Analyzing a Visual Text for Messages about Gender
Analyzing a Visual Text for Messages about Gender
Gender inequality has been an issue of concern in our society with many arguing that women are in some sense inferior to men and that men are more entitled to various social responsibilities than women. This stereotype is deeply ingrained in society and results from various social perceptions of the roles of men and women in the society. Gender disparity is evident in many instances and that include film sets.
The movie After Earth is an action adventure film of a father and son who crash-landed on Earth, 1,000 years after the human race had escaped the planet that had been destroyed by climate change and pollution. The humans were sent to other worlds, which already had different species of aliens residing in them. The aliens were not receptive of the migration of humans into their planet. They deployed creatures called Ursas that had the ability to track and kill humans by the scent of fear pheromones. General Cypher Riage , an emotional cold warrior and militant commander, had mastered the ability to control his fear and as a result masked himself from becoming visible to the creature’s heightened sense of smell. The crash landing wounded him badly, split their ship into two and left many others who were on board dead. The few survivors however, were killed by the Ursa that had been brought on board to help other rangers learn the tact of “ghosting” (the ability to mask themselves and become ‘invisible’ to the Ursa). Kitai, the General’s only son and Cypher being the only survivors, had to do whatever they could to stay alive and find their way back home. Since Cypher was badly injured, Kitai had to retrieve and launch the signal beacon that was at the tail end of the ship 100 kilometers away, in order to send a signal back home that would initiate their extraction from earth. Over a series of recollections and flashbacks, it is evident that Kitai had a sister who died when he was much younger from an Ursa attack in their home. Faia, Kitai’s mother and Cypher’s wife worked back home but did not engage in the off-world missions. Instead, she worked at their home world (Nova Prime).
It is reasonable to conclude that there are various elements of gender disparity in the film. Women were allegedly not very active participants in off-world missions and they assumed roles that were more submissive or those that existed in the world where they reside. In the film set, women are perceived to have the role of taking care of the household despite having other responsibilities. This is a common view in today’s society and is the case in the film. In another scene before the crash landing, Kitai goes to explore the cargo that he had seen being loaded into the ship just before their departure. At the storage location of the ship, he finds rangers guarding the cargo and they tease him before his father appears and instructs him to return to his seat. From this scene, it is clear that security was a role assigned to the men since there was no female ranger present among the officers guarding the cargo. Among other roles in the ship was that of piloting, which was performed by men. This leaves to question the scriptwriter’s view on gender and different roles in the filmsetting.
The film on the other hand, portrays women as being selfless and brave. Faia encourages her husband to take their son to the off-world trip in order to bond with him after he and his son have a mild altercation at the dinner table. Kitai related to him that he did not qualify for ranger and this disappointed his father greatly. It is reasonable to conclude that the society in general has a set of expectations towards men. A male was considered weak for not qualifying to become ranger, which explains why Kitai insisted that the training officer make him ranger before his father’s return from an off-world duty, despite failing in his field training. He was eager to embody and follow his father’s example and he succeeded in doing so when he successfully killed the Ursa and launched the beacon as was expected of him. Cypher agreed to Faia’s suggestion to take their son with him and instructed him to pack his bags. This shows that women have the responsibility of building their homes even in the emotional sense. Senshi, Kitai,s sister displayed an act of bravery when she protected her then much younger brother from an Ursa. Although she lost her life from the attack, she managed to save her brothers life by hiding him in a box where the creature could not track him by his scent.
Military operations were also carried out by men according to the film. Although women were trained in the field as rangers (Senshi was a qualified ranger), they were less in number than the men, and there was no clear indication that women were assigned any major military roles. It is also evident in the film that it was men’s responsibility to protect and maintain safety of the community owing to their active involvement in the military. The General blamed himself for the death of his daughter since he was away on an off-world mission when the nightmare happened. He believed that it was his responsibility to protect his family and that Senshi would not have lost her life had he been around. At the end of the film, the General and his son express their interest to follow Faia in her low stress work environment after they are rescued from Earth. This shows that both women and men can perform the same roles and their occupations are rather voluntary. This depiction brings some sort of gender equality to the film.
Gender representation in films is an issue that needs to be addressed. Men are seen as the protectors, breadwinners, the saviors and the focus of the plot. Female characters are often portrayed as weak and usually have an identity that is often tied to a male counterpart. Men are assigned the lead roles in films and this only furthers the gender stereotypes in our society today. Although the film After Earth does not depict women as being inferior to men, it does highlight some aspects of gender disparity. Women are adequately represented in the film; their roles are rather neutral and not allocated only based on gender. Any gender aspects in the film are simply a further extension or representation of the general views of society on gender. Many scriptwriters and producers give lead film roles to men without adequate consideration. Such pertinent issues should not be left out when determining and assigning roles in film sets. This will ensure that there is gender balance in both assignment and selection of the film characters.
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