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Marvel CEO Doesn’t Believe in Female Superheroes

Marvel CEO Doesn't Believe in Female Superheroes

Marvel CEO Ike Perlmutter has his mind made up about superheroines — they aren’t profitable. An email exchange between Perlmutter and Sony CEO Michael Lynton has been made public after WikiLeaks uploaded new content from the Sony hack

Here’s what Perlmutter sent Lynton, presumably a follow-up to a conversation the men had about whether or not to greenlight more "female movies."

"From: "IP" 
To: "Lynton, Michael"
Subject: Female Movies
Date: Thu, 7 Aug 2014 05:32:50 -0400

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 worth considering a number of factors here. Firstly, what constitutes as "female movies" is narrowly defined. It seems fair to assume that Perlmutter is referring specifically to female superhero movies. If that’s the case, why is something like "The Hunger Games" omitted from this list? The extremely lucrative franchise is led by a woman, and while Katniss isn’t technically a superheroine, she’s certainly marketed as one. Isn’t "The Hunger Games" a more relevant example of how female-led films fare at the box office today than, say, "Supergirl," which was released over 30 years ago? "Catwoman" and "Elektra" screened 11 and 8 years ago, respectively. All of them came out before superhero movies were the titans of multiplexes that they are today. 

Secondly, each entry in Perlmutter’s list was panned by critics. Blockbusters admittedly aren’t synonymous with critical acclaim, but maybe people didn’t go see these particular movies about women because they were bad and thus not worth seeing — not because they think movies about women are bad or not worth seeing. Why have a few duds come to define the marketability of movies about women? 

Thirdly, as the source, Oh No They Didn’t, correctly points out, a list of "Male Movies" that did poorly at the box office could just as easily be compiled — "Green Lantern," "The Lone Ranger," "Superman IV," and "Daredevil," to name a few. These movies were based on very popular male characters and failed spectacularly, yet no mention of them is being made, and we’ve certainly never heard anyone attribute their lack of success to the fact that they focused on male characters. 

We’re totally unsurprised by Perlmutter’s mentality, which is all too common in Hollywood: male-centric movies that fail are treated as anomalies, whereas female-centric movies that fail are designated as failures on account of the gender of the protagonist. So few movies about women are being made that the stakes become absurdly high — when a big-budget movie focused on a woman doesn’t draw big numbers, you can bet that it will be cited as an example of the taken-for-granted fact, which is actually a myth, that movies about women don’t make money.

That’s why it’s so crucial that a film like "Wonder Woman" does well. We’ve confirmed that it will be the first woman-directed live action feature with a budget over $100 million. If "Wonder Woman" bombs (which we don’t think it will), its failure will be offered as damning evidence proving that big budget films by and about women shouldn’t get made. As Diablo Cody recently told LA Weekly, "If a movie starring or written by or directed by a man flops, people don’t blame the gender of the creator. It’s just kind of weird how the blame is always immediately placed on female directors."

Marvel fans have bemoaned the lack of a Black Widow movie for ages, and when Scarlett Johansson hosted "Saturday Night Live" this week the "Avengers: Age of Ultron" actress poked fun at the fact that Marvel has yet to capitalize on her character’s popularity.

A fake trailer for a Black Widow movie, "Age of Me," begins with a voiceover acknowledging the fact that she’s one of the few Avengers not to have her own starring vehicle: "You wanna know why no Black Widow movie? Does Marvel not know how to make a girl superhero movie? Chill. Marvel gets women." What follows is a hilarious reflection of the extent to which Marvel doesn’t "get" women — as if women are a monolothic group uncomplicated by, you know, individual identities. Women love romance! And impractical shoes! And dishing about boys! And so, Marvel studios has partnered up with the writers behind "27 Dresses" to offer "Age of Me," a romantic comedy starring Black Widow. 

