5 Ways Marvel Movies Keep Screwing Up Female Superheroes
Marvel Studios just successfully released their new movie, Ant-Man, thereby cementing that they can do whatever the fuck they want. If they can make a $130 million film about Paul Rudd turning tiny and commanding an insect army without going bankrupt, they can probably make one about any Marvel character ever ... uh, as long as it's a dude. Obviously. Because clearly, the most impressive superpower in the universe isn't strength or invulnerability; it's having a dong.
Now, there are a number of obvious reasons that Marvel would shy away from releasing movies with female protagonists (there's one coming in 2018, after 19 films starring men), but here's the thing: All those reasons are bullshit. Here's why:
They Ignore The Huge Number Of Women Who Like Comics
Anyone who thinks women don't like comics must be living in the '40s -- the 1840s, that is, because even way back in 1944, 81-91 percent of girls read comic books. According to one study, 46.67 percent of self-described comic book fans today are female. If you don't believe me, you can take the word of Marvel's editor-in-chief, who said, "If you go to conventions and comic book stores, more and more female readers are emerging." So please, let's put behind the sexist notion that only men can get sweaty as they stand in lines and gawk at cosplayers.
But despite that, and despite the fact that most filmgoers in general are women, Marvel's movies have never been big hits with the ladies. So far, the ones that have managed to attract the largest female audiences are Guardians Of The Galaxy and The Avengers -- that is, two movies that had superheroines in them.
Hmmm. It's almost as if people like seeing themselves represented on screen. On a completely unrelated note, did you know that 75 percent of the audience for the multiracial hit Furious 7 was nonwhite? And did you know that there's an increasing slew of Marvel comic books with female protagonists?
Yup, there's no shortage of powerful women that could be put in front of the screen. Of all the Marvel Comics coming out this month, I count 18 with female protagonists. At Marvel Studios' current rate of one lead woman every ten years, they'll be catching up until next century.
They Blame The Lack Of Women Superheroes On ... Women Superheroes
According to Marvel, it's not like they don't want to make films starring women. They simply can't. Everything has come together in such a way as to make it literally impossible for one of the most successful studios in Hollywood to work on any female-oriented movies.
The president of Marvel Studios, Kevin Feige, said in an interview how he "hopes" they will be able to make more female-led films "sooner rather than later." We can picture him sitting in his giant office every day, hoping away that someone will let him do it. Unfortunately, his company is "managing more franchises than most people have," so he doesn't have time. The schedule of movies up and appeared in front of him one day, and obviously, no one wanted all those movies to star men, but they do, and now there isn't any time. Darn it!
These guys happened to stop by that day.
Feige also made it very clear that the lack of female protagonists had nothing to do with other comic book movies starring women not doing well in the past, since that would be a rather dumb argument. Unfortunately, this wasn't so clear to the CEO of Marvel, Ike Perlmutter, who listed off three female-oriented movies that bombed in a leaked email to the CEO of Sony, presumably to prove that they shouldn't move forward on any films that have leads with ovaries. His examples were the 2005 Elektra (whose title he spelled wrong), the 2004 Catwoman (with its scintillating basketball scenes), and the freaking 1984 Supergirl. You know who was popular in 1984? O.J. Simpson. Maybe we shouldn't concern ourselves with what those people thought.
Meanwhile, guess who DC is giving a show to this fall, before Black Widow even has a script. Go on, guess.
On the other hand, we can see Perlmutter's logic. After all, everyone knows that Hollywood never did any more superhero movies starring men after The Green Hornet, The Spirit, and Shaq's Steel all bombed.
They Go Out Of Their Way To Exclude Black Widow In All Merchandising
Like I said, The Avengers and Guardians Of The Galaxy are Marvel's biggest hits with women because they have ensemble casts that include female superheroes in central roles -- something the ladies in the audience value even more than Thor's abs, apparently. There are probably countless young girls who left those movies wanting to be Black Widow or Gamora. Unfortunately, as far as Marvel is concerned, those girls should stick to Barbies and ponies.
