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Op-Ed: I’m a Man and I Want to See Female Superhero Movies

Op-Ed: I’m a Man and I Want to See Female Superhero Movies

For a long while now, there’s been talk about the various reasons why Marvel is concerned about making a superhero movie with a female main character. There are plenty of fantastic female Marvel heroes and surely any one of them would make a great movie. This isn’t a new debate; there was talk for decades, and still is, about why DC/Warner Bros haven’t given Wonder Woman her own film seeing as she’s the third prong in the comics company’s trinity of most famous characters. Then I saw an article on io9 quoting an interview from Spinoff Online which talks about how there was almost a Black Widow movie made before the first Iron Man. I stress the word “almost.”

The quote taken from screenwriter David Hayter, who wrote the first X-Men movie and co-wrote X2, talks about his ultimately unused Black Widow screenplay.

“Unfortunately, as I was coming up on the final draft, a number of female vigilante movies came out. We had Tomb Raider and Kill Bill, which were the ones that worked, but then we had BloodRayne and Ultraviolet and Aeon Flux. Aeon Flux didn’t open well, and three days after it opened, the studio said, “We don’t think it’s time to do this movie.” I accepted their logic in terms of the saturation of the marketplace, but it was pretty painful.”

As io9’s Lauren Davis points out in her rebuttal, “So one female-led action movie flops and it’s because of “the saturation of the marketplace”—and not because Aeon Flux was a crummy movie?”

I’ll go one step further. The fact that in 2003-2004 there were five (yes, FIVE) movies starring women as action heroes was seen to be too many by studio executives is somehow completely acceptable? How about all the billions of testosterone-pumping action movies that come out every ten seconds? How about how there were TWO movies about asteroids striking the Earth that came out the same SUMMER, but that wasn’t over-saturating the enormous end-of-the-world marketplace?

Black Widow

The main fear seems to be that men and boys aged 13-49 won’t go see a superhero movie, or an action movie at all I guess, starring a woman, which is a liar-liar-pants-on-fire situation. I’m a male who sits directly within that age bracket and not only would I see a good movie based on any of the dozen female superhero characters that exist, but I WANT to go see them. I want there to be a bunch of them out there that I can see. Why? Because good characters are good characters regardless of what genitalia they have.

Now, I say “good” movie based on these characters because, as Davis mentioned, a lot of them that have been made are flatly terrible. Supergirl, Elektra, Catwoman, and the aforementioned Aeon Flux were truly awful, stupid movies, but is that the character’s fault, the fault of the actresses, or the fault of the script and direction? It’s not the character’s fault, I’ll tell ya that, and in most of the cases it isn’t the actress. The problem is, for whatever idiotic reason, the people behind the scenes feel like, in order to make a female superhero work, the movies have to be intensely campy. I mean, because men wouldn’t take a serious movie seriously if it had a GIRL as the lead, right? That’s ridiculous ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!

We live in a world now where comic book superhero movies are taken so incredibly seriously that they’re hailed as some of the best movies of the year in a lot of cases, but we can’t get a solo Wonder Woman or Black Widow movie, or a movie featuring Captain Marvel at all, made by people who know what the hell they’re doing? It’s impossibly frustrating to know not only that there’s a huge well of stories to pull from, some excellent producers, writers and directors who would do the property justice, and some phenomenally talented actresses who could EASILY carry a movie, but that there’s a whole swath of moviegoers who would eat them up with a spoon simply because some care has been put in.

This summer, Lucy, a weird little sci-fi action movie based on no existing property, made almost $400,000,000 worldwide, but Scarlett Johansson can’t carry a Black Widow movie? How awesome was she and the character in Captain America: The Winter Soldier? The answer is “very.” In her case especially, an actress who’s played a character now in three different movies, with a fourth to be released next year, she has more than proved her ability to get the character and perform the action required.

I want a Captain Marvel movie perhaps more than any other superhero property at the moment. Carol Danvers is a character I think the film-going audience deserves to see and right now, with Marvel at the height of their powers, can make such a movie properly. She’s one of the strongest Marvel characters, regardless of gender, and another space-based hero after the success of Guardians of the Galaxy would surely make tons of money. As long as they call her “Captain” and not “Ms.” then I think everything is prepped and the audience is ready to go. It’s CAPTAIN effing MARVEL! Name recognition for days!