Johansson isn’t alone in offering a critique of Marvel’s representation of women. Her "Avengers: Age of Ultron" co-star Mark Ruffalo recently sent a tweet to the studio urging them to manufacture more Black Widow merchandise. Their director, Joss Whedon, attributed the lack of female superheroine movies to "intractable sexism" and "old-fashioned, quiet misogyny." 

So Marvel, and specifically Ike Perlmutter, please consider the following: Movies about women are profitable and women account for 52% of moviegoers. Keep these basic facts in mind when discussing and determining the future of the Marvel universe. Nevermind being morally reprehensible, relegating female characters to the sidelines is bad business. 

We can expect to see a woman-centric Marvel movie in November 2018 — more than three years from now — which is when "Captain Marvel" will be released. Marvel will of course be releasing many movies about men in the interim. 

[via Oh No They Didn’t

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david born

The phone conversing could have very well been pro-woman. It’s an unknown. But, the email would make sense in a conversation about why a heroine feature needed to be done well. With the film citations as exhibits of past failures that they needed to avoid repeating.


I’m sorry but the author of this article is a complete idiot. Stop making assumptions, dumbass.

Tara Edwards

I do not like Black Widow as a female superhero because the implication is that a woman’s great strength is being a blood sucking mankiller… specifically her husband whom she consumes without remorse. Even Johanson cannot flatter that image. As for Catwoman, her greatest appeal seemed to be as a spindly dominatrix that Batman was destined to conquer, not to mention that she was catty by nature. Where is the nobility, the inspiration? A female superhero is not just about looking sexy in a rubber suit. She needs to be someone that little girls and grammas both adore. We forget what being "super" really means… ie-evolved. The old stereotypes need not apply. Cast them on the rubbish heap of history. What makes a Superhero super is that they inspire, and frankly Hollywood, as well as Marvel, forgets that there is a lot more to being a woman than looking hot in a tight outfit. She is a compassionate and powerful creator. A real female superhero would not be second place to any male for she has the power to give life, not just take it away. Indeed they would bow down to her.

Tara Edwards



We (my niece, female friends gank ) would rather watch male superhero with his pretty girlfriend.Sorry marvel, we do not interest with your female superhero. Btw, this article is soo shallow, i think the writer they to make feminist article. I dont care. Ijust want to watch the movie that i really like :)


The problem with this article is that the author is trying to expand the scope outside of Marvel’s movies. It’s not that he "doesn’t ‘believe’" in female superheroes, he just doesn’t want to lose money making these movies. Their writers suck at writing for female superheroes, big deal. So why don’t you quit your whining and step up to the plate. I hardly doubt he’s a woman hater. I agree with Nicole, this shit is annoying.


I’d watch Scarlett Johansson in a catsuit

Mike Padua

There’s a pretty amazing inability to read between the lines, here. This is one executive telling a COMPETING executive what not to do. Why? Because Perlmutter and Marvel want to own the category of female superheroes. The subtext here is that Perlmutter is saying "don’t make female superhero movies…because WE want to make female superhero movies."



Netflix isn’t the movies. It’s like saying my kid can drive a go kart, thus he’s good to be in the Indy 500. It’s why they pay a top actor in one of their movies 100 times plus what they pay their top guy in Daredevil. And by the way I do love that show.

Of course. 2004 Daredevil movie brought in 101 million dollars more than the production costs. Elektra movie, 13 million over the production costs (lost money with the promotion costs).


First… Obviously after sending this email he green lit Agent Carter, a female centric comic hero tv show and Captain Marvel a female led comic hero movie.

Then… Female movies is undefined there. He is the CEO for Marvel so I am going with COMIC BOOK adaptations on the big screen. There have been 8 hollywood movies starring comic book hero’s where the lead is a female. 1 other, Vampirella was supposed to but was so poorly received they sent it straight to DVD. NONE of those made money and lost over 100 million dollars between them. The most successful female comic book lead role that I can think of was Wonder Woman on TV 40 years ago. And that got cancelled twice in 3 years and has about 10 failures to get it on tv or the movies with it.

