Adrian Powers

Henry Cavill—the World Deserves Better from Superman

I’m a fan of Henry Cavill’s Superman, but his comments on #MeToo highlight how much he has to learn. He’s apologized … I just hope he understands what for.


I quite enjoy Henry Cavill as Superman, which makes the recent demonstration of boneheadedness on the Mission: Impossible star’s part all the more personally frustrating.

Cavill was recently interviewed by GQ Australia and the topic of the #MeToo movement arose. While initially commenting that he has never demonstrated any kind of unprofessional behavior on set (and has even taken the time to check on other actors he feels may be involved in compromising or uncomfortable situations), the actor’s final words on the subject immediately drew harsh criticism.

There’s actually almost too much to unpack here and it’s a fascinating insight into how this guy’s mind works, so forgive me for getting a tad forensic.

To begin, after declaring “Stuff has to change, absolutely …” (good start), Cavill begins his nosedive with:

“It’s important to also retain the good things, which were a quality of the past, and get rid of the bad things.”

Already this comment sets off tiny alarm bells in my head, because it kind of implies that there are potentially some people out there with an eye towards “getting rid of the good things.” Within the context of women’s empowerment, the accountability of sexual harassers, and furthering equality for all, what are “the good things of the past” that are in danger at this time? Who is trying to get rid of them? What are they? Thankfully, he elaborates.

“There’s something wonderful about a man chasing a woman. There’s a traditional approach to that, which is nice. I think a woman should be wooed and chased, but maybe I’m old-fashioned for thinking that.”

Oh boy. Now those alarm bells are getting louder. Not because I think Henry Cavill is “old-fashioned” (I consider myself “old-fashioned” in many ways), but he is quickly starting to sound icky.

Firstly, let me clarify: I believe that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the notion of wooing or chasing a romantic interest, and I think it’s perfectly acceptable (and normal) for everyone to do it. And they do. In fact, it’s bizarre for me to hear Cavill say this, because wooing and chasing is still very much what men and women all over the world are doing right now, in all kinds of different ways. The important thing is that both parties are interested in the chase. But Cavill’s inclinations apparently harken back to an earlier time which, when considered in 2018, can really only refer to an era where women were fundamentally more socially restricted. There’s really no other way to interpret his comment. Again, men and women still chase each other, dude. Nothing’s changed. And furthermore, if you want to find a woman who personally prefers to be wooed and courted in a more traditional style, then you’re going to find plenty of them who would be delighted to go out with you. And the gals who aren’t into that kind of thing will let you know, usually easily and painlessly.

But that point segues into Henry’s next huge fucking blunder:

“It’s very difficult to do that if there are certain rules in place. Because then it’s like: ‘Well, I don’t want to go up and talk to her, because I’m going to be called a rapist or something’. So you’re like, ‘Forget it, I’m going to call an ex-girlfriend instead, and then just go back to a relationship, which never really worked.’ But it’s way safer than casting myself into the fires of hell, because I’m someone in the public eye, and if I go and flirt with someone, then who knows what’s going to happen?”

Firstly, right off the bat, let’s firmly acknowledge that Cavill’s usage of the term “certain rules” can only refer to social standards that stem directly from female empowerment and improved social equality. I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a woman who doesn’t consider the last century of social evolution a huge improvement, and that pretty much refers to the implementation of initiatives that attempt to prevent the exploitation of women. Decades of women’s rights advocates fought and struggled to establish the “rules” that Cavill is so annoyed by here. Just so we’re clear on all that.

Then we move on to Cavill comparing the rejection of a flirtatious advance with being accused of rape. What the … fuck? No woman is ever going to accuse you of being a rapist just for flirting with her, Henry. The worst thing that’s going to happen is that she’s going to let you know she’s not interested, first through pleasant and considerate suggestion and insinuation, and then (if necessary) by just outright saying it. And then the world will continue to spin on its fucking axis (which, after this interview, I’m sure you wish you could reverse, by flying around it at super-speed, like Chris Reeve did in the old ’78 picture. Am I right?).

Lastly, concerning the notion of Cavill being in the public eye. This appears to be the comment that anchors a lot of the arguments of his online defenders, but it’s really just the icing on the cake as far as I’m concerned. Lamenting the fact that celebrity can bring dating challenges and potentially negative exposure is perfectly valid. But this was the worst possible time to say it and the worst possible issue to conflate it with. It’s stunningly tone deaf, bizarrely socially immature, and ultimately a separate issue that affects men and women equally. And once again, just to reiterate, the worst thing that will come of you flirting with a woman is her rejecting you. Unless your idea of flirting with someone is raping them.

Cavill’s final word on the subject is:

“Now? Now you really can’t pursue someone further than, ‘No’. It’s like, ‘OK, cool’. But then there’s the, ‘Oh why’d you give up?’ And it’s like, ‘Well, because I didn’t want to go to jail?’”

Henry, I almost don’t know where to begin with this. Are you completely incapable of reading subtext and the nuances of human behavior? As a general rule, yes: once you hear “No,” the game is up, and it’s really not that hard a concept to grasp. Sometimes people play coy and hard to get, but if the other party actually wants things to progress, it’s up to them to let you know, and if they want to, they will. Also, who is the person asking why you gave up? Is it a friend? If so, they’re not being a good friend. Is it the girl? Then that’s your cue! She’s telling you she’s actually interested. Go for it! Is it a little voice inside your head? If so, ignore that voice.

While I feel personally disappointed by Cavill’s attitude and remarks, his attitude is not unique—I’ve had this conversation with many people, but playing Superman is like being a sports hero: kids look up to you. And Cavill has a particularly important part to play in setting a good example for young men.

Cavill has since issued an apology, which was obviously whipped together in a frenzy by his agent, manager, and publicist who were doubtless sweating bullets in light of the upcoming release of Mission Impossible: Fallout.

While I’m glad that Cavill apologized so quickly, I hope he’s identified his behavior and it’s not just damage limitation. We all need to do better, and Cavill is no different.


Adrian Powers

Adrian Powers is an Australian film director and editor who spends a disproportionate amount of time reflecting on the nature and impact of fictional characters who wear their underwear on the outside. He has a passion for storytelling and technology and is currently developing his next feature directorial project.

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