Why are female superhero films rarely successful

HAW Hamburg Department of Information Bachelor thesis


1 HAW Hamburg Department Information Bachelor thesis Missing Mrs. Hero Cultural and economic analysis of previous causes of absence and future conditions for success for female superheroes in US blockbuster productions Mareike Franke August 27, 2015

2 DEPARTMENT INFORMATION Bachelor thesis Missing Mrs. Hero Cultural and economic analysis of previous causes of absence and future conditions for success for female superheroes in US blockbuster productions presented by Mareike Franke Media and Information course first examiner: Prof. Ralph Schmidt second examiner: Sebastian Sünkler Hamburg, 27. August 2015

3 Abstract The present bachelor thesis deals with the causes of absence of female heroines in US blockbuster productions of the last ten years (), as well as the non-filming of heroines in the next few years. It examines reasons that could be the cause of why there have been so few single superhero films in recent years and in the coming years. With the help of current literature and studies, the second part of the work is intended to reflect the scientific and social opinion on the subject of women in films. A survey-based needs analysis is used to examine whether the participants are satisfied with the existing female characters in movies, and whether more independent heroine films are desired. In addition, some research questions and working theses will be answered with the help of further questions within the survey and in the course of the bachelor thesis. The third part of the thesis deals with the topic of success factors in feature films. Some success factors are examined in more detail. In addition, the supposed success factors are applied to two heroic films that are compared to one another. The conclusion is a forecast of the success of the next two superhero films Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel. In the conclusion, the answered theses and research questions are finally put together. Keywords Feminism Film Sexism Superheroes Bechdel-Test DC Cinema Market Blockbuster Success Factors Comic Marvel Cinema Market

4 Table of contents Abstract Table of contents List of figures List of tables List of abbreviations 1. Introduction Terms used Structure and methodical approach Problem definition Starting position and objective The current trend around DC and Marvel heroes Short introduction to DC and Marvel Filmed DC and Marvel heroes Research questions and working theses Women in front of and behind the camera Status of the Literature Scientific studies Social opinion and criticism Needs analysis Methodology of needs analysis The survey questions Presentation and analysis of the survey results Brief description and analysis of the English 41 survey results 3.4 Refutation and refutation of the statements about causes of absence Interim conclusion: Causes of absence and answered theses Success factors of a film Value chain of a film The Success factors stars director 58

5 4.2.3 Genre history Advertising and merchandising Merchandising in superhero films Time of publication Comparison: Catwoman vs. Spider-Man Success factors in a close comparison Forecast: Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel Conclusion List of sources 71 Appendix Excel table: German survey Screenshots of the English survey Excel table: English survey. Acknowledgment Written declaration

6 List of figures Figure 1: Structure of the bachelor thesis 5 Figure 2: Excerpt from Dykes to watch out for 8 (Figure 3: DC Universe Heroes (11 Figure 4: Marvel Heroes (12 Figure 5: DC and Marvel films 13 Figure 6: Which, this Films, have been seen? 26 Figure 7: What are the main reasons why you will watch a 27 superhero film? Figure 8: Were you satisfied with the number and representation of the 27 female characters? Figure 9: What do you want in future Superhero films have more 28 female main and supporting characters? Figure 10: Were you satisfied with the number and portrayal of 28 heroines? Figure 11: Would you like more 29 female main and supporting characters than heroines in future superhero films? Figure 12 : Would you like more independent heroine films? 29 Figure 13: Which female superheroes would you like to see made into a film? 30 Figure 14: Your opinion: Why is there so few superhero films? 30 Figure 15: Bechdel test: What do you talk about with friends / acquaintances / etc.? 31 Figure 16: Where are you most likely to find out about new films? 31 Figure 17: Which factor most influences your decision 32 to watch a movie? Figure 18: What gender are you? 32 Figure 19: How old are you? 33 Figure 20: Gender of the participants 33 Figure 21: Age of the participants 34 Figure 22: Films seen by the participants 34 Figure 23: Films seen by the participants (male / female) 35 Figure 24: Why watch a superhero film 36 Figure 25: Satisfaction with the female characters? 36 Figure 26: Would you like more female characters? 37 Figure 27: Satisfied with the heroines? 37 Figure 28: Would you like more heroines? 37 Figure 29: Would you like more heroine films? 38 Figure 30: Which heroines should be filmed? 39 Figure 31: Bechdel test: conversation content 39 Figure 32: Reasons to watch a film 40 Figure 33: Advertising and perception 41 Figure 34: Gender of the participants 41 Figure 35: Age of the participants 41 Figure 36: Total films seen 42 Figure 37: Were you satisfied with the number and representation of 43 heroines? Figure 38: Would you like more independent heroine films? 43

