According to the results of a poll just released by Fandango, the most anticipated blockbuster for women in 2012 is The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn; Part 2. I would imagine that the first instinct of many moviegoers, upon hearing that information, is a forehead-slap followed by a long groan. But when you look at the list of big movies next year, it’s hard to blame the female population for returning to the glowy-skinned arms of the Twilight franchise. The Hollywood blockbuster season is always male-dominated, but it’s striking just how many dude-centric movies dominate the schedule next year.
Highly anticipated superhero mega-movies The Dark Knight Rises and The Avengers feature the same precise gender mix: A huge male ensemble, plus one single woman in skintight leather. Taylor Kitsch is headlining two different mancake movies – John Carter and Battleship. The main notable female character in John Carter is a Princess; in Battleship, the two main female roles are played by Rihanna (recently declared Esquire’s Sexiest Woman Alive) and Brooklyn Decker (last year’s People’s Choice Sexiest Woman Alive.) We’ll also see the return of two spy franchises about men with furrowed brows – the rebooted Bourne and a grim-faced Daniel Craig in the James Bond saga.
And that’s not to mention the prestige pictures. Out of the 23 main cast members in Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln, four are women. Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained is a mostly-male western. The Great Gatsby draws from a (great) book in which the female characters all occupy a place on a sliding scale from shallowness to outright sociopathy. And The Hobbit Part 1 is the magical tale of 13 badass dudes who take a shy dude on a mission of extreme dudery.
Understand: I’m not demanding that Peter Jackson transform half the dwarves in The Hobbit into women, or that Spielberg pretend there were women in an 1860s-era Presidential Cabinet. But compared to summer 2010 – when girls-behaving-badly films like Bridemaids and Bad Teacher broke through at the box office and the mostly-female The Help turned into the summer’s Oscar-bait hit – it’s striking to see the difference looking at the uber-masculine 2012 slate of films.
Heck, even the three big films with female leads – The Hunger Games, Snow White and the Huntsman, and Pixar’s Brave – are part of the male-friendly action-adventure genre. (Snow White feels like a particularly notable attempt to add some testosterone to a female-centric story. Like, here’s the studio meeting: “Say, you know that old Disney movie about the complicated relationship between that teenaged girl and her step-mother? Is there any way to make it into Gladiator?”)
Again, there’s nothing wrong with any of these movies. Many of them sound exciting. And you could argue that Hunger Games in particular represents a vastly less conservative vision of femininity than Twilight. (In stark contrast to suitor-plagued Bella Swan, Katniss Everdeen always has more important things to worry about than her nominal love interests.) Still, it’s dispiriting to think that 2011 was a blip for women in feature films rather than a harbinger for more female-centric movies in the years ahead. It seems that 2012 will play out like pretty much every other year in recent Hollywood history: Lots of duded-up action flicks; a few action movies with female protagonists who inevitably have to prove that they can be just as dude-y as the next dude; and then Twilight. Any famous actress named Hepburn is currently turning over in her grave.
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