‘Supergirl’ soars to big ratings on TV, while women settle for remakes and long waits at the movies

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Melissa Benoist plays the title role in the CBS series "Supergirl." Photo provided

Melissa Benoist plays the title role in the CBS series “Supergirl.” Photo provided

Supergirl soared to huge ratings success with a delightfully fun and feminist debut Monday on CBS.

The new series featuring Melissa Benoist as Superman’s cousin Kara Zor-El opened as the season’s No. 1 new series premiere in viewers and adults 18-49, according to a CBS news release citing Nielsen preliminary live plus same day ratings.

Supergirl averaged 12.94 million viewers, 3.2/10 in adults 18-49 and 4.0/10 in adults 25-54 and 1.8/07 in adults 18-34 in its one-hour time period.

Although my 5-year-old daughter was thrilled to see the show she’d been looking forward to for weeks, it was also a hit with her 8-year-old brother. And Supergirl didn’t only score well with the men in our house:  The show is also the season’s No. 1 new series premiere among men 18-34 (1.7/07), men 18-49 (3.3/10) and men 25-54 (4.3/11).

Among key women demographics, Supergirl averaged 2.0/07 in women 18-34, 3.0/09 in women 18-49 and 3.8/10 in women 25-54, according to the release.

Supergirl was Monday’s top scripted drama in viewers and key demographics. And the show did it in full-on feminist fashion: Most of the major characters are women, including Kara’s secret-agent big sister Alex (Chyler Leigh) and her media-mogul boss Cat Grant (Calista Flockhart), and in its first episode, the show has already dealt with some of the double standards women face (although she can do all the same things as Superman, Kara is discouraged from trying to save the world) and the petty, competitive mind games they sometimes play (Alex admits she didn’t want Kara to become a hero because it was already hard enough to measure up against a super-strong alien little sister).

The first baddie was a misogynist jerk that it was a joy to (spoiler alert) watch get his butt kicked by a superhero that hits like a girl – like a girl who punches him through a semi-tractor trailer, that is. And Cat Grant has already laid to rest the notion that “girl” is the insult our culture has tried so hard to make it.

With seven-day playback, CBS was projecting Supergirl to increase +46% in viewers (to 18.9m), +65% in adults 18-49 (to 5.3) and +63% in adults 25-54 (to 6.5).

On CBS.com, Supergirl experienced the highest traffic for a show premiere this season. The premiere was also the most social drama on television yesterday, according to Nielsen Social.

Between Supergirl‘s super-success and Nov. 20’s hotly anticipated Netflix debut of Marvel’s significantly darker superheroine series Jessica Jones, it’s worth repeating this question a few hundred more times: Why are we waiting so long for a big-screen superheroine movie?

Really, the wait is getting a little ridiculous. Having successfully launched Supergirl on TV, DC Comics won’t have Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman movie in theaters until June 23, 2017, which is 19 months from now. Yep, that’s more than a year and a half. Way to be ready to capitalize on that Supergirl momentum.

It’s even worse in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which has had a huge head start on world building but sadly won’t managed to get the first female-superhero movie onto the big screen, since Captain Marvel has been moved to March 8, 2019, according to CinemaBlend.com. That’s about THREE and a half years away, for those of us who are counting.

Apparently, in all the vastness of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, women have to headline at least two successful TV series (Agent Carter and presumably, hopefully Jessica Jones) and co-headline a superhero sequel (2018’s Ant-Man and the Wasp) before they ever get to headline a film. I’m not sure of the situation on the Kree home world and other points beyond, but here on Earth, women represent 51 percent of the population. Despite the power of those numbers, it will be almost 11 years from the launch of the MCU with 2008’s Iron Man until Captain Marvel finally becomes the first female-led Marvel superhero movie. ELEVEN. YEARS.

And apparently, the focus for screenwriter Meg LeFauve (Good Dinosaur) is to make sure that Captain Marvel isn’t too powerful. Because we sure wouldn’t want that, would we?

“For me personally, the wonderful thing about her and the challenge of her is going to be that she’s a female superhero. And that is awesome because she’s so powerful, and how hard is that going to be because she’s so powerful? We don’t want the Superman curse. ‘What’s her vulnerability?’ is what we have to figure out,” LeFauve told Collider.com.

As Supergirl proved, a heroine can be immensely powerful and practically indestructible and still have compelling drama in her life. Yes, she’s still susceptible to Krytonite like Superman, but she doesn’t need to have her super-powers diminished to make her interesting.

But DC Comics doesn’t get a free pass in this sexist superhero universe in which we unfortunately dwell. A few days ago, Warner Bros. released the first full look at the character of Enchantress (Cara Delevingne) from its upcoming Suicide Squad movie, which already had a sort of skanky “Hot Topic meets meth lab” look going on. It managed to get even ickier with Delevingne wearing a layer of grime, a few chains and a metal bikini that makes Princess Leia’s getup in Return of the Jedi look positively modest. As Hitfix’s Donna Dickens points out, the outfit isn’t just sexist, but it’s also inaccurate, since in the comic books, the character actually wore – you’re not gonna believe this – pants. I know, gasp, right?

What makes all this even more hilarious is that Delevingne actually has gone on record as saying that superhero movies are “totally sexist” because of the outfits the women heroes wear, including bikinis, as Dickens reports for Hitfix:

“Generally though, superhero movies are totally sexist. Female superheroes are normally naked or in bikinis,” Delevingne said. “No one would be able to fight like that. Wonder Woman, how the hell does she fight? She would be dead in a minute.”