7 Figure 39: Success factors (modified) (CLEMENT 2004) 56

8 List of tables Table 1: Brief presentation of the studies used in the bachelor thesis 17 Table 2: Catwoman vs. Spider-Man 2 Costs 63 Table 3: Catwoman vs. Spider-Man 2 Success factors 63

9 List of abbreviations Fig. Or etc. million billion tab. E.g. Figure Or et cetera million billions table for example

10 1. Introduction What about Jane? Here the ladies, gentlemen Maria Hill (The Avengers: Age of Ultron) Superhero films have been around since the early 1940s, but it is only since the 2000s that several blockbusters have been released every year (see Figure 5: DC and Marvel adaptations). The most popular heroes like Spider-Man, Batman or Superman can be seen in various film adaptations. Even comic heroes who line up behind the three in terms of notoriety and popularity, such as Iron Man, Captain America or Hulk, have their own film series. In addition to the many male comic heroes, women are in the minority. It wasn't until 2004 that Catwoman became the first female superhero whose story was made into a film. The following year, the heroine Elektra was made into a film. While Catwoman 1 did not manage to bring back the film budget with the sales, Elektra 2 succeeded very closely (MEDIABIZ). No other standalone superhero film has been released yet. Female heroines only appeared as sidekicks in film series such as X-Men or The Avengers. In a world in which films depict society, world events and current (or even past) streams of time, the portrayal of women in films is not very realistic. Often they only form the female counterpart to the main male character in the story, are in a love relationship with the hero (love interest) or have to be saved and protected. The present bachelor thesis deals with the causes of absence of female superheroes in US blockbuster productions. In order to get to the bottom of these causes, not only the superhero films of the last ten years were seen in the run-up to and in the course of the bachelor thesis, but literature was also read that 1 Catwoman (directed by Pitof, 2004) 2 Elektra (directed by Rob Bowman , 2005) 3 MEDIABIZ Blickpunkt.Film is a film magazine that also has a media database. The following data with this source is taken from this database for the corresponding film. 1

11 deal with women in superhero films, women in the film industry or similar feminist topics. Also literature and articles about the comic industry, especially the publishers DC and Marvel, as well as about the most popular superheroes were included in the research and presented and explained in the chapter Status of the literature. The next step in researching the causes of absence is a survey-based needs analysis, which should also answer whether and in what way there is a need for more female main and secondary characters. In the survey, the participants are asked, for example, which superhero films they have seen and why, whether they were satisfied with the female characters and whether they would like more heroine films. The results of the survey also serve to answer some research questions and theses. In addition to the causes of absence, the focus of the bachelor thesis is also on the factors that can influence the success of a film. For this purpose, the value chain of a film is briefly explained and the most important success factors are set up and explained. These factors are used to compare the films Catwoman and Spider-Man 2 4, so that at the end of the comparison it can be determined which factors actually influenced the (failure) success of the two films. In addition, taking into account the success factors, a prognosis is ventured as to how the films Wonder Woman 5 (2017) and Captain Marvel 6 (2018) (POMERANTZ 2014) could perform and whether it can be assumed which factors will have a particular influence on the success of the two films . In the conclusion, the causes of the absence and success factors, which were found with the help of the literature, the needs analysis and the investigation of the success factors, should be summarized and the research questions and theses raised should be answered. 4 Spider-Man 2 (directed by Sam Raimi, 2004) 5 Wonder Woman (directed by Patty Jenkins, 2017) 6 Captain Marvel (written by Nicole Perlman, Meg LeFauve, 2018) 2

12 1.1 Terms used In this bachelor thesis, some terms are mentioned that are familiar to members of the film and comic industry. The definitions below come from our own specialist knowledge. Standalone: ​​A standalone is an independent film that does not belong to a series. For example, the three Iron Man films are a series, as are almost all superhero film adaptations. In the present bachelor thesis, e.g. a standalone film with a female main character is required, which exists independently without a film series of a male superhero. Sidekick: Sidekick translates as henchman or companion. For example, Robin is a sidekick from Batman or Sif is a sidekick from Thor. Characters in the sidekick position are mostly supporting characters who support the main character in his or her action. Universes: A universe describes, with regard to the comic book publishers Marvel and DC, the respective created worlds of the stories and their heroes who play a role in them. For DC, for example, this includes the well-known cities such as Gotham and Metropolis as well as the most famous heroes Superman and Batman. At Marvel, it would be common heroes like Spider-Man and Thor, as well as groupings of heroes like X-Men and The Avengers. Sequel: In relation to the film world, a sequel is the continuation of a film, usually the second or third part of a film series, e.g. The Avengers: Age of Ultron from Marvel s The Avengers. Remake: A remake is used when an existing film is re-filmed in a new edition, mostly with a new cast and set. E.g. Man of Steel a remake of the previous Superman films. 3

