Why Does Marvel Keep Blowing It With Female Superhero Movies?

Yet another round of Marvel press ends with Kevin Feige kicking the female lead can down the road. 

I hate being frustrated with Marvel Studios right when their big gamble on Guardians of the Galaxy paid off. They released a great film this weekend, one that shows big imagination and weirdness can be as commercial as gritty city-bound moping, and I want to celebrate that. I want to celebrate the fact that Guardians feautures another great diverse cast (following in the footsteps of Captain America: The Winter Soldier). I want to cheer Marvel on. And then Kevin Feige, president of the studio, replies to questions about female-led films with statements like:

I hope we do it sooner rather than later. But we find ourselves in the very strange position of managing more franchises than most people have — which is a very, very good thing and we don’t take for granted, but is a challenging thing.

He hopes? C'mon Kev, you're in a position to do more than hope. 

On the heels of that is the revelation that Gamora has been largely left out of Guardians of the Galaxy merchandising, a situation that recalls a recent discovery that Princess Leia is nowhere to be seen in Disney Stores and that Black Widow was under-merched for The Avengers (something that has frustrated me personally, as I attempted to find any Black Widow stuff for a 12 year old niece who loved the character and just kept finding sexualized trash). This blog post even shows a Guardians shirt with all the characters except Gamora. Look at this:

It's so frustrating because all Feige has to say is "We're developing a script." That's it. Marvel doesn't have a secrect problem, but they do have a problem with staking out a bunch of release dates without titles attached, which leads to rampant speculation among fans. 

There's no way Feige and friends are unaware of the huge interest in a female-led Marvel movie. They may or may not have questions about profitability (people keep pointing to Lucy as an example of a female-led hit, but that movie opened lower than any Marvel movie yet, and by a big margin) but if they can get Guardians to a massive opening they can figure out how to do the same for a female headed film. 

What follows is a minor, minor spoiler for Avengers: Age of Ultron.

The worst part is that I know they are considering it. I have information about multiple drafts of Avengers: Age of Ultron, and all feature a cameo by a character the script calls Ms. Marvel (nothing else, including civilian name or basic look, is specified). It's a cameo, so it could change at any time, but the character is planned for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This is a fact. Is Feige really waiting to announce a Captain/Ms. Marvel movie until this cameo is seen? I honestly don't get it - it's a sort of Mystery Box thing that feels unlike Marvel in general. Maybe they've already cut her from the film? The latest draft of which I'm aware was written just prior to shooting, and Ms. Marvel was still in it. That's the last bit of info I have. 

There are many speculating we could see a Black Widow feature, but I'll say again what I've said before: I have been told that giving Johansson a lead in a movie would trigger a renegotiation of her contract, which skinflint Marvel would prefer to not do. Of course as the studio spends more (on their movies. The Guardians junket was held on the Disney lot and catered by Subway! Which I don't mind - I find the big hotels and fancy spreads of most junkets a waste) a lot of old wisdom goes out the window, but I'm not 100% sold that Black Widow is the direction they're looking to go right now. 

Either way, I'm terribly frustrated. Marvel's commitment to the female gaze (see all sorts of Marvel movies where the hero is shirtless for no good reason, Thor: The Dark World being the best example) has brought them a female fanbase, and with Guardians they sold 44% of tickets to women (up from about 40% on their previous films). They know women are out there. They know they buy tickets. They've been interested in catering to them. So why not a movie about them, or merch featuring them?

Marvel, I know you're reading this. I know you're reading all of these articles. It's time to just make the announcement. We're getting restless out here, and if you end up rebooting Howard the Duck before you give a woman a lead role there's going to be hell to pay. 

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