I wouldn’t say I’m a feminist, but I would say that I advocate social, political, legal, and economic rights for women equal to those of men. I think everyone would, right? I wish there was a word that expressed this sentiment. Anyway, that’s why I’m pretty irked over a pattern I’ve been seeing in advertisements on the subway platform. If you’re not familiar with a subway platform, it’s a thing you stand on while waiting for an “underground bus” to take you were you need to go so you can do all your many businesses. These platforms host a plethora of exciting entertainment options, from local talent performing their craft on a donations basis, to giant posters advertising products, TV shows, continuing education classes, and more!
No matter how hard I try to fight capitalism’s hypnotic effect on my eyeballs (what you look at is what you become, people!), I can’t help but staring at each and every ad over and over again like some trained monkey in a diabolical experiment to test obediance when denied intellectual stimulation. Or, just like, staring at it because I’m bored, ya know?
Recently, I started noticing a pattern that IS PISSING ME THE EFF OFF. And this is where my feelings abut “feminism” and “women” come into play. I’ve spotted a little trend in advertising I like to call “Women Not Looking At The Camera,” or “Girl, What Are You Looking At?” for short. This trend applies mainly to movies and television show ads I’ve spotted while waiting for the train. The poster-ad will show the main characters doing something that pertains to their P.O.V. as a cast member, but more often than not, the WOMAN is not LOOKING at the CAMERA. I’d say, the men usually are. Not all of them, but definetly more than the women. It’s just so annoying, because here is their chance, as respected female-based-artists, to be taken seriously as an inetgral player in a drama, action, or comedy, and what do they do? They get distracted by something out of frame and TOTALLY BLOW their chance to establish themselves as a primary character.
I’m by no means saying all the women in movie and TV ads do this, but I’ve seen it enough to notice it as a pattern, and I’m pretty oblivious to most things/life-threatening dangers. So, I’m guessing if there were statistics involved, they would find that female characters in TV show ads look at the camera less than their male couternparts. I’d bet someone $5 this is true. Here’s some basic evidence to support my case:
Example 1: This is a poster for the show Portlandia. The show is pretty rad. I’m a fan. I just want to know: Girl, what are you looking at? Did you not know they were about to snap your pic? By looking away from the camera this female character seems passive. MAKE EYE CONTACT WITH ME.
Example 2: This is a poster for a television show I’ve never heard of or knew existed. But I like Kristen Bell. She was great as a quirky personal investigator on that CW show. Anyway, I would ask “Girl, what are you looking at?” but I’m pretty sure it’s the inside of Don Cheadle’s ear. Good to know this show is about an ear. Still, I’d feel more engaged with the character if she’d just look at the camera. This makes me think her role isn’t as important as his.
Example 3: This is an ad for a movie where Kevin Hart kills a bunch of people with the help of his trusty side-kick, Beagle the beagle dog. Now, there’s a lot going on here, sure, but notice how most of the actors are looking at the camera? The dead asian guy isn’t, because he’s dead. The guy with the fake mustache is clearly plotting his escape off camera. But the woman, the only woman in the damn ad, is looking at something. What is it? Who knows, but whatever it is, it’s clearly pissing her off. Why not look away from the thing that’s making you so angry and look at the camera. FOUR (guy with glasses, guy with shin, guy from Lost, guy named Kevin Hart) out of the SIX living actors in this poster are looking at the camera. Girl, why can’t you be one of them? Is it because your character is minimally important to the plot or is it because you’re distracted? I’m guessing it’s the latter. What’re you looking at?
Example 4: This a perfect example of how a show’s poster can establish it’s characters. Dude on the right: male adult looking at camera, smiling, looks like he’s a rolls-with-the-punches optimist. Can’t wait to see how he handles his troubles in a lovable, enderaing way. Dude in the middle: male child looking at camera, looks like he might cause some trouble, but ultimately warm our hearts with his antics. Dude on the left: not a dude, but a woman, looking at something off camera, getting no read on this character whatsoever, except maybe she’s easily distracted and always in a bad mood?***
Example 5: This poster is advertising a TV show about the sky getting its period. In this ad, none of the actors, except that one dude in front, is looking at the camera. I can’t get too upset about this one, because everyone here seems confused and, franky, so am I. Get the sky a tampon and look at the camera, people.
Example 6: Finally! A poster where the women are looking at the camera! See how it establishes them as an important characters in the series? Attention actresses: take note for future photo shoots. I’ve got to give the camera man props here, though, as he clearly got as close to their faces as possible to make sure they looked at him. Kudos, somebody buy that man a soy latte for his achievement. BUT ALSO, please notice the graffiti on this poster. Someone literally carved out the eyes of these women. Why? One theory that’s popular on the streets is that the perpetrator was uncomfortable making eye contact with the women, because he/she is not used to it, and he/she was so overwhelemed that he/she had to break that eye contact by cutting out the women’s eyeballs. Gross, but thought provoking.
Example 7: This is an ad for a television show about a cursed mansion that is constantly manifesting paintings of whoever currently inhabits the house. The paintings accumulate until every inch of the house is covered in portraits of the present resident. Eventually, the dweller goes insane. They are then eaten by the house. The cycle repeats itself indefinetly, until one rough-and-tumble girl from the South is able to break the dark magic with her laid-back attitude and the help of her pet donkey, Sisyphus. And thus all the souls are freed from the foundation of the house and everything in the land is pretty chill once again. Wait, what were we talking about? Oh, yeah, look at this ad! Not even the paintings are looking at you. Girls, what are you all looking at?
Example 8: The pony is female. She’s not looking at the camera. She’s got great bangs, though.
Example 9: HOLY SHIT. A kitten in a scarf! THAT’S CUTE AS FUCK. Albert, quick, call my lawyer and have him get that kitten on the phone ASAP! I NEED THAT KITTY-KITTY IN MY LIFE NOW.
***It’s important to highlight the fact that this ad is based off the famously haunting painting American Gothic. Two things to note here:
1.) When this image was originally created, women were not legally allowed to make eye-contact with artists and that’s why the female was forced to look away during the painting of said art piece.
2.) The designer of this ad took some serious liberties with the recreation of the painting for modern-day poster-purposes. Mainly: child half-hanging out of the window, and man smiling ear-to-ear. Surely the man’s smile is as big of a change in tone as it would be if the woman looked at the camera. And yet, she doesn’t. She’s the only human part that remains true to the styling of the original image. INTERESTING CHOICE.