13 Box office: The term box office refers to the box office results for a movie in the USA. Lead: The lead of a film is the main character who drives the plot and around whom the story grows, e.g. Clark Kent in Superman Returns Structure and methodical approach The graphic below (see Fig. 1) should clearly show how the bachelor thesis is structured. First, the problem is described and the topicality of the topic is dealt with. There is an extra chapter on the publishers DC and Marvel and the superhero trend. The research questions and working theses are drawn from the first part of the bachelor thesis. Then it is explained with which methodology the bachelor thesis is processed and how it is structured. In order to provide an insight into the topic, the state of the literature is presented (part two). The first part deals with some studies that deal with similar topics. This is followed by a provision of literature reflecting the opinions and criticisms on the topic that have been published in the features and film and comic book websites and magazines. The survey-based needs analysis represents the largest unauthorized part of the work (part three). First, the purpose and methodology of the survey are explained. This is followed by an explanation of the individual questions that the participants had to answer. The presentation of the results and their analysis then follow. The German results are also compared with the English survey responses. This analysis is followed by a small interim conclusion in which the causes of absence are compiled that were identified in the literature and needs analysis part. The fourth part presents the investigation of various factors that can influence the success or failure of a film. In addition, the value chain of a film is briefly explained. 7 Superman Returns (Bryan Singer, 2006) 4

14 Then the most important success factors are selected and explained. In practice, these factors are applied to the films Catwoman and Spider-Man 2, so that it can be determined which different factors were at work. With reference to the causes of the absence and the success factors that have already been identified, a forecast follows for the upcoming superhero films Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel. Finally, a summary (part five) summarizes the causes of the absence that have led to so few superhero films and which success factors and conditions must be given in order for the coming ones to be successful. Figure 1: Structure of the bachelor thesis 5

15 1.3 Problem In the last ten years () there have been more than 25 films with a male hero and only two female with Catwoman and Elektra. In other superhero films, other female characters appear as sidekicks, such as Pepper Pots (Gwyneth Paltrow) in Iron Man8, Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) in Thor9 or various mutants and superheroes in the X-Men or Avengers series. That Catwoman and Elektra flopped is often an argument against other superhero films. Joss Whedon (American screenwriter and producer) said in an interview with Digital Spy: "There is genuine, recalcitrant, intractable sexism, and oldfashioned quiet misogyny that goes on. You hear 'Oh, [female superheroes] don't work because of these two bad ones that were made eight years ago ', there's always an excuse. " (DIBDIN / WHEDON 2015) General myths such as women in leading roles are box office poison or There is no market for female superhero films continues to keep the production and release of single heroine films low. The stiffening of the special target group of men and boys poses a major problem. It is assumed that mainly male viewers watch superhero films. As a result, fewer stories of female heroines are filmed. The productions invested more funds in the filming of male superhero stories in order to facilitate the identification of the target audience. In advertising and merchandising, male superheroes are still overwhelmingly more represented than their female counterparts. In addition, fewer women are generally depicted in action films. The researcher Katy Gilpatric (see state of the literature) found in her study that out of 300 action films, only 112 featured at least one female character (GILPATRIC 2010). 12% of the 100 most successful films of the past year had a female main character (LAUZEN 2014, p.1). 8 Iron Man (Jon Favreau, 2008) 9 Thor (Kenneth Branagh, 2011) 6

16 Many films are intended for entertainment, but they do not exist in a vacuum and of course have a decisive influence on social roles. Especially in genre films such as superhero films, women often only have a decorative purpose: They have to be protected and saved and are almost always the love interest of the male hero, e.g. Black Widow for Hulk in The Avengers: Age of Ultron10, or Jane Foster for Thor in Thor. The female characters, regardless of whether they are independent and strong, mostly only have the function of supporting the male hero in his story and development. Nikki BAUGHAM, Editor of MovieScope Magazine, said: I firmly believe that there s a direct link between the representation of women on screen and our place within wider society; this gender stereotyping also happens in children s and family films (and on TV shows), and if girls grow up without seeing strong female characters on screen leaders, engineers, scientists, etc. it has a very real impact on how they see their place in the world. (2013) Society is directly related to the characters portrayed in the film world. Virginia Woolf criticized in her work A Room Of One's Own how multifaceted a female character is portrayed from the perspective of a male narrator.At the time, your text referred to literature (POHLER 2014), but this statement can also easily be transferred to today's filmmakers. Most of the well-known screenwriters and directors (Steven Spielberg, Quentin Tarantino, Tim Burton etc.) are male. Not only is there a minority of female main and secondary characters in front of the camera, behind the camera women in key positions are also outnumbered. According to the study The Celluloid Ceiling: Behind-the-Scenes Employment of Women on the Top 250 Films of 2013 (see state of the literature), 6% of the directors of the 250 most popular films in 2013 were women (LAUZEN 2014, p.2). Until 2013, for Guardians of the Galaxy11, a woman had never directed a superhero film. The topic of women behind the camera is deepened in the chapter State of the literature. 10 The Avengers: Age of Ultron (Joss Whedon, 2015) 11 Guardians of the Galaxy (James Gunn, 2014) 7