Wonder Woman

Different company, but similar prospect: Wonder Woman gets a glorified cameo in ANOTHER movie starring Batman and Superman? This character has been so underutilized historically there should actually be some kind of court case. Save for the ’70s television show, a failed (and horribly ill-advised) pilot from a few years ago, and a direct-to-video animated film, she has never had the kind of solo franchise she so deserves. What’s the issue here? Don’t put a meat-head bro-dawg in charge of a Wonder Woman movie, or the character at all, and good things WILL happen. It’s so sad the Joss Whedon script never came to fruition, but he can’t possibly be the only one out there who can do the character justice, or the only one who wants to.

And, yes, I’ll say it: women who read comics (which is an UNFATHOMABLY HIGH NUMBER given how underrepresented they are) deserve to see themselves represented onscreen. Women in comic books are often drawn to appeal to the male gaze, but in the last several years they’ve been written by men and women who overcome that and make the characters emotionally and intellectually interesting. Natasha Romanoff can glower and self-doubt and brood just as well as Tony Stark and everybody who likes these characters knows that. It would be nice if they got a movie that wasn’t unmitigated garbage. But, when we live in world where the number of women working behind the scenes in film and television are going down and not up, so perhaps it is the safer bet to keep appealing only to men… the stupid, callow, and annoyingly safe bet.

So, to sum up, I don’t care about an Ant-Man movie, the idea of more Batman and Superman is boring; why would I happily go see more of the same when so many great characters exist right there for the adapting? Take a risk, Hollywood. Give some superheroines the chance to shine, because maybe if you make enough, I won’t have to call it a “risk” anymore.

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  1. Raymond Davenport says:

    I’m working on that very thing myself, a female superhero from an unknown universe, I just need to perfect the story more…

  2. Will Best says:

    I have a bunch of points to make
    1) Comic book enthusiasts are a couple hundred thousand people   You need to put 40 million people into the theaters to justify a $150 million production budget.  What you and the community at large want is quite frankly irrelevant
    2) Lucy was a $40 million movie.  Aeon Flux $60 million (a decade ago).  Tomb Raider (115 million), Catwoman (100 million).  Hunger Games 1 (80 million).  Hunger Games 2 (130 million).  Underworlds 20-60 million.  A Captain Marvel movie will need at least 100 million
    3) Disney almost never makes well funded movies and hasn’t for a few years.  They either go budget busting $150m+ or they drop sub 50 million on things they are hopping pop for 100m+ gross.
    4) Kevin Feige produced a decade long vision for his marvel universe story a few years ago, and it is highly successful.  He isn’t even done telling the story he originally intended and you want him to alter it in the middle.  Does that really seem like the most economically prudent thing to you?
    5) You assume that Kevin Feige would be able to competently create a production and marketing scheme from scratch, something that nobody else has managed to do for a super heroine.  You might say BUT Katniss except she isn’t a super hero.  She isn’t even empowered.  99% of the books and movies are stuff that happen to her the amount of time she spends in control of her situation boils down to 35 seconds total.
    6) While the US Market might be ready for a female lead action movie, the rest of the world isn’t as forward thinking.  Case in point.  While Hunger Games 2 pulled in a pedestrian $27 million in China (3% of total gross), Captain America 2 had $115 million (16% of its total gross) come from China, a country where they practice sex selective abortion to the tune of 30+ million dead female babies.  China is a massive economic component to any big budget movie and its the reason why China hasn’t been the bad guy in a movie in the last decade despite the fact that they do things like put poison in their baby formula.

    • David Ellis says:

      1) Comic book readers wouldn’t be only people lining up for a movie in which Black Widow kicks some ass, or one in which She-Hulk punches something impossibly large. Or one in which Carol Danvers engages in a midair dogfight with an entire fleet of alien spacecraft and wins. Heck, I’ve heard non-comic readers who’ve seen the Marvel movies ask when Black Widow is getting their own movie. Or the moment I bring up the remote possibility, they express enthusiasm as if they’re already mentally buying the tickets and waiting in line.

      2) Of course a Captain Marvel movie would need to be at least $100. The question is whether or not it would be a bad investment. I really don’t think it would be, especially because it would be made by Marvel, who have proven their track record.

      4) Kevin Feige can have the most epic, far-reaching master plan ever devised, and he’s welcome to it. But if it’s a plan that leaves out female-led movies — despite the wealth of female Marvel characters who could carry their own movies — I’m still going to question the wisdom of that plan. It means that regardless of how awesome the women in the Marvel movies have been, there’s still a glass ceiling preventing them from being anything more than supporting characters. Black Widow could lead her own movie. Carol Danvers could lead a Captain Marvel movie. Jennifer Walters as She-Hulk. And so on.

