Jupiter Ascending. Or Not: Another Male Character Saves the Day

By on Dec 10, 2013 in Gender in the Media | 8 comments

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So I’ve been watching movie trailers all morning (because that’s how I procrastinate), and I came across one for Jupiter Ascending, produced by Warner Bros. Pictures. It’s a sci-fi action-adventure film starring Mila Kunis as the eponymous protagonist. Here’s the synopsis for it on the Apple Movie Trailers page:

Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis) was born under a night sky, with signs predicting that she was destined for great things. Now grown, Jupiter dreams of the stars but wakes up to the cold reality of a job cleaning other people’s houses and an endless run of bad breaks. Only when Caine (Channing Tatum), a genetically engineered ex-military hunter, arrives on Earth to track her down does Jupiter begin to glimpse the fate that has been waiting for her all along—her genetic signature marks her as next in line for an extraordinary inheritance that could alter the balance of the cosmos.

Hey, sounds pretty good right? One of those rare films where a woman is actually the main character and hero of the film.

Think again.

Gee, according to the trailer, the movie is all about Channing Tatum and how he’s going to save Jupiter’s butt over and over again. His character, called Caine, is set-up as virtually the primary premise of the film. He’s the “perfect hunting machine” who has been waiting all his life to apparently kill Jupiter, a princess who doesn’t know her real power. But of course he just ends up rescuing her in various situations.

What’s going on here? Why the disconnect between the actual synopsis of the film and its trailer?

Margot Magowan of Reel Girl tackled this common conundrum in a post about Disney’s film Frozen, but its lessons still apply here. One key way Hollywood frequently undermines female characters and heroines is by not letting them “dominate posters or previews,” she writes. Movie producers do this because they think people – especially boys and men – won’t go see a film with a woman in the leading role.

But their assumptions are grossly inaccurate. According to the Women’s Media Center, when controlled for budget, films with female protagonists make just as much money as films with male leads. Movies with larger budgets make more money regardless of which sex is playing the main character.

So do your homework, Warner Brothers! And way to ruin the trailer of a potentially good film. I clicked on the clip because I was excited by the plot and the fact that it seemed the film was going to center around a cool and powerful female lead. Guess the lesson here is I shouldn’t get my hopes up.

Want to see more sexism? Take a look at some of these promotional photos. Here’s Jupiter in a seductive and sexually objectifying pose, while Caine gets to stare menacingly into the camera.

Jupiter and her come hither gaze. Image from Geek Tyrant: http://geektyrant.com/news/2013/4/15/the-wachowskis-jupiter-ascending-official-synopsis-released.html

Jupiter and her come hither gaze. Image from Geek Tyrant: http://geektyrant.com/news/2013/4/15/the-wachowskis-jupiter-ascending-official-synopsis-released.html


Is Caine the real hero of the film? Image from Gamefob: http://gamefob.com/film-tv/photos-of-channing-tatum-and-mila-kunis-from-jupiter-ascending/

Is Caine the real hero of the film? Image from Gamefob: http://gamefob.com/film-tv/photos-of-channing-tatum-and-mila-kunis-from-jupiter-ascending/


Again, even though Jupiter is supposed to be the main character and potentially the savior of the Universe, it’s Caine who comes across as tough and in charge.

So this is the mentality of Hollywood, folks. I really hope the actual film is a lot better. It’s directed by Lana and Andy Wachowski (previously known as the Wachowski brothers) and you would think that having a woman at the helm would help make the film more gender empowered/balanced. So fingers-crossed the trailer was someone else’s idea and a momentary lapse in judgment.

Although… the Wachowskis also directed The Matrix, and I found that movie to be pretty sexist, too. Female character Trinity’s main role in that film is just to fall in love with “the One” (that’s what the Oracle said was her destiny, of course!). Neo, however, goes on to save the world.

Because he’s a man. Ugh.


  1. Mo

    December 10, 2013

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    Exactly why I so much enjoyed the underworld franchise. Selene (played by Kate Beckinsale) keeps saving her love interest’s life all throughout the movies.

    • CShea

      December 10, 2013

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      I love what you said about the poses of Mila and Channing in the posters. It is so true. Strange that Mila Kunis keeps taking part in these movies that seem like they could have strong female roles but then don’t. The same happened with the Wizard of Oz. Apparently the guy who wrote the book put clear feminist themes into the book but when Disney remade the movie they made it all about the man — the Wizard.

