Monday, April 9, 2018

An odd pitch to girls

Hollywood is slowly (quickly) becoming aware of the need to cater more to their female viewers, as data has shown that women are more likely to dictate the financial expenditures of families, and therefore have a greater say in what movies get watched.

I saw one of the oddest examples of that at the toy store the other day.

We were picking up a present for a birthday party my younger son is attending next weekend. I asked him to select a Hot Wheels car to go along with the main present, which I didn't deem quite expensive enough. He did a pretty poor job of that, preferring to run the aisles instead, which left me lingering around the Hot Wheels section for longer than I expected to.

Long enough to notice a very odd way to get girls into Hot Wheels, though not inconsistent with the trend we're seeing in the movies.

The first I noticed was the one pictured above: a van with She-Hulk on the side. Now I'm not familiar with every corner of the Marvel comic book universe, but at least in the movies, She-Hulk has yet to make her appearance. Yet Marvel and Hot Wheels think that a She-Hulk van might sell like hot cakes. Well, there were a lot of them still there, I can tell you that.

Then next I saw:

Again now. They've only just introduced Spider-Man into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and Spider-Woman has yet to be heard from, though I'm sure she's been in the comics for years. But as with She-Hulk, I doubt they are trying to sell a Spider-Woman van off the backs of any comic books. It's just a pandering "here's a Hot Wheels girls will like" move. (Though I guess I should be happy they aren't just trying to pedal Hot Wheels that are colored pink. This is definitely a step up from that.)

The third one is at least someone I recognize:

Elizabeth Olson plays Scarlet Witch in the MCU, though I don't remember her skin being pink, and I don't remember an outfit anything like that either. And what is that, a bakery truck? The flames are cool. The pink skin, not so much.

Now we're getting somewhere more along the lines of what I would expect:

Black Widow is probably Marvel's best and most famous offering among a relatively limited number of female characters. Though damn, they might have tried to make her look more like Scarlett Johansson. And what's with that giant stack of red hair? And is that one of those trucks that takes large quantities of money to and from the bank?

Lastly we have:

At least they're on brand with this one, with a picture that is clearly Zoe Saldana and the familiar font that has appeared on movie posters for Guardians of the Galaxy 2. Plus, it's a car, which wins. Why do girls have to play with boxy trucks?

I mightn't have found the whole thing so odd if there were equivalents for Marvel's male superheroes. But there wasn't a one. The options among Hot Wheels were either female Marvel superheroes, or all other cars, dressed normally as cars.

If it is pandering, as I am kind of suggesting it is, at least it's better pandering than if they put forth a bunch of pink cars with petunias on them. At least let these girls aspire to be badass.

But more than anything I think it calls attention to the dearth of female comic book heroes, rather than celebrating the ones that exist, as it surely intends to. You can go about 40 deep with male Marvel stars. The fact that you can't even go five deep here, without hauling out two "girl version of" heroes that no one has heard of outside of imagining that they must exist because obviously they do, is just sort of sad.

In a year or two you'll be able to add Captain Marvel to this list, I suppose.

But do you bump out She-Hulk or Spider-Woman?

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