With agent Carter, one not poorly written one, with critical acclaim already having lost 40% of her audience, of course no CEO is going to invest heavily (talking 200 mil a movie today) on multiple movies without seeing a return first on that investment.

Secondly, Amazing Spiderman 2, Origins: Wolverine, and Daredevil. All panned by critics and earned a combined 800 million above their production cost, each earning 100 million or more above those costs.

It isn’t just about bad writing or bad movies. They can survive for some reason with a male lead comic book character… Green Hornet was awful and made 100 mil plus over cost.

This man is a CEO and he noticed the last 9 investments into a female comic book hero movie have lost a LOT of money. Of course he is going to question this. Imagine if Iron man 1,2,3, thor 1,2, captain america 1,2 and both avengers movies lost money for the studio. Would you be surprised him wondering what can they do different on the next movie in that genre, or if they need to keep up on the avenger storyline? Of course not. Don’t put on blinders and make this about woman. It is not some bias based in a false world.

I am not sure why. Maybe their female comic book hero’s characters translate poorly to the big screen. Maybe they are so tied in with bigger more traditional comic hero’s that happen to be male (the oldest of the genre) they don’t do well on their own. Not a knock on female leading actresses, they can bank. Not even female leading hero’s or action stars. Milla Jovovich, Sigourney Weaver, and Angelina Jolie along with plenty more (lucy Liu, Zhang Zhiyi, Maggie Q, the actress from Foxy Brown are a few I really like). But for whatever reason, female led comic book hero adaptations do very poorly on the big screen. I’d expect a CEO to bring that issue up to try and investigate and resolve worries before investing 200 million dollars in a film.


How to prove Marvel CEO Ike Perlmutter is objectively wrong…

Daredevil (2003): A rotten film of a rotten actor being rotten.

Daredevil (2015): Universally adored nerdgasm.

So when is Marvel gonna greenlight an Elektra series on Netflix?


Personally, I’d like more context before jumping down anyone’s throats. Perhaps the phone conversation was along the lines of "if we’re going to do this, we have to do it right." Maybe not. The point is, we don’t know. Besides, the only well-known female-centric property that Sony *might* have is Spider-Woman, who is likely to be seen as derivative by the movie-going audience less familiar with her comic origins.


I’m with Nicole. Consider that the discussion could very possibly (and now *I* am making an assumption) about how badly Hollywood have treated female superhero movies.

As the article points out: These were *bad* movies. They never had a chance, despite being *popular* and important characters in the comics.

And as the article points out: Unlike the "female-led superhero" category, while male-led superhero movies have had many horrible stinkers, it has also had many successes. Largely because they’ve been given plenty of chances to do *right*.

At the same time consider that Marvel seems to have recognised, and tried to address, the fact that they have severely limited their demographic appeal in the past. At least in the comics so far. A couple of examples:

Ms Marvel turned into Captain Marvel, lost the "made-to-be-ogled" uniform and got more hard hitting. New Ms Marvel is a reasonably normal teenage girl. Spiderwoman lost her "made-to-be-ogled" uniform too, and she and Captain Marvel made fun of how they don’t know what possessed them to wear their old ones. The new female Thor. The new all female X-men lineup (a group which has gradually added more and more strong female characters ever since Storm went all tough in the early 80’s).

While they have a long way to go, and it’s not a given that Marvel comics are indicative of where they’ll go in terms of movies, there does seem to be signs that they realise that they badly need to continue to find ways to expand their demographics if they’re going to continue to expand on their successes. And apparently someone told them women makes up half the population. Who knew?


stop being such a butthurt feminist. Fact is that catering to wymen is just not a lucrative business.


" If "Wonder Woman" bombs (which we don’t think it will)"

Based on what?, the fact is Wonder Women is a wildcard. People have already left the project, it stars pretty much an unknown actress and has an unorthodox script vetting process… these do not indicate a steady sailing ship. I gather this was rattled off post haste to capture clicks as this topic has been timely given the Whedon-Twitter feud and last weeks SNL but look at the bigger picture.

