Sexism in Movie Posters

I’ll admit I don’t think the problem is epidemic, but when the final version of the Red movie poster hit the internet today, something caught my eye. Even though Helen Mirren has won an Oscar and Mary-Louis Parker has two Golden Globes under her belt, neither received the face-space on the poster of their male counterparts.

This is not meant to discredit the work done by Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman or John Malkovich. Freeman has an Oscar in his own right, and Malkovich is a very talented actor. Willis has his own Golden Globe (plus a couple of Emmy’s) so it’s not like these guys are bad actors either.

But why is it those three leading men get the majority of the space on the poster and the two very talented women are relegated to the rear? Is it because they have smaller roles than the men? If you’ve seen the trailer, it doesn’t look like it! In fact, Mirren’s role looks identical to that of Willis/Freeman/Malkovich – a retired CIA agent who still has the skills to kick some serious ass.

Now of course you can find plenty of movie posters where women are prominently portrayed. One need look no further than Angelina Jolie’s Salt poster to see an example. But I’m talking about films where male and female actors share the lead – when it’s not obviously an alpha male or alpha female dominating the film.

Need another example? How about this poster for Knocked Up? As I recall, it was the version that was displayed everywhere and you don’t see even a mention of Katherine Heigl. Umm…she’s a pretty integral part to the film. I would definitely call her a co-star alongside Seth Rogen.

Or how about this one for Fun With Dick and Jane? Again, basically zero mention of the female co-star and certainly no imagery. Téa Leoni was just as much a part of that film as Jim Carrey was – although admittedly it was his job that was lost, causing all the problems.

Maybe I’m just making this out to be something more than it is, but that Red poster really did catch my eye. Does Helen Mirren’s face not sell as many movie tickets as John Malkovich’s? I understand Rogen’s face was maybe a bit more recognizable than Heigl’s in 2007 (it probably still is), but she plays an equal role in the film. So does Leoni and so does Mirren.

If design studios are going to continue with floating head designs, shouldn’t the women co-stars get as much face-space as the guys?

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