  2. ADunn

    December 10, 2013

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    I love movies. I love them. I especially love comic book movies such as the recent Nolan Batman Trilogy, The X-Men story with Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, and I especially adore the Marvel Cinematic Universe (Iron Man-Hulk-Thor-Captain America-The Avengers).

    But one thing annoys me every story even the X-Men for most films it’s casually the same story – Superhero (MAN) saves a weaker character (WOMAN) from a VILLAIN (MAN). Case in point – Iron Man saves Pepper Potts from a bad guy. 2nd case in point – Thor (MAN) saves Black Widow (SUPERHERO WOMAN without POWERS) from The Incredible Hulk (MONSTER).

    So with this in mind, I’ve been hoping that in upcoming Marvel films we see female leading the title roles as the primary antagonist or the primary hero. But I doubt we will see that. It’s not like they don’t have any existing characters already – http://marvel.com/universe/Category:Women – just follow that link and you’ll see a universe full of them.

    As a straight man who is 25 years old an enjoys action flicks from The Avengers to Bond, I can say with the utmost honesty I would pay to see a Marvel film where a woman is playing the lead hero or the lead antagonist and be excited to see it!

    Marvel’s not the only guilty party, DC comic films such as Man of Steel are in some ways worse.

    Why haven’t we gotten a Wonder Woman film in eons? Catwoman and Elektra were bombs at the box office not because they were bad films but because studios refused to put any money into them let alone risk dollars marketing them.

    Why do we force young girls to idolize victimization (princess in a castle) instead of being all out inspiring, ass-kicking, awesome heroes. My parents taught me to share and I don’t understand why we can’t share gender roles.

    I love interior design and decorating and I hate American football but the role I was assigned as a young boy even in pre-school was to stop trying to paint the walls and embrace a greasy pig-skin ball. I’m sure there are plenty, in fact a lot of girls out there who hate decorating and would much rather play football.

    This is the problem with Hollywood they are not evolving with our modern mindset. Mainly run by the same guys who ran it 30 years ago and even before that they refuse to see the bigger picture. We are a digital generation embracing diversity like never before and they need to give us what we want because we will come out and see it – a Female character with “BALLS.”

    Thanks for this blog-post I enjoy reading your hollywood film posts inspires a lot of thought!

  3. E

    February 7, 2015

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    I totally agree. I watched the film today and I wasn’t expecting much and was still disappointed. Jupiter got picked up when she fell over about a million times and Caine manages to be all manly with wounds and diving in the save her arse while she’s agreeing to get married cus she’s stupid. it is SUCH a sexist movie and the plot was convolted but at the same time predictable with the sci-fi and romance not fitting. Tatum walked around for about half the film shirtless and Mila was unnecessarily sexy. Jupiter does basically nothing while people fight around her and is weak and selfish. The graphics were the only point of merit and some of the stunts were impressive but I would not recommend this film at all.

    • Christina Paschyn

      February 8, 2015

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      Thank you so much for your comment. I think I may just skip the film!

  4. Flower

    February 15, 2015

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    Great article. I just saw the movie today with my aunt. There was this family behind us who were literally laughing through what was supposed to be important scenes throughout the whole movie. It was infectious and my aunt and I couldn’t help laughing too, particularly at the ridiculous romance scenes she had with wolf boy.

    It irritated me greatly that Jupiter didn’t take charge and assert her political power even though she clearly was in a position of monarchical authority. She could have used her influence and gained information on the universe’s political and economic dynamics, and slowly but surely eliminate that awful gene-harvesting market from the inside and changed that socially Darwinist perspective and philosophy that society upheld. Or well, considering that changing culture and philosophy takes a very long time, she could of at least lit flame the wick that could have sparked and burned a path to a better future of egalitarian reform.

    It also annoyed me that she was a constant damsel in distress, with muscular and loyal wolf boy saving her and what not. She didn’t ask a lot of questions and was gullible. She let others lead her around, and was in the end unambitious, just returning to her life as a maid as if nothing had happened, when her planet was still in a vulnerable place. In 80 years, she will die. Earth will be up for grabs because she didn’t build political connections and set up a will and will loose the right to it when she is dead.

    I wont stress about it. It was overall just a stupid and ridiculous movie.

    • Christina Paschyn

      February 15, 2015

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      Thank you so much for your insightful comment! It’s so disappointing – this movie seemed like it could have so much potential, and the producers, directors and screenwriters just completely dropped the ball.

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