'The Counselor' Has Made Cellophane Monsters Out Of Their Leading Ladies. The Patriarchy Is Alive And Well And Living In Los Angeles.
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'The Counselor' Has Made Cellophane Monsters Out Of Its Leading Ladies. The Patriarchy Is Alive And Well And Living In Los Angeles.

By Joanna Robinson | Miscellaneous | September 20, 2013 | Comments ()


Last week, one of Slate’s typical inflammatory headlines squawked that “The Patriarchy Is Dead.” In her piece, author Hanna Rosin made the case that we’ve entered an age of “female dominance.” She goes on to say that posts such as this one, posts that shine a light on gender disparity are, essentially, sound and fury. She writes: “As a form of blogging or tweeting, pointing fingers is endlessly satisfying. But as a form of political expression, it’s pretty hollow and out of tune with reality.”

Au contraire. Certainly I don’t aim to change the world by pointing out some obviously bad photoshop, but said photoshop is an indication of a larger problem. And if we don’t shine the light on the trees, how will we ever see the forest? Rosin’s article is problematic on a number of levels, particularly the part where she claims there are women who “long to have a man around who would pay the bills and take care of them and make a life for them in which they could work less.” But the darker purpose of her article is to claim that any woman who takes umbrage with a perceived inequality “assumes an exquisite vulnerability.” That is to say that to demand equal treatment is a form of weakness. What backwards bullish*t logic is that.

Are things better for women than they were 50 years ago? Hell yes they are. They’re better for racial minorities and homosexuals as well. Does that mean we’ve achieved equality, NAY, dominance? No. No it does not. Here’s a stupid, frivolous example of why. Take a look at the character posters for Ridley Scott’s film The Counselor. Starting with the men.



Obviously the above images have been monkeyed with a bit. The contrast amped to make Fassbender and Bardem look a bit more dramatic. But let’s look at the women next. Starting with Diaz…


…yeah that’s some puddin’ face nonsense. And the lovely, amazing, talented, Oscar-winning Penelope Cruz?


Straight up cellophane monster. They ‘shopped the life and beauty out of this woman. Why would they do it? Who could be responsible for such extreme cautions against the crime of a woman (a mother, the wife of one of the men above) having the audacity to look her age? (Which, for the record, is 39.) Certainly, CERTAINLY not the patriarchy. And in case you had any doubts as to which look is preferable, here’s the impressive Cruz without alteration.


So is this the sort of thing that’s worth getting my knickers in a twist over? This blatant double standard when it comes to Hollywood and beauty? Should I care at all that the wrinkles on Fassbender and Bardem are perfectly acceptable but verboten on Diaz and Cruz? F*ck yes I should. And f*ck Rosin for trying to shame women into being silent about the problems that are alive and well in our culture. Are things better? They sure are. But they ain’t great.

(via The Society Pages)

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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not

  • mytbean

    blah blah blah. Why can't we all acknowledge the manipulation and just disregard it as fantasy? This reaction is what drives the wind in those sales (pun intended) - I wonder if the Egyptian ladies were offended by the implied beauty standards when presented with the sculpted head of Nefertiti in all it's unnaturally perfect symmetry and giraffe-like neck? I wonder if women of centuries gone by raged on about the overly beautified paintings of royalty in their luminous flawlessness?

    The answer is not to change the media: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/new...

    But we need to change our inner image and stop trying to find validation outside of ourselves.

  • Mrs. Julien

    Did you just use the "Daily Mail" as a reference? THE DAILY MAIL?!

  • Virgilia Coriolanus

    I think they all look awful on those posters--the life was 'shopped right out of their eyes.

  • e jerry powell

    I just can't with Penelope Cruz. I haven't been able to since All About My Mother.

  • Wigamer

    I am very outraged on behalf of women everywhere, and as a 39 year-old realize fully that I am viewed by the world as a pointless waste of valuable oxygen because I am not still "hot."

    That being said, I want to lick Michael Fassbender's face. Old as I am, I've still got them lady-type urges.

