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Thursday, June 27, 2013 

Movies starring superheroines aren't selling

A writer for the Washington Free Beacon says that movies starring superheroines just aren't selling:
There’s Elektra, a spinoff of a modestly successful superhero film that starred a popular actress and grossed just $24M on a $43M production budget (plus another $20M to $30M on advertising). There’s Catwoman, a film about a longstanding female comic book character that starred an absolute boffo, Oscar-winning and Oscar-nominated cast (Halle Berry! Sharon Stone!) that tanked, grossing just $40M on a $100M production budget (plus, again, advertising costs). There’s the action-comedy My Super Ex-Girlfriend, which grossed just $22.5M on a $30-$40M budget. Don’t even get me started on Supergirl.
I'd say the chief cause of failure was that the screenplays were nothing to write home about in the first place, and Berry's take on Catwoman was an obvious example of this. And it goes without saying that Barb Wire, which he forgot to mention, banked on Pamela Anderson in image alone - not acting talent, which she obviously lacked - and thus, it went nowhere fast.

None of this matters to Joss Whedon though, who's been complaining that Hollywood doesn't give projects with ladies in the lead enough chances, and he clearly isn't taking quality storytelling into account. He told The Daily Beast/Newsweek:
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. 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. My daughter watched The Avengers and was like, “My favorite characters were the Black Widow and Maria Hill,” and I thought, Yeah, of course they were. I read a beautiful thing Junot Diaz wrote: “If you want to make a human being into a monster, deny them, at the cultural level, any reflection of themselves.”
I'm sure there will be an audience that'd like to give an adventure movie with a female lead their backing, but so long as no convincing effort is put into scriptwriting that turns out a winner of a screenplay, the studios won't heavily invest in one. Whedon is citing the wrong sources here. What he should really be doing is criticizing the writers for their failure to think up a meat-and-potatoes story that the audience will enjoy, and hire actresses who are up to the task. It's the filmmakers of the most abortive movies whom we all have to thank for their failure to deliver, and as a result, very few movies with heroines in the lead have been made, or will be.

His claim about toymakers isn't so accurate either; there've been plenty of female toy action figures that sold well, if the GI Joe figures of Scarlet say something. But that's a whole different story than movies.

Only brilliant writing is going to give movies starring superheroines a chance to ever find success with the audience, and that's what both producers and Whedon have to take into account.

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  • I'm Avi Green
  • From Jerusalem, Israel
  • I was born in Pennsylvania in 1974, and moved to Israel in 1983. I also enjoyed reading a lot of comics when I was young, the first being Fantastic Four. I maintain a strong belief in the public's right to knowledge and accuracy in facts. I like to think of myself as a conservative-style version of Clark Kent. I don't expect to be perfect at the job, but I do my best.
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