Two weeks ago, I left a Utah theater in the most upbeat fashion after seeing “Guardians of the Galaxy,” one of Marvel Studios’ most incredible and daring films to date.
My girlfriend also loved it, and the very next day, she brought home a “Guardians of the Galaxy” mug for me. After opening it, we spun it around, glancing at all the characters decorated along the surface: Starlord’s brilliant red lenses beaming from his mask; Drax the Destroyer’s intense glare as if reacting to a metaphor he didn’t quite understand; Rocket Raccoon’s trigger happy fingers around a gun with bullets erupting from the barrel; and Groot’s thick branches at the ready to smash some “baddies.”
Then a very important question escaped from my girlfriend’s mouth: “Where’s Gamora?”
We weren’t the first to notice.
In the last few weeks, others realized that most merchandise for the film excluded a major character, the mean, green female assassin of the group, Gamora. The controversy even sparked a huge movement on Twitter, where fans tweeted #WheresGamora.
The Disney Store is filled with fairy tale princesses, but when it comes to other female characters in Disney’s properties, it managed to let down fans of some of the most prominent female characters in geek culture, such as Princess Leia, Black Widow and now Gamora.
Polls indicate that 44 percent of the opening week audience for “Guardians of the Galaxy” was women, yet Disney/Marvel still seems unaware that it can make a profit from this half of its audience. And this is years after fans have openly stated that they would like to see a female-led superhero film from any studio.
Perhaps Disney/Marvel believes that women wouldn’t buy Gamora-centered merchandise, but they couldn’t be more wrong. If no one would buy this type of merchandise, then why are so many people demanding it? From small girls to adult women, half of the audience is a huge target market to address, and I bet not only women would buy it, but men as well. Ignoring the actual existing demand is pretty strange even from a marketing point of view. She is even being left out on items featuring the entire Guardians team.
It’s easy to say that women action figures, shirts and other merchandise don’t sell as well as the male-centric stuff when you make none of the female-centric items to buy in the first place. Women buy comics. Women buy action figures.
When individuals aren’t properly represented on the cultural level, they tend to feel illegitimate. Author Junot Diaz wrote “If you want to make a human being into a monster, deny them, at the cultural level, any form of reflection of themselves.” This is something that Disney/Marvel is doing to women by not properly representing female characters from their movies on their merchandise. Gamora was most likely a character that the female audience identified with, and her absence from these products was most likely why many women, including my girlfriend, were so upset.
The only thing more criminal than this loot loving team is Marvel’s marketing toward women. Definitely not hooked on this feeling.