      5) So … the market exists for female heroes … and they make money … but any movies that prove this have to be weighted down with exception after exception after exception so that they can be considered flukes. The Hunger Games’ success can’t be applied to a superhero movie … because Katniss wasn’t dressed like a superhero, and she didn’t have powers! Black Widow was wearing a SHIELD jumpsuit (when she wasn’t dressed in plainclothes), and she DOESN’T have superpowers except formidably black-ops skill. Considering the success of the Hunger Games movies, I’m not seeing how this is supposed to be a stumbling block.

      6) So if the United States is ready for a female-led action movie, they should still drag their heels to fall in step with the rest of the world instead of leading? I should point out that China’s current leading export to American action movies seems to be a female actress named Fan Bingbing, who played a scientist in the Chinese cut of Iron Man 3, a character in Transformers 4, and Blink in X-Men Days of Future Past. That last one is particularly important because she not only showed up in the American version of the movie, she also managed to be a memorable character who kicked a lot of ass through creative uses of her power. She hardly spoke, but she still managed to make an impression on people.

      • Will Best says:

        You don’t back up anything you say with actual data or real world experiences in the production or marketing of movies.
        Your entire argument boils down to Disney should make movie X, because I want to see it, and I know a non random sample of people that also want to see it.
        Its easy to call for leadership when its not your 180 million on the line.  You aren’t going to lose your job if it bombs.  You won’t have your boss reigning in your leash if its only modestly successful.  Plus, isn’t leading just a matter of perspective.  Hollywood could just as easily lead their movies in the direction of Chinese or African or Arabic culture as they do US culture.
        And no Katniss is not a super hero.  Nor would you market She-Hulk, Captain Marvel, or any other marvel super heroine the same way you market a movie about the the life of a girl who gets used by the leader of to maintain control over the populace in a disutopian future.

        • Scarlet says:

          “Just because consumers are begging for a product, that doesn’t mean a production company in a capitalistic society should fulfill the wishes of people who are willing to throw money at it.”  

  3. Nielsen Survey Group did a survey for DC in 2011 . What did they find? In stores, DC had a 93% male readership and only 7% women. Online, things were generally better with 77% male and 23% female. Now you can complain that it’s because of a lack of female characters, when manga like one piece and haikyuu ( a manga about a boy’s soccer team) sell with higher female readership than male, but I think it’s a cultural thing her in the states. Women “like” nerdy things but don’t put their money where their mouth is. Movies are about money, and even the most recent Scarlett Jo film Lucy has done horrible in theaters compared to male dominated films. The ONLY films to have done well with a female lead were the ALIEN/ALIENS/ALIEN 3 films. They fed the scifi horror itch americans had at the time and their time is gone.

    • YoCats says:

      Lucy was also a really bad film. It was aesthetically pleasing and had awesome special effects, but the plot was terrible and it had bigger holes than the titanic in the storyline.

      THAT BEING SAID, Resident Evil movies do fucking awesome every time. It’s not a matter of what the star has between their legs, it’s if it’s a good movie or not.

    • Scarlet says:

      DC is the worst example.  DC routinely shows how little they think of women.  Check Marvel, check Image, check IDW. There are plenty of other companies to factor in.  

  4. Grant says:

    Being a male of 27 years of age I’m in that target audience and given I grew up in the era of the big comic book boom during the 1990s where the animated shows of my favorite heroes made Saturday’s an educational day worth enjoying I’m certainly an ideal sucker for ticket money when a new movie launches. At the same time though I had a complete collection of Red Sonya books that I read through that my mother gave me as part of my introduction into the format right alongside the modern Marvel books being released. I have been waiting for a solid solo film for a female lead for over a decade now and it really does seem like the shot callers at DC and Marvel simply refuse to believe that. Between launches and films moving forward we have had six spider-man movies split between two franchises, six for X-Men in a unified franchise, an origin film for Wolverine along with a sequel tied directly to the X-Men films and a role for the character in movies until the end of time, three Iron Man flicks, three Blade films, two previous Fantastic Four movies, a new Fantastic Four movie with a sequel already in the works, two time wasters on Ghost Rider, Punisher twice, Hulk twice, two for Thor, two for Captain America, the Avengers with its developing sequel, Guardians of the Galaxy and lastly Daredevil. DC has had Nolan’s Batman trilogy, the Green Lantern, Watchmen, Jonah Hex, the weird Superman Returns tie-in to the old franchise and the two new Superman films that include a reboot of sort of Batman…again. 
    Aside from showing DC trailing badly beyond Marvel, this nearly complete list of the big two’s comic movies demonstrates a huge lacking of female lead films. Marvel and DC have each launched one, Elektra and Catwoman respectively. How many of these ensemble and male solo films were utter failures? The majority. How many of those got sequels / reboots? All of the Marvel ones except Blade, though Blade II wasn’t exactly a masterpiece and the character could be redone for the DC Universe in a future tie in to Ghost Rider and / or Spider-Man. DC though at least learned to let things die. Yet the shot callers tell us to look at Elektra, which was tainted in advance by the lackluster Daredevil movie, and Catwoman as if they are the only bad comic movies in the recent era to explain a lack of Black Window, Captain Marvel, She-Hulk, Wonder Woman, Gotham City Sirens, etc in terms of female lead comic movies for the foreseeable future. I call nonsense. The numbers don’t add up to the risk value the concept supposedly poses to the companies and neither does the timeline any longer because it’s been about a decade since the greatly concerning female blitz of action movies ended. That’s more than enough time for Elektra to get a proper chance with a good script and director instead of worrying about Dead Pool.

