Why are women useless in disaster movies?

I’ve been thinking about the last few disaster movies I’ve watched. I think I am turning into one of those people who can’t ‘turn off’ their hot-button issues, even when engaging in totally mindless entertainment. One of my favorite professors from undergrad used to talk about this in the context of 24. She LOVED the show, but was infamous among her group of friends for yelling at the tv whenever something really sexist or rape-friendly happened (she works with a lot of sexual assault stuff on campus). I think she was half proud half exasperated by her own rape-o-meter.

I’m pretty sure I’ve developed a bs/sexism meter, and it’s been beeping or something a lot lately! I know that I really like watching movies that are targeted towards male audiences. I know the male audience assumption is a whole other conversation, so I’ll focus on what bothers me about the films themselves and not the advertising or perceived market.

Basically, I’m getting a little frustrated that the women in most of these movies are totally useless, or superfluous. There are of course exceptions, like the doctor in Deep Blue Sea, but she only escapes being useless/superfluous because she’s also kind of crazy and definitely portrayed as a cold-hearted bitch (ie not feminine). Otherwise, the women just aren’t usually that interesting in these movies.

Even in my all-time favorite shark chompfest, Jaws, the men completely and totally steal the show. It’s up to the womenfolk to get eaten, seem hysterical (with good reason!), or simply act nervy. The horrible shark prop is male (Bruce) too!
I know that I usually make a list about all the things I’ve learned from the movies, and a lot of my snarkiness would go to waste without all the ridiculous things that happen..but I wish that I could direct a little more humor towards the portrayal of useless men!

Disclaimer: This post was written by a Feministing Community user and does not necessarily reflect the views of any Feministing columnist, editor, or executive director.

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