Earlier today our own Katey Rich and Rope of Silicon’s Thera Pitts wrote editorials in which they bemoan the lack of successful, fem cape-wearers in theaters and wish for more babes with superpowers. Well I’m here to tell you we don’t need them.
Wishing for more female superhero movies is kind of like longing for more Sex and the City knockoffs with all-male casts. It’ll never work and it’s not because of sexism or Hollywood bias or whatever rabble rousing labels you want to throw on it. It’ll never work simply because men and women have different interests. There’s a reason Wonder Woman is the only noteworthy solo female superhero anyone can name. It’s because men like superheroes, men wish they could be superheroes, and it’s men who see superhero movies and read superhero comic books.
Even Wonder Woman was only a success because men supported her. The old Wonder Woman television show was a hit because men tuned in. Men tuned in because Wonder Woman was hot and watching her rope bad guys with her golden lasso fulfilled some sort of hot chick, dominatrix fetish fantasy. Wonder Woman may be a girl, but her audience was never really comprised of women. Sure women may tune in from time to time, just as women go see movies like Spider-Man and The Dark Knight. But they are not and never will be the primary audience for those films. Catching bad guys is not a common female fantasy. Ask most women which movies they’re most looking forward to in 2009 and odds are that it’ll be something starring Julia Roberts. Ask men what they’re most looking forward to, and I guarantee Julia’s name will not be uttered.
There’s nothing wrong with that. Men and women simply have different interests. Men are interested in action movies with heroes blowing things up and saving the girl. Men are interested in imagining themselves as ass-kicking heroes. Women are interested in movies about relationships and romance and love. Women are interested in imagining themselves finding the right guy and dancing till dawn. Little boys play with guns, little girls play with dolls. Neither version of play is superior to the other, it’s just different. Nobody is out there trying to force men to get interested in movies about romantic weekends in Paris, so why are we so dead set on forcing women to get interested in movies about beating people up? There’s something unintentionally sexist about it, it’s as if we’re saying women’s interests are somehow inherently inferior, and to be validated they must instead find ways to be more like men.
Of course some women actually are interested in superheroes, just as there are guys out there who are really into touchy-feely musicals. Most of them are British, but even here in America you’ll occasionally run into a guy with a twisted love of Mamma Mia!. Sure you’ll see women at Comic Con dressed up as Wonder Woman. But you’ll see a lot more men dressed up as Batman. And unlike those women, none of the guys are being paid by booth owners just to stand around and slut it up. Nothing draws a nerd crowd quite like exposed female skin. There are exceptions to any rule.
So go ahead, make more movies about female superheroes. Just don’t make them with an eye towards entertaining women. Make them for men. Conversely, don’t force Julia Roberts to start catering to dudes. Don’t make her movies with an eye towards forcing us to connect with our emotions. It’s not going to happen. We may cross over from time to time and cry over The Notebook, just as women may see Spider-Man and find something fun in it. But at the end of the day, men and women are different. There’s nothing wrong with that. Heck there’s everything right with it. Those differences are what keep us interested in each other.
Rather than trying to twist and turn guy movies into something that might be interesting to women, consider making more movies for women instead. Quality movies like Sex and the City are all too rare, and its success over the summer proved what needs to be done. Stop trying to force feed women what men want, and consider giving them what women want instead. We don’t need more female superhero movies, we need more movies for females.