17 1.4 Initial situation and objective There are many studies that show the unequal distribution of female and male actors in front of and behind the camera (see chapter Current state of the literature). In addition, films have been subjected to the so-called Bechdel test every year for several years. In four Swedish cinemas, e.g. the Bio Rio, only films with the A grade (Bechdel test passed) will be shown. The state-funded Swedish Film Institute supports this initiative (STEINMETZ 2014). With the initiative of the Swedish cinemas, the Bechdel test got new impetus and increased media interest at the end of the year (HEMMES 2013). In 1985, the American illustrator Alison Bechdel published a comic strip called Dykes To Watch Out For. One of the main characters in the story tells another woman that she would only see movies where 1. there are two female characters with names who 2. talk to each other and then 3. about something other than men (see Fig. 2). Figure 2: Excerpt from Dykes to watch out for (Originally intended as humorous advice to lesbians who feel alienated from the heterosexual film world where women only exist for men, these three rules are now used to review films, series and video games. On the website bechdeltest.com you can see which films pass the test and which do not. The site is run and expanded by volunteers and users

18 The result of the test used is of course in no way an indicator of whether a film is feminist or sexist. It only shows how many or how few female characters appear in the films. Many box office hits, such as Avatar12, Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings, fail. However, these films have strong female characters like Galadriel or Hermione Granger. However, the female protagonists do not interact with each other. In addition, a 2014 study (The Dollar-And-Cents Case Against Hollywood s Exclusion of Women, see chapter State of the literature) provided evidence that films that pass the Bechdel test generate more income than failed films (HICKEY 2014 ). But not only scientific studies or works deal with the topic of women in films, public opinion is also presented in articles and discussions on fan and film portals. Articles specific to comic films and the absence of female superheroes can often be found in the features section. Many of the studies and articles that were used in the following bachelor thesis form the basis for answering some research questions and theses. Despite all the criticism of the few strong female leading roles in action and hero films, there are positive examples in which a woman takes the main part of the film and this makes a high profit, such as the Hunger Games series with Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen. Some male directors promise that in the future they wanted to promote and film more female main characters, especially heroines, such as Joss Whedon, who campaigned for Black Widow to be included in the films as Avenger (BAKER-WHITELAW 2013). The current criticism of the absence of superheroes as well as the incipient changes in the film world by committed directors form the starting point of this bachelor thesis. Well-known comic experts such as comic professor Arnold Blumberg have long been calling for films with female superhero roles (BIEDERBECK, 2014). 12 Avatar (James Cameron, 2009) 9

19 The aim of the bachelor's thesis is to be able to use the examined literature, the needs analysis and the influencing success factors to precisely describe the causes of the absence and to dare to make a prognosis as to which conditions any superhero film adaptations would have to meet in order to be as successful as blockbusters with male ones Heroes. In addition to the causes of absence and success factors, the bachelor thesis should be able to use the survey-based needs analysis to show whether at least the participants want more female main and secondary characters and whether standalones of other female heroines are desired. In addition, the participants are asked for their opinion on why there are so few female standalone films. With the help of the answers given, the causes of the absence should be combined in the course of the analysis and interpretation. In the next step, the main statements are then proven or disproved. 1.5 The current trend for DC and Marvel heroes In the world of comics (and comic adaptations) there are many well-known publishers, heroes and stories. In order to shed light on the aspect of missing female actresses in superhero film adaptations, the hero stories of the Marvel and DC universes were limited and concentrated. These comic book publishers are the two largest in their branch and carry superheroes like Superman, Spider-Man and Batman. The superhero trend has achieved pop culture status in the United States. Millions of people make a pilgrimage to the comic conventions, real-life heroes spread in the cities, masked to fight against injustice in real life, and there has been a collector's craze about comics since the beginning. You will find lovers all over the world. The masked and disguised superheroes have become indispensable in North America. They are part of the history and culture of the country. Because the USA offers such a large market for superheroes, this cinema market is also the one that is considered in research into the causes of absence for female superheroes. 10

