Comic book companies: Value your fans, not their gender

In my inbox, among the more “serious” of my newsletter subscriptions such as Vox Sentences or AdWeek’s BrandWeek Report, you’ll also find the daily digest from Comic Book Resources.

That’s because in addition to trying to stay smart for my day job, I’m also a huge fan of pop culture and comics.

So when I opened the newsletter last week to find an article about the new DC Comics cartoon Justice League Action, I clicked on it immediately. The original DC Animated Universe, after all, is what ignited my love for comics to begin with.

However, this excitement quickly turned to frustration as I came across the following quote in the interview:

“We wanted to do a show for kids, to appeal to boys in particular,” [Producer Alan] Burnett added.

This quote made my heart sink to my stomach. Why? Because it reminded me of the very reason Young Justice, another great DC animated series, was cancelled: Because executives on these networks don’t want young female audiences.

Is it pure sexism? Not exactly. They didn’t want a female audience because girls don’t buy toys. This is what Young Justice creator Paul Dini said in an interview citing the network’s reason for cancellation.

That logic seems a little silly in retrospect, given the backlash Disney has faced for excluding Rey from Star Wars sets, Black Widow from Avengerssets and Gamora from Guardians of the Galaxy sets.

Evidently, girls are buying toys. Or, at least trying to.

But evidently networks airing cartoons are still using the same old logic when it comes to young female audiences.

What’s worse to me is not just the gender issue. It’s the fact that the show’s creators are saying they’re not dedicated to making the best show possible, regardless of what gender audience that would bring. Ideally a great show, I should think, would get the attention of boys and girls.

Going back to the DC Animated Universe example of Justice League andJustice League Unlimited, those were great shows that have stood the test of time.

And they weren’t great shows despite the fact they had story lines that featured strong, interesting women. No, they were great shows because of it.

Because they were dedicated to telling the best stories possible

Hell, they even have an episode where Vixen and Hawkgirl worked together to defeat an enemy despite both being in love with the same guy. Wow, women can work together instead of tearing each other down. What a novel idea.

I could cite more recent examples like the fact that Jessica Jones won a Peabody Award or that The Force Awakens had a female protagonist and was a massive box office success.

But I shouldn’t have to.

I get that companies want to make money. I too, after all, have a job.

But my job in public relations also had taught me that consumers value brands that are transparent and authentic, not just money-grubbers who don’t believe in what they’re selling.

Comic book companies: Commit yourselves to making the best product despite what the networks or marketing department might say. Regardless of whether that product is a comic, TV show or film.

Make the best products, and they will attract the right audience. Because the right audience is an audience of loyal fans who appreciate your work, not just an audience made up of a specific gender.

This post originally appeared on Medium

Advertisements

How Agent Carter taught me to “know my value”

 

“I know my value”

The end of 2015 felt like a giant win in regards to female representation in fantasy and science fiction. Just in the past three months we’ve gotten Jessica Jones (of the eponymous show) and Rey from Star Wars.

But the woman who really kicked off 2015 wasn’t in a record-breaking blockbuster or a critically-acclaimed Netflix show.

Instead she showed up in your local listings on ABC, the same channel you tune into for your Shondaland fix.

I’m talking about Peggy Carter, who after first appearing in Captain America, was given her own miniseries four years later in the aptly-named Agent Carter.

That’s right. Agent.

Read the rest of the post over on Medium.

agent carter

Review: “Dear Evan Hansen” at Arena Stage

I just finished my first week living in D.C., and I’m writing about theatre not politics. I originally planned to write about neither, but I can’t stop thinking about the musical I saw last night.

show-page-DEH_07

“Dear Evan Hansen,” is a new musical about an anxious outcast named Evan Hansen (Ben Platt, of Pitch Perfect fame) who after years of feeling out of place gets everything he wants.

That is, of course, with one big catch. He has to keep up the lie that a letter he wrote to himself for a therapy exercise was actually written by someone else as a suicide note.

As often happens with little white lies, this single act sends Evan on a tight-rope act of telling bigger and bigger lies in hopes of keeping the life – and the girl – he always dreamed of.

What could easily be a cliche plot of “teenager becomes cool, realizes it’s not that great,” breaks genre norms by incorporating modern themes. It’s not just a love story, but an exploration of grief in the internet age and how technology both helps and hinders our ability to connect to one another.

Ben Platt’s performance is both heartbreaking and relatable, as Evan Hansen reminds us all too well that the thing keeping us on the outside is sometimes only what exists inside our own heads. And his powerful musical performances answer any questions about why at 21 he’s already becoming a familiar name in theatre.

Catering to an audience where dark humor has become the norm, “Dear Evan Hansen” balances out a storyline anchored by tragedy with the self-effacing humor of the protagonist as well as cringeworthy encounters with classmates that will make you wince as you remember your own high school days.

With music and lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (Broadway’s “A Christmas Story” and NBC’s “Smash”), the songs teeter between mainstream pop and traditional showtune. Pasek and Paul craft tunes that will stick in your head for days (“Waving Through A WIndow,” “For Forever”), but more serious numbers tend to drag (“Requiem”).