  5. Jack says:

    Female superhero headlining a big budget sounds good.  If and only if they stay true to form and keep all that (used to be “good girl art” now it’s called) fanservice.  

  6. BenTheStonedScribe says:

    I’m sure we’ll get a Wonder Woman film. I think Marvel would be smart to have a Black Widow/Hawkeye film but have Hawkeye get captured by Hydra or whomever the big bad organization is in the MCU at the time and have Black Widow go rogue and save him. Like a gender reversed Taken. Then you could very naturally transition into a Black Widow solo film since she’s proven herself badass enough to save a fellow Avenger on her own. You can toss in some of the history between Clint and Natasha as well. I think that would be a smarter move than a Carol Danvers film or any of the other women mentioned because you wouldn’t need to establish Widow first. 

  7. Ztoical says:

    Ok Supergirl was a bad film but it was also the first film I ever saw in the cinema (I was 3) and it started a life long passion for comics so even the bad films have their merits.

  8. A She-Hulk movie needs to be made.  

  9. Eric says:

    I’m literally dying for an Ultimate Jessica Drew solo run. Yes, literally. Stay tuned for the suicide note. 

  10. lulzsec says:

    I have been wanting a Domino movie forever now >.< it could be so amazing if given the chance

  11. Taylor Anne says:

    THANK YOU! I’m going to share this with many of my guy friends who have repeatedly tried to convince me why Black Widow and Captain Marvel shouldn’t have a movie any time soon. Their main reasoning being that “there is too much information they would have to introduce” when, like you said, there are 3 movies under Natasha’s belt with a 4th on the way! If that is the case then why is there an Ant-Man movie coming out? Why is Doctor Strange and Black Panther being talked about so much? Why did they do Iron Man at all when he was considered to be on the B-team? It’s crazy that I still feel like I have to fight for my right to be represented! So thank you for this!

  12. Eli says:

    It is an interesting idea, but then we are incredibly liberal with other people’s money, aren’t we?  First, it would have to be an incredibly strong story because if we have seen nothing else, it is that a weak story will not be tolerated by the interwebs and would be the death of the box office.  That being said, it is going to be under a huge microscope.  Fanboys and fangirls are going to tear this movie apart no matter who it is and a year later you will see it in whatever the 2020 equivalent of the bargain bin of Blockbuster would be.  It is almost too much pressure to succeed and thus, would likely fail.  (pick a hero)’s hair would be too short or too long, or her costume would be wrong, or there would be flaws in her back story in the film.  They had a good shot with Lucy and that ended up being horrible!  It is a noble idea but a money loser and that is what the movie business is all about.  The only way that it really works is if they come up with a completely new character with an airtight backstory.

    • Kyle Anderson says:

      That’s an incredibly cynical view on things. While, obviously, money is the deciding factor in most Hollywood projects, the microscope you talk about is the same for any superhero project and has been for every one up to this point. Daredevil and Ghost Rider and movies like that have failed both critically and financially and they had male leads. A good movie is a good movie and I don’t think saying “the scrutiny over a female superhero will be too great” is a valid enough reason not to give it a proper try.

  13. Neil says:

    I completely agree with you on this subject. The fact that Hollywood still refuses to take this on as a more serious filmmaking priority is beyond annoying, it is downright idiotic. The fact of the matter is this: the films considered as ‘bombs’ did poorly because of being horrible efforts, not because people aren’t interested in female heroes. The fact that the Hunger Games films are doing exceptionally well is proof of that. And men and women would go see a well made film with a female character in the lead superhero role. It’s ridiculous that the system still thinks it should only cater to boys — and that boys only want men in comic-book, hero fare.

