The people who create trailers, commercials and posters for movies and TV shows are always trying to send a meta-message: how else could a single poster suggest to you, “Wow, here’s something I want to see”? There are lengthy studies indicating what sort of imagery sucks in what sort of audience – for example, there’s a longstanding belief that American moviegoers just want to see enormous actor faces on posters, while international viewers prefer a scene or collage of images from the movie.
One trend that’s been with us from the beginning regards how you pose a male and female lead in a poster. The man stands straight up, facing the camera – an assertive, dominant pose. The woman, however, bends a knee, turns slightly to the side, looks anywhere but the camera, even drapes herself pliantly over the forward-facing man – a submissive pose. Just look around you: the rule is very nearly unbroken. So unbroken, in fact, that photographer Annie Leibovitz’s Rolling Stone cover photo of John Lennon and Yoko Ono derives some of its artistic value from bucking that trend: on the floor, Lennon curls in a fetal position around his wife, who lays flat on her back, her body facing the camera in the dominant position.
And check out bedroom scenes. No matter what the story is between the two characters, if one character’s going to be on his back and the other draped affectionately over him, it is always, always, always the man who’s on his back, facing the audience, and the woman who’s facing him. Even if she’s his boss, or the show’s lead, or a goddess. The only workaround is for both characters to be on their sides, facing each other.
This poster for Standoff bucks the trend: his body is angled toward the camera in the dominant position, and she’s leaning toward him (though not in a particularly submissive fashion), but he’s facing her while she faces the audience. His body is angled toward us, but his attention is on her. She’s leaning affectionately toward him, but she’s looking at us. It’s equal.
I haven’t seen the show yet. I’m hoping the poster means a romance between equals instead of this creepy obsession with affairs between bosses and their forbidden underlings. In any case, this marketing campaign interests me. While most people won’t consciously notice the equality suggested by this pose, it’s intended to affect us on an unconscious level – that’s what marketing campaigns seek to do. I wonder what message people are getting from this, and what audience the show’s attracting. Of course, one poster isn’t enough to base any conclusions on, but new trends have to start somewhere.