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Marvel CEO details female superhero failures as 'Black Widow' still isn't on movie lineup

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"Saturday Night Live's" take on what a Marvel "Black Widow" movie might be like.

Marvel has yet to give Scarlett Johansson a "Black Widow" movie — she poked fun at this on this week's "SNL" — and now a leaked email shows Marvel's CEO shooting down female superheroes.

In past posts, we've explored Marvel's lack of interest in a Black Widow movie, despite placing big star Scarlett Johansson in the role and giving her prominent parts in the "Avengers" films, as well as in the "Iron Man" and "Captain America" franchises.

"Saturday Night Live" took shots at what a female-led Marvel movie might be like this past weekend, throwing Black Widow into a rom-com with robot villain Ultron.

Now, Indiewire's "Women And Hollywood" reveals it's been digging in the leaked Sony emails and has come up with a message from Marvel CEO Ike Perlmutter to Sony executive Michael Lynton that might shed some light on the issue. In it, Perlmutter points out the box office failures of several female-led superhero films:


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.

2.  Catwoman (WB/DC) - Catwoman was one of the most important female character within the Batmanfranchise. This film was a disaster.

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.


It's not hard to extrapolate from this as to why there hasn't been a "Black Widow" movie to date. Sony had been working on a solo female-led Spider-Man spinoff before teaming up with Marvel to collaborate on the franchise. After that, the project was dropped. Perlmutter's cautioning email could be related to that scrapped spinoff. It's also a reminder that "Black Widow" was being developed back in the 2000s, but was scrapped due to the failure of several high-profile female action movies, with news of it not going forward coming three days after the poor opening of "Aeon Flux."

Marvel told our friends at Vulture that they had no comment on the leaked email. Whedon commented on similar comments in January, arguing that "The Hunger Games" movies were proof audiences are ready for female leads in superhero films. Whedon said that the lack of female superhero movies was due to "genuine, recalcitrant, intractable sexism, and old-fashioned, quiet misogyny that goes on." Whedon also urged Marvel to do more.

The revelation comes as both Marvel and DC struggle to introduce more diversity into their characters, while dealing with economic realities that make it difficult. DC shelved several female-led direct-to-DVD projects, saying those films underperformed with compared with others that featured a male lead or superhero teams.

Still, they are both giving it another go. Marvel is releasing its first female lead film, "Captain Marvel," in 2018, and DC is going ahead with "Wonder Woman" in 2017. The two are also launching "Supergirl" on TV this fall at CBS — seen as giving DC the chance to play with a female lead in a medium where the financial stakes are slightly lower.

There have also been several recent pleas online for more merchandise with female characters. They range from complaints about a lack of merch for the character Gamora in "Guardians of the Galaxy" to co-Avenger Mark Ruffalo tweeting at Marvel to make more Black Widow merchandise for his daughters and nieces.

Marvel has made more progress in its attempts to diversify its characters, introducing a female Thor, an African-American Captain America and more high-profile female characters in their comics.

DC has been doing likewise, debuting a recently redesigned and well-received Batgirl. They're  also starting to reach out to girls aged 6 to 12 with a new line of  TV specials and more. DC's Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns tweeted the campaign with a similar nod to his family: 

Whether the push for more female leads ends in Johansson getting her own Black Widow movie remains to be seen. Marvel will likely be watching the results of its high-profile test cases closely.

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