Pedro Almodovar: ‘Sexuality doesn’t exist for superheroes, they are neutered’

Photocall for 'Dolor y Gloria'

It’s no secret that I could take or leave the most successful superhero franchises in film history. I’ll eventually see Avengers: Endgame but I’m not rushing it. Doctor Strange was a massive disappointment, but I loved Black Panther and… I think I’ve skipped several of the Marvel movies at this point? I’m not hostile to them and I’m not out here dropping diss tracks about them. They just aren’t my particular cup of tea. As for other franchises – I loved Wonder Woman but hated everything else that Zack Snyder touched in the DC Comic Universe. I loved the Batman franchise when it under Christopher Nolan’s control. So, I’m by no means an expert in superhero culture. Neither is Pedro Almodovar, the famous, Oscar-winning Spanish writer-director. Almodovar doesn’t love superhero films because he finds the superheroes to be “neutered.” Hm..

Marvel has given us a healthy legacy of gratuitous shirtless scenes, allowing audiences to ogle the hunky physiques of Michael B. Jordan, Tom Holland, and Chrises Evans and Hemsworth. But what does a director like Pedro Almodóvar, famous for his poppy, sexy dramadies, make of big American movies and their directors, when neither are as adept at showing desire and sexuality, let alone navigating it in an interesting way?

“Here, perhaps, there is a kind of self-censorship that doesn’t allow the writers to write other kinds of stories,” he told Vulture at Film at Lincoln Center’s 50th-anniversary gala Monday night. “There are many, many movies about superheroes. And sexuality doesn’t exist for superheroes. They are neutered. There is an unidentified gender, the adventure is what’s important. You can find, among independent movies, more of this sexuality. The human being has such sexuality! I get the feeling that in Europe, in Spain, that I have much more freedom than if I worked here.”

If, tomorrow, Kevin Feige phoned Almodóvar and said that he was desperately wanted to add more than a gratuitous shirtless scene or two to the next Marvel movie, would the Spanish director sign on? “No, no! I don’t think so. It’s too big for me! I like to see what I’m doing, to direct movies the same day,” he said. “You have to wait too long to see the results [with big movies]. I like being able to impose my opinion as a director. I’ve made 21 movies. I’m used to doing it the way I like, not fitting with the Hollywood system.”

[From Vulture]

I think he’s right? There’s a lot of self-censorship happening and there are calculations being made with regards to how films are MPAA rated too – they can’t have a sensual sex scene between Captain America and Black Widow because they need the film to be rated PG-13. And if they edged up to showing more sexuality or sensuality, they would probably need to cut down on the violence, which is what I mean about the calculations being made. There are exceptions to this however – I think Wonder Woman did a good job of making Diana inexperienced but sensual, and a woman with a healthy, adult attitude about sex. But yes, for all the shirtless scenes and all the scenes where the diehard fans scream “YAS DADDY,” there is a lot of neutering going on.

Photocall for 'Dolor y Gloria'

Photos courtesy of WENN.

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40 Responses to “Pedro Almodovar: ‘Sexuality doesn’t exist for superheroes, they are neutered’”

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  1. Incredulous says:

    *coughs* The Boys is coming out on Amazon soon. It’s pretty much what superheros get up to because why not? It’s also created/written by someone who rather famously hates superheros.

  2. Esmerelda says:

    Fair, but superhero movies are for children. They’re Disney movies mostly made by Disney. They’re not made to offer a complex and unique point of view on sexuality and relationships, they’re made so we can see space dudes punch each other. It’s like Pedro is expecting to order oysters at McDonald’s…

    • Lisa says:

      I think this is slightly unfair. I’ve been a comic fan since I was ten and am WAAAAY past that now. These films have been something that have helped me through some tough times and I’m proud to say I’m a fan. To dismiss things that spoke to us when we were younger as childish is ridiculous. It’s more than space dudes punching each other. It’s an experience to remember ideals and the feeling that we can do anything. Watching Wonder Woman and Black Panther on the screen for the first time filled me with such awe. They spoke to me and so many others. Don’t be dismissive/superior because you don’t understand.

      • DS9 says:

        I don’t consider it dismissive to say the movies are for children because they are.

        And before you come for me, please know I’m a huuuuuge X-men fan, have been since I was a child watching the cartoon ever Saturday morning.

        The movies are supposed to be your childhood dreams and wishes fulfilled and are also meant to be franchises you can bring your children or nieces and nephews into. Much like Star Wars and other adventure franchises.