  • Mrs. Julien

    Don't worry, as you get older, you become invisible and you can sidle up for some licking action unseen by prying eyes (Security).

    Have I mentioned I'm reading through for EE? I'm reading through for EE.

  • Even though the ladies been photoshopped to hell and gone, I think they came out better than Bardem. That dude looks like he stuck a toe in a light socket. My father worked for a utility in the '80's and they had a cartoon mascot. He taught kids about electrical safety and looked almost exactly like Bardem does in that poster.

  • Martin Holterman

    Question: When are the bitchy people coming back from vacation? All of this PC whining is seriously killing my Pajiba buzz.

  • gorge jung

    It looks like Phoebe Cates is starring in the movie.

  • Pasqualie

    One of these posters has two L's in the title. The other three only have one. Why?

  • JoannaRobinson

    Is it the UK spelling? I couldn't find the US version for Diaz. Is that how they spell it over yonder?

  • Sara_Tonin00

    Yes, it is a Brit/American difference.

  • B84

    Nicely done, and shame on Hana Rosin--who I think is generally a good journalist. Not sure how Rosin could argue with your evidence.

  • Yocean

    Because you know, if other women wouldn't stay silent, women like her who long to have men take care of them would have to realize maybe they are not doing this life thing right and may even be willingly canceling all the work that's been done by other women before her to get them closer to equality. It's quite disheartening to men as well to see women supporting the system that's only benefit a small number of powerful men. It leads to less marriage -because most men would just cannot hope to have that much wealth when it is concentrated so much on a few- less kids - because it takes time to amass that kind of wealth which leads to men marrying way older and less virile- and thus eventual extinction. Fuck patriarchy and capitalism.

  • Ben

    "particularly the part where she claims there are women who “long to have a man around who would pay the bills and take care of them and make a life for them in which they could work less.”

    I don't get this, are no women alowed to want this? I thought the point of femenisim was that women are alowed to want and do whatever the fuck the want?

  • Sara_Tonin00

    Yeah, women can want that. Men can want that too. [instant judgment, isn't there, if you think that "there are men out there who just want a woman around who would pay the bills and take care of them and make a life for them in which they could work less."] Doesn't make it a particularly admirable choice.

    There's a difference between "I want somebody to share my load" and "I want someone to carry my load."

    It's getting better, but yes, we do need to continue to shift away from a social structure that raises girls with the notion that it's ok for someone else to do the carrying - or with the assumption that someone else will. And I'm not - most definitely not - talking about stay-at-home moms. That is work.

  • Ben

    Ah yeah fair enough, that makes sense.

  • Crust

    And all this talk of the travesties visited on Cruz and Diaz means we aren't focusing on the OTHER issue aka the rabid badger that's taken up residence on Javier's head.

  • stella

    No worries its just his contractually obligated horrific hairstyle. He cant make a movie without terrible hair.

  • Lovely Bones

    Cannot make a great movie without terrible hair, that is.

  • NateMan

    See, normally I agree with you. I think there's absolutely a trend towards Photoshopping women into oblivion, I think it's wrong, I think it's unsexy, and I think it's sexist.

    However. In these particular images, I think what we're seeing is men touched up at least as much as the women. Not using skin smoothing or an unsharpen tool, but the exact opposite; adding grain where it doesn't exist. Using dirt, nicks, fake sweat, and that baloney 'i somehow always look like I haven't shaved in precisely 27 hours' routine to add that rough and chiseled look. I don't know Fassbender's role, this is the first time I've even heard of the movie, but a dude does not wear that shirt out in that kind of wilderness unless his car's broken down in the desert and he's being chased by cannibals - or, apparently from the brief IMDB synopsis, drug traffickers. To me, a frequent user of Photoshop and someone you'll actually find out in the wilderness on a regular basis, they're manipulating the masculine persona as much as the feminine.

