The recently revealed email of Marvel CEO, Ike Perlmutter to Sony CEO, Michael Lynton opened my eyes.
I love Marvel and how many truly cool and diverse characters are featured in the Marvel Universe-including awesome female super heroes.
I’ve been an X-men fan since I was a little kid and it was my gateway to many other Marvel comics. I read Avengers and the occasional Iron Man or Hulk but they weren’t my favorites. I wasn’t a big comic book Avengers fan until the movies gave these characters life, weaknesses, and layers. Then Black Widow totally sold me on the Avengers. She is the most visible Marvel female hero. Natasha has faults, she’s human, she’s complex, she’s strong, she’s pivotal in so many of the movies. I figured she was totally getting her own movie and a ton of merchandise. It excited me to think that this strong character could possibly introduce little girls to the Avengers and other Marvel comics they may not have noticed otherwise.
Then “Guardians of the Galaxy” was announced. I heard it was going to have a raccoon that shoots things and thought, Huh, that’s pretty cool, I guess. Guardians was AMAZING by the way.
Then “Ant-Man” was announced. I didn’t know Ant-Man existed, but okay. I like Paul Rudd, Paul Rudd is cool.
Then “Batman vs Superman” DC movie was announced. For kicks DC said, “Oh, and we’re gonna throw in Wonder Woman and give her a movie later too kthanksbye.”
Then a new Spider-Man was announced and the Captain Marvel movie (along with Black Panther and Thor sequel) was pushed back.
I figured we still have toys and merchandising. I’m sure being owned by Disney opened up a world of possibilities. Little girls and little boys at the Disney store stop just before touching that fairy dusted and glittered [Insert random thingamabob], and notice Black Widow there on the Marvel side of the store among her fellow Avengers teammates and toyception occurs. She may not have her own action figures but because she’s there among her teammates in possible Avenger bundles (Like LEGO sets), kids will want more products with her-toyception!
Then I actually walk into a Disney Store, Disney World theme park stores, Target, Wal-Mart, Toys ‘R’ Us, and others and realized she wasn’t getting any merchandise or t-shirts with her as part of the team. There would be no toyception or chance for us to buy the merchandise so many seem to be asking for online. The narrative would always be, “It just doesn’t sell. Look we put this one thing out with her and no one bought that thing.” However, people wanted a lot of things, not just that one thing. We can’t buy the thing if it doesn’t exist, so obviously that one thing is not going to sell. I can never imagine toy marketing departments saying, “Look, that one Avengers product didn’t sell. We’re going to have to let the Hulk stuff go.” Even team products from third party retailers didn’t feature her or added her later as a separate item or limited piece.
Even with all this I didn’t let the Jeremy Renner “slut” comment trouble me too much. He was probably tired from endless interviews, getting sassy with his fellow Avenger and friend, Chris Evans. And like he said she’s fictional. I know she’s not a slut. She didn’t sleep with her teammates, at least not in the Avengers movie I saw. Most people understand she’s not what Renner and Evans joked about. I have an overactive imagination that reduces various scenarios into after-school specials. The only thing I can see happening is some middle school kid noticing another kid with the one and only Black Widow shirt she/he may have found online and loudly pointing out, “You know she’s a slut, right.”
I doubt that would ever happen though. Kids don’t watch celeb interviews, or anything that’s gone viral. They don’t really retain stuff like that and if they do I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t use it to harm another kid. Plus, she’s practically like James Bond and people call him a slut all the time. Honestly, her comic book depiction is more problematic, so it’s cool.
So I let all this and other small things go, with a little sadness and disappointment and pretty much accepted that Disney princesses were for girls and Marvel superheroes are for boys.
Then I saw the Ike Perlmutter and Michael Lynton exchange and that was it! I knew what I was actually thinking was true.
They do care and they ARE listening.
Marvel isn’t just going to throw a female into the mix and call it a day. Nope, they are working in conjunction with other Disney properties with strong fandoms like Star Wars and planning a full-scale assault on all fronts on a very old and imbedded mindset that says female heroes have less value than male heroes. They’re being smart about it and slowly infiltrating our brains to change the way we think. In the next few years strong female superheroes will stand on their own and just be heroes with flaws and all (like actual humans!). They’ll have their own blockbusters, they’ll be on shirts, at the parks, stores, online, and third-party retailers. They’ll be part of the team and it won’t be special or standout. Little girls and boys will grow up surrounded by all types of heroes and little boys won’t run screaming from female super hero toys or spontaneously burst into flames if they wear a shirt with a female hero as they are tragically apt to do.
