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The lost art of keeping secrets...

Tales of a young language enthusiast.

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Mar 10 '12

Why female protagonists aren’t just for girls.

Hi guys, so I’ve seen a couple of interesting articles and posts today about two films that are coming out soon - Brave and The Hunger Games - it seems to me that there’s a bit of an issue with the way that these films are being marketed, and it largely seems to stem from the fact that both have female protagonists, yet film makers are hoping that they’ll appeal to both sexes. Please feel free to read my thoughts on this under the cut!

With the release of several new powerhouse films with female protagonists, in particular, Brave and The Hunger Games, movie makers seem to be at something of a loss as to how to advertise them. It appears that Hollywood has lost touch with what young women (and men) want to see. Yes, Twilight was massively popular and had a love story at the centre of it, but do you know what those films also contained? Violence, action scenes and evil villains. It’s not a romantic comedy, it’s not a brightly-coloured Disney movie. There’s a time and a place for those too, of course – many of my female friends and relatives adored Tangled and Enchanted – but I think that it’s high time that movie makers realised that there is room in the entertainment industry for variety.

The reason that I am writing this blog post today is that earlier, I read an article from The Atlantic Wire wondering whether The Hunger Games would succeed in drawing in the boys; this is because a great deal of people are comparing it to Twilight as a result of the love triangle between Katniss, Gale and Peeta. What the author of this article points out, however, is that what should be more of note is that huge numbers of girls are flocking to go and see it, despite the fact that:

The movie is hardly going to be cupcakes and lollipops. Genetically modified bees attack people and, if failing to kill, send them into hallucinatory states; one participant is basically ripped apart by mutated “mutts” bearing the features of deceased characters.

 

So why wouldn’t guys want to go and see it? Because it has a female protagonist, and because there’s a love story. I think that imagining that this would put off guys is as narrow a viewpoint as assuming that action scenes and violence would put off girls. Hugely successful series such as the Harry Potter movies and The Lord of the Rings trilogy have proven that there is plenty of room for both boys and girls to enjoy the same types of film – guys can handle some romance, and girls can handle plenty of action and violence, but the main requirement for both seems to be a great story at the heart of the film.

An anonymous male quoted by The Atlantic Wire says it best:

I think the idea that boys are unwilling to identify with a female protagonists is a bit of a myth, and it’s a myth that becomes self-perpetuating when marketers and YA publishers steer girls towards one thing and boys towards another. Maybe some boys will go to or pick up Hunger Games because of the promise of violence, but they’ll like it because it’s a great, well written story with characters you really end up becoming attached to, regardless of gender.

 

This self-perpetuated myth is what really frustrates me with regard to gender-specific marketing in the media. We’re seeing it everywhere, from a new Barbie-coloured Lego range especially for girls, to the new colourful, girl-friendly trailer for Pixar’s Brave. It’s almost as though companies are taking a step backwards, when for years, young girls have been happily playing with primary-coloured Lego bricks, and members of both sexes, of a whole variety of ages, have enjoyed Pixar movies about everything from a bunch of toys that come alive, to a clown fish looking for his missing son.

Some of you may not know a great deal about Brave, and part of the reason for this is that the American and European trailer for it leaves viewers pretty much none-the-wiser with regard to its storyline! Many people on the blogging site Tumblr have recently expressed confusion when, presented with a Japanese trailer (with English subtitles) about the exact same film, they suddenly find that the film’s entire storyline is properly explained, yet this is inexplicably absent from the Anglophone version, which focuses on Merida being spunky and free-willed, but gives little clue as to what the film is truly about.

What do movie makers think is going to happen? That girls are going to get a glimpse of the darker, spookier side of the film and be instantly put off? It seems to me that the vast majority of people I know who enjoy TV programmes with a bit of danger and mystery, such as Sherlock and Game of Thrones, are female. That is, of course, not to say that men don’t like them as well, but merely to emphasise that the audience for many different types of programme is much more diverse than the media give people credit for.

Why not simply portray your film, your TV show, or your product in the best possible light for people in general, and let individuals decide which ones are of interest to them? It seems to me that this cynical, gender-stereotyped marketing will only cause confusion about what’s actually on offer, and potentially put off people that would otherwise have been interested.

Sources:

The Atlantic Wire article

The US Brave trailer

The Japanese Brave trailer (with English subtitles)

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  5. darkslover reblogged this from connathan and added:
    VERY well-said!
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