Also Captain Marvel will hit the screens in 2019… so this Marvel hate women mindset people seam to be in needs to stop.


It’s also worth considering that you’re only speculating about the rest of the conversation, since the e-mail is "presumably" part of a conversation about whether to greenlight female superhero films. If it is saying that female superhero films always bomb and shouldn’t be greenlit, what are the other films he alludes to? If Supergirl, Catwoman, and Elektra are just a few examples and there are more, what are they?


He doesn’t say that he doesn’t believe in female superhero movies. He’s simply criticizing three bad ones. For all we know, the first part of the discussion (which isn’t in the email) could have been, "It’s amazing that studios keep getting female superhero movies wrong." He might be frustrated that the most high-profile attemps so far were blundered. It’s unfair to assume from the fragment of a discussion that’s in that email that this guy "doesn’t believe in female superhero movies." But I guess you couldn’t resist that provacative headline, huh?

Some Guy Plus Opinion

I guess in fairness to Ike, who has a reputation for being crappy in other areas, the email basically just states revenue and critical reception of three major female superhero films; not quite as crusty or misogynistic as I was expecting. In fairness, they haven’t made a "cool" one yet.


First off, the author makes a wild assumption that a comic book ceo listing comic book movie adaptations would be talking about all female lead hero’s and not just comic book ones.

And yes Elektra and Daredevil were horrible. Daredevil made over 100 million, Elektra lost 18 million. Wolverine (the first spinoff) was panned by critics but brought in 400 million. Superman returns panned and brought in nearly 500 million.

His statement in the email is simple. The last 9 comic book hero movies with leads given to female roles have lost well over 100 million combined (not including promotion costs). You can look at Agent Carter on TV too. I love that show. One of the best critically acclaimed and promoted shows. And it’s lost 40% of its audience since it’s 2nd episode (first post pilot). Worse by far than Arrow or shield or the flash, etc…

I don’t know why that is. But it’s been a trend over a lot of years, going back to the 70’s with Wonderwoman. Many types of scripts, directors, attempts and we got a 3 season series that was cancelled twice in that time and not a cent of earnings in the theater. The funny part is he greenlit a female led captain marvel standalone movie AND a female led agent carter tv show AFTER this email.

And if you want the list…

Catwoman (lost 18 mil).
Elektra (made 13 mil but lost money with promoting costs).
Supergirl (lost 21 mil).
Red Sonja (lost 11 mil).
Tank Girl (lost 21 mil).
Lady Death (animated movie…)
Barb Wire (lost 5 mil).
Vampirella (ended up going direct to DVD and the sequel cancelled).
Sheena (lost 19 mil)….

So, no, with the facts, in the context of female led comic book hero movies, it is not in fact a myth they don’t make money.




Whoever wrote this really doesn’t understand market demographics. All stand alone female superhero movies from the Marvel Universe flop, it’s a fact. Yes it is that restrictive of a statement. He did not say all movies with a female heroine flop. Massive difference. Would you invest $50 million into a movie without doing market research? Once that Market research came in would you ignore the results because you feel it would violate some PC rule? If Stop trying to make news where there isn’t any.

Jay Prime

Honestly, what he’s saying has merit. It’s not that women’s movies do bad, but most superheros are male. Noones been going out of their way to work in ethnic characters of depth or create additional colored superheros, and I see no need to do so for women. The superheros Marvel could do a movie for , most popular female ones are Xmen characters. What is Marvels number 1 female superhero? Captain Marvel? Isn’t she getting her own movie? I mean cmon, how long did it take to get a Black Panther flick, and he’s been an Avenger FOREVER even appearing in recent Avengers cartoons. Agent Carter got her own show. Jessica Jones is getting a show.

