Time Warner’s Jeff Bewkes Should Probably Realize That Women Have Always Loved Genre
Earlier today at the UBS Global Media and Communications Conference, Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes expressed the hope that Warner Bros. Entertainment will do better this year than it did last year, and he has a huge amount of faith in their upcoming, more genre-friendly slate. Bewkes is super-jazzed about upcoming fare like Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. He’s also really, really excited about Wonder Woman! Cool, right? Yeah, sort of.
After citing box office flops like Pan and Jupiter Ascending, he said the following about Wonder Woman:
We think this could bring an under-represented female audience to this genre that frankly has not been served well in the past and that could be exciting.
Now, I went to Costco and purchased a case of “Benefit of the Doubt” in bulk, so I’m prepared to believe that he may have worded an otherwise solid point awkwardly. Because it’s true: women have been woefully under-represented by Hollywood. He gets that part absolutely right. Not only have they been under-represented, but they’ve been under-served. Let’s take a film like Jupiter Ascending, for example. We at TMS (captured brilliantly by Sam Maggs) loved that incredibly bad movie way too much, and with good reason. It was all of our fan-fics brought to life. Because, you see, women have always been drawn to genre. No one need “bring” us anywhere.
Perhaps the reason that film flopped was exactly that assumption. It is assumed (by companies that do “market research” that apparently doesn’t deal with talking to real humans) that women don’t already willingly go to genre films, and so things aren’t marketed to them properly. And I’m saying that as someone who went to see Jupiter Ascending in the theaters (and fought with my emotions for weeks afterwards to determine whether or not I enjoyed myself – it’s a movie with that kind of staying power!).
Plenty of women went to see that movie, and expressed thoughts on Tumblr, like:
Is this how straight dudes feel at the movies all the time???? Like someone carefully noted down your early pubescent fantasies and then threw 100 MILLION DOLLARS at them?
And that’s exactly how Jupiter Ascending should’ve been marketed so that more women could’ve been aware of it. The same way that Super 8 was basically J.J. Abrams finally having the money to make the movie he really wanted to make when he was twelve, Jupiter Ascending was, as Gavia Baker-Whitelaw at The Daily Dot put it:
[D]umb, and weird, and beautiful, and it wants you to be happy. And if the people trying to market it had realized it was a girl-friendly fairytale with the same appeal as cult classics like Flash Gordon, Labyrinth, and Barbarella, then perhaps they would have made some real money.
Instead, they pushed it from summer to February for release – where all films go to die.
So, it isn’t that women don’t go see genre films and need to be brought there, it’s that their experiences are consistently erased once they get there. Women who love genre are forced time and time again to sit through movies that they may enjoy tremendously, but that rarely represent them. It isn’t that women don’t go to genre films, it’s that their experience of the world is so undervalued that, even with huge hits like The Hunger Games franchise, or the Twilight franchise, or Action Emily Blunt in pretty much anything, those successes are chalked up to novelty, or seen as frivolous (because a dude dressing up in a bat suit to fight crime is totally serious! But I totally draw the line at girls having romances with supernatural beings! /sarcasm). Men have their stupid, adolescent fantasies catered to on the regular. Women have to wait for exceptions to be made. So, we make do. Because we’ve been taught to identify with male heroes in a way that men have never been taught regarding female heroes. Even though it’s just humanity through a different lens, yo.
And yeah, maybe that lack of representation makes it less likely that they’ll sing your praises and tell their friends about your movie. In addition to identifying with male stuff, because that’s mostly all there is, women have been conditioned for centuries to be good communicators and community-based, sharing information with groups and networks. We’ve gotten good at that, because we have to be. Kind of a mistake to not use that, Hollywood.
So, yes, I agree with Bewkes that Wonder Woman will be amazing for female film-goers. Not because it will bring them to the theaters. After all, those same women will also be going to see Batman v Superman and Fantastic Beasts, despite their male-focused stories. It will be amazing for female film-goers, because it will be a film that acknowledges their presence.
—Please make note of The Mary Sue’s general comment policy.—