The story itself, with a book by Steve Levenson, seems a shade unbelievable and requires a due amount of suspension of disbelief. That said, there is no lack of heart or appeal in the story. Ben Platt, who mastered the role of the socially awkward but lovable sidekick in “Pitch Perfect,” brings extra depth in his performance to make that character a leading role.

If you’re looking for a feel-good musical where the plot ends wrapped up in nice little bow, look elsewhere. Instead “Dear Evan Hansen” ends like real life: somewhere in-between.

If you get the chance to see “Dear Evan Hansen” before it ends its run at Arena Stage, I highly recommend it. And if you don’t? With Michael Greif (“Next to Normal,” which also ran at Center Stage) at the helm, a Broadway transfer seems likely.

At Arena Stage until August 23.

My Best of 2014: Pop Culture Edition

Favorite New Show: The Flash 

I was so excited for Gotham which has ended up being terribly inconsistent. I would have never guessed another DC show would take this spot. I didn’t make it past episode two of Arrow when that premiered. So why I bothered with The Flash is a mystery to me. But I’m so glad I did. The Flash isn’t going to challenge for the Emmy any time soon, but it’s fun to watch. The characters are likable. Despite being on the CW it’s not too saccharine or melodramatic.  I’m still waiting to order my Star Labs sweatshirt, but the outlook is good. Barry Allen is just a good guy and you cheer for him. And growing up with Wally West as the Flash on Justice League and Justice League Unlimited, I can say I much prefer this Flash.

The-Flash-Title-Card2

Favorite New Show (not featuring a superhero): Last Week Tonight w/ John Oliver

Stop. Do I really need to explain?

Favorite Album: Rented World by The Menzingers

I don’t even think I knew who The Menzingers were this time last year. And I can’t honestly remember how I found out about them. But I do remember later being heartbroken realizing I would move to New York last summer the day after their show. Once you’ve fallen in love with this album go listen to all of the acoustic versions Greg Barnett does of these songs. Just gorgeous. Best tracks: All of them. But if I had to choose one, “Where Your Heartache Exists.”

download

Favorite Guilty Pleasure Song: “Boom Clap” by Charlie XCX

Literally couldn’t stop listening to this at work this summer. And dancing to this at home.

Favorite Movie: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Was this the best movie of the year? Surely not. But this has to be Wes Anderson’s best since Rushmore. It’s better than Rushmore. It’s visually appealing with the story and acting to back it up. It’s fanciful and dark at the same time.

MV5BMzM5NjUxOTEyMl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNjEyMDM0MDE@._V1_SX214_AL_

Favorite Movie (that technically came out last year but I saw this year): Inside Llewyn Davis

The Coen Brothers are very hit or miss for me. This was undoubtedly a hit. It’s cathartic to watch a film about a character who literally has terrible thing after terrible thing happen. It’s not even tragic because Llewyn is such an asshole. I guess that’s what makes this film relatable. The Coen Brothers: Great at making assholes relatable.

Binge-watching

Earlier this week the New York Times published an op-ed by David Carr, “Barely Keeping up in TV’s New Golden Age.”

Carr writes about what he calls the “New Golden Age” of TV. Remember when the best thing on TV was CSI? Now it’s dramas that rival movies in their writing, acting and production values. Instead of shelling out $9 bucks to see that stupid movie that your friend wants to see (but usually ends up being decent and then you have to apologize for judging your friend’s taste in movies), people are opting to stay in and watch Netflix.

By now this phenomenon is common knowledge. But Carr touches on something which I do think warrants more discussion which is the fact that watching TV is becoming a culturally accepted pastime. He argues it’s a combination of convenience because of technology and the improved quality of television.

I remember when watching TV used to be a frowned-upon thing. I rarely hear young people label their binge-watching friends “couch potatoes.”

I can’t even sit in my political science class without feeling like a social outcast because I haven’t seen House of Cards.

When I came to college, I decided to cut back on TV since I knew I would be a lot busier than I was in high school.  And I was much busier.

But it seems as soon as I decided to cut back on my TV watching, it became my generation’s favorite pastime.

When did it become OK to proudly announce you spent the morning watching season one of How I Met Your Mother on Netflix instead of, I don’t know, doing whatever it was college kids did before Netflix?

I’ll admit growing up I watched what was probably too much TV. I know more about the 80s than my parents thank to VH1 specials.  One of my favorite network crime shows of all time, Numb3rs, was on Friday nights. That right, I just admitted that I used to watch a TV show on Friday nights.

In my defense, there isn’t much else to do in Union Bridge, Md.

But now, all of a sudden, watching old shows doesn’t mean ER reruns on TNT at 10 a.m. It means college kids watching Dawson’s Creek at 3 a.m. because they have the world’s worst sleeping habits.

And apparently that’s totally acceptable.

By no means am I judging. I spent the entire weekend catching up on True Detective before the season finale. I just think it’s interesting how high-quality TV shows are increasingly seen as a legitimate art form and binge-watching is being considered a legitimate hobby.