian columnist. She can be reached at [email protected]