20 In Germany, the euphoria surrounding superheroes has been growing for a few years. More and more films are finding their way into German cinemas, merchandise items are also being sold here, and in 2016 there will be the first comic convention in Stuttgart. The German cinema market does not play a major role in the analysis, but a needs analysis by means of a survey shows whether there is a need for more female superheroes or not. Brief introduction to DC and Marvel The heroes of Marvel and DC publishers have always been classics . The most popular movie heroes include Superman, Spider-Man and Batman (STATISTA, 2015). The objects of investigation of this bachelor thesis are the heroes of the Marvel and DC publishers, because they are increasingly being filmed and they are the two largest publishers. Smaller publishers like Dark Horse Comics are popular and successful with Buffy The Vampire Slayer 13, but they don't have the commercial power of Marvel and DC. DC Universe is the second major comic book publisher alongside Marvel. Well-known heroes are the classic Superman and Batman. But Green Lantern and Wonder Woman also belong to DC Universe, as well as the Justice League. Compared to Marvel, not so many of her heroic stories have been filmed. Figure 3 shows six of the most famous superheroes from the DC Universe. Figure 3: DC Universe Heroes (Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Directed by Joss Whedon,) 14 Figures 3 and 4 are screenshots from the DC and Marvel websites (and (11

21 Marvel Comics was founded as Timely Comic and is now one of the world's largest publishers of this genre. The most famous titles include Spider-Man (see Fig. 4), Thor, Hulk, Captain America, The Avengers, Iron Man and X-Men. Many of the comics have been or are being made into films. In May 2010, Disney boss Bob Iger announced that he wanted to take over Marvel for four figure 4: Marvel heroes (billions of dollars. With the Marvel universe, which has over 5,000 characters, a target group of Disney should be increasingly addressed: boys and youngsters Men. Up to now, Disney has addressed especially young girls with formats such as Hannah Montana and Jones Brothers (KOCH 2010) Filmed DC and Marvel heroes Using the list of filmed DC and Marvel heroes from Wikipedia 15, a trend curve was created (see Fig. 5). For DC and Marvel, respectively, lists can be found on Wikipedia that show the film versions chronologically. Normally, Wikipedia is not a scientific source that can be used for a bachelor thesis. In this case, however, Wikipedia offered the perfect listing of all filmed DC and Marvel heroes Data collection for the chart below was the first Marvel hero to film Captain America in Captain America 16. It wasn't until 1951 that the first DC hero film adaptation followed with Superman and the Mole Man 17. Both films did not appear in Germany. It wasn't until the middle of the 60s (1966) that the second film adaptation from the DC publishing house with the hero Batman in the film Batman holds the world 15 Wikipedia Marvel films (and DC films (series_.28Auswahl.29) 16 Captain America (directed by Elmer Clifton , John English, 1944) 17 Superman and the Mole Man (Lee Sholem, 1951) 12

22 in Atem 18, which was also released in Germany and thus became the first superhero film to be seen in Germany. From the end of the 70s, comic book characters were regularly filmed and also published in Germany. Almost without exception, at least one of the DC comic book hero films have been released every year since the 2000s, and there have been at least two Marvel heroes movies every year since 2002. In 2007 and 2010 there were five film adaptations each. It can be clearly seen that the trend of superhero films is increasing. 6 DC and Marvel film adaptations Marvel DC Comics Figure 5: DC and Marvel film adaptations 1.6 Research questions and working theses With the help of the bachelor thesis, three major research questions are to be answered, which refer to the causes of absence, the need for further superhero adaptations and the success factors of these. It should be shown which myths entwine around the topic of women in films and whether these correspond to the truth. 18 Batman holds the world in suspense (Leslie H. Martinson, 1966) 13

23 Furthermore, theses were formed on the basis of which the analysis of the survey results should be carried out. The theses relate to smaller aspects of the three major research questions. Research Questions 1. What are the reasons for the absence of female main and supporting characters in superhero films? 1.a Which myths surround the topic of women in films and do they correspond to the truth? 2. Is there a need for more female superheroes in films, as main and secondary characters and in independent film adaptations? 3. What factors have to be given for a superhero film, especially with a female main character, to be successful? Working theses: Area of ​​causes of absence 1. There is a desire for more superheroes, but more pronounced among the female participants in the study. 2. The target group of superhero films is not only, as is often assumed, increasingly male viewers, but also many female viewers. A big problem in the film industry is that there are far fewer women in key positions in front of and behind the camera. 4. There are fewer female heroine films because there were not enough templates for them. Working theses: Area of ​​success factors 1. Particularly factors such as the awareness of the actors and directors as well as the interesting story play a role in the decision to watch a film. 2. Merchandising and advertising is one of the most important factors in the value chain when it comes to superhero films. 3. Films with female leading actors and female directors generate a similar high profit as male-led film projects. 14th

