Ten years ago, I had a debate with a friend who worked in the film industry. I was complaining that we still didn’t have female leads in film, even though it looked like TV was starting to warm up slightly, with shows like Xena and Buffy that absolutely depended on female leads, and the X-Files which featured a well-received female that audiences liked. Why, I asked, were films starring women so rarely allowed to be anything but romantic comedies, or tear-jerking stories of a woman overcoming some stereotypically feminine challenge? Why did film have one Ripley to every three of TV’s Xena’s?
He spouted the traditional line that the film industry has been offering for some time now as an explanation: “Our marketing research shows that females go to the movies to see male leads, and males also go to the movies to see male leads.”
I asked why this was the case. I’ve asked it to a few other people in “the biz” over the years, and it appears no one’s interested in creating a theory. So I espoused the tongue-in-cheek theory that it’s all about sexual attraction, and this proved once and for all that all men are really inherently gay. (That’s a total joke, folks – I just like to stir up controversy where I perceive suspicious silence on an issue.)
Now, I want to debate this whole thing in a couple of different levels, and the floor is wide open to your comments (yes, I mean YOU).
- Is it true that both females and males prefer to watch male leads on film? Or is it just that we’re so used to not having good female characters to choose from?
- If it IS true that both genders prefer to watch male leads, why is that?
I personally think that *I* am happy to see a great character in either gender, but am inured to the fact that those roles are generally reserved for males. Looking at a list of my all-time favorite characters, it’s almost all-male… and yet, my first encounter with Xena was when she was on Hercules, and all I could think was, “Get this woman her own show.” When that actually happened, I thought the world had spun backwards on its axis. I thought originally that I liked Angel best of all the characters on Buffy, but when he got his own show, I never did enjoy how he or Cordelia changed on it, and found myself still fascinated by all the cast on Buffy for a couple more seasons.
And if you’ve read other entries, y’all know how I feel about most any character Joanna Lumley ever played.
This tells me that if the female characters are out there, I for one will watch them.
But what about the guys? The whole film industry revolves around the precious 18-25 year old white male market, and they are insisting these guys prefer to see the male action heroes to, say, a skimpily clad Lucy Lawless fighting bad guys on the big screen? Is this true? And if so, why is it so?