It Just Keeps Happening
Oh no Hollywood! It’s happened again, hasn’t it? Total, catastrophic failure. We warned you this was going to happen. We told you things weren’t going to end well. Your response? To scream “Misogyny” at us and double down on your failures.
What exactly are we talking about? Well the latest example is the spectacular failure of Charlie’s Angels. It hasn’t just bombed. It’s hit the ground, cratered, and is halfway to China by now. A China that, by the way, has also totally failed to turn out at the box-office for this movie.
The latest instalment in Sony’s slow death as a movie studio limped to a derisory $8.2 million opening for the three-day weekend along with mixed reviews and a B+ Cinemascore. Even the positive reviews were desperately clinging on to a Spice Girls-esque “girl power” angle.
”Wait a minute!” (we hear you cry), “Surely Charlie’s Angels has always been about girl power and feminist empowerment?”
To which we reply:
”Honky be trippin’!!”
It was dad porn and spank material for teenage boys. Baywatch for the 1970s. Saturday evening fluffy entertainment featuring impossibly hot women in skimpy clothes engaging in comedy judo-chop fights with the evil-doer of the week. Or dressing up in sexy versions of disguises for more tea-time titillation.
If you think that was about female empowerment then you probably think Baywatch was all about strong, independent female lifeguards making it in a man’s world and fighting the patriarchy with slo-mo running.
Whatever you think of the earlier Cameron Diaz, Lucy Liu and Drew Barrymore’s efforts they clearly understood this. They were strong women kicking ass and fighting crime, but they played up the sexy, the ridiculous, the inherent comedy in the whole thing.
This new version of Charlie’s Angels pushed itself firmly into the action and espionage genre, away from the sheer comedy and fluff, while doubling down on the female empowerment angle.
It was beaten soundly by Ford vs. Ferrari / Le Mans 66 (depending on where you are in the world), a movie about men doing men’s stuff in an age of men. That performed massively and is already garnering awards talk. It’s almost as if we could all learn something from this? Whatever do you think it could be?
This is not the first. The signs have been there for a while now. On top of Charlie’s Angels (Action / Espionage) there are so many more.
Ghostbusters 2016 (Comedy / Sci-Fi), Oceans 8 (Action / Heist), Terminator: Dark Fate (Action / Sci-Fi), to name just three more. They all moved into a heavily male-dominated genre preaching a message of female empowerment. They all either failed at the box office, failed with critics, or both.
Even the mighty cinema behemoth that is Star Wars had a second chapter that performed way below expectations set by the first and has a potential third installment receiving the most lukewarm reception we have ever witnessed in fandom.
Captain Marvel (Action / Superhero) may have earned big at the box-office, being the last outing before Avengers: Endgame and with the support network of the entire MCU. Yet it too was roundly rejected by fandom and scored weak reviews. Rumours of a re-cut and reduced role in Endgame and the lack of a Captain Marvel 2 in the next phase of the MCU is more telling than anything else.
What is the single theme here? Well, Hollywood is notoriously dumb. It basically exists on a modus operandi of “Monkey See / Monkey Do”. This is where a studio will, largely by complete luck, stumble onto something successful. That studio will then franchise it into the ground while other studios will copy and flog that dead horse until it is minced.
By seeing a few movies like Bridesmaids (Gross-Out Comedy / Slapstick) and Spy (Espionage / Comedy) dips a toe into previous male staple genres and have some success, they piled in. Then we got Ghostbusters 2016.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens cast a female lead and performed massively. This was with pronouncements from Kathleen Kennedy that she had brought Star Wars to a whole new audience. However anecdotal stories of the number of little girls dressed as Rey in your neighbourhood on Halloween do not deliver shareholder value, as Disney discovered after The Last Jedi left around $700m on the table compared to its predecessor, Solo flopped and a desperate damage limitation exercise is underway around The Rise Of Skywalker.
When these movies, with their female-centric sales pitch and marketing material based around third-wave feminism begin to fail, as they are now, all mutterings from cast and crew are about audiences being to blame, or critics being too male and white. At absolutely no point did anyone sit up and think:
”Did we make a not very good movie that absolutely nobody wanted to see?”
As if that possibility never dawns on them.
Hollywood, this is a freebie for you, so you should probably listen. I know a fair bit about consulting and guarantee that you would pay the Head Of Entertainment practice at PWC or KPMG tens of thousands of dollars for this. I am going to give it to you for free. I am going to tell you why you keep failing.
Men Are From Mars
Men and women consume movies in entirely different ways, through entirely different lenses, with entirely different requirements from the experience. That’s it. That’s your secret sauce. Build a business plan around that.
