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The Absence Of The Superheroine In Hollywood (Analysis)

Women in a superhero context are worth shit to Hollywood. (Let that personal statement sink in for a little bit.)

That, is the conclusion I have drawn after reading article upon article about the absence of leading superheroines in films and looking at superhero franchises.

Iron Man, The Hulk, Captain America, Spiderman, Batman, Superman, all have their own series of films, yet heroines have a few crappy ones – “Catwoman,” “Elektra,” and “Sucker Punch.”

So what’s the answer to this phenomenon?

During an interview with TooFab –chairman of Marvel Comics, and co-creator of the Fantastic Four, Avengers and the original X-MenStan Lee simply said: “The thing is, the women like these [male-hero] movies as much as the guys, so we don’t have to knock ourselves out finding a female.”

Unfortunately, there is a general consensus amongst Hollywood circles that has kept the industry from creating a decent superheroine film: no one will go see action films that star women.


Robert J. Elisberg – screenwriter, novelist and Huffington Post columnist – disproves this Hollywood rule in his 2011 article “Audiences Won’t Go to See an Action Movie That Stars Women,” using “Sucker Punch” as the main example.

He states that the film failed for many reasons other than the illusion of an audience’s refusal to see an actioner starring women.

For one, he mentions that critics on the Rotten Tomatoes site gave the film a 22% rating, “shockingly, audiences generally won’t go to those.” Secondly, he brings up the point that it cost $100 million to make yet “not one actress in the film is even remotely close to a recognizable film star.”

Basically, the misconception is “convenient and easy (and snidely sexist)” excuse because there are plenty of films that prove that both men and women will go see action films starring women:

“Salt” ($295 million worldwide), “Wanted” ($341 million worldwide), the “Resident Evil” franchise ($915 worldwide), the “Underworld” franchise ($458 million worldwide), the “Charlie’s Angels” franchise – which together made half a billion dollars – and “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” ($214 million worldwide), just to name a few. 

“Audiences worldwide go to action movies that star women,” he adds. “Often in huge numbers.”

At this stage you may be thinking that perhaps the problem is that no one has attempted to make a good superheroine film.

Wrong again.

According to Screen Rant, back in 2007, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” creator and writer, and director of “The Avengers,” Joss Whedon was attached to bring Wonder Woman to the big screen, but the project fell through when Warner Bros. ultimately turned him down.

So why is it time for Hollywood to actually wake up?

Because women are fed up!…and so is Joss:

“Toymakers will tell you they won’t sell enough, and movie people will point to the two terrible superheroine movies that were made and say, ‘You see? It can’t be done,’” he said during an interview with The Daily Beast. “It’s stupid, and I’m hoping ‘The Hunger Games’ will lead to a paradigm shift. It’s frustrating to me that I don’t see anybody developing one of these movies. It actually pisses me off.”

According to the “Theatrical Statistics Summary” of The Motion Picture Association of America, “The Hunger Games” does show that women are likely to agree with Joss. Among the top five grossing films in 2013…“The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” showed the strongest female attendance of the top 5 films, with 54 percent of the film’s box office revenue coming from women.”

Furthermore, in 2014, there are stronger signs that women want kick-ass females in film.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, “distributors are scrambling amid a 20 percent decline in summer revenue in North America… many male-skewing summer tentpoles are luring fewer females. That’s an issue because the women demo is wielding more influence.”

Basically, this year, women rather pay to go see films like “Frozen” and “Maleficent” than the “Amazing Spider-Man 2” and “Transformers: Age of Extinction.”

So dearest Hollywood, get it together already and make a worthy female superhero film, but actually well made – with a reputable director, writer, cast and budget – then, we’ll see if strong females are actually worth Hollywood’s time or not. 

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