Monday, August 25, 2014

Why Comic Books and Coffee Mugs Prove I Don't Understand Feminism or Marketing.

I want to be able to say that I'm not sexist. I'd like to think so. Every once in a while, something will set me off and I tailspin into some remarkable rabbit hole of self-loathing that makes me think that either I'm some sort of naive idiot or some evil monster.

This time it was a coffee cup.

I saw Guardians of the Galaxy a few weekends ago, and I really liked it. That's not really noteworthy, since it would seem that lots of people went out to see a movie that most people would have laughed at the premise of ten years ago. In fact, it's so many people that it's the number grossing summer film in the United States. In an effort to be additionally supportive, and to give me a frequent reminder of the film, I purchased a coffee mug that has four of the characters from the film on it.

So now I hear Peter Falk's voice in the back of my head going "Sorry to bother you, but there's one thing that I don't understand there. Aren't there five members of the team in Guardians of the Galaxy?" (For those of you too young to get the Columbo reference, just have a look on youtube.)

Who's on the coffee mug? Well, Star Lord has to be on the mug. It's practically his movie from start to finish. The bounty is on him, it's his spaceship, and it's his mixtape. Rocket and Groot are on the mug because they carry a lot of the jokes in the film. Drax is on the mug because he's awesome and nothing goes over his head. (Side note: Drax is so awesome that they also have a mug that's just him. I presume that the marketing department thinks that coffee drinkers identify with Drax.) I ask my wife while we're in the store - "Why isn't Gamora on the coffee mug?" - to which she wittily replies, "Gamora doesn't need coffee." She's not a fluff character in the film, by any means. She gets lots of screen time and several awesome action sequences.

So, then I start considering possibilities and the rabbit hole starts opening up on me. First, I think that they really did leave Gamora off of the mug because she's a girl, but then that would imply that the marketers think that comic books fans, especially ones that drink their own coffee but go the movies won't be accepting of her. Then I think - but I noticed that she was missing, and aren't I part of the intended demographic of both the movie and the coffee mug? So then that means I must feel guilty that a woman wasn't included, when women wouldn't actually want her to be on there to be objectified, so I'm bad for trying to introduce gender into a discussion that it shouldn't even have been in in the first place? It's not like the marketers can be wrong - after all, any time I don't get a commercial it's not because it's a bad commercial, it's because I'm not the intended demographic.

Don't comic books play into male adolescent fantasy a little too often for women to not be included, even if they're present for obstensibly the wrong purpose?

Then I think about it some more - Gamora is being played by the same actress that plays Lt. Uhura in the new Star Trek Films, and the lead Na'vi character Neytiri in James Cameron's Avatar. Is there a coffee-drinking man or woman that watches science fiction films that would decline to buy a coffee mug if she was on it? I think not. At a certain point, I have to abandon trying second-guess a feminist viewpoint and go back to trying to see the fan viewpoint. They're a team, she's on it, she should be on the coffee mug.

There's contact information on the bottom of the mug for the company that made them. Since it's here in America, I guess I will try to talk to them.

Let's try this in the contact form and see what happens:

I recently picked up one of the Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy coffee mugs from my local Wal-Mart retailer and opted for the "Character" mug over the "Drax" mug just to have more of the characters but I was still a little disappointed that Gamora was not included. I have been often reminded that I don't really understand marketing.  In those cases where I don't understand the marketing it's often the case that I'm not the intended demographic anyway. I don't actually drink coffee, but I got it for my wife who does. We're both over 40 and have a couple of kids and we all enjoyed the movie.  So - is it because I'm not the standard demographic for this product, or is it because of some marketing reason that I'm unlikely to understand that Gamora's not on the "Character" mug? (Or is there some simple explanation that I've entirely overlooked?)

I'll follow up on this post when I get some sort of a response from the mug manufacturer.

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