These type of feminists aren’t lobbying for womens rights, they are lobbying for men to lose rights. Well I’ll tell you what. When I can punch a women in the face and have society view me the same way as if I hit a man, then this is a relevant discussion. Until then, please use common sense and understanding.


Well, "Lucy" was an original IP which grossed almost $459 million worldwide and starred Scarlett Johannson. So, it’s not inconceivable that they could make a Black Widow movie also starring her that also does well if it fits in with their release schedule overall and best use of resources.


Actually, Daredevil was an abysmal failure and it is a fact. It did terrible in the box office and it was rated poorly by viewers and critics all around.


You wrote an entire article based on speculation, this couldve been a conversation about making sure to put forward a solid movie with a great script and not rushing things. Marvel already has Ms Marvel on their list of movies, and they have an all female avengers comic coming out next month.


This email in know way proves the outlandish claim of its headline.

All you have is a list of failed superheroine movies, with no other context whatsoever. This could have been exactly what you are theorizing, but it could just have easily have been part of a more nuanced conversation.

If you’re going to spend millions making a superheroine movie, you’d be STUPID not to at least discuss some failed attempts to do so in the past, if only to highlight and avoid their mistakes. You’re trashing this guy with very little evidence.


Typical soundbite reaction mentality. This means nothing without context. Maybe the phone conversation was about how to make sure they do it right this time. We don’t know.

Also, Hunger Games is not a comic book movie, she is not a superhero, and was released by Lionsgate Entertainment. One of these things is not like the other…


That’s half the battle. I don’t believe in superheroes


What about Tomb Raider? The key is to do it the right way. Tomb Raider and Hunger Games were. The ones Ike mentions were not.

Save us Bogdanovich

I think I’ll go read an old Bogdanovich blog instead…


Remember when this site wasn’t a giant period party?


52% Really o.O out of that how many are mothers just tagging along to take care of their kids… Then how many of those females are just going along with their husbands or boyfriends. Specifically speakubg about superhero movies by the way. Honestly, that like guys saying that thry represent 48% of moviegoers to chic flix romantic comedies…ect instead of accurately reporting the demographics. Very very few women go to the movies alone because of social norms, men on the other hand will watch a good/bad/ugly movie on the big screen alone and a few times over, while females will only watch Sex in the City and The Sisterhood of the Travel Pants maybe maybe once in the theater then iether buy the blu ray/dvd ir just tivo it… At the end of the day most all superhero movies are catered to children, the actual old school fans may get an easter egg or subtle nodes but thats it. As far as toys go, when Green Lantern movie came out Barbie put out a Carol Farris doll more collectors that are guy bought it, the same with Elektra… I agree put out more merch can help just like NERF capitalized in Hunger Games coming out with a female line if Nerf guns but if parents don’t buy their lil girls those toys and the kids rather buy something else how is it sexist to make money by any means necessary its what our culture is based on?


@Dougw Daredevil is considered a flop because regardless of the box office, Fox lost a lot of money on it. Even if it made back it’s reported budget, Fox still spent tons on marketing & distribution for it. Nowadays even if a film makes some money it has to put the studio well into the black to be considered profitable.


What a shitty article. "PRESUMABLY a follow-up to a conversation the men had about whether or not to greenlight more "female movies." Context is important. You want to complain about sexism in these movies? Get back to me in the unlikely chance Captain Marvel is a shitty movie.

Tina Fine

The next superheroine will be "OFF GIRL." I am writing her amazing story now. Hope to prove Mr. Perlmutter wrong.


I would argue Terminator and Aliens if you wanted to go that far back. Not Supergirl. Until Blade came out, all superhero movies besides Superman and Batman were basically garbage.


I think things will change soon. The best characters on Agents of Shield are women, AKA Jessic Jones hits Netflix this year, and Captain Marvel will probably be pretty good when it’s released in a few years.

