The latest damning discovery from WikiLeaks' trove of leaked Sony emails proves what we have all long assumed: Marvel has no interest in female-led superhero films. Recently, ONTD discovered a correspondence between Marvel Entertainment CEO Ike Perlmutter and Sony exec Michael Lynton, in which Perlmutter lists past female-led flops, seemingly to make a larger point about the genre as a whole.
We acknowledge that publishing a leaked email without much context is problematic, but it is worth sharing because it -- much like the emails revealing that female stars were being paid less than their male costars -- provides a compelling look at the deeply entrenched sexist attitudes that inform decision-making in Hollywood.
Here's the full email:
As we discussed on the phone, below are just a few examples. There are more.
1. Electra (Marvel) – Very bad idea and the end result was very, very bad. http://www.boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=elektra.htm
2. Catwoman (WB/DC) - Catwoman was one of the most important female character within the Batmanfranchise. This film was a disaster. http://www.boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=catwoman.htm
3. Supergirl – (DC) Supergirl was one of the most important female super hero in Superman franchise. This Movie came out in 1984 and did $14 million total domestic with opening weekend of $5.5 million. Again, another disaster.
While it’s unclear what the discussion stemmed from, it seems that Perlmutter is using past examples of female superhero flops to suggest why it might not be a good idea to introduce more female-led superhero movies going forward. Vulture’s resident comics expert Abraham Riesman explains that Sony, which owns the movie rights to Marvel’s "Spider-Man," has recently been considering a film within the "Spider-Man" universe focusing on a female character, and suggests that the conversation could have had something to do with that.
Yet the fact that Perlmutter has to reach back to 1984’s "Supergirl" to even find an example of a female-led superhero film is indicative of the larger problem, which is that women have always been sidelined in Hollywood, and in superhero films in particular (the fact that the Marvel CEO doesn’t know how to spell Elektra is a telling barometer of the company's level of engagement there). There have been tons of male superhero movie duds — "Green Lantern," "Green Hornet," "Daredevil," "Superman IV," "Batman & Robin," the list goes on — but it’s only when a female-led film flops that the protagonist's gender is held to blame. As “Avengers” helmer Joss Whedon himself recently put it, “There is genuine, recalcitrant, intractable sexism, and old-fashioned, quiet misogyny that goes on. There’s always an excuse. You hear 'Oh, [female superheroes] don't work because of these two bad ones [Catwoman and Elektra] that were made eight years ago.'"
As Laura Berger writes over at IndieWire, “so few movies about women are being made that the stakes become absurdly high -- when a big-budget movie focused on a woman doesn't draw big numbers, you can bet that it will be cited as an example of the taken-for-granted fact, which is actually a myth, that movies about women don't make money.” Indeed, it is a myth; as Berger points out, the female-led "Hunger Games" franchise is one of the biggest grossers of all time.
Fans online aren't too happy about the correspondence either:
While there are some female-led superhero films in the works amid the million dude-centric ones coming our way — Marvel’s "Captain Marvel" is slated for 2018, while Warner Bros and DC are prepping "Wonder Woman" for 2017— the blockbuster comics industry remains disappointingly off-limits to women. Avengers’ one female-ensemble member, Black Widow, was not only denied her own film, she was omitted from much of the Avengers merchandise, and many have decried her shabby treatment in the film. In light of Perlmutter's email, “SNL's” sketch last weekend about an imagined Black Widow rom-com, with the tagline “Marvel gets women," feels disappointingly spot on.