Not too long ago--about a week or so--I came upon an intense discussion about a promotional photograph for the new Ghostbusters film. In case you've been hiding under a rock, and therefore, haven't heard, this is the film in question:
To say that there's been a lot of problematic shit said about this film is an understatement. OMG, the sexism. And then...this happened:
Let's just start with Chris Hemsworth. I love CH. He's a cutie. He plays Thor. But his role in this film is that of Janine Melnitz (Annie Potts played her in the original.) This is a gender-flipped Ghostbusters. CH is the receptionist. Let's have a look at one of the promotional pictures from the original, shall we?
Do you see Annie Potts in that photo? No. And you won't see her in any of the official promotional photos, either. She wasn't in them. Hell, more than half the time you won't even see Winston. So, if his role is a minor one, why is CH front and center? That was the core of the controversy. I read quite a few ridiculous and far-fetched reasons for the cover to be this way, but the one that kicked it into the offensive part of the football field was when a FB friend of a friend stated that the reason the actors were arranged that way was due to 'esthetics.' I called bullshit at once. The FoAF did the usual white man-splain. That is, his opinion outweighed mine because he was male and had some marketing experience. That was when I told him about my art degree and ten-years experience as a graphic designer. I told him the image was misleading for a start, but aside from that--if esthetics were the real reason behind that arrangement, then Patty (Leslie Jones) should be in the center, not Hemsworth. It was, at that point, a rational discussion. It wasn't until the FoAF responded with, "That would just be ugly." when I lost my shit...because not just sexism but fucking racism. I demanded he explain. I wanted him to straight up say what he was thinking and implying: that a black woman in the center of a group photograph made the image ugly. He didn't own up. I expected him to display his magical expertise. I expected him to at least attempt to sound like he wasn't pulling shit out of his ass. Instead, he did what most entitled white dudes do when cornered. He insisted his opinion mattered more because he said so.
Let's just say, I wasn't impressed.
I'd been meaning to come back to that discussion with proof, but hey, more important shit happened. In any case, this has been sitting in the back of my brain and won't go away. So, lucky you. Here we are. :)
Let's talk about composition. You can explore the concept here. The concept of a pleasing composition is one of the most basic and yet, complex, aspects of art. Keep in mind that art operates like pirates in a Disney film. There aren't so much laws as guidelines, really. Still, certain simple compositions work well due to their symmetry and balance. Asymmetrical compositions can often be more dynamic than perfectly symmetrical ones. It depends upon the feelings you wish to convey. Needless to say, movie promotional photos are usually pretty standard, compositionally. Their job isn't to be artful in and of themselves. Their job is to convey the message, "Watch our film! These actors are cool! These characters are people you want to see!" Movie stills aren't there to rival the works of Ansel Adams or Dorothea Lange. Still, composition matters. Since the FoAF insisted this was about an art concept and not about the genders or races of the actors, I decided to depict the actors as shaded rectangles. This first graphic is the original composition:
Notice how the black rectangle feels tacked on? Like there's almost not enough space for her? Now, here my "ugly" composition:
It's not perfect. On a professional job, I'd have tweeted the far right a bit so that there's less overlap...but this is for discussion-sake. Nonetheless, you get the idea.
 Chris Hemsworth isn't one of the main characters.
is a Science Fiction and Fantasy author living in Texas.