24 3. Catwoman and Elektra failed. But due to the current trend and compliance with certain success factors, the next female standalones can be successful. 15th

25 Cinema means letting beautiful women do beautiful things. Fancois Truffaut 2. Women in front of and behind the camera The following subsections are devoted to the current state of the literature on the topic. The literature is divided into studies that are used in the bachelor thesis and into the social opinion and criticism on the subject of absent women in front of and behind the camera. 2.1 State of the literature The topic of women in films and the specialization on women in superhero films is a somewhat older topic due to feminism and the desire for equality within the film industry, but the fixation on the medium of superhero film makes it a very modern one current. 20 years ago there was only one superhero film a year, now there are five. The market is growing, so are the target groups, and thanks to merchandising, the superhero films are more on everyone's lips than ever. Scientific studies Due to the topicality and specialty of this modern topic, there is less scientific literature that deals with exactly this topic or a similar one. Although there is a lot of literature on the general topic of women in the media, these texts, which are often very feminist, are for the most part relatively old. Several studies on different aspects of the bachelor thesis form the basis for the scientific approach to this topic. The results of the studies are shown in the course of the bachelor thesis and support the argumentation and refutation of the theses. The studies are briefly presented in the table below (see Table 1). 16

26 Study Institute / Author Date Content of the study Theatrical Market Statistics Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) 2014/2015 Cinema statistics on box-office values, cinema-goers (number, gender, etc.) Inequality in 700 Popular Films: Examining Portrayals of Character Gender , Race, & LGBT Status from 2007 to 2014 USC Annenberg 2015 Every year, diversity and social change in the areas of gender and race (as well as sexuality) are examined behind and in front of the camera. In this study, a total of 700 films from the years (excluding 2011) with characters were analyzed. The Dollar-And-Cents Case Against Hollywood s Exclusion of Women FiveThirtyEight (ESPN) 2014 Winning films in comparison with reference to the Bechdel test Office Box- Martha M. Lauzen, 2008 Box-Office comparison Ph.D. 17th

27 The Celluloid Ceiling: Behind-the-scenes Employment of women on The Top 250 Films Of 2013 It sa Man s (Celluloid) World: On-Screen Representation of Female Characters in the Top 100 Films of 2014 Violent Female Action Characters in Contemporary American Cinema Gender Bias Without Borders Martha M. Lauzen, Ph.D. (Center of the Study of Women in Television & Film) Martha M. Lauzen, Ph.D. (Center of the Study of Women in Television & Film Katy Gilpatric (Kaplan University) Geena Davis Insitute of Gender in Media 2013 Numbers and statistics on female proportions in key positions behind the camera 2014 Numbers and statistics on female characters in front of the camera 2010 Analysis by violent female action characters in action films of the inclusion of female characters in popular films in different countries Table 1: Brief presentation of the studies used in the bachelor thesis As can be read in the lower part of criticism and opinions in the features section, one of the greatest points of criticism of female characters in superhero films that women are often portrayed as cliché and at best are the sidekick of the male hero. The filmmaker's task is to realistically show diversity (BERNOLD / BRAIDT / PRESCHL 2003, p.103). The results below come from the studies that were carried out in of the table. The studies ha Change of female actors in front of and behind the camera. 18th

28 Only 30.2% of the above number of characters (30,835) were female and only 11% of the 700 films had a balance between male and female speaking roles (SMITH et. Al. 2015, p.1). Of the top 100 films of 2014, 21 of them had a female lead or co-lead and 21.8% of the characters were speaking female roles (SMITH et. Al. 2015, p.4). In the 2014 films, the rate of female characters (28.1%) is the lowest compared to previous years (e.g. with 30.3% or in 2008 with 32.8%) (SMITH et. Al. 2015, p.7 ). Non-whites or people with non-heterosexual sexuality are portrayed even less than female roles. 73.1% of the characters in the Top 100 Movies of 2014 were white, and of 4,610 speaking characters, 19 were either lesbian, gay or bisexual. There was no transgender character (SMITH et. Al. 2015, p.5). Katy GILPATRIC 19 found with her study, in which she examined whether this apparently common representation of female heroes break up or continue the traditional role models of the strong man and his supporter (or lover), that of the 300 action films examined only 112 had at least one violent female action character (VFAC). In addition, she discovered that the roles played can be classified into two prototypes: the heroine and a person who is the love interest of the main male part. VFAC appear in superhero films like Iron Man, Thor or The Avengers. However, they have a love interest for their male teammates (2010). In the television world, the portrayal of various characters is already progressing more strongly. Feminist television is associated with youth action series such asBuffy the Vampire Slayer is a strong, female main character who has hero status. With his works, Joss Whedon shows younger women with incontestable strength and intelligence who have a mission to fulfill and who do not fail in it (BERNOLD / BRAIDT / PRESCHL 2003, p. 151). 19 The study could not be viewed in full. The findings come from Birgit TOMBOR from her article in the Austrian Standard (2010) 19

