There’s no shortage of Marvel movies these days. It seems like they’ve redone the Spider-Man story over and over again. Then, there’s the “Guardians of the Galaxy” series, “Eternals” (which turned out to be a financial loss), “Captain America” and its sequels, and many more. One thing that audiences have become accustomed to seeing is the trend of a “strong female lead.” This has become increasingly popular over recent years, to the point where many people are actually exhausted by the trope.
Marvel Studios, however, apparently didn’t care much about how tired their fans are in regard to the feminist narrative. Their latest release is called The Marvels, and it stars Brie Larson, Iman Vellani, Zawe Ashton, and Jude Law.
The Marvels is a sequel to Captain Marvel, and it teams Larson's character with Ms. Marvel (Vellani) and Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris). As stated, The Marvels experienced the lowest opening weekend in Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) history and the situation only worsened in the second week, with the film experiencing a dramatic 78.1% drop in revenue, the steepest for any MCU movie.
In its third week, during the Thanksgiving weekend, The Marvels only managed to earn a 5-day total of $8.8 million, ranking it sixth at the box office. This performance marked it as the fastest MCU movie to drop out of the domestic Top 5, a distinction previously held by movies like The Incredible Hulk, Ant-Man and the Wasp, and Captain America: The First Avenger, which each took four weeks to fall from the Top 5.
Many people are wondering whether the poor performance of The Marvels is an isolated event or indicative of a larger trend in the MCU. The inconsistent box office results of recent MCU movies are worth looking at. For example, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 did well, ranking as the sixteenth highest-grossing film in the franchise, while Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania had the worst second-week drop before The Marvels surpassed it. Still, Quantumania remained in the Top 5 for six weeks, in contrast to the rapid fall of The Marvels. Comparisons are drawn to previous MCU successes, like Spider-Man: No Way Home, which stayed in the box office Top 5 for 16 weeks, including six nonconsecutive weeks at number one, and is the seventh highest-grossing movie of all time worldwide.
Most people are waking up to the nonsense and understand that there’s only one reason why this movie has been such a flop, and it has nothing to do with the actors’ strike.
Some people claim that there are some external factors that could have influenced The Marvels’ horrific performance. For example, the cast was largely unable to promote the film due to the 2023 actors' strike coinciding with its release. But most people are waking up to the nonsense and understand that there’s only one reason why this movie has been such a flop, and it has nothing to do with the actors’ strike.
People Are Sick of the Girl Power Trope
The Marvels was touted for its trio of female protagonists, and it was marketed as a film that makes history by having Nia DaCosta, the first black female director in the franchise, at the helm. At just 34 years old, DaCosta sets a record as the youngest director of an MCU film. But it turns out that people are simply tired of the boss babe trope that dominates so many movies these days. It feels like it’s impossible to sit down and watch a movie or a TV show without having some kind of intersectional feminist narrative shoved down your throat.
Having women star as the protagonist superhero is a relatively new phenomenon in Hollywood. What used to be an occasional or even rare occurrence (such as Angelina Jolie in Tomb Raider or Demi Moore in G.I. Jane) is now par for the course. The whole idea of the woman saving the day and being the big hero is meant to be a unique, infrequent thing, which makes it a compelling and perhaps even refreshing storyline. But now it seems like Hollywood has become obsessed with making the woman the hero, and this is done intentionally to teach young girls that they should live life like men, including and especially by rescuing everyone from some kind of crisis.
It feels like it’s impossible to sit down and watch a movie or a TV show without having some kind of intersectional feminist narrative shoved down your throat.
As a result, movies and TV shows are packed with the girl boss as the lead, and now it’s turned into an entire ensemble of female heroes of different ethnicities who are going to do the type of job that men either just can’t do anymore (because they’re so incompetent and useless) or aren’t interested in doing anymore (because they’re so incompetent and useless).
Although movies are meant to take us to another world and give us an experience that is different from what we experience in day-to-day life, there still needs to be some kind of relatable narrative that brings people in and makes them feel like they have something in common with the protagonist. That’s why it works for the woman to be the hero on the big screen on occasion, here and there, not on a regular basis.
If we’re going to acknowledge that men and women are inherently different, we have to admit that they have different roles in life, and it’s much more common for the man to save the day, especially in physically taxing situations. When Hollywood started trying to convince its audience that women can always save the day and be the most powerful superheroes, it became a tired cliché that became not only unrelatable and unrealistic, but completely boring.
Of course, people are trying to frame this as the audience’s fault, because they weren’t ready for a strong female cast led by a strong black female director. But the truth is, this phrase is starting to ring truer and truer: go woke, go broke. We’ve seen many mainstream movies that have either flopped at the box office or have had to go back to the drawing board because they’ve proved to be disliked by viewers.
Birds of Prey was another disaster in 2020 that brought in only $33 million on opening weekend. It’s a female-led hero movie in the DC Universe that many people claimed audiences weren’t ready for because they weren’t feminist enough. But omitting iconic male characters like The Joker and Batman seemed like a missed opportunity. Their absence, combined with the film's focus on portraying Harley Quinn as an independent feminist icon, clashed with her co-dependent (but admittedly entertaining) history with The Joker, suggesting a prioritization of feminist messaging over faithful DC adaptation. Even the original title of the movie was confusing and unnecessarily long. It was originally called Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn, but the name was eventually changed to Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey on ticket sellers’ websites, including AMC, Cinemark, and Regal.
Every male character in the movie with a speaking role was portrayed as a villain, deviating from the franchise's original concepts. This approach of lifting up one group while pushing down another is simplistic and unsettling to discerning audiences. Moreover, the film’s marketing campaigns exacerbated the situation by dismissing longstanding fans as "bigots," intensifying the sense of insult for many viewers. It's essential to consider that these types of movies may simply not be of high quality, a factor often overlooked by filmmakers and advocates defending them.
Perhaps it’s time that filmmakers realize that you can have a strong female lead in a movie without making annoying feminist statements that make all men seem like nasty villains who are constantly trying to destroy women’s lives.
Studios would do much better to just return to movies that people enjoy watching (like Top Gun: Maverick), rather than trying to send a political message with everything they make.
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