I’m sure hoping the Amazon queen doesn’t kick it anytime soon, because she’s the only hope we’ve got right now that a female superhero is going to headline a movie anytime soon.

George Clooney stars in 2001's "Ocean's Eleven." Photo provided

George Clooney stars in 2001’s “Ocean’s Eleven.” Photo provided

Hollywood turns gender-switch remake trend up to ‘Elevens’

Remaking beloved titles has always been a favorite move in the Hollywood repertoire since the silent-movie era gave way to the times of the talkies. As Mental Floss notes, The Wizard of Oz, A Fistful of Dollars and The Bourne Identity are all remakes.

Since filmgoers next year will see their third Spider-Man in 14 years, it’s safe to say the studios are still fond of this corner-cutting tactic. And now, remakes are becoming the go-to method for cranking more women-led movies into the marketplace.

As previously reported on this blog, UFC fighter Ronda Rousey is set to star in the reboot of the 1989 cult classic Road House, roundhouse kicking her way into the role Patrick Swayze made famous.

Julia Roberts is taking on the once-male role in Nov. 20’s Secret in Their Eyes, the American version of the 2009’s Oscar-winning Argentinian crime drama, and of course, Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones are due to don proton packs next year in director Paul Feig’s remake of Ghostbusters.

Now, The Guardian reports that Sandra Bullock will lead an all-female remake of the caper movie Ocean’s Eleven, reuniting with George Clooney, star of the 2001 remake of Ocean’s Eleven (the original film came out in 1960 and starred Frank Sinatra and his Rat Pack pals) and its two sequels, who will take a producer’s role on the new iteration.

Hunger Games director Gary Ross is tipped to helm the new caper, which also has the backing of Steven Soderbergh, who directed the 2001-07 trilogy. Little Women screenwriter Olivia Milch has reportedly turned in her first version of the script for the all-female version.

Although I’m a supporter of this idea of taking roles written for men and looking for opportunities to cast women instead – especially until we we can build up the number of female writers and directors – Hollywood’s dependence on remakes to close the gender gap is getting a little silly. When are women going to get the chance to tell their own original stories instead of just doing “the female-version” of “insert the big-name title with franchise potential here”?

To quote fellow AWFJ member Susan Wloszczyna on Twitter: “A female #Ghostbusters. A female #OceansEleven. Oh lazy Hollywood. Wake me when they get to a female #ReservoirDogs.”

In fact, it seems that Hollywood’s over-reliance on gender-swapped remakes could actually be counterproductive to the cause of getting more women into leading roles. Ghostbusters remake star Wiig recently told the Los Angeles Times she had never been involved with a movie that attracted more controversy.

“The fact there was so much controversy because we were women was surprising to me. Some people said some really not nice things about the fact that there were women. It didn’t make me mad, it just really bummed me out. We’re really honoring those movies,” Wiig told the L.A. Times.

I’ve heard many fans – both men and women – of the beloved 1984 movie object to the remake simply because they don’t want one of their favorite, most-quotable comedies done over by anyone – men or women. Hollywood may see remakes as a surer bet because of the audience familiarity, but that familiarity may also make them a hard sell.

Ava DuVernay. Photo provided

Ava DuVernay. Photo provided

Quick hitters:

Ava DuVernay​ hates the word “diversity”: At the 22nd Elle Women in Hollywood Awards, where she was being honored, Selma director Ava DuVernay​ talked about some sorry statistics as well as about the need for women to value themselves so that they can advocate for equality. She also said she hates the word “diversity”:

“It feels like medicine. Diversity is like, ‘Ugh. I have to do diversity.’ I recognize and celebrate what it is, but that word, to me, is a disconnect. There’s an emotional disconnect. Inclusion feels closer; belonging is even closer. Because we all belong to film. We all belong to television. We all belong to what this is,” she said, according to Elle.com. “So, I just want us to think about belonging. Think about who belongs. And welcoming people into that belonging. I feel like I belong here tonight, even though I’m the odd man out. But odd man out only being that everyone else is a size two.”

Reese Witherspoon advocates for equality: At her American Cinematheque tribute this weekend, actress/producer Reese Witherspoon carried the torch for women’s equality on screen, according to Deadline.com.

“It’s important to talk about women in film and women playing leads. It’s a major objective of my company (Pacific Standard),” she said before the show, adding during her acceptance speech, “Women make up 50 percent of the population and we should be playing 50 percent of the roles on the screen. We need more female surgeons, Supreme Court justices, and soldiers — but on screen. Not just as the girlfriends to famous men.”

Circling the issue of women’s depiction in animation: Tansy Gardam has written an interesting piece for FourThreeFilm.com delving into narrow range of traits allowed for female animated characters, who are practically required to be pretty and softly rounded.

“The hourglass (figure) still prevails in female design, sadly,” says Oscar-winning filmmaker Brenda Chapman (Pixar’s Brave).

“There is a great example online, that I’m ashamed to say Merida and Elinor both fit into. An artist traced the general shapes of many of the Disney and Pixar male characters and found all sorts of shapes, rectangles, circles, triangles & trapezoids right side up and upside down. The females? All slight ovals and circles. No variation whatsoever. When you look at the faces the only differentiations are eye size and placement, hair length, color or style.”

Gardam makes a strong argument that “female representation flourishes best in the hands of female artists, particularly as more women take leadership positions in the industry.”


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