Editorial: The Inevitable “Hunger Games Was Successful, Make Wonder Woman NOW” Think Piece

- 11-25-13Comics, Featured, Film Posted by Jason Tabrys

Wonder Woman

I know it’s cliche to tie The Hunger Games franchise to Warner Bros’ galling refusal to greenlight a solo Wonder Woman film and Marvel’s billion dollar boys club, but good Goddess, female audiences just drove a $307.7 million dollar global opening and a $161.1 million dollar domestic opening, winning the prize for largest US opening in the history of all the Novembers and the 4th largest US opening of all time. That’s better than The Dark Knight Rises and nearly double Thor: The Dark World‘s opening from just two weeks ago.

Yes, Katniss Everdeen topped Warner’s holy cow, the Batman, at the box office, but pay attention to that last bit: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire effectively pulled in twice the business that Thor: The Dark World did just two weeks ago, and it got those kinds of numbers with a 59/41 female to male audience demographic. That’s impressive and shows, once again, that women can drive a genre/big budget film to a heart stopping box office figure, but it’s also a slightly more balanced number than Thor got, with its grunty 38/62 female to male audience split, a big step behind Man of Steel, which had a healthy 44/56 division.

Can there be any doubt (not that such doubt was ever really justified or born out of more than a silly “snips and snails”/”sugar and spice” stereotype that assumed that women generally don’t like science fiction, fantasy, or action films) that a bet on a strong female character, a capable actress, and a smart story is a safe one?

Wonder Woman

Can there be any doubt that, if done right and without an effort to offensively jam in some kind of vixen factor for the male demo, a Wonder Woman film (or another superhero project with a female lead) is as sure a thing (or more of a sure thing) than any other comic-based project coming down the tube?

How about this: in that women already account for 40-45% of the audience for these tentpole spectacles, is there any doubt that they are a stable and valuable segment of the audience and one that shouldn’t continue to be (and never should have been) alienated?

There can’t be any doubt with regard to those three questions, and yet, here we are, watchfully waiting for studio executives to recognize reality and turn a negative perception into the kind of positive growth that scares away stagnation.

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If you have a penis, ask me why you should care about women getting equitable treatment in the superhero movie game. After-all, we’re living in a golden age of milking shit dry, celebrating adaptation after adaptation of the comic properties that we grew up loving.

Besides, those films are awesome and women should be happy to go with us to the theater where they can drool over Chris Hemsworth or Henry Cavil while simultaneously cheering on super-powered girlfriends and secretaries that are heroic, but who are never the hero. Right? Right? Wrong.

The business of churning out comic book movies and TV shows isn’t going anywhere anytime soon (though questions about the definition of “soon” and the constant threat of over-exposure are a conversation for another time), but in staying the course, the industry may run out of road.

Iron Man 3

How many times can we see a story about a power-mad industrialist? How many times can Tony Stark rise above his self-serving nature? How many Batman reboots can we endure?

Is DC afraid that they will screw up Wonder Woman beyond repair, damning all further female-led superhero film efforts? We’re talking about the most popular female superhero of all time. A global cultural icon who is probably one of the first fictional heroes people think of when they think of superheroes. There is too much evidence pointing toward success, and yet DC waits still.

As for Marvel, I know that they only have X-number of slots per year and that there is a backlog of incrementally different back-stories yearning to be free and exploited. I know that success breeds expectations, and that if Kevin Feige were to stray from the formula and find anything but a wicker basket full of rubies, his past success would do little to insulate him from the cold, but despite recent leaps forward (Jessica Jones, Scarlet Witch), the lack of a solo superhero film with a female lead makes it seem like the House of Ideas is afraid of a misguided old one about women and comic books.

Women read comic books. In droves. Statistics are all over the map, with one DC poll indicating that 7% of New 52 readers were women and a Facebook poll by Graphic Policy founder and political consultant Brett Schenker found the number to be much higher, approximately 40%, which matches the usual film demographic tally as well. So, which number is right? Certainly not the former — anyone who has been to a comic convention can tell you that, and community chatter (yes, I just cited community chatter) usually pegs the demographic split at cons at somewhere around 40% women, 57% men, and 3% pervy monster who we all want to vote off the island.

Now, some will say that you can’t get a fair gauge of the comic book/comic inspired community from the lay of the land at a comic convention. They’ll say that we must deduct a large section and paint them as “Fake Geek Girls”, but that feels like an inflated phenomenon that exists to sooth people who are uncomfortable with the newfound diversity and expanse of the “geek” community. Or rather, it’s a myth, blown up beyond reality by judgey assholes who feel like their fandom allows them the right to judge the breadth of someone else’s.

Wonder Woman

The bottom line: The Hunger Games keeps proving that there is a reliable market for this kind of project, and with Captain Marvel, Wonder Woman, Batwoman (because the world could use a gay hero… or 12), and many others, there is ample source material to draw from. Mainstream superhero comic books and the comic book movie genre that it feeds off of need to keep an unclogged line to fresh stories and new heroes. Bring on Michael B. Jordan as the Human Torch in The Fantastic Four, give us Kamala Khan as Ms. Marvel and Simon Baz as the Green Lantern. The well needs to be replenished, and a wider segment of the population (not just women) needs to feel like they have something invested with these films and comics that are, to borrow a phrase, advancing our modern mythology.