        I think there is a marked difference between for children and teens and childish. These movies aren’t childish but they are meant to include children.

        Even the violence is rather contained, more emotionally devastating than graphically violent.

      • Lex says:

        Please further illustrate how films like this have helped you through tough times

    • Puffy says:

      Some of the mediums that superhero’s are packaged in are definitely meant for children, but you saying in such a general way that superheroes are meant for children kind of leads me to believe you know very little about comics. There are definitely some aspects of several characters that’s been toned down for the movies because the movies are trying to be more kid friendly. I think the best you could generalize is to say that superheros are for all ages and therefore also geared towards children. However, I disagree with the idea that once something is meant for adults it’s got to be about sex.

    • SKF says:

      Sex was definitely an element in the first Iron Man film. Subsequent Marvel films have toned it down for the kids. I do think there’s a fair bit of adult content in those films – but more in line with violence and philosophical themes.

      I do find the American ratings system and general attitude to sex vs violence very bizarre. Your PG-13 or R rated system is really under-simplified. There is a lot of content that falls in between. In Australia we have G—General (everyone), PG—Parental Guidance (is recommended), M—Mature (some mature content – not for the little kids), MA 15+—Mature Accompanied (you cannot enter a cinema without a responsible adult if you are under 15), R 18+—Restricted (you cannot enter a cinema if you are under 18), X 18+—Restricted (adult films / p0rn, adults only).

      I find it crazy that in US films violence tends to be much more okay than a nipple and some tame simulated sex. To me consensual sex is better to show than violence. Learning about actual adult relations from a place other than porn is fine. Whereas violence is something that can be observed but shouldn’t become too normalised. And yet your system is extremely conservative about sex (but not ogling women’s bodies in leery ways) but then pretty lenient about violence. And then the rest of the world receives content from you in this manner. I would like to see it flipped.

  3. Valiantly Varnished says:

    And my response to that is not everything and everyone has to be sexualized. And perhaps that’s part of the problem in film and in Hollywood. I don’t consider myself a prude by any means but I dont go to a Marvel film to see Captain America’s sexuality explored. There is a time and place for everything,

  4. Em says:

    Why does everything have to be sexualized? Ridiculous.

    • Naddie says:

      Agree. Sex is everywhere in everything, we really don’t need it in children-friendly characters.

  5. Mabs A'Mabbin says:

    Agree just a wee bit concerning films, but totally disagree about neutered, because everyone knows what goes on at the the homes of these extremely sexualized characters. They’re so sexualized nothing but the actual act itself is left to imaginations. I’m not sure I can pick up a comic and not see exponential sexualizations.

  6. Stella Alpina says:

    When you are busy saving the world and keeping your real identity a secret, how will you find time to have a love life?

  7. Jay (the Canadian one) says:

    Watchmen. Deadpool.

    • kiddo says:

      Exactly, when they are R rated then there’s time for sexuality

      • SKF says:

        Which is a weird quirk of the US ratings system – sex is seen as R rated material and violence is not? It is a bizarre cultural quirk.

  8. otaku fairy... says:

    The male heroes of Marvel also get to have their sexualized and shirtless moments on screen without the real life male actors getting crap for it off screen. No fauxraged pearl-clutching moments about how that sexual attraction makes them or their character incapable of being taken seriously, less respectable, less strong, less smart, less talented, less brave, less empowering, less progressive/feminist, or in any other way ‘less than’ or bad for society.

  9. Lawcatb says:

    I found his comments about how the directing is done much more interesting. I enjoy comic book movies, and I’m a marvel fan, but the direction going on seems very devoid of “art”. In many scenes, a director doesn’t really get to see what they just directed for some time. First it has to go through the effects process. What the directors do in these movies seems much more technical than artistic.

  10. It’sjustblanche says:

    Captain America and Black Widow can’t be in sexual scene because he’s dmforever in love with Peggy Carter. Fans would lose it.

    • Lisa says:

      They’re friends too which I like. Let Natasha and Steve just be friends. Talking of superhero sexuality, he obviously hasn’t seen Watchmen. #rubber

    • The Recluse says:

      Yeah, I was thinking the same thing. Peggy was his great love.

  11. Sayrah says:

    OT but at first glance I thought this was a picture of mugatu from Zoolander. Carry on.

