Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield in The Amazing Spider-Man
Although not officially released until July 3rd, critics are already giving Marc Webb's reboot of the Spiderman franchise a thumbs up. As I’m writing this, Rotten Tomatoes has scored The Amazing Spider-Man an impressive 91%, although admittedly that is only based on 11 reviews. Many of the reviews note that the film focuses more strongly on the characters than some other superhero/comic book adaptations. Timeout’s Dave Colhoun calls it a "romcom upgraded to include 3D and industrial cobwebs," and The Telegraph’s Robbie Collin calls it "the first superhero movie aimed primarily at women" before suggesting that it is perhaps "Twilight in spandex."
The Twilight comparison immediately made me roll my eyes because I'm not a fan of that particular franchise, for many of the reasons laid out by Miriam in her blog post, but it got me thinking about how films are marketed, particularly blockbusters. Marketers are always going to segment the general population; that’s their job. But is it too simplistic? By pitching films to entirely male or female demographics, marketers appear to be deliberately halving their potential audience. This strategy no doubt does make money, otherwise they wouldn't do it, yet it’s an approach that relies on hollow stereotypes: women like romance, men like explosions.
When I think of big blockbuster comic book adaptations, the two that spring to mind are The Avengers (Avengers Assemble in the UK) and Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy. Both these franchises are box office and critical smashes and have been watched and loved by all genders. Yes, comic book audiences have typically been male-dominated, but men and women alike have embraced these films because of their intelligent plots, engaging characters, solid scripts, and exciting action scenes. These are elements that appeal to everybody, regardless of gender.
It is more than possible to create intelligent, exciting blockbusters that appeal to men and women alike without reducing either to shallow stereotypes. I hope that there will be more to come, including The Amazing Spider-Man.
Girl Museum Inc.