Letters: sexist double standards, Burt Reynolds, noir

Our letters page returns! Subjects include: double standards, comics, and a bit more spoiler chat...


Our letters page had to take January off, due to us covering lots and lots of things. It’s a rubbish excuse, but we’ve always tried to tell you the truth. But we’re back! And as it turns out, we’ve got quite a bit to talk about…

Sexism And Double Standards

Dear Simon

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I wrote to you recently regarding the sexist overtones in the review of Wolf Hall on your site. I see you are pulling the same double standards trick again with the Burt Reynolds article and accompanying picture.

Men are now becoming aware of these double standards in the media and DOG is missing a trick by ignoring this

Alexander Dean

Simon replies: Just to put some context in place for this letter first. Alexander initially wrote to us following my recent piece on the reaction to the Ghostbusters reboot casting. He argued that Den Of Geek was guilty of double standards.

To quote Alexander’s original correspondence, “I find it that you have shut down so called ‘sexist’ comments on your comments boards yet find it perfectly acceptable for your female reviewer (see the past two reviews of Wolf Hall) to make lewd and sexist comments in her review”. I replied to Alexander in response to this, saying that I’d be be posting about comments on the Ghosbusters article the following Monday (which I did, here). He in turn sent us an email arguing that “you have not commented one iota on your female journalist”.

I should point out that his is the only complaint we’ve had about the Wolf Hall review. I saw, and see no problem, with the content of those pieces. And in truth, I wish I could write and express myself half as well as Louisa, who I regard as one of this site’s very best, intelligent and most interesting writers. 

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Furthermore, we did remove some horribly sexist comments regarding the recent Ghostbusters casting, although to be clear, left comments alone that constructively argued that all-female casting was the wrong way to go. They’re still there on the post, and dated too.

I asked Alexander if he wanted me to print his letter in our letters page, and he said that he did. I think it’s important that we’re held to account, and that a constructive debate is had, and so here we are.

The catalyst this time was the recent article about a 1979 book on Burt Reynolds that we covered earlier this week. Within that article, we posted a picture from the book, of Burt Reynolds posing in an infamous picture that appeared in Cosmopolitan at the time. Comments on that article again accused us of double standards.

Now our general rule of our letters page is that to continue the debate, you need to send in a letter. We rarely contribute to the comments below these particular posts, as that’s not really the point of what we’re trying to do with a letters page in the first place. But we will keep an eye on them in this instance. You will always get a fuller response if you send a letter, however. If you don’t want your letter published, then please mark it ‘Not For Publication’.

So, to the question of double standards.

Would we post a picture of a woman in a similar pose to Burt Reynolds, and in a similar state of undress? Absolutely not. Why? Two main reasons. Firstly, the bodies of men and women are different. Secondly, attitudes of sexualisation towards men and women’s bodies are also wildly different. Also, a picture of a half naked man (top half) is deemed, whether we all like it or not, as far less offensive and provocative than a picture of a half naked woman.

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One of the consequences of making a stand against something is that you’re inevitably held to close scrutiny yourself. I think that’s right and proper. I don’t claim that we’re perfect, either. We make mistakes on this site, and do our utmost to live up to the standards we set. We post things that, in hindsight, maybe we shouldn’t. But as I’ve posted several times over the past few weeks, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try and make a stand. There is a middle ground between being perfect, and not making any effort at all.

So are we guilty of double standards? In an entirely black and white way, we probably are. I accept that. I must admit, I didn’t see anything sexual in the Burt Reynolds picture at all. When I first saw it, a few years ago, I thought it was a parody, in truth. In the context of that particular article, I thought it was fine.

Someone made the point on the Burt Reynolds piece that “sexualisation is sexualisation whether it’s male or female bodies. Both build stereotypes and affect body image etc”. I agree with the second part, but not the first. I don’t think the sexualisation of men and the sexualisation of women works on anything close to the same scale.

That said, this feels like an important debate to have, hence opening it up here. If the consensus is that we’ve called this one incorrectly, then of course we’ll listen to that. Hence publishing Alexander’s letter in the first place.

On a personal note, I would echo one comment this week: “if you’re genuinely offended by a vintage, well known Burt Reynolds picture then I can only assume you must be apoplectic with rage at the very real inequalities which plague this planet”. With the caveat that we should still be held to account, I’d just ask that the same scrutiny we’ve been subjected to this week is also pointed at other areas of the internet where rampant sexism in comments and posts isn’t being addressed at all.

And with that, onto other matters, at least for the time being…

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Film Noir

Inspired by your semi-regular feature, I was wondering if you chaps would consider making a top 25 film noir films? I regularly peruse your top 25 film lists for new inspiration and having recently started watching film noir, I am thoroughly enjoying them.

Keith Edwards

Simon writes: Now there’s a fine suggestion, which we’ll add to our list. We’re looking for other subjects for a new series of ‘top 25 underappreciated…’ articles, so keep such suggestions coming….

Spoiler Chat

Dear Den Of Geek

I’ve been wondering this for a while. Sometimes when a big film comes out, you open up a discussion post so that we can all talk about a film with spoilers. I don’t understand why you don’t do this for every film however. Is there a reason?

Caroline Adams

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Simon writes: There is indeed. Basically, we’re conscious that we need to keep an eye on comments, and if we opened such a field up for every film, we’d be spending less time writing, and more time moderating. It’s why we’ve never opened up a separate discussion forum (and we did look into it). However, if people want more open discussion posts, let us know. As always, if there’s enough demand, we’ll do our best to accommodate it!


I was wondering as a relative newcomer to Marvel especially the comic side of their universe, is there any chance that you could do an article that sort of puts the comics into the context of the films. Not like an idiots guide, but to help put it all into context.

I like the Marvel cinematic universe, and when I was growing up there were a few Marvel comics about but not that many really. In fact all my peers were really into was the Letraset scratch with a pencil!

Any help would nice. Thanks!


Simon writes: Consider that added to the list too! And with that, our letters page is done for this time. We’ll be back with it in a couple of weeks…

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