YouTuber Jonathan Pageau exposes Hollywood propaganda in superhero films and specifically points to the trope of “replacing the masculine hero with a feminine one.”
Pageau states, “It’s not just that there are more lead feminine characters in stories, which could have been an opportunity for good storytelling. But it is the very act of supplanting and replacing which is often shown as a story trope.”
In his video, Pageau details a pattern seen in a number of Hollywood films on how this trope is being used. He points to how films that previously had a male-dominated cast like Ghostbusters and Ocean’s 11 are being remade with female-dominated casts like the 2016 Ghostbusters reboot and Ocean’s 8. However, he also notes that this trope is also seen as a “pattern within the stories themselves.” He specifically references Bill Murray’s character getting dragged out a window in the 2016 Ghostbusters reboot.
He then goes on to point out how female characters become the successors of their male characters. He points to Logan as “a strange play on the masculine virtue of wanting to save others. Though now, the male character sacrifices himself in order to make way for a feminine character, which replaces him.” He notes this same trope is seen in Blade Runner 2049 as well, “There is also K in Blade Runner 2049, giving up his place as the son to make room for the daughter.”
He also notes this trope can be seen when “the masculine character will be humiliated and made too look useless.” He points to Moana and The Last Jedi in this case.
Pageau then notes, “But there are several occasions where the masculine character will get out of the way to make place for a female replacement.” On this point, Pageau points to Mad Max: Fury Road where Max steps down off the ascending elevator where they replace Immortan Joe.
Pageau details these scenes show the “raw power play that is happening in the cultural narrative. It is not about parity, about equality, and all those virtues. Rather, the current social move appears as revolutionary. It’s about inverting the traditional hierarchy. Putting it upside down.”
He then criticized the idea of women simply filling the role of masculine social tropes, “It might not be so much an elevation of the feminine that we are seeing, but rather a blind attachment to masculine qualities as the ones that truly matter. As if being on top. As if being physically strong, a warrior, and a leader is somehow more virtuous than beauty. Than the caring and intimate connections of a private realm.”
Pageau specifically points to one scene in Wonder Woman “that encapsulates the structure most succinctly.” He describes the scene where Wonder Woman and her team fight to defend a small village that has been take over by German forces. However, a lone sniper remains at the top of a Church tower. Pageau notes this image is “a form of tyrannical masculine power.” He then describes the fact that Wonder Woman’s sniper Charlie is unable to take a shot at the sniper. Pageau describes his inability to fire as “a form of male impotence.” In order to solve the problem, Steve Trevor instructs the team to lift up a steel shield in order to give Wonder Woman a boost into the tower.
He states that this propping up of Wonder Woman was unnecessary:
“We had already seen Wonder Woman leap up at least that high and escalate stone buildings. But it was important that the men lift her up. Just as it was important to have that escalating platform in Mad Max to show the ascent in order to establish the new hierarchy. In the village scene, we can now easily understand the importance of the church tower. As Wonder Woman, the goddess, but also the god killer, leaps up and destroys this masculine symbol of power, of tradition, of Christianity. Only then to appear in the rubble above the villagers, replacing the tower itself in order to receive the praise of the villagers.”
He continues to note this type of symbolism is seen throughout the film with Wonder Woman eventually taking on the symbol of the cross and smiting Ares, the god of war.
Pageau goes on to warn about only seeing these films through political lenses. “We have to be careful not to reduce our vision to polemics…We cannot not reduce the movies to this trope. We must not be blinded by politics. We always need to stay clear-headed enough to see the symbolic patterns appear where they appear.”
However, he then states, “We also need to see the pattern…The recurring pattern is not only significant, but is often quite deliberate and being cheered by certain factions of the political sphere.” Pageau concludes, “Those of us who look for symbolic patterns, we should all pay attention as this trope, this sign of the times, shows every sign of being on an accelerating ascent.”
What do you make of Pageau’s analysis?