When they say the new X-Men movie choked, they mean it literally. As if mediocre reviews and box office numbers weren’t enough, the latest installment in the mutant superhero movie has fallen prey to one of cinema’s deadliest villains: terrible marketing choices.
Like countless other commuters in Los Angeles, I was a bit baffled driving past the latest signage for X-Men: Apocalypse, which features a bored looking Oliver Issac choking out Jennifer Lawrence’s Mystique. It’s not just that the billboard looks bland and cheap like the rest of the film’s aesthetic, it’s the unshakable feeling of sexism in how, to paraphrase the great Devin Faraci’s, this demented Papa Smurf is casually strangling his much smaller Smubrfette counterpart.
Actress Rose McGowan certainly took notice. The 90’s star is no stranger to controversy recently, knowing Hollywood executives for sexist practices and even offending many in the LGBTQ community with her remarks during an interview with author Bret Easton Ellis last year.
“There is a major problem when the men and women at 20th Century Fox think casual violence against women is the way to market a film,” McGowan said to The Hollywood Reporter after first bringing attention to the billboard in a Facebook post last week. “There is no context in the ad, just a woman getting strangled. The fact that no one flagged this is offensive and frankly, stupid.”
THR also reached out to Jennifer McCleary-Sills, director of gender violence and rights for the International Center for Research on Women, who responded to the billboard this way: “What really is the challenge here is the intentionality of it. You could have chosen any from the thousands of images, but you chose this one. Whose attention did you want to get and to what end?”
It turns out Fox agreed. Or, at least was quick enough to respond to the mountain criticism in a statement:
“In our enthusiasm to show the villainy of the character Apocalypse we didn’t immediately recognize the upsetting connotation of this image in print form. Once we realized how insensitive it was, we quickly took steps to remove those materials. We apologize for our actions and would never condone violence against women.”