  12. Carol says:

    We watched throughout the Avengers series Tony Stark go from a playboy to a dedicated family man, and the chemistry between Tony and Pepper was such that I never doubted they were sexual. I didn’t have to see it to know it’s there.

    • The Recluse says:

      Sex scenes are a sign of a lack of imagination. The more you leave to the imagination of what goes on between characters, the better it is for the audience. Black Widow’s flirtation scene with Banner in Ultron was classic and humorous. And the repartee between Pepper and Stark in the beginning of the first Avengers was classic Nick and Nora stuff.

  13. Puffy says:

    I don’t get the idea that every facet of our lives has to revolve around sex. There are so many shows and movies and stories where characters explore their sexuality and act upon their sexual nature, I don’t see why it’s necessary to be apart of a comic book movie, especially when there are real messages to take away from these movies other than fighting aliens.

    • Lex says:

      Yes, the message is solve issues w violence. The world takes this message seriously.

  14. Hilarityensues says:

    The man/woman shirtless thing is imo ridiculous. Women have breasts men do not.(no one sexualizes man boobs) You can see a male child or adult at any age with out a shirt on. The same can’t be said for females. If they were under 18 it would be seen as uncomfortable due to their young age and if they were over 40, unless on a nude beach, the general public would probably be unreceptive. When an 60 year old woman frees her nipples with applause I’ll be impressed. while it’s unfortunate I feel like it’s also a huge reason why breasts will never stop being sexualized. Anywho I agree that I’m not really interested in superheroes sex lives, and could do without it.

  15. Alarmjaguar says:

    Didn’t Del Toro direct Hellboy?

  16. Ferdinand says:

    And yet they are sexualized. I mean, if you see Avengers (the first one,which I hated, btw) Every single superhero is introduced in the movie with a butt shot. Captain America boxing, gratuitous shots is Scarlett’s derrière, etc. Marvel knows this and Russo brothers made total fun of that in EndGame, by calling capt America’s ass.

  17. Linn says:

    I don’t know, Aunt May’s whole purpose in the new Marvel Movies seems to be to be sexualized.

  18. Anonymous says:

    I don’t know if he comes across as ridiculous because English isn’t his first language and Spaniards are notoriously awful at it. (English isn’t my first language, either. Spanish is my first language, too. But, like, facts are facts. Point me at least 10 Spaniard celebrities that speak English without sounding like they’re drunk and gargling marbles.) But it sounds like he has no idea what he’s talking about.

    If anything, superheroes (esp the women) are overtly sexualized. They are in no way a “neutral gender” (da fuq?) or “neutered” because there’s no post-credit scene of Steve going balls deep inside T’Challa.

    These are family movies that are mostly for kids. What does he want? Black Window being a domme to Bucky? lol It’s a bit ridiculous. Even the violence in these movies is fairly safe. There really isn’t much blood or real-life weapons, no bullet wounds or knife wounds shown realistically. It is all obscured (damn, sometimes these movies are way too dark, visually) and very fantasy-like, kinda like Power Rangers.

    He’s just talking trash for “art cred,” and that’s kind of pathetic. I saw one of his movies once (can’t remember the name) and he had a male character raped for laughs, among other things. It seems to me his view of sexuality is stupid and childish, so many this is a case of not throwing rocks, blah, blah, glass houses…

  19. Karen says:

    for sure

  20. Veronica S. says:

    I don’t think he’s entirely off base, honestly. When you’re talking about superheroes films, you’re talking about a product stripped down and sanitized to serve the greatest percentage of the population. It’s not just sexuality that’s limited – anything organically human is often lost in the process when you’re trying to create a very slick, generic appeal to a wide audience. He’s right that the journey is what it’s interesting, not so much the specifically human element. It’s a modern mythos where the human characters serve as blank templates we can project our experiences on.

  21. Lala11_7 says:

    I’ve been loving Pedro for damn near 40 years…and I think the issue he has with Superhero movies is what he said below…

    “It’s too big for me! I like to see what I’m doing, to direct movies the same day,”

    He’s a “light….give instructions….shoot…cut…let me see the dailies later on tonight” type of Director….which works magnificently for him…but to say that Superhero characters are sexually neutered…when all I’m seeing is tight bodysuits highlighting every bump and curve…known to man, woman and child displayed on a silver platter in every superhero movie I’ve ever seen (including animation) is a whole a** lie!!!!

  22. Pxlforge says:

    “Family friendly” isn’t the same as “for kids.”