Whether it is a question of dollars, sense, or fairness, there is right and there is wrong and then there is bizarrely stupid, and the longer studios and publishers ignore the writing on the wall, the more they fit into the latter two categories.

Women need to see their comic book heroes on the big screen too, fostering an insane but necessary relatability that pushes little girls to close their eyes at night and dream of being Carol Danvers. Hell, I’m delighted that they get to fantasize about being “the girl on fire”, I just don’t want them to ever feel like they are only allowed to be the girl off to the side.

Addendum 

Miles

My comment about Michael B. Jordan and The Human Torch prompted one of our readers to respectfully disagree on the NerdBastards Facebook page. Here is a copy of my response, because I really didn’t take the chance to expound on my thoughts with regard to making comic books (and their connected mediums) more diverse.

I feel like, if a character’s sex or ethnicity is not a vital part of who they are in the source material, as is the case with Torch, then who really cares?

As has been pointed out all over the net, these characters were all created at a time when adding color or recognizing homosexuality in a character was unheard of. It would be foolish to keep things as they were solely out of reverence for an imperfect time when creativity was dampened by societal small mindedness.

When I mentioned the stagnation that comes from always telling the same kinds of stories [...] I wasn’t just referring to the absence of women in the superhero movie genre, I was also referring to comics.

We’ve had quite enough stories about splendid white men. There is no reason why things can’t be opened up to make comics and their offspring feel more inclusive. It’s good for business and it’s good for mediums that need to connect with readers and future creators and allow them to feel connected to these stories.

Or we can just keep everything as it always was and bore ourselves to sleep.

Sources: Box Office Mojo, EW, ComicsBeat, Comics Alliance, CNN

Category: Comics, Featured, Film

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  • Geekasaurus

    Despite Hunger Games: Catching Fire, I just don’t foresee a successful Wonder Woman franchise.

    Katniss Everdeen was created by a woman who has enough love of Sci Fi in general to make a story that appeals to both genders. Initially, I lumped it in with Twilight, but reviews won me over and I read the series. Katniss is an admirable female character because Suzanne Collins focuses more on making her a heroic character than a “heroic female.” She just tells Katniss’s story from a female perspective.

    Conversely, Wonder Woman was created by a man… a deviant one at that. His idea of her as a character, despite glorifying women was still objectifying. He was also a psychologist, not an author. He doesn’t know shit for stories. Wonder Woman isn’t a character, she’s an archetype (or, alternatively, a Dominatrix in Star Spangled Panties). I tend to think that WW rounds out DC’s Holy Trinity not because she’s actually earned that place through story arcs or the success of her various comic series, but because the Editors in Chief at DC say she should.

    • 90mv

      I don’t see how the most recognisable female superhero wouldn’t be a successful franchise. THE most recognisable period, Marvel don’t have that ! They could try with She- hulk maybe, but it’s not Wonder woman. You’re telling me people wouldn’t go see it ?

      Yeah Marston was weird, so what ? WW has evolved away from that. It’s not how the general public see her anyway.

      Plenty of comic books have shown Wonder woman is a character. Have you read any good WW comics ? Spirit of Truth, League of one,The Circle etc. There’s even an animated movie that shows it can be done too. Plenty of source material for a movie.

      I don’t particularly care about whether she deserves her place in the trinity or not. Although considering her history and impact, I don’t see why it’s an issue. I also don’t see what it has to do with her getting a movie.

      Hunger Games has proved twice that a good action movie with a female lead makes money. The fact that Warner doesn’t see the franchise potential in an amazon warrior that can go toe to toe with Superman is baffling. Meanwhile Marvel are making a Antman movie.

      • Geekasaurus

        I guess where my head is, is that “I don’t see how the most recognizable female superhero wouldn’t be a successful franchise,” either… but it seems like it never is. Linda Carter’s WW show was successful, but that was the 70s and people would watch ANYTHING. Other than that, she seems to tank outside her comic(s). Seems to me, her comic series regularly tanks and gets reincarnated in a new form.

        and yeah. Antman? Are you shitting me???

        • 90mv

          Yeah there’s been a few failed wonder woman projects in the past, I think it’s a misunderstanding of the character.

          I can’t really speak on the comics themselves and why writers struggle with her as a character, all I know is there are good ones out there.

          You can’t judge her from the old TV show, she’s beyond that. In fact she’s one of the most badass characters out there. Imagine if Superman could fight like Jet Li, that’s pretty much Wonder woman. Who the hell wouldn’t watch that ? Her background is God’s and monsters and magic and so on. Like a mix of LOTR and Clash of the TItans.

          Now Imagine how much of an epic movie could be made from that. The final battle could be on the level of the Avengers movie but crazier.

  • wwfan

    Just because Wonder Woman was created by a man doesn’t mean that a talented writer could take her story and create a truly great script that could become an awesome movie. It’s ridiculous that Wonder Woman is still without her own film, and it’s time for her to get her due. There’s a petition calling for a Wonder Woman film that can be signed here http://www.thepetitionsite.com/959/341/820/we-want-wonder-woman/

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