  14. Andrew says:

    Electra, anyone

    • Kyle Anderson says:

      You mean that movie they made ten years ago? Yes, what about it?

    • Adri says:

      um….Green Lantern anyone?

    • Ztoical says:

      and after that we got not one but two shitty Ghost rider films, two shitty Punisher rehashes, a poor Green Lantern film but a great Green Lantern animated series, o lets not forget the same year as Electra we got the god awful Constantine film and even though it was truly awful they are trying again with a Constantine tv series….so where is the Electra squeal/animated series/tv show?  If those characters got a few chances to try and get it right why not allow female characters the same chance?

      • Nich Hustler says:

        Ghost Rider 2 is alright. I think, if it had been the first one that franchise would still be alive. I would love for them to bring him back via Blade 4. Cage’s demented Johnny Storm in GR2 was great. 

        Also just my opinion, Punisher 1 may not have been a great Punisher film I’m not sure I’ve never been into him as a character. That said it was a good movie all on it’s own and one of the smarter revenge films. Put Thomas Jane, Wesley Snipes and Nic Cage into one movie and I am there.

  15. Sean says:

    Sigh… Merchandising, sadly there is a perception with toy manufacturers that boys or their parents will not buy girl figures. This stupid fact got Young Justice canceled for instance be they found out girls were watching. Both DC and Marvel are Merchandising machines and if the Merchandising exe’s say no they the movie is dead on arrival. I Hate it so much.

    • Kyle Anderson says:

      But what about all those girls out there who would buy the action figures? You can say “oh, girls don’t buy action figures,” but maybe the don’t because they’ve never been marketed to.

      • Sean says:

        I don’t agree this logic either, but that’s how they see it. Bottom line it’s Just lazy, a madding market place failure to discount 50% of the species. Even in shows where there are female characters very often they don’t get figures release. It’s insane that they can’t figure out how to market to women.

  16. theEnthusiast says:

    I don’t think a Female Superhero movie should be a risk. It should be a priority. We live in 2014. The women who fight for voter recognition and civil rights in the during the ENTIRE 20th century would be shocked at how little we have come along. We should able to get a Wonder Woman movie, a Black Widow movie, a Storm Origins movie, without any debate. I want to see Ladies Kick Butt!

  17. CMH says:

    I think a Capt. Marvel movie would be amazing. I hope it happens. 

  18. Girlfriendmd says:

    It also wouldn’t suck to be able to take my daughter to a Black Widow movie or a Wonder Woman movie, given that she likes superheroes and comics and is really getting into some of the graphic novels written for kids these days.  The fact that she only gets to see what are great characters on their own in print turn into support for male characters on the screen further solidifies in her mind the only people who can save the day are men.  I see it in her own experiments with writing stories (she’s in 3rd grade) which all seem to be centered on boys saving girls and girls helping the boys be the heroes. She doesn’t even get it that the girl can be the hero because of most of what she’s seen in action and hero movies tells her it’s not possible.At least she has seen Donna Noble save The Doctor, and she gets that example that you don’t have to be a damsel in distress, a princess, a super power or even wealthy in order to be the hero.  But overwhelmingly in her experience girls are there to be rescued or to help boys do the rescuing, and it affects how she views herself in the world as much as what we try to teach her as parents. She needs more Princess Leia and less Princess Peach. 

    • Eliz says:

      Get Xena on DVD.  I never liked it as an adult but it’s great to watch with a kid.  My daughter watched the first two seasons.  Now she’s taking fencing lessons.

  19. JP says:


  20. Vern says:

    I’m right behind this, both as a comics fan and as the father of a daughter, we’ve watched and loved nearly all the Marvel movies (she’s not mad keen on Thor, and the Red Skull freaked her out) and it’s time she had a decent female hero to look up to. Marvel and DC are all but ignoring this part of their audience, and it’s madness. And they’re doing it across the board, there is a pitiful amount of merchandise that is skewed to girls, a few tshirts is essentially the lot. I love that my girl shares my geeky passion, and it’s stupidly hard to find cool stuff for her. In the UK at least, since Disney bought Marvel practically the only place to buy stuff is in Disney stores, which in most cities aren’t that big, and now they are catering for the entire Disney cannon, The Muppets, Marvel and Start Wars, all squished into one shop – crazy. GotG is the biggest movie of the year and our local Disney store has one stand with half a dozen Rockets on it, and that’s it! They need to open shops with just their franchise stuff in. 
    Phew… Kinda wandered off topic there, but still, good to get it off my chest…