Pointing out a Sexist Stereotype Doesn’t Excuse Sexism, Jumanji

When the first look at the Jumanji cast was released last year many eyes fell on Karen Gillan, but for all the wrong reasons. While her male counterparts (Kevin Hart, Dwayne Johnson and Jack Black) were all dressed appropriately for the treacherous jungle, covered up in neutral colours, Gillans character was shown in a pair of tiny booty shorts and top that shows off her stomach.

Rightly so there was a lot of outrage online. Gillan is the only female in a line of four equally accomplished actors, but is the only one being sexualised for her body. Then there’s the practicality of her outfit. The shot shows a jungle terrain, which would of course be rife with mosquitos – the poor woman would get bitten to death, if she didn’t die of heat stroke/sunburn first. She also has those gorgeous ginger locks, but they’d get muddy pretty quickly or even get tangled in a tree or something – someone get the girl a bobble!

Seeing all the complaints, Karen Gillan herself responded saying her the backlash was understandable but that we’d “find out why [she’s] wearing CHILD SIZED clothes when you watch the movie”. This seemed to imply that maybe she’d gone from a child to grown up… but if that was the case the clothes would never be as form fitting or sexual.

 “As Sony rightly point out, women got a bad deal in video games back then, but we still do now. “

When the trailer dropped we were given their flimsy excuse. The characters played by the four are actually avatars in the 90s video game Jumanji, and four kids get sucked into it. Because it’s the 90s and, duh, video game stereotypes, of course we get the nerdy plump professor, the token sassy black guy, the hunky hero and the scantily clad action girl. Gillan’s character is also given the eye-roll worthy name of ‘Ruby Roundhouse’.

As the girl who becomes Karen Gillan is a nerdy, plain looking glasses-wearer (that’s Hollywood for feminist) she immediately exclaims, “why am I wearing half a shirt and short shorts IN THE JUNGLE.” And that’s all the totally feminist commentary we get in the film, well done Hollywood.

“Everyone knows that if there’s one thing that’s underrepresented in movies, it’s Jack Black.”

Unfortunately, sexism isn’t the other thing being joked about in the trailer. The gorgeous blonde girl turns into Jack Black and immediately cries that she’s “an overweight middle aged man”, no doubt paving the way for many a fat joke. There’s also the potential gay jokes that will come from the girl in Jack Black’s body crushing on Dwayne Johnson. Add to that the fact that the main cast was initially equally split between male and female actors, but then one of the teenage girls gets put in Jack Black’s body… because everyone knows that if there’s one thing that’s underrepresented in movies, it’s Jack Black.

The thing is that, as Sony rightly points out, women got a bad deal in video games back in the 90s, but er, they still do now. There are still very few games out there that let women play as women that look like them, whilst still giving them the same adequate armour or protection. Women try to fight against this but when we do we’re hit with horrible things such as gamer-gate.

If Hollywood wants to target bad stereotypes they need to do a better job of deconstructing them. I hope that in the movie Ruby Roundhouse becomes a fully fleshed-out character who uses her mind and skills to kick ass. Who knows, she may also get a costume the same as the men but with the addition of a scrunchie a la’ Ursula Stanhope in George of the Jungle. One can dream.

Image via Sony Pictures Entertainment

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