A Superhero for the Ladies

Avengers1_615_320_s_c1Sady Doyle in In These Times:

With The Avengers becoming this summer’s (or this year’s) must-see movie, we are being treated to lots of op-eds on why it’s not for girls. The problem is, those pieces don’t have much to do with The Avengers, which, I would argue, has been successful in part by playing to women.

For an example of the punditry I’m talking about, take Moviefone’s excruciating “One Girl’s Guide to The Avengers”: “As your boyfriend probably told you, The Avengers is hitting theaters this Friday… But you hate action movies and you’ve never even read a comic book.” At this point, given that “you” are apparently a character in a tampon commercial, you expect to start hearing about how much more confident you’ll feel on your date, due to increased absorbency. But, no: The piece promises “cocktail introductions a la ‘Bridget Jones’s Diary.’” Yikes.

At Salon, Andrew O’Hehir takes a more pro-feminist approach, bemoaning the sexism of summer movie season: He says that most big “tentpole” movies are aimed squarely at young men, that movies for women earn less critical respect than movies for men, and that Hollywood is sexist. All of this is generally correct. But specifically, O’Hehir goes on to say that The Avengers is more or less identical to Transformers and predict that “a large majority of [the movie’s] ticket buyers will be teenage boys and young men.”

And yet, exit polls showed that the people who saw The Avengers were “50% over age 25 and 50% under 25, while 60% were male and 40% female.” That’s a male majority, but a slim one. And according to a Fandango poll, The Avengers was the most anticipated summer movie for men, and second-most anticipated for women. The only movie women wanted to see more was Snow White and the Huntsman, another action movie, but with a female lead.

So it turns out women do like movies about violence. (See also: The Hunger Games.) And they’re showing up in massive numbers to see this particular violent movie. Why?