As Cracked told you recently, Black Widow is like the redheaded stepchild of the Avengers when it comes to stuff you can actually buy. She gets lots of screen time in the movies, which is good, but any kid who wants a toy of her is better off making one out of Play-Doh. It's so bad that even Mark "chillest guy to ever play the Hulk" Ruffalo called Marvel out:
He was promptly replaced with
Edward Norton Eric Bana SMART LOOKING ACTOR for his insolence.
There's an entire blog that does nothing but point out how Black Widow is nowhere to be found on Avenger's merchandise. We could see some executive getting away with saying that boys wouldn't play with a girl action figure, even though that is obviously bullshit (and what about the girls who want those action figures?), but here are some other things that Black Widow's presence would apparently ruin:
Your body's ability to heal itself.
And the exact same thing is happening with Guardians Of The Galaxy's resident lady ass-kicker -- you can buy a toy of a Nova Corps officer, but anything related to Gamora is considerably more difficult to find. Yes, Marvel appears to be under the impression that kids would rather play with a John C. Reilly action figure than with a female superhero.
They DO Market To Females (Just Not The Ones You Think)
To be fair, it isn't that Marvel doesn't want to appeal to all women. In fact, they are desperate to connect with one specific demographic: moms. More specifically, moms who buy food for their children at grocery stores (as opposed to strangling it to death in the wild or whatever).
While no one really associates the Avengers with eating (besides shawarma vendors), Marvel is keen on getting into the food business. And what better way to rip that purse out of moms' poor, overworked hands than by plastering Captain America and friends all over fruit, granola bars, and Greek yogurt?
Who doesn't want their kid to grow into an alcoholic or a radioactive rage monster?
Disney knows that mothers are so desperate to get their kids to eat healthy that they will make a deal with the devil. If little Johnny will only eat an apple when it comes pre-sliced, has a giant picture of Iron Man, and costs five times as much as a regular fucking apple, so be it. At least he won't be constipated for the next year.
Of course, the Avengers aren't only on healthy food, because Marvel executives aren't completely brain-dead. So while Black Widow isn't good enough to be one of your son's action figures, she is perfectly fine for gracing a bag of Doritos, as long as it means Johnny is more likely to scream in the middle of the store until you buy them for him.
And if they can convince you that eating these is how she fit into that costume, even better.
The point is that, to Marvel, women don't appear to be important for who they are but what they do. They take their kids (preferably the male ones, as we've established) to see these movies, and then they buy them the merchandise associated with them. Whether they enjoy the films themselves is completely immaterial, as long as the mommy money keeps flowing.
Gender Roles Somehow Transcend Space And Time
And if it seems insulting that the people in charge are abusing outdated gender roles to make money, well ... you've seen the movies, right? That shit is all over the place. According to the Marvel universe, institutionalized sexism against women exists everywhere, at all times, and in all situations. It doesn't matter how many super serums the world you invented has; if you don't have women being treated like crap, then it won't be believable, man.
"I mean, it's cool and all, but if it doesn't need a women's shelter, what's the point, you know?"
In Guardians Of The Galaxy, the unbelievably badass Gamora still has to deal with being called a whore, even by her allies. It turns out that way out in outer space, people happen to be idiots about that, too. Meanwhile, over in Asgard, you better believe that Lady Sif looks at Jane like she stole her boyfriend. Despite the fact that one is a deity and the other is a human, they have to have some kind of catfight over a guy going on because they are ostensibly female -- otherwise, how will the audience understand how realistic this world of Norse gods is?
It expands outside the movies, too. Fans and even the actors themselves have called Black Widow "a slut" because they assume she's hooked up with a couple of the Avengers. Meanwhile, Tony Stark proudly introduces himself as a playboy and no one bats an eye.
This is obviously a legitimate business meeting.
Scarlet Witch and Gamora both start off as villains, because women still have that whole "Eve" thing bringing us down. The ladies have to start off bad and then be tamed by the men in their lives. And if you are not convinced yet, look at how they built up Black Widow's "red in my ledger" backstory for numerous movies, only for us to find out that it all comes down to the fact that she can no longer have children. Because, y'know, everyone knows that women who don't have children are pretty much "monsters."