So nerds, you think youre so cool with your little Batman figurines and Thor bobble-heads. You snicker at the screaming girls chasing Robert Pattinson around because you think Twilight is the dumbest thing youve ever seen. Heres a question: How is liking a bunch of buff men in tights and capes any less pathetic than fantasizing about a vampire heartthrob?
Well its not!
Now before you go reaching for your Hawkeye bow, think about how many girls are into superheroes and how many guys are into Twilight. Notice how it tends to split along gender lines?
What I’m saying is that as a general public, we swallow up what the film industry (and society in general) carefully packages for us. And studio execs look at us in very simple terms: male or female, over or under 25 years old. Look at the audience breakdown for The AvengersMSNBC):
The opening-weekend audience was evenly split between the young (under age 25) and the older (over age 25), polling data showed. It was watched by women (40 percent) almost as much as men. It worked as a date-night movie (55 percent of ticket-buyers were part of couples), and a family movie (24 percent were part of a family group).
Loads of women may have watched The Avengers, but they weren’t the main target audience. Date night contributed a good chunk, and we all know that date night is often a compromise that boils down to: ‘Fine, I’ll go see your stupid [insert explosions, aliens, robots], but next week we’re going to watch [insert romcom/period drama]!’
Traditionally, superheroes and action films are boy territory. They’re all about tough guys doing tough things and saving damsels in distress using cool gadgets everything men aspire to. And that’s why Marvel made damn sure that Scarlett Johansson’s plump ass is in full view in this Avengers promo:
Now look at the latest poster for Channing Tatum’s Magic Mike
The same goes for ridiculous romantic comedies that prey on women’s vulnerability and overwhelming desire to meet Prince Charming. It’s the ultimate clich: if you want to draw a female audience, throw in a love story. Better yet, a love triangle! Maybe some vampires… See where I’m going here?
After John Carter bombed at the box office, one of the reasons cited for Disney’s unfortunate $100-million loss was that unlike Avatar, for example they completely ignored the love story. As sci-fi blog Giant Freakin Robot put it:
John Carters trailers act as though the film was constructed primarily to create pictures which might look good on a little boys lunchbox. Theres very little romance in them and worse, very little of the films strong, take charge female character Dejah Thoris.
I don’t want to oversimplify matters or insult anyone’s intelligence, but if you really think about it, we always bite the bait carefully laid out for us by clever marketers. Look at toys. Little girls have their pick between play kitchen sets, baby strollers and Barbies. Little boys get G.I. Joes and toy guns. It’s the same idea.
It doesn’t mean that it’s right, or that one is better than the other. They just cater to different audiences with different emotional needs, which is why at the end of the day, superheroes and Twilight are two sides of the same coin.