Whosoever Gets A Movie, If He Be Worthy
Today The Mary Sue posted the following article about an NPR interview discussing the lack of female protagonists in films. Not only are there not many to go around, but the industry stubbornly insists that female protagonists do not sell tickets, dismissing every success as a fluke and taking every failure as proof of what they already believed.
Sure, Katniss can hold her own with Harry and Batman and Merida wasn’t exactly a flop, but why listen to consumers? Admittedly, a bad female lead can get you some unflattering press, but I would love to see them stop blaming every failure on women not being viable leads and start blaming it on writers and filmmakers not writing good female leads.
This issue is hardly unique to the film industry. The gaming industry remains a hot bed of sexism and low glass ceilings. One person had the gall to ask why there were no female leads in the games showcased at the Xbox One E3 Press Conference. Responses to her tweet on the matter devolved into angry sexist comments, slurs, rape references, and an overwhelming cesspool of misogyny.
If these people were trying to prove the gaming industry doesn’t have a problem with women, they failed spectacularly. The gaming industry, much like the film and comic book industries, insists female leads don’t sell. But when they do make something with a female lead, they throw half the marketing at it. When it inevitably doesn’t sell as well, it’s all the proof they need.
It’s as self-fulfilling as the argument that girls will read books about boys, but boys won’t read books about girls. As many a male fan has pleaded with Maureen Johnson, perhaps they would if the publishing industry didn’t slather books about girls with ultra-girly fonts, pink, and generic feminine objects like compacts and shoes regardless of how little sense it makes with the content of the book.
These industry practices not only harm girls but ensure boys never have the chance to identify or empathize with 51% of the population. It also denies them excellent books out of fear of stigma. In addition, this short-sighted marketing strategy fails to take advantage of a huge swathe of customers, thus shooting industries already limping along in the foot.
So, as we brace for summer blockbusters like Man of Steel, let’s hear it for all the Lois Lanes out there, stubbornly holding their own in a man’s world. I’ve often wondered if this is why Clark relates to Lois; they’re both outsiders trying to claim a place in another world. It’s just easier for Clark to pass as a human than for her to pass as a man, thus causing him to respect her all the more. I don’t know if anyone’s ever explored this, but I’d love to see it done.
More on sexism in the film, comic, and gaming industries:
Jimquisition: The Creepy Cull of Female Protagonists – Jim takes on the gaming industries disturbing attitudes towards women
Who Run the World? – My attempt to tackle issues surrounding women in the media and why many believe it isn’t a problem
More on gendered book covers and sexism in publishing:
Cover Story – Maureen Johnson’s Coverflip challenge, as well as sexism and white-washing in the publishing industry
Cover Me – Alison Croggon and Libba Bray’s views on gendered book covers and the Wikipedia Women Novelists debacle
But the Tigers Come at Night – In this review of Tiger Eyes, I discuss the double standards surrounding masturbation and sexuality, more outrageous gendered book marketing, and why it took so long for the film industry to discover Judy Blume