29 But not only the absence of female characters is criticized, the lack of female key positions behind the camera also lead to criticism. Out of 700 films examined and 779 directors, 24 were female. Within the creative process of the top 100 films of 2014, 1.9% female directors, 11.2% female authors and 18.9% female producers were involved. In 2014, too, the rate of female directors (two) was lower than in previous years (e.g. with three women directors or in 2008 with nine) (SMITH et. Al. 2015, p.13). It was also found that when male and female film directors got the same budget, their numbers in the box office were the same and the gender of the filmmakers did not minimize profits (LAUZEN 2008, p.1). Since 1998, the number of women in key positions (director, writer, producer or editor) has hardly changed, 17% had such a position, in 2005 likewise and% (LAUZEN 2014, p.1). Very few women were active as producers, 6% were producers and 10% were the authors of a film project (LAUZEN 2014, p.2). The studies clearly show that women are in the minority in front of and behind the camera. This is where structural sexism comes into play: men are more likely to hire men and in turn get more money for their work. In addition to the selected studies and lectures on the topic under discussion, the chapter on the success factors of films refers to the work of Olaf Jacobs, Thomas Purdel, Thorsten Henning-Thurau, and Robin Seiser with his study on the production and marketing of a blockbuster Social Opinion and Criticism Joss WHEDON (known from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Avengers) answered a reporter's question in his Equality Now Speech on May 15, 2006: So, why do you write these strong female characters? with Because you re still asking me that question. 20th

30 Joss Whedon has shown with his TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the two films in the Avengers series that female characters can break out of the norms, be strong and have an authentic, differentiated story without falling into clichés and beyond are successful. But despite such scriptwriters who advocate strong female characters, almost no superhero films pass the Bechdel test, and if so, only barely like The Avengers: Age of Ultron. As I said in the previous chapter, the Bechdel test does not necessarily determine whether a film is sexist or feminist, but it makes it clear how few women there are in the films, or that they never interact with each other, only with them male co-stars. This deficit is particularly evident in superhero films, in which there is often only one female main character. In classics like Superman Returns or The Dark Knight20, Lois Lane and Rachel Dawes are female characters to be protected and saved. Only in the newer superhero films such as Guardians of the Galaxy, X-Men films or The Avengers do women also come into play as heroines. The Avengers wasn't originally supposed to have a single female hero on the team until Joss Whedon suggested that at least Black Widow or Wasp, who founded the Avengers in the first place, should be part of the film (baker-whitelaw 2013). Every year there are more superhero films, previously filmed superhero stories are brought back to the screen with a new cast and a slightly different story, and a few individual female superhero colleagues also make it into the cinemas. Black Widow in particular is the focus of attention due to its increased appearance (e.g. Iron Man, The Avengers, Captain America) in various films. Other female heroines achieved their fame in, for example, the X-Men films. Despite the existence of these characters, the absence of other superheroes is still loudly criticized. The demand for a single person 20 The Dark Knight (directed by Christopher Nolan, 2008) 21 stands out in particular

31 superhero film out, because after Catwoman in 2004 and Elektra in 2005 there wasn't a single one left. In addition to articles from well-known German newspapers such as Spiegel Online, Süddeutsche and scientific studies, articles and reviews on fandom platforms and forums for film, comics and feminism also form a basis for assessing the causes of absenteeism and addressing the issue of women in superhero films. Around the time of ComicCon 2015, news on the topics dealt with in the bachelor thesis could be found almost every day on these special websites. The Mary Sue website, which particularly spreads news about women in the film and series world, featured a lot of news about women in superhero films and comics. On the pages Serienjunkies, IMDb, Comic Book Resources and Comicbook you can find news in archives and in the daily newsfeed. These pages served with the emerging news pool with inspiration and supported the bachelor thesis with some statements. Dr. Andrea Letamendi, psychologist and comic book expert, explains that it is necessary for women to see themselves represented in important roles, such as superheroes, so that they do not question their value in society. Symbolic annihilation has a harmful effect, especially on younger viewers (LANG 2015). Despite the increasing number of female characters in recent films (X-Men, The Avengers, Ant-Man21), Marvel only released its first film with a female lead in 2018. DC Comics is ahead of Marvel in the competition to release a Wonder Woman standalone. As cartonist Diana Tamblyn says: We re now at the point where B and C superheroes [such as Guardians of the Galaxy] are getting their own films, while one of the main heroes of the superhero canon remains on the shelf simply because she sa female character. (MOLONEY 2014) 21 Ant-Man (Peyton Reed, 2015) 22