I know there are ‘geek’ girls out there, cosplay divas or comic-con enthusiastic attendees who jump in with both feet fully into nerd culture and they are every bit at home in this world as the guys. However, it is not a sweeping generalisation to say they are the exception, rather than the rule.
I am talking about your girlfriend, your wife, your sister. Becky with the good hair on reception at your gym. Vera from Accounts. That girl who you try and flirt with at the office. Your average, basic woman.
This woman is not going to be up at 2 am hitting refresh on a crashing website to get tickets to the very first screening of a movie in their exact favourite seats in their favourite theatre.
This woman is not going to take a day off work especially to have a 9 am weekday screening just to get in before the spoilers leak.
They are not going to go back to the theatre to see the same movie twice or three times, or pre-order the Blu-ray as soon as they get home, or buy the t-shirt online, or download the soundtrack album onto their iPhone.
They are not going to pile online for an instant discussion with thousands of other women who have just done the exact same thing and deconstruct every second of the movie within hours of returning from the theatre.
It just ain’t happening Hollywood.
By trying to turn action, sci-fi, espionage thrillers into movies for women by simply dropping women into key roles and promoting the whole thing with heavy-handed messaging that veers dangerously close to misandrist a lot of the time, you are getting it completely wrong.
While you are effectively parking your third-wave feminist tanks on the lawn of these pre-existing genres you, Hollywood, are completely missing the point. What is that point?
Most women just AREN’T INTERESTED!
Women Are From Venus
We did a highly scientific poll around Last Movie Outpost and with our friends elsewhere and the results were pretty conclusive.
Almost every time a couple go to the movies it is the man’s idea to go in the first place. The straw poll also points out that if the man didn’t suggest it, the couple would rarely go to the movies. It also surmises that by-and-large it is the man who chooses the movie. Furthermore, it also seems to indicate a trend that men are more likely to go to the movies with their buddies, even if in a relationship than women are to go with their girlfriends.
Very, very few women (remember the majority, dominant basic woman, not your geek girl) would have chosen by themselves to go see a Marvel movie, Star Wars movie, the latest 007 or the rebooted Star Trek without their partner suggesting it.
You can scream stereotype all you like, but all evidence points to this. When women do go to the movies with a girlfriend or a group they will happily admit it is to enjoy an occasional, very occasional, rom-com or to hit the Prosecco and bitch about their boyfriends after the latest Sex In The City outing.
Then it’s one and done. No repeat viewings like an obsessive guy. No Blu-ray at home. No soundtrack. No ongoing discussion online. Their engagement with that movie is done and dusted at the ticket price and a soda. No long-tail shareholder value at all.
It goes even deeper too. No woman EVER said:
”Wow, did you see the size of that explosion in the trailer? I have got to catch this on the big screen!”
No woman ever pored over a copy of Empire to learn how much of the movie was shot in IMAX then voluntarily drove 45 miles out of their way and paid a premium on their ticket just to experience a movie in a director’s vision.
No woman owns four or five different cuts of Blade Runner on varying Media from VHS to digital download.
No woman ever spent three hours in an electrical store debating over OLED, QLED, Ultra-4K and trying to figure out how their Harmy remastered Star Wars Blu-ray will look on it and wondering if 82” is big enough.
This is not, in any way, a criticism of women. Generally speaking this is because of a combination of women not caring in the slightest about any of this and having far, far better things to do with their time.
So why are they trying to just force an entirely new audience into theatres just by gender-switching in these genres of movie, then telling the girls it’s all for their benefit? It’s clearly not working is it?
As we frequently point out here, even earlier in this article, Hollywood isn’t very smart. Everything from Harvey and #metoo to the Sony e-mail hack points to a procession of pretty dumb people behaving in ways that would give them a career life expectancy of about 6 months on any other industry from retail to banking.
So don’t expect Hollywood to learn and understand these basic facts very quickly, but let us try and simplify for them.
Hollywood, you are breaking successful, money-making franchises and alienating a pre-existing core audience for the sake of a NON-EXISTENT audience that ISN’T COMING and DOESN’T CARE!
Want it even simpler? OK. This is not boys saying:
“Girls are icky, get out of our treehouse!”
This is the girls saying:
“What treehouse? Where? Who cares? Why would we want to be in a yucky treehouse?!”
Thanks to you, Hollywood, it’s too late though. Now the boys are saying:
“Why did you redecorate our treehouse? We didn’t ask for it. We don’t like it. Let’s go and play somewhere else!”
And it’s almost as if you still don’t understand? But when that treehouse is abandoned, ruined and you are still stuck with the bill for redecorating then maybe you finally will.
**With profound thanks to long-time Last Movie Outposter Aldo Bennedetti for the inspiration for this article.**