Controversial X-Men Billboard Starts Debate About Violence Against Women

June 3rd 2016

Taylor Bell

The billboard for the new X-Men: Apocalypse movie is creating a lot of controversy, with some high profile voices claiming that it casually depicts violence against women.

The advertisement, which has since been pulled in response to protests, shows Oscar Isaac's character Apocalypse choking Mystique, played by Jennifer Lawrence.

The billboard has attracted many critics and has raised a larger conversation about the limited representation of women in action movies.

Actress Rose McGowan expressed her disgust with Hollywood filmmakers for not recognizing the offensive nature of the billboard and for allowing a female character to be violently objectified as one of the selling points of the movie.

And, she gave the following statement to the Hollywood Reporter.

"There is a major problem when the men and women at 20th Century Fox think casual violence against women is the way to market a film. There is no context in the ad, just a woman getting strangled. The fact that no one flagged this is offensive and frankly, stupid. The geniuses behind this, and I use that term lightly, need to to take a long hard look at the mirror and see how they are contributing to society. Imagine if it were a black man being strangled by a white man, or a gay male being strangled by a hetero? The outcry would be enormous. So let’s right this wrong. 20th Century Fox, since you can’t manage to put any women directors on your slate for the next two years, how about you at least replace your ad?"

People on Twitter seemed to agree.

20th Century FOX issued the following statement in response to complaints about the poster:

"In our enthusiasm to show the villainy of the character Apocalypse we didn’t immediately recognize the upsetting connotation of this image in print form. Once we realized how insensitive it was, we quickly took steps to remove those materials. We apologize for our actions and would never condone violence against women." — 20th Century FOX Statement

Several X-Men fans scoffed at the controversy, noting that violence is par for the course in action movies.

Not everyone was buying that argument, though.

Jennifer McCleary-Sills, director of gender violence and rights for the International Center for Research on Women, told the Hollywood Reporter that even though Lawrence was portraying a mutant, it's still important to draw a line when depicting violence against women.

"The argument that it shouldn't be offensive because they are mutants doesn't hold any water, … and what really is the challenge here is the intentionality of it. You could have chosen any from the thousands of images, but you chose this one. Whose attention did you want to get and to what end?" she asked.