It looks like Marvel is in trouble again over female superheroes. Following the recent controversy surrounding Black Widow's (Scarlett Johansson) portrayal in “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” a new leaked email from Marvel Entertainment CEO Isaac Perlmutter shows him bashing previous standalone movies driven by women characters.
According to Time, the email in question was sent from Perlmutter to Sony executive Michael Lynton in August 2014, roughly two months before Marvel Studios announced its Phase 3 lineup of movies, which includes the female-driven “Captain Marvel,” coming in 2018.
As we discussed on the phone, below are just a few examples. There are more.
1. Electra (Marvel) – Very bad idea and the end result was very, very bad. http://www.boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=elektra.htm
2. 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
3. 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.
While the email may seem to reflect sexism in Marvel's attitude toward female characters, there are a few key things to keep in mind. The first is that this email is presented without much context. Perlmutter opens the exchange by referencing an earlier phone conversation with Lynton, but no one knows what they talked about. He highlights the importance of Catwoman and Supergirl to DC’s canon in the email. For all anyone knows, he’s making a positive case for introducing an obscure character like “Captain Marvel” as opposed to a well-established one. After all, few people knew who Black Widow was before she came to life in “Iron Man 2,” and now she’s one of the most beloved female heroes. Then again, he could just as easily have been talking about the box-office performance and lackluster profits from female-led superhero movies.
Second, Perlmutter isn’t wrong about these movies. He adds links to Box Office Mojo with two movies on the list to prove that he’s not calling them “disasters” for their content but rather their lack of financial success. Each film was considered a flop in its time. As for whether or not this speaks to the viability of women as superheroes, that’s up for debate.
Marvel has been associated with some negative press about its women in the last few weeks, starting with comments by “Age of Ultron” stars Chris Evans and Jeremy Renner. According to The Wrap, at a press junket for the movie they said some not-so-nice things about the character Black Widow. In addition, false rumors spread on Monday that "Ultron" director Joss Whedon had quit Twitter over backlash from fans about Black Widow’s portrayal in the movie.
Still, until Marvel is willing to comment on Perlmutter’s email, it’s hard to know whether to praise or condemn the CEO’s point of view on female superheroes in film.