The Martian: Watching Watney, Making Marvel Connections, and Being Unimpressed at an Unnecessary Romantic Subplot

I finally watched “The Martian” over the weekend and enjoyed it a lot more than I expected to (I found “Gravity” overlong and somewhat dull and thought this might be more of the same). Probably not worth a watch purely if you’re a fan of the supporting actors (Sebastian Stan, Sean Bean, Jessica Chastain etc) but definitely worth a look as an action adventure movie and/or for fans of Matt Damon who does a terrific job as the stranded Watney who gets the most screentime.

I had to double check that it was Luis from “Antman” a movie I watched the weekend before but sure enough it is the lovely Michael Peña as Martinez. In fact while I’m talking about Marvel, I liked all the Marvel and other in-jokes – Sean Bean and the LOTR conversation, Sebastian Stan’s “train” quote, and the Iron Man references.

However I hated the Beck/Johanssen romance (Stan/Mara). Maybe it’s more of a big deal in the book, but it came out of nowhere, the kiss to his helmet. “No homo”, there are no gays in space, just straight people wanting to get back to their families – or in Beck’s case to get back and reproduce with Johanssen as seen in the epilogue sequence. Can’t upset the social status quo and imagine platonic male/female friendships nor childfree couples!

In fact of the astronauts, it was just Watney who had only his parents (and I’d have liked to see a bit more about them, they were never onscreen) to get home to. And he survived anyway. No desperation to get back to a baby or a wife or even a beloved pet. He was just an optimistic and resourceful man who was determined to live.

It was inspiring to watch him overcome so much, and realistic and heartbreaking when disasters threatened to destroy everything (eg the airlock blowing out) and he had moments of despair – which he managed to overcome. He didn’t get a spouse at the end either, which almost made up for the Beck/Johanssen & Volger’s brood. Instead Watney became the most popular teacher on campus, telling the story of his survival in the hopes it might help future space explorers. I liked Watney.

What irritated me about the Beck/Johanssen was that it was so unnecessary. It added nothing to the plot. And yet if it one of the other male astronauts had been single, if Martinez had kissed Beck’s helmet, there would have been an outcry about the “forcing” of gay relationships on the audience, rants about “those damn gays getting everywhere”.

When we ask for asexual and gay representation in media we are told it is unrealistic and unnecessary, but any two random male/female characters not already in a relationship (or willing to cheat on their partners) can, and likely will, hook up and. even if it adds nothing to the plot. no-one will bat an eyelid. Sometimes the romance, a single kiss even, seems to exist purely as a “see, he’s straight” moment. Heternormativity at its finest (or worst!).

The Martian – IMDB
The Martian (film) – Wiki

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