Over the past decade we've seen one of the biggest shifts in Movies ever. I am, of course, talking about the Superhero movies. We are at the moment, in an era of superhero and comic book movies, and if you don't believe me, look at this convenient little list of all the comic book movies scheduled for the next five years.
Yikes. Even for an avid comic book reader and viewer like myself, that is a lot. Now notice anything odd about that line up? Yes, there are only 2 female lead movies out of the 28 confirmed. Admittedly many of these are team up or team based movies, but it still seems like an odd ratio considering the fact that roughly 50% of the population is female. I would argue however that while this may not be a good thing, there is nothing inherently sexist or misogynistic about this line up, because at the end of the day, these movies are being made to make money.
As evidenced in a recently leaked email from Marvel CEO Ike Perlmutter, female superhero movies just haven't been profitable. Following is an excerpt from his email to Michael Lynton, CEO of Sony Entertainment Inc.
To: "Lynton, Michael"
Subject: Female Movies
Date: Thu, 7 Aug 2014 05:32:50 -0400
As we discussed on the phone, below are just a few examples. There are more.
1. Electra (Marvel) – Very bad idea and the end result was very, very bad. http://www.boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=elektra.htm
2. Catwoman (WB/DC) - Catwoman was one of the most important female character within the Batmanfranchise. This film
was a disaster. http://www.boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=catwoman.htm
3. Supergirl – (DC) Supergirl was one of the most important female super hero in Superman franchise. This Movie
came out in 1984 and did $14 million total domestic with opening weekend of $5.5 million. Again, another disaster.
As you can see they just don't view female superhero's as eligible for spending the big budgets on necessary to make a super hero movie well.
Now, why is this? Is it because fan's don't want to see female led superhero movies? Simply Put, yes. However this is not because comic books are still locked in the 60's and 70's, or because they're the domain of sweaty acne ridden teenage boys. If the past decade has shown us anything, it's that women are just as interested in superheroes as men. So why are so few female superheroes profitable enough to make into films?
The reason is obvious when you think about it. If we look at DC's new movie slate, they have announced a wonder woman film out of the gate. DC hasn't even properly established their Cinematic universe, with only one film (Man of Steel) released, and the trailer for the second only recently shown (Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice). So why announce Wonder Woman so soon, when female films are obviously such a risky move? The cynic may say that is is a cheap shot to cash in on feminists complaining about the lack of female presence in the superhero genre, however if we look a little deeper, the answer becomes obvious. What does Wonder Woman have in common with all the other successful superheroes who have had movies? She is well known.
Successful superhero movies over the years have always had this in common. You ask who superman is, everyone knows. The same goes with Batman, the X-Men, and to a lesser extent the avengers. You ask who Wonder Woman is, and you'll get the same response. Anyone with even a passing interest in superheroes will be able to tell you about Wonder Woman, the Amazonian warrior princess. She is well known, therefore it is logical that she will be able to make a profit in the high stakes world of superhero movies. So why aren't other superhero films profitable?
The female heroes are not well known. In the past it is true that the world of comic books was heavily male centric. The heroes who have been around the longest are the male heroes like superman and batman, and they are therefore the most well known, and the ones most likely to draw an audience at the cinema. Now that marvel is such a large franchise, their label alone is enough to draw in audiences, see guardians of the galaxy. Marvel can now start showcasing lesser known heroes, such as the upcoming Captain Marvel, and be fairly confident that they'll draw an audience despite the fact it is a lesser known hero.
So... Are comic book movies sexist, does marvel have a responsibility to showcase more lesser known or female heroes, and did DC make the right move bringing wonder woman right into the forefront of their cinematic universe? Let us know below.