Sex and the Superhero Movie

Posted: July 21, 2011 in Action Movies, crotchety ranting, Jeff Holland, Threat Quality
Tags: , ,

And so there came a day, when Roger Ebert’s usual pissy, off-hand dickishness about “fanboys” in a comic book movie review irritated me:

Young Steve’s Army confidante both before and after his transformation is the sultry Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell), whose full red lips make her resemble a classic military pin-up of the period. He narrates their tour of the Brooklyn neighborhoods where he was picked on, and they grow close, but only PG-13 close, because Marvel has apparently determined that fanboys find sex to be icky.

This was in Captain America, a movie he actually LIKED. Don’t…don’t you worry about what he thought about Thor.

Anyway, this is an utterly moronic thing to say for a few reasons: 

  • It’s a fucking Captain America movie that he’s complaining doesn’t have a sex scene. You know two other movies that didn’t have sex scenes? Indiana Jones and The Rocketeer. Would The Rocketeer have been better if we’d seen early-20’s Jennifer Connelly naked? Of course. BUT FIND ME A MOVIE YOU COULDN’T SAY THAT ABOUT.
  • I realize the “Marvel has apparently determined” is an important part of that sentence, but if he was really placing the blame on the studio, he wouldn’t have used the words “fanboy” and “icky.” He could have said “Marvel has apparently determined that movie audiences don’t want to see attractive people having sex,” if this was really his point. Instead he went to the “comics fans are arrested adolescents” well he always goes to. So, fuck you, Ebert.
  • And if he WAS laying the blame at studios for not giving “fanboys” the cosplay banging they so richly deserve to watch, well…I don’t have the sales figures for “Batman XXX” or “This Ain’t Avatar” on me this moment, but I think I can safely say don’t you worry, Roger Ebert, other studios have this covered!

But as Braak pointed out in his Thor review, and I mandated in my Hawkman pitch, of COURSE there could be more sex in superhero movies, if superhero movies weren’t intended to appeal to as large an audience as possible (ages 8 to 80, or whatever).

(Yeah yeah, I know, “Why is sex not okay, but excessive violence is?” Do you want to be here all day or not?)

Anyway, this got me thinking: how many superhero movies actually explicitly show that the hero has had sex during the runtime of the movie? I can only think of four, really:

Batman – Bruce Wayne gets Vicki Vale drunk, has sex with her, hangs upside down doing tai chi in his stupid rich-guy exercise device (or whatever) rather than stay in bed with her, then lies about his plans to get her out of the house. Because Bruce Wayne is ALL CLASS.

Daredevil – Elektra coaxes Matt Murdock to lay her down by the fire rather than go out and punch out another street punk in front of his kid. Now, ignoring that this doesn’t seem a very Elektra-y thing to do (which is okay, because if this was the Frank Miller Elektra we were talking about, it would be utterly terrifying), it fits pretty well in the movie’s arc.

Iron Man – Tony has Pepper toss his one-night-stand out on her ass. But that’s pre-hero Tony Stark so it’s still a little classier than Bruce Wayne’s “Hey, two drinks and I’m flying” bullshit.

Incredible Hulk – Well, more like “threat of sex”: Bruce and Betty start getting frisky, only to be cockblocked by Bruce’s escalating pulse. It’s…actually kind of a cute moment.

Am I missing any? God knows Peter Parker didn’t get any.

  1. fartygirl says:

    It sounds like Ebert was trying to make a joke, but it totally doesn’t work. First – because if he knows anything about “fanboys,” he’d know the opposite is true. Comic books are filled with tits. Second, it makes no sense that Marvel would give a shit about what “fanboys” would want. Have they ever? It’s all about appealing to the masses. Ebert should know that by now.

  2. braak says:

    Well….the actual relationship of comics to human sexuality is kind of weird, too. For a medium that you rightly describe as being full of tits, it is EXTREMELY rare for people to just get their bone on. It’s that sort Paris Hiltony “sexy, not sexual” quality that pervades our popular culture, I think.

  3. Florida Gordon says:

    There was some sexy in WATCHMEN. I’m not an expert, but weren’t those superheroes?

  4. Jeff Holland says:

    As soon as I posted, I thought, “Should I mention Watchmen?” but decided against it.

    The reason is – and this is just me, your mileage may vary – by considering Watchmen as a deconstruction of the superhero, I only ever think of it is a meta-commentary on the genre, not part of the genre itself.

    Also it’s the only thing I can think about when I hear Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” and for that it has a lot to answer for.

  5. Dennis says:

    There’s the Superman spending the night with Lois Lane in his fortress of solitude in Superman 2, though he didn’t have his powers so that might not count.

  6. Jeff Holland says:

    Ah yes! Completely forgot about Superman 2, since I’m more familiar with the “Donner Cut” that came out a while back.

    But yeah, Superman, of all people. Makin’ the love with Lois.

    Which of course, eventually led us to the super-bastard-child of “Superman Returns.”

    Siiiiigh. Goddamn it, “Superman Returns.”

  7. katastic says:

    Don’t Keaton and Michelle Pfeiffer get it on in ‘Batman Returns’? Or do they just make out?

  8. Jeff Holland says:

    They make out and try to keep each other from touching each other’s wounds.

    Also known as a Gotham City Second Base.

  9. Better than the Joker’s Gotham City Kiss.

    Yes, excessive violence in PG-13 films needs to be addressed, but I’m getting really bored with every single TV show getting everyone to have sex with each other for no good storytelling reason. I’m glad Marvel is not overtly showing sex scenes which fail to actually serve the story. And shit, no one got laid in The Rocketeer, not even Timothy Dalton. You don’t need sex to make a relationship emotionally compelling. I hate that everyone thinks this now. Sorry, I’ll stop ranting.

  10. braak says:

    You don’t, I’m just saying there’s a lot of attractive people in these movies, and there’s no specific reason NOT to let us see them go at it, you know?

  11. When did it become standard practice to see attractive actors strip down and have sex on screen? Not ten years ago it used to be the exception, not the rule.

  12. Also how is ‘sexy, not sexual’ a Paris Hiltony thing. Didn’t she get famous from a sex tape?

  13. braak says:

    Did you see her sex tape? When it comes down to it, I don’t think there is a person in the world who is less interested in actually having sex than Paris Hilton.

    (I am specifically referring to a pretty in-depth analysis found in a book called Raunch Culture, by Ariel Levy, which I highly recommend.)

    And in the late 80s and early 90s, every action movie had a sex scene that was prerequisite.

  14. Jeff Holland says:

    I just watched “Road House” for the first time this weekend, so I can confirm that that was the case.

    Whoever said I needed to watch “Road House,” by the way, has some things they need to answer for.

    (Also whoever said I had to watch “Legend.” It was a bad week for catching up on old movies, really.)

  15. Come on, Legend is awesome. In the same way Krull is. And Blood of Heroes. And every other dystopic Rutger Hauer film from the 80s.

  16. braak says:


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