    I don't disagree with your basic premise. In fact, I agree wholeheartedly. I think it's a travesty a woman as gorgeous (if way too thin) as Penelope Cruz isn't shown in her natural beauty, possibly with a hushed British voice-over narrating her every move. I think it's a damned shame women aren't encouraged to age into themselves. And many, many women are only refined and made more beautiful as they age and they should not only be comfortable doing so (if that's what they choose) but applauded for it. (EDIT: I read over that paragraph and it sounds more paternalistic than I intended it to, and I'm not sure how to fix it at my present mental functionality, so I just want to acknowledge that.)

    I just think this was a bad example for it. And that is of course subjective and coming from a male voice who doesn't have the same pressures on him and wouldn't begun to presume to tell a woman how she should feel about this trend. If it feels more shitty and one-sided to you in this example than it does to me, I can absolutely understand that reaction.

  • emmalita

    You make a valid point. Body dysmorphic disorder is a growing issue for men, and I don't see that as a step towards gender equality. I do want to point out, in addition to Artemis' excellent points that there is a greater financial burden on women to meet these absurd expectations of youthful perfection. Women's beauty products cost more on average, and women are less likely to be successful in the workplace the more they deviate from the ideal. I could go on, but you aren't one of the uneducated and ill-informed.

  • Artemis

    They are of course manipulating the masculine images as well, because that's what Hollywood does -- sell some idealized version of things. But the difference is that there is no single, equally restrictive ideal masculine image being presented in these posters or elsewhere. Men are made into the best versions of the role they are playing: pretty boys are made prettier, rugged men are made more rugged, creepy villians are made more grotesque, wise old men are made to look older. And because there's a greater range of looks that are acceptable for men, you see far, far fewer changes to what male actors actually look like.

    Women, by contrast, are only made to look younger, smoother, blemish-free, thin, and beautiful. Unless you're one of a tiny number of respected elder stateswomen of acting (Dench, Mirren, Smith, Streep, etc.), or the even tinier number of women who became successful without ever fitting the ideal (McCarthy, Wilson, Swinton, etc. -- and even they still have their skin texture airbrushed out of existence in most photos), how these posters look is how ALL women look in movie posters and magazines. And not only is it homogenous, but it's specifically about never showing anything that could be considered a flaw--no bags under their eyes, no blemishes on their skin, definitely no wrinkles, no hair out of place. Which means that significantly more changes to how female actresses look, especially ones who are no longer the 25-year-olds poster designers feel they need to be.

    So yes, Fassbender has unrealistically even five o-clock shadow and I'm sure some wrinkles were removed from the posters featuring the men. But they still have wrinkles, and bags under their eyes, and lines near their mouths, and texture to their skin. If you can honestly put the picture of Fassbender next to the one of Cameron Diaz and think that this is not a one-sided issue, I'd suggest that's the product of a lifetime of seeing these lopsided images and growing accustomed to the gap between them.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    "Women, by contrast, are only made to look younger, smoother, blemish-free, thin, and beautiful."


  • Samantha Klein

    That's creepy. But also, where can I get a copy of that Fb poster?

  • emmalita

    I love this Mitchell and Webb Look comercial. Women are gross and should spend lots of money to be less gross and men are great. http://youtu.be/9swKKZy0CCM

  • lowercase_see

    Man, Rosin is like a real-life Ainsley Hayes.

  • She does her best to be a balanced character, but is still essentially a strawman caricature?

  • lowercase_see

    Thinks addressing inequality would be humiliating and therefore prefers to delude herself into thinking it doesn't exist in the first place, but yours works too!

  • Bert_McGurt

    This quote from Rosin's article is telling:

    "The closer women get to real power, the more they cling to the idea that they are powerless."

    Yes, Hanna, like you said - CLOSER to real power. As in - not completely there yet.

    It's like a pizza. She's trying to tell women that even though they ordered the meat lover's, they should be happy even though it only came with cheese and sauce. Or that they should quit the marathon even though they just passed mile 13.

    The race ain't over yet ladies. Don't quit now.