Also that "Film Fan’s" earlier comment was just annoying and ignorant


Sorry, but again misconstruing and taking things out of context. Never did tese individuals say they were against female superhoroes. They simply examined the discouraging economic precedent. Or did you forget that Hollywood is a business?


Okay, I read Indiewire whenever it pops up in my FB feed. This is yet another example of crap, unintelligent, subpar writing from a staff that knows it’s reporting on the LEAST cared about aspect of entertainment. IF you’re going to pander to a small audience do it intelligently. Have real conversations about film and the nature of the business. Be the SMART online trade rag, instead of sounding like a bunch of unintelligent, whiney kids who think follow one creed and one creed alone: Studio Bad, Indie good. Have something worthy to say. Seriously.


They made Catwoman fight a woman made strong using makeup, and it was terribly made. Elektra was terribly written and Garner was an awful choice for a standalone Elektra movie. And yes Supergirl was so long ago almost noone remembers it, even i only vaguely recall it. This guy is an idiot. I would see a Blackwidow spy movie in cinemas. Knowing her backstory etc would be awesome, and Scarlet could easily carry it. What idiots to even bring this crap up.


This article and the writer makes a very bold assumption about the contents of a previous email that they have no idea about. This entire article is a prime example of poor journalism because it’s based entirely on a presumptuous hunch without any real knowledge of what quoted email is in reference to. Elektra also followed 2 box office hit Spider-Man movies, two X-Men films and Daredevil. The same with Catwoman, the superhero movement was well underway. Nowhere in this email does it even suggest that Perlmutter was using those films that flopped as reasons not to make one. Really, really poor job here with a very, very presumptuous clickbait piece that exploits the feminist movement rather than expands it.



Good to see Indiewire will still publish just about anything. OpEd. Little fact. Much speculation.

Super girl was coat-tailing a superman franchise. Fail. Catwoman was a train wreck. Electra was made at time when superhero movies were just picking up. Batman Begins arrived the same year and Irin Man went into production shortly after. Slso after a little franchise phenomenon called X-Men.

Also! Thank God Marvel didn’t greenlight a much anticipated Captain Marvel, because… you know… that would sink your Zepplin.

Make more movies starring, written, directed, and produced by women. Yes! Then go see them! YES!

But please tell me they pay you to write this garbage. Then tell me you feel a little shame at cashing the check knowing that you’re making the women… and the men carrying the flag of greater inclusiveness look live idiotic, screaming children.

Hard to say

It is hard to say what the context is here. While I agree that there needs to be more female representation in that universe, this exchange could be about how mishandled these franchises were. Simply saying that there is an audience isn’t enough as what they are looking at is poor box office results (again, we know it is largely out of poor-execution, what we don’t know is whether they agree).

So, I agree with the end argument, but don’t feel comfortable letting someone hang based on a leaked e-mail without context. While the Hunger Games is a success, I don’t think it necessarily should be part of an argument specifically based on Superhero/Comic properties. If they are looking at IP’s they own and how to better utilize them, Hunger Games is irrelevant.


Never saw "Supergirl" but "Elektra" and "Catwoman" failed because they were horrible movies, not because they had female stars.
I don’t expect "Wonder Woman" to be a hit because the character is problematic, they’re rushing the script, and I doubt Gal Gadot as the star.
One other note – Daredevil was a hit. Check the box office. For some unknown reason it’s been erroneously perceived as a failure for a long time now.


This article is nothing but clickbait. There is no proof that the subject of the email was about not greenlighting future movies (the article even states that it’s making a presumption). As a feminist this shit infuriates me because while I agree that there needs to be better female representation in the superhero world, screaming at shadows and connecting dots that just aren’t there just makes feminism look bad.

film fan

If I were you, I would’ve taken it as a compliment to your intelligence that women weren’t perceived as going to dumb superhero movies. Instead, you’re just going to cheerlead for Wonder Woman. I guess both genders deserve the horrible dreck they’re fed.


Hollywood is ruled by dildos

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