Trailing Tropes: When Angela Bassett Cries

I’ve been wanting to write about trailers a while now, but when I was sitting in the cinema recently, it again occurred to me how strongly trailers rely on certain tropes. It doesn’t mean that the movies they are advertising do things wrong because a trailer is never really as representative as we are supposed to believe. But what fascinates me is how trailers use certain images to promote their movies, how the reduction to a couple of images leads to images that have clear connotations audiences should respond to. I don’t know if this will become a recurring feature, but for now, let’s take a look at some trailers and the tropes they market besides their actual product.

Despite the Falling Snow

The movie seems to deal with someone’s past during the Cold War, Russian spies and such, and it stars Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation’s Rebecca Ferguson, who shone so much in that movie as a skillful secret agent that deserved her own franchise. The trailer for this movie suggests that she here will mostly, stand around, look at things, have sex and be frightened (and eventually killed, I assume), while the men do the fighting and surviving. It’s looks boring and the trailer does no good job of presenting her as an independent woman who knows what she is doing. Instead she looks like the victim who has to suffer at the fate of men or is rescued by men only to be hurt by men again.


Gods of Egypt

That this movie looks silly is pretty obvious. It is another one of those ridiculous attempt at mixing mythology and fantasy to produce a movie that looks like countless others and is probably just boring. Everyone is talking about the whitewashing (Hollywood, it’s not 1963 anymore), but the trailer also shows how incompetent the movie deals with gender roles. It is all about the two men fighting each other and two women who are caught up in that fight.

One is Zaya (Courtney Eaton) who spends all of her trailer time being rescued or cowering in fear or doing nothing or looking pretty. I’d be surprised if gets to do anything substantial in the movie.

But because the makers thought they need a “strong female character”, they also have Hathor (Elodie Yung) who looks like some kind of sorceress or maybe even god. But since she is a woman, she of course can’t fight directly with the men but instead has to summon huge monsters to fight for her. That this ability alone makes her look somewhat evil in the trailer is just the sexist cherry on top. The trailer makes me tired already.


Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2

I know, I know, it’s a Turtles movie, so why do I even start? Of course it’s ridiculous, though I have to say, it doesn’t look as bad as I would have thought. Not great, but the trailer makes it look like dumb fun at least (that final tank with rhino in a river sequence baffled me in its absurdity). And yes, it has Megan Fox in it, so it seems mandatory to require a shot like this in the trailer:

This is a trend I see in so many trailers. No matter what role women play in the movies, a huge amount of trailers show them for half a second doing something “sexy” because that is why they are really in the movie (certainly true for Megan Fox in a Turtles movie) and that’s what they do best anyway, right?


Triple 9

Reading the credits on this movie would make me want to watch it, but the trailer is actually discouraging in that regard because it looks like any other cop-gangster-movie of the last 30 years. And it has the obligatory sexy woman shot.

To shake things up a bit, it also reminds us that non-white people are probably all criminals.


Precious Cargo

Another movie that looks incredibly boring and by-the-numbers, as if to remind us that we should not think of Bruce Willis now as the same Bruce Willis of the past. He clearly has given up. The trailer makes it clear that it is another movie about men fighting and robbing but they throw in some women too.

A manic pixie shooter who has to look slightly sexy or there’d be no reason for her to be in the movie (imagine the male equivalent of this role in tight shirt and shorts with the big gun – not happening).

And Claire Forlani (poor Claire Forlani, what ever happened to you?) who seems to spend most of her time being kidnapped but gets to fire a gun at least once in the trailer. That’s probably feminism.


London Has Fallen

Look, I haven’t seen the first of these movies and it is very obvious that they try to make a completely over-the-top movie, which I don’t mind at all. If Hollywood thinks we need these kinds of movies, fine, it’s their money. But man, that trailer! First of all, it features such a heavy load of disaster porn, you’d think it is Emmerich again (who is too busy doing his own disaster porn sequel that no one needed), with dozens of London sights exploding and people screaming and dying. It relishes in all its terror and destruction and you can hear Zack Snyder jerking off in the background.

There are dozens of images of Gerard Butler doing things like this in the trailer:

And then there are images of women doing things in this trailer:

Call me the P.C. police or whatever, but these trailers (like those posters and so on), just keep on hammering home the same ideas of active men as heroes and passive women as victims and we still have a long way to go. If I was Angela Bassett and had starred as one of the coolest female characters ever in Strange Days and now had nothing to do in movies anymore, I'd be crying too.


Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

I’ve seen the trailer so many times by now (because it runs before almost every movie I watched in cinemas in the last months) and I could rant and rant about the movie before having seen it but I’ll save that for when I have actually done so. This is one of the few movies I will pay money for because I expect to take it apart afterwards. Man of Steel after all helped to kickstart this blog almost two years ago.

Anyway, the trailer with its pseudo-explanation of the carnage of the first movie and its CGI Batman that no one has ever asked for and what seems to be an incredibly annoying Lex Luthor also gives us another one of the probably contractual sexy female shots:

And it also gives us the first real appearance of Wonder Woman. I really expect them to fail with her (but I’m happy to be surprised), so the trailer doesn’t convince me otherwise. She barely says anything and the one shot of her jumping into a mess of CGI, half-clothed, next to a fully clothed Superman and a completely covered Batman doesn’t get my hopes up.

To top it all of, Amy Adams as Lois Lane is barely in the trailer and when she is we see her almost drowning. Maybe this is a callback to the classic Superman Returns but how many almost drowing Lois Lanes do we really need? I guess Zack Snyder will tell us.

I thoroughly enjoyed this so expect this category to return! Sometimes it’s fun to get angry.