Annihilation: Natalie Portman’s upcoming sci-fi movie dismantles every gender cliche | hollywood | Hindustan Times
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Annihilation: Natalie Portman’s upcoming sci-fi movie dismantles every gender cliche

Alex Garland’s sci-fi blockbuster Annihilation, to be released in the US on February 23 and on Netflix worldwide a few weeks later, is a rare example of a sci-fi movie led by women that avoids some of cinema’s worst cliches.

hollywood Updated: Feb 15, 2018 17:10 IST
Natalie Portman plays Lena in Annihilation from Paramount Pictures and Skydance.
Natalie Portman plays Lena in Annihilation from Paramount Pictures and Skydance. (Paramount Pictures)

Alex Garland’s sci-fi blockbuster Annihilation, to be released in the US on February 23 and on Netflix worldwide a few weeks later, is a rare example of a sci-fi movie led by women that avoids some of cinema’s worst cliches.

Here is a list of gender-related tropes in film that often have critics gnashing their teeth.

- The Smurfette principle -

The Smurfette principle, coined by American poet and essayist Katha Pollitt in 1991, is the practice of including only one woman in an otherwise entirely male cast.

These movies are typically driven by a male-dominated narrative, with the woman existing only in relation to how she affects the men.

Examples: Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, Justice League and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.

- ‘Bechdel test’ failures -

The Bechdel test asks whether a movie features at least two named female characters who talk to each other about something other than a man.

Various surveys have shown that only around half of all movies pass the test, named after the American cartoonist Alison Bechdel, who credited the idea in part to the writings of Virginia Woolf.

Examples: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, Avatar, the entire Lord of the Rings and original Star Wars trilogies.

- Damsel in Distress -

The Damsel in Distress is one of the most widely used cliches in cinema. This trope is a plot device placing a female character in peril from which she must be rescued by a male character.

She often provides the core motivation for the male protagonist’s quest or journey.

Examples: Pirates of the Caribbean, Taken, Spider-Man and the Twilight saga.

- The Hotness Gap, or ‘Beast and the Beauty’ -

It doesn’t matter how schlubby, lazy and unkempt the man is -- he always ends up with the woman with supermodel looks.

Whether it’s Fred Flintstone, Quasimodo or King Kong, these guys can skip brushing their teeth, spend all day drinking beer in front of the TV and crack silly dad jokes and they’ll still get their girl.

Examples: Vince Vaughn and Jennifer Anniston in The Break-Up, Jason Segel and Kristen Bell/Mila Kunis Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Kevin James and Rosario Dawson in The Zookeeper and Jack Black in everything.

- The Straw Feminist -

This trope, identified by the Feminist Frequency pop culture website, is an over-the-top caricature of a feminist designed to undermine the very idea of feminism.

Examples: Mona Lisa Smile, Legally Blonde and Down with Love.

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