After the Perlmutter and Lynton exchange I realized Operation Natasha Found had begun.
In a thoughtful Reddit AMA, Hulk himself, Mark Ruffalo added, “[…]Black Widow is much stronger than Banner. She protects him […]The guys can do anything, they can have love affairs, they can be weak or strong and nobody raises an eyebrow. But when we do that with a woman, because there are so few storylines for women, we become hyper-critical of every single move that we make because there’s not much else to compare it to.”
Ruffalo and SHIELD’s, Clark Gregg also tweeted the following:
Scarlett Johansson and SNL made us laugh at their parody of the possible first Black Widow movie, “Black Widow: Age of Me” while pointing out how silly that type of movie would be.
It was like hiding the vegetables in mashed potatoes. Obviously, Marvel isn’t going to give us a mushy romance headed by a female superhero and no one would want that, right? See how we’re all laughing at it, we agree!
A slow roll out of Black Widow clothing is starting to appear along with some a random assortment of items, it’s not as much as the other Avengers especially considering her screen time but it’s getting better. I’m positive we’re going to start seeing some Marvel branded merchandise with great designs and females on them that don’t fall back to pink, flowers, and “My other boyfriend is the Hulk”. Not that there’s anything wrong with pink or flowers, but adult women’s tastes have changed and so has the types of toys girls play with. You just have to see the popularity of Brave’s Bow and Arrow set in any Disney theme park or toy store or how popular Nerfs Rebelle crossbows/Nerf products have become to see girls like action oriented play (Not that there is anything wrong with pretending to vacuum the carpet, it’s pretty stress relieving actually).
Then Agent Carter who proudly declares, “I know my value” in the show she leads is renewed by ABC. A strong woman, is at the forefront of Agents of SHIELD and the show is FULL of strong female characters. It’s also renewed.
Even Star Wars: The Force Awakens appears to be led by a female and other diverse characters.
DC is also developing ‘Super Hero Girls’ to appeal to young females and introduce that demographic to super heroes early. Their little brothers will see those characters all over the house and grow up with it too. Female superheroes will be so ubiquitous that it won’t be unique anymore or raise an eyebrow. No one will say, “They don’t make it, because no one buys it. They just don’t sell.”
So this is how I think the whole exchange actually went between Lynton and Perlmutter up to the part we read in the email and after.
Ike: Hey Michael!
Michael: Hi, Ike. How are you, buddy?
Ike: Amazing! Are you seeing what’s happening with “Guardians…” right now?
Michael: I know, man. I’m excited for you! That’s beyond amazing. Who knew it would be so huge? Can you help us out with “Spider-Man” haha?
Ike: Haha, I’m sorry it didn’t do as well as expected. Hey, you know people want it, the brand just needs a little shakeup. Let’s follow up on that later. So did you ask your girls?
Michael: Sounds good! Huh, yeah I did actually. Lucinda said Wonder Woman, Maisie said Mystique, and Eloise said Gamora.
Ike: Hey two out of three ain’t bad!
Michael: *giggle snort*
Ike: I kept thinking about what we were talking about and think it’s time to do this. I know you guys are still setting your house in order over there…
Michael: Yeah, we’re looking for any remake or reboot we can think of right now. This hasn’t gone out yet but we’re about to make a major “Ghostbusters” announcement. What we talked about earlier I think really pushed me in that direction.
Ike: All girls?
Michael: Yeah, I don’t know if we can get away with it, but we’ll see. We’re also releasing a female lead super hero in about 2 years or so. My girls were pretty excited about that.
Ike: That’s awesome! I think we’re going in the right direction. Black Widow has become amazingly popular, Gamora is an absolute rock star, and Jennifer made Mystique even more popular to younger women. I hope you paid Jennifer a boat load of cash for “American Hustle” by the way. She was amazing.
Michael: Huh, yeah….So how exactly is this going to work?
