Amidst debate about whether female directors are being deliberately boxed out of the superhero genre, Deadline has published a new short list of reported directors in the running to direct the Marvel-Sony Spider-Man reboot. And—unsurprisingly—everyone on the list is a man.
The directors in contention to direct the film about the teenage crime fighter—which, according to Deadline, is going for a superhero-meets-Ferris Bueller vibe—are Warm Bodies writer Jonathan Levine, St. Vincent director Ted Melfi, Pitch Perfect director Jason Moore, Napoleon Dynamite director Jared Hess and Vacation directors John Francis Daley and Jonathan M. Goldstein.
Though this list may not be all-inclusive, it’s nonetheless frustrating to see no women in the running. In a decade that’s seen almost 50 superhero films, not a single woman has directed a major project. (Lexi Alexander, who directed the comic book-inspired Punisher: War Zone in 2008 came closest, but the box office potential for that film was nothing close to a movie like Spider-Man or even Wonder Woman.)
A recent study showed that women, and especially Hispanic women, are summer’s most frequent moviegoers—and big franchise movies that do include a woman’s perspective and feature kick-ass female characters do better at the box office. (That’s not to say that male directors can’t do that—but having a woman at the helm definitely helps.) The Jennifer Lawrence pic The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 and Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy were the second and third highest-grossing film of 2014. Guardians also happened to be Marvel’s first movie written by a woman, Nicole Perlman, and featured a strong female hero in Zoe Saldana’s Gamora.
There is nothing inherently “masculine” about superhero movies—and a coming-of-age hero story in particular. The few women given the opportunity to do so have proven capable of running action franchises and even surpassing their male counterparts. The best example, of course, is Zero Dark Thirty and Hurt Locker director Kathryn Bigelow, but Catherine Hardwicke also had huge success with Twilight. Michelle MacLaren, for example, was attached to the Warner Bros. and DC Wonder Woman movie after having directed some of the best episodes of testosterone-laden shows like Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead.
But even MacLaren isn’t guaranteed a spot in the superhero world. The director left the first major female superhero film after reports of “creative differences.” Following quick accusations of sexism, Warner Bros. signed Monster director Patty Jenkins to replace her.
Female directors in general are underrepresented in big, blockbuster films. Last year, only 7% of the 250 highest-grossing films were directed by women, according to the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University.
Spider-Man seems like the perfect opportunity to diversify the blockbuster genre. This is the third reboot of the franchise since 2002, and the last installment was a box office disappointment. Bringing on a female director might add much needed perspective and a new appeal. It might even help make characters like Mary Jane and Gwen Stacey (Spider-Man’s two girlfriends and frequent damsels in distress) three-dimensional.
But unlike DC, Marvel has yet to give a female director any of their films. The lack of female heroes and female directors attached to their movies is so criticized by fans that SNL spoofed the issue last weekend with a rom-com version of a Black Widow movie that included the tagline “Chill. Marvel gets women.”
Marvel’s first female-led superhero movie, Captain Marvel, is due out in 2018 and is being written by female writing team Nicole Perlman (Guardians of the Galaxy) and Meg LeFauve (Inside Out). Given Captain Marvel’s feminist outlook in the comic books, it’s likely that Marvel choose a woman to helm that film.
But it would be even more exciting to see Marvel take a “risk” on a woman on one of its many future franchises—instead of just relegating them to “female films.”