Banks: Featured

Hey you all hear how Elizabeth Banks “lashed” out at comic book movies? How she admonished audiences for supporting “37 Spider-Man” movies but not her latest, CHARLIE’S ANGELS?

Me too. Funny thing is though? That’s not at all what happened.

It’s not that she didn’t say the quote, it’s that it has been totally divorced from one context and dropped into another.

Banks: Herself
Elizabeth Banks poses, blissful, unaware of the controversy to come. (Courtesy of IMDB)

Time Matters

The interview where the quote comes from, done by Myles Tanzer for the Wall Street Journal, ran on 11/14/2019. Given that it was in the print edition that morning, it would have had to have happened the day before, the 13th, at the earliest. Regardless of when, however, she offered the quote before the movie even opened.

She did not strike out at an audience that failed to show up for her film. She couldn’t be mad at no one coming to her movie before her movie even opened.

Instead, what she was pushing back against was the idea that it was a bad idea to relaunch CHARLIE’S ANGELS. Her point was that the industry had supported several Spider-Man films without question, why not another ANGELS. It was not a shot aimed at audiences but rather the industry and the media.

Banks: The Angels
The Angels are on-hand to stick up for their director. (Courtesy of Columbia Pictures)

Why Did This Happen

It depends on the outlet.

For instance, Buzzfeed ran an article about Banks comments after the bad box office (more on those later). However, they also included the aforementioned quote in the round up. They did note that it was about questions regarding rebooting the franchise but they didn’t specify it happened before release and prior to all the other quotes they included. Additionally, they ran it in the middle of the article when the thesis of “This is Elizabeth Banks responding to the box office failure”. Thus, it seems, several assumed the Spider-Man quote was offered at the same time for the same reason.

Other articles ran it with even less context. CBR, for instance, was accurate in its presentation about what Banks was pushing back against but did not make it clear it happened before the movie’s opening. Others did not even bother with that much clarity.

Then Twitter got a hold of it and further mutated the narrative. Before long, the common interpretation became, “movie failed, director blamed too many super hero movies”. Hell, you can find a tweet from me out there in which I point out that ANGELS should have done better but its failing has nothing to do with Spider-Man. This was before I actually did my due diligence and looked closer at the context.

Given recent events (Scorsese, for example) there is also the possibility that certain parties willfully muddled the water to further the super hero movies v the rest of cinema controversy. Because, of course, controversy creates cash.

The Validity of Banks Quote

This is not to say the quote cannot be evaluated. It just largely has not been considered in the proper context. So is it accurate with the new, correct context?

That’s a bit of a sticky wicket.

In regards to the specific comparison, Banks is ignoring some factors. To take Spider-Man in specific, yes, Tom Holland is the third live action incarnation of the character since 2000. Additionally, we also have the Spiderverse animated film and a sequel on the way. So she is right that Spidey has gotten a lot of chances. And if you included TV stuff, it grows even further.

However, it does ignore relative success. While the AMAZING SPIDER-MAN movies did poorly critically, both made truckloads of money. Similarly, SPIDER-MAN 3 was not necessarily enthusiastically received — even if it has its defenders now — it still made that cheddar. By contrast, the 2011 ANGELS series did not make a full season. Of course, FULL THROTTLE, the previous ANGELS film, doubled its budget at the box office. So it is not like ANGELS has not had cinematic success. Still, Spider-Man is clearly a more consistently viable franchise

Banks: Spidey sad
“Why’s everybody always picking on me?” asked crestfallen wall-crawler. (Courtesy of Marvel Comics)

Take A Fuller Look

On a more comprehensive scale, however, the math changes. Banks is right. Male-oriented movies do typically garner less skepticism than movies about and for women. Especially in the action or comedy genres. Find a successful women driven comedy and then search for articles about it from the time it came out. THE SWEETEST THING, BRIDESMAIDS, and GIRLS’ TRIP, to choose three prominent examples, all lead to a fleet of think pieces that either affirmed that women go to the movies (“See, look at that box office!”), speculated about if this was a thing that could happen again (“Sure, they came out for a movie, but is it a fluke?”) or pushed back against the previous types of article (“We’ve seen this before, stop pretending this is an anomaly!”). This is because both the industry and the media tends to center men and movies about men as the default.

Similarly, any financial failure of woman/women-led action movie becomes evidence. There have been several successful women-driven action movies but they’re treated as unusual while the failures are viewed as the “truth.”

So on the larger point that the industry’s perspective of what kinds of movies women can successfully make is sexist, Banks is correct. Spider-Man may not have been the best example to use, sure. However, a single bad example does not diminish that truth at the comment’s core.

Banks Did Say More

Unfortunately, Banks did say some less than stellar things about women super heroes which has oddly gotten cited less often. In another interview before ANGELS opened, this one to the Herald Sun, she argued about the importance of women seeing the new CHARLIE’S ANGELS. The interviewer evoked WONDER WOMAN and CAPTAIN MARVEL as two recent examples of women in action movies that did well. Banks, however, rejected that idea, stating that those two films belong to a “male genre”.

Her thinking, while not explored in depth, seems to amount to “super heroes are for boys and men”. While hardly a unique perspective, it is nonetheless regressive. Moreover, when it comes to the movies, it is especially inaccurate. There’s a reason people have taken to grumbling about the four quadrant nature of super hero films: because they appeal to everyone. Men, women, old, and young go see super hero films in very similar numbers. In fact, 56% of WONDER WOMAN’s audience were reportedly women. More men than women saw CAPTAIN MARVEL but only by about 5%. In general, Marvel increasingly has a 3:2 ratio of men:women attending their movies.

Super heroes may have once been a “male genre” — and even that’s hard to assert definitively — but that has not been purely the case for some time.

This does not undermine her larger point regarding institutional sexism or the need for women to be trusted with action more. However, it does demonstrate that even amongst those protesting industry sexism, old inaccurate attitudes die hard.

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