32 Similar criticisms are often made in film forums or film sites. Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel are taking a small step towards equality. There was a lot of news about upcoming film projects at San Diego ComicCon, including Captain Marvel. Co-writer Nicole Perlman (co-writer of Guardians of the Galaxy) is the first female writer for a Marvel film. Together with Meg LeFauve, she forms an author duo. They said that with Captain Marvel they wanted to try to write a strong superhero and not just Superman with breasts (ROGERS 2015). As described in the previous chapter, many superhero women, if they appear, are often the love interest to their main male part. Although Gwyneth Paltrow (Iron Man) and Natalie Portman (Thor) are portrayed as strong and independent characters in the films, they still mainly support the male main part in its development and story and not following any agenda of its own. But not only the missing female heroines are criticized, the often-cited arguments why there are so few are also criticized. Hollywood likes to point to the failures of Supergirl, Elektra and Catwoman as proof that superhero films with a female lead can t be successful. The problem is not that these films had a female or male lead, it s that they were just plain bad movies. (MOLONEY 2014) 23

33 3. Needs analysis "We're in the business of making heroes." Kevin Feige The third part of the bachelor thesis is a needs analysis, which is created with the help of a survey. To check some of the above-mentioned working theses, the survey was distributed to German moviegoers via social media. 3.1 Methodology of the needs analysis The aim of a survey is to research whether the general public is satisfied with the female characters in superhero films and whether there is a need for more female characters and films with single superheroes. The previous chapter clarified the state of the literature on women in front of and behind the camera and women in superhero films. This shows that, especially in the feature section, the absence of superheroes has been criticized. With the help of the survey Bachelor Survey: Missing Mrs. Hero, the opinion of the German general public is to be represented. The needs analysis relates to the cultural part of the analytical bachelor thesis. Mainly young adults (age group years) and partly younger and older people were surveyed. The survey was distributed via social media such as Facebook and Tumblr and via special mailings and broadcasts from 1:00 p.m. onwards. It was possible to take part in the German survey for six weeks. The majority of those surveyed are the students of the Hamburg University of Applied Sciences in the Media and Information course and the students of the Creative Writing and Cultural Journalism course at the University of Hildesheim. With 234 respondents, this survey is representative, especially for a young target group within a media and cinema-savvy society. Two participant results had to be removed from the evaluation due to unspecific answers (gender question). The survey was not created according to any model, the questions were selected in such a way that they touch the theses and research questions with their results. When evaluating the results, special attention is paid to working thesis 1 and 2 of both areas. 24

34 In addition, results on non-thesis-specific questions provide information with which the text is enriched in the later chapter on the value chain and success factors of a film and statements can be substantiated. The survey was also translated into English and distributed in the USA so that, following the analysis of the results, a comparison between the German and American responses could be made. As described in the Trend chapter, superhero pop culture is more deeply rooted in America than it is here in Germany and the differences between the various country responses could reflect the respective country attitudes towards women in superhero films. 3.2 The survey questions The first question Which of the superhero films from the list below have you seen in the last 10 years ()? (see Fig. 6) lists the films from the last 10 years that are based on a hero or heroine from the Marvel or DC Universe. Box office hits like the Spider-Man films, novelties like Guardians of the Galaxy or classics like Superman s Man of Steel 22 are among them. Cartoons and animated film adaptations of the classic and other heroes were not included in the investigation. The previously collected data on superhero films (Wikipedia) also provided the basis for this. The answer to the question is designed so that multiple answers are possible. In addition to the film selection, it is also possible for the respondent to respond with I have not seen any of the films listed. It will be particularly interesting later whether it was more female or more male respondents who chose this answer option, as it is commonly assumed that viewers in the superhero genre are more male than female. In addition, the results of the first question offer the opportunity to analyze which films were most frequently seen by Germans. The film that has been viewed the most will be the subject of an analysis of success factors in a later chapter. 22 Man of Steel (Zack Snyder, 2013) 25