Ike: From the ground up and slowly. People don’t want to feel like a movie or company is delivering an agenda. We can’t do that, that’s not what we’re trying to do anyway. We want to make money and put some great characters out there. We know why movies like “Elektra” and “Catwoman” didn’t do well. It’s the same reason movies like “Daredevil”, “The Punisher”, “Green Lantern”, “The Lone Ranger”, “Superman IV”, and a ton of others didn’t do as expected; they sucked. It wasn’t the right script, team, or time. People are more receptive to diverse super heroes right now. If we can put together a kickass script, with an awesome female superhero, and a great team and we infiltrate all our markets and merchandising I think it will definitely be lucrative in the long run.
Michael: So a slow roll out, that’s smart. I do think we’ve been ready for a while now, though. “Aliens”, “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider”, “Resident Evil”, “Salt”, “Kill Bill”, “Terminator 2”, and “Kick-Ass” were all lead by strong woman and did great in the box office. But I get what you’re saying, we’re going in that direction too.
Ike: I mean I think that’s the best thing to do right now, we know DC is beating us to it with Wonder Woman’s own movie anyway. Plus, we want this to last, we don’t want it to be a “female action movie” fad and then die out. By the way, this also hasn’t been announced yet either, but we’re probably releasing “Captain Marvel” ahead of schedule.
Michael: Wow, that’s great!
Ike: Yeah it is, I mean we had to with “Wonder Woman” coming out so soon, but it’s great too.
Michael: Hey, Ike I have to head out I have a meeting in 4 minutes. Can you email me those movies that sucked so I don’t forget? My memory is not that great and we’re going through a lot at the studio right now and I want to do some research about this later.
Ike: Will do! Say hi to Jamie and the girls for me.
Michael: I will!
Later in the day via email:
To: “Lynton, Michael”
Subject: Female Movies
Date: Thu, 7 Aug 2014 05:32:50 -0400
As we discussed on the phone, below are just a few examples. There are more.
- Electra (Marvel) – Very bad idea and the end result was very, very bad. http://www.boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=elektra.htm
- 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
- 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.
Anyway, that’s what I think happened. That’s what I hope happened. I’m pretty sure this is like 120% accurate. It makes me happy.
So I just wanted to thank Ike Perlmutter for being that reclusive rich hero with no actual super powers other than the ability to create great change in the lives of others. I want to thank him for having the foresight to hold Black Widow back just enough to cause a stir and get people’s attention. I can’t wait for Captain Marvel and to proudly enter every store and see her on clothing and all over the toy aisle.
I also want to thank Michael Lynton and his girls for possibly inspiring the greatest undercover culture shakeup operation ever, even if he doesn’t even know it.
And most of all I wanted to thank Marvel for giving us some amazing and diverse super heroes and for really wanting to change the old Hollywood and public perception of female heroes.
Daniela aka Gypsyfly
Our perception is very important. We can change our attitude and the things around us, eventually leading to tangible changes. The #WheresNatasha hashtag and ButNotBlackWidow.tumblr.com has been really important in bringing attention to the undeserved female hero market.
Not only can we stop saying all the following: the boys section, the girls section, boy’s toys, or girl’s toys, and defining our gender by the colors we like or the amount of muscle mass we have, we can also look at things in a different way.
I love It Was Never a Dress because of the conversation it starts and how a positive perspective can change the way we live. It’s pretty dang smart too.
I think we should start pointing out the success of Operation Natasha Found. I think this would make Ike Perlmutter happy. We’d be celebrating the hard work of Perlmutter, Marvel, Disney and other purveyors of heroes.
Example: #NatashaFound in the aisle of @Target today. My daughter is wearing her first Black Widow shirt.
Example: YES! #NatashaFound
with next to the other Avengers. She’s in a separate box from everyone else but that’s cool.
I think #NatashaFound can be used in conjunction with #WheresNatasha. It’s important to acknowledge success along with areas that need to improve, or at least give ourselves a laugh trying. Plus, I generally like to see the positive in everything, otherwise its way too depressing.
Phone Message After the Sony Hacks:
Ike: Oh, man. I’m freaking out. Give me a call back.
Ike: Michael, I’m trying to go through all our emails right now looking for anything that could start issues for me. I think I’m pretty safe. Also, I’m not sending any more emails for the time being. I’m doing phone calls and Skype only. Hope you’re doing okay and give me a call back.
*I have a terrible memory or “writer’s brain” and my timeline is probably wrong about what came first but that’s just how I remember it. FYI, this is all fictional anyway 😉
*I shouldn’t have to say this is all my own opinion about a topic I love and I hope you vigorously share your own. If you really hate my dream scenario above…Well…that’s just like your opinion man.