  • the dude

    But do women feel attacked or is this just creating controversy for controversy's sake? I think women can do anything they want. and what's the problem if they're hotter than men?

  • Mrs. Julien

    Yes, this woman does feel attacked. Aging as a woman in this culture feels like a process of becoming invisible. What's more, we are told to feel flattered if we do show our age and can be considered a "cougar" as though still being considered sexually-viable is some kind of miracle and a tremendous compliment. Not to mention the underlying fratboy self-consolation and sexism that even though women are older, we are still dirty sluts who want "it" because that is all that matters about women.

  • Samantha Klein

    The funny thing is that they've somehow photoshopped Diaz into looking like Ellen Barkin, who's what? In her 50s?

  • Sara_Tonin00

    Ah, I thought the same thing too! But it's more about the haircut and jawline than the age.

  • Samantha Klein

    That's true. Still kinda weird, though.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    But if you're trying to make someone look like a totally boss woman, they are Barkin' up the right tree.

    I'll show myself out now.

  • the dude

    All you say is true, and in no way should older women become invisible, but let's face it. Young people are better looking than old people.

  • ZbornakSyndrome

    I don't know, Fassbender looks pretty sexy, crinkles and all. I think
    if we were offered more images of older women that don't strand us in
    the uncanny valley, it would begin to normalize the idea that older women are sexy.
    I mean, there is a range, Halle Berry is nearly 50, is she somehow no longer desirable? I feel like the whole thing is what we're trained to find sexy. Notice not a lot of anti-aging products target men.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    (Halle Berry is indeed nearly 50, but when people see her and call her a hot woman, they always add "she looks 20 years younger!")

  • ZbornakSyndrome

    Oh, I totally agree, I was trying to say, admittedly rather long-windedly, that comments like that are the problem. Instead of just appreciating her beauty, we hold her up as a freak, presuming that women aren't hot once they reach a certain age.

  • Mrs. Julien

    Facetiousness noted, but men are considered good-looking for longer than women are.

  • the dude

    For me people can be hot for about two decades:

    Men: 30's and 40's

    Women 20's and 30's.

    It kind of evens out

    But there are a lot of good-looking dudes under 30 and good-looking women over 40.

    And then there's Jared Leto. He is Dorian Gray.

  • the dude

    Which still makes it weird when they try to make older people look young.

  • Because it's a dishonest portrayal of the women involved designed to benefit you, the male viewer. Fassbender and Bardem can have their wrinkles, and society finds no shame in displaying them. Cruz and Diaz are expected to wear a veil of Adobe youthfulness, lest they, with their unattractive folds (they're totally not, by the way), fall on a 5-year-old and accidentally swallow them into their face. Don't look at me, it was on the pamphlet.

    Women, for reasons that escape me, aren't allowed to age. Men are. Making the women 'hotter' here is not somehow empowering; quite the opposite, in fact. Their features have been tinkered with, not for their sake, but yours. They have been placed under societal obligation to stay bangable, and wrinkles, being considered unsightly, negate this. It's difficult to rationally explain sexism because there's no good reason for it to exist.

    I need a lie down.

  • emmalita

    And you deserve one. Beautifully said. My angry woman's brain had not been able to get past "ddhfygjnf!"

  • Mrs. Julien

    I concur.

  • emmalita

    I just want to point out that you put together some coherent and pointed words yourself.

  • Mrs. Julien

    In these situations, I have a hard time managing not to bring a gun to a knife fight.

  • emmalita

    I have been having this fight with people for a quarter of a century (not including my incoherent teen years). I'm really tired of it and I'd often fantasize about doing a version of the Indiana Jones gun at a sword fight. If only I could find the right verbal bullets.

  • Nat

    I think it's more sad than anything else that the patriarchy has been so effective of denying certain groups (women among them) their rights that there are people of those groups who have been brainwashed into subservience. I'm not mad at her, she just makes me sad.

  • Anna von Beav

    Righteous feminist rage for breakfast?


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