How "Perfectionism" is Stalling Woman-Focused Games and Movies
Today in eerily parallel news: Hollywood won’t touch Wonder Woman with a ten foot pole, and EA Games “can’t commit” to including women soccer players in their best-selling sports video game, even though professional female athletes actually already exist in real life.
In an article for the Atlantic Wire, Alexander Abad-Santos asks: why Wolverine, Green Lantern, Thor, Batman, Superman, Spiderman, Ironman—every “man” ever conceived by DC/Marvel—but no Wonder Woman? The answer, apparently, is that producers, directors, and film execs believe a Wonder Woman flick would be “challenging,” “tricky,” and “hefty,” and are reluctant to experiment with her because she’s an “indelible icon of feminism.” (Sounds a lot like my love life…)
Over at Kotaku, Owen Good reports on EA Games' response to an awesome (and still active!) petition requesting that the company feature the world’s women soccer stars in their FIFA series — whose gamers are 47 percent female. David Rutter, executive producer of the FIFA franchise is “sensitive to the subject and does not want to bring women's [soccer] into FIFA as some kind of a tack-on mode or a side game that would open the title to criticism...” He tells Kotaku a game featuring woman “has to be very good quality, very high value, rather than just an acknowledgment of women in [soccer]," and that this is the reason he “[can’t] commit to any future year” in which FIFA may add female avatars.
Basically, ladies, EA Games wants you to know that its biggest flaw is that it cares too much. The game is already on its 13th edition — soooo maybe we’ll see women in FIFA 1,000?
I’m going to be an optimist here and assume that Hollywood's and EA Games' “really-well-or-not-at-all” stances on Wonder Woman and female soccer avatars are hiding a fear of failing, rather than sexist disinterest. There’s such a dearth of woman protagonists in action movies and video games that any project with a female lead is held up as symbolic. And if it does poorly? The public isn’t ready for a woman hero, woman-centered video games aren’t marketable, and teenage boys are the only demographic that matters (quick, throw more boobs at them before they take their money away!).
In reality, it's a numbers game. The more darts you throw at the board, the better chance you have of hitting a bullseye. This is something Hollywood execs and EA Games already acknowledge about films and games with male protagonists (many male-lead action films have crashed and burned, but they keep getting made, and FIFA has gone through 13 reincarnations).
It’s the same philosophy they need to adopt when producing women-lead content: Not everything will stick with the public, but you learn from failures as well as successes — just get more content out there! Agonizing over a single woman hero or the perfect way to incorporate women into FIFA just reinforces the notion that these projects, by nature of featuring women, must speak to all women. No one can do that (not even Wonder Woman). If Hollywood and EA Games have an earnest desire to produce women-lead entertainment, they need to shift their focus from one faultless character or game to a higher overall volume and diversity of projects.
Oh yeah, and they’d probably do better putting some of their lady-centered blockbusters and games in the hands of actual women creatives. But that's another conversation entirely.