Male Chauvinist Movie Postering: The Truth Behind All Those Rear-Revealing Female Heroes

Philip Yu
The Reel Breakdown

The folks over at Huffington Post today raised a titillating question: "Action Movie Butt Shots: Why Must Fighting Females Assume the Same Pose?" Or, more simply, why are chicks in action movie posters always posed backsides-forward?

The simple answer: the butt-thrust pose sells tickets. The tactic gets average-Joes in seats. Action movies favor female back-views because they're marketing tools aimed largely at young males, not females.

The Meta answer: raising the question is a good way to prompt a juicy gallery of poster art. Here is ours:

The HuffPo also ponders why a director like Joss Whedon, he of TV's "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," would fall into the same misogynistic trap. While Whedon has a reputation for treating his female characters like Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow with equal care as their male counterparts, the question is beside the point.

Whedon made the movie -- not the "The Avengers" poster that emphasizes Scarlett Johansson's caboose. In the movie itself, the opening scene with Johansson pops because she is an action figure, not a figure upon which the action happens. As poster art, she's an object not an actor.

In action movies where the target market is not male, like this month's "The Call," the poster does not lead with Oscar winner Halle Berry's buttocks. In the image, Berry faces front and center. Women are called on to identify, not objectify, Berry's character -- and they filled the theaters.

Check out the poster for Saoirse Ronan in "The Host," out tomorrow. Ronan -- and her antagonist played by Diane Kruger -- face front, eyes forward. Look back at Ronan's previous action film, "Hanna" -- eyes front. Would the poster for "The Hunger Games" ever feature an image of Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen, rear-end forward? Never! The Girl-on-Fire typically faces front, eyes daring the camera to stare back.

Looking back to memorable posters with strong female action characters consider Angelina Jolie's front-forward, hips flexed, knees bent and ready for action image in "Lara Croft: Tomb Raider." When Angelina does action, like "Salt" or "Wanted," she doesn't lead with her rear.

The HuffPo article concludes with a question: "Should studios give fairer treatment to their female stars?" Obviously. Let's start today!

However, female equity in film has very little to do with the way movie posters hawking testosterone-driven actioners portray women's anatomy -- precisely because the target audience is men.