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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

question of the day: Will women see ‘Watchmen’?

Kim Voynar, one of the smartest women writing about movies at the moment, wonders whether women will want to see Watchmen. Much of what she writes, in her extended musings on movie violence, context, and whether female moviegoers approach cinematic violence (and cinematic superheroes) on a different level than male moviegoers do, sounds very much like what I would say about myself:

I fall into the female demographic, but I’m probably not what a Hollywood studio exec would consider a typical female consumer. I loathe most rom-coms and “chick flicks,” both for the way in which they tend to generalize gender roles and objectify women, and for the overall banality of their scripts. It’s a rare thing to find a genuinely smart film targeted primarily at the female audience. I tend to favor art films by obscure foreign directors, or interesting documentaries, or little indie films at fests. I’m not a huge fan of horror, but I will see (and frequently enjoy) good horror films that have some element that sets them apart, even if they’re violent (Teeth, Shawn of the Dead, Dance of the Dead, The Descent, Let the Right One In, Grace and Make Out with Violence, for instance).

On the other hand, I think the ultra-violent, misanthropic premise on which films like Saw and Hostel are based is abhorrent. I avoided the remake of The Last House on the Left because the original ranks second in my Most Hated Films of all time list. I hated Funny Games, both the original and the remake, and I’m not a fan of Reservoir Dogs, though I like Quentin Tarantino generally. I’m not a scifi geek or fangirl and I don’t read a lot of comics or graphic novels, but even so, I’ve seen most of the superhero/geek and sci-fi flicks that have come out in the last decade or so. I’m not the most likely target demographic for Watchmen, but I’d be going to see it, even if I didn’t need to see it for my job.

I think anyone who’s been reading this site for a while can tell where I differ from Voynar. But the point is: we’re both women, we’re both avid moviegoers and devout movie lovers, and we’re both psyched for this movie.

I tend to think that quality is the key: The Dark Knight’s audience was pretty evenly split between men and women, and that may have flummoxed the industry, but it’s no surprise at all to me.

So, if you’re a woman, are you geeked for Watchmen? (If you’re a regular reader of this site, I’d guess the chances that you are are probably pretty high.) For everyone, what do the non-movie-geek women in your life say about wanting to see this movie?

Will women see ‘Watchmen’?

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me.)



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  • MBI

    Not a woman, but I can tell you that the females in my clique are all going to see it, including the ones who haven’t read the novel. Some may be excited just because of the film’s reputation, and because us guys are so excited about it, but they’re all fans of comic books.

  • marshall

    I’ve been reading the graphic novel, and enjoying it immensly. When I try to talk to my wife, who is very much NOT a geek, about why the novel is so good and compelling, she sorta rolls her eyes – because to her she just sees superheros. She loved Dark Knight, but as much as I would love for her to see this movie, I don’t think I’m going to get her to do that. Outside of my wife, I know plenty of other women who are probably psycked for this flick.

  • PattiH

    I’m all ready to see it! I had to borrow back the book from my youngest daughter to reread (and it’s been a popular request in our library system this past month or so). Now she borrowed it to read quickly before the 6th, and I’m sorry she’s back at school two hours away…it would be fun to see it together!

  • Althea

    I’ll be there for the first show on Friday. I’ve been looking forward to this since the first news of the movie getting made. I’m psyched to see how good it looks. Frankly all your comments, MaryAnn, and Voynar’s, are pretty much what I think too. Viva intelligent scary and explosions! And I dig graphic novels as well, though not as a daily thing. With that in mind I’m keen for as good a Wonder Woman movie as the Batmans. Not holding out a lot of hope.

  • Bill

    I know plenty of boy geeks and boy non-geeks who are looking forward to Watchmen. I can’t say that I know too many girl geeks. Maybe one. She happens to be indifferent about Watchmen. Of the many non-geek girls in my life, I don’t know of anyone who is excited about it. The girl buzz does tend to be about rom coms rather than scifi/fantasy/action adventure/drama etc, er, all the stuff that’s not rom com. I, however, will be seeing it this weekend if life permits.

  • Jackie

    Girl here, and I’m not planning on seeing it. I read the comic and wasn’t impressed. I’ve seen most of the recent superhero movies and my opinion of them has been about the same: meh. I’m not going to fork over another $15 to see more of the same.

    I consider myself a geek, but for Japanese, not American, comics. The US versions are just too damn sexist.

  • Christy

    I’m definitely looking forward to Watchmen, and I plan on seeing it opening weekend. Although I consider myself a geek, I’ve never been a comic book buff. I haven’t read the graphic novel, but the previews just look too damn good. I love it when superhero stories, normally so black-and-white, delve into the gray areas.

    My mother, definitely not a geek but a fan of Supernatural, wants to see it because of Jeffrey Dean Morgan. So there you go.

  • Katie Dvorak

    I definitely don’t fit into any studio’s idea of the “typical” female movie goer and this action loving geek girl is very much looking forward to Watchmen.

  • Paul

    Jackie, could you illuminate me on the less sexist aspects of Japanese comics? I find that idea a little bewildering.

  • I can’t really address this, because most of my female friends are horror fanatics who love ultra-violent and misanthropic movies. Not exactly representative, I guess.

    My girlfriend is a film student, actually, and her favorite movies are The Crow, Ghost in the Shell, the Evil Dead trilogy, and all of Tarantino’s movies. She’s more psyched for Watchmen than I am. (I thought 300 was incredibly stupid, so I have low expectations.) I’m a guy, but I’m actually more like you or her though.

  • Ide Cyan

    I’m a woman, and I’m really really looking forward to Watchmen. I’m psyched. I plan on attending a screening as soon as possible with other women I know. I’m also very much into SF and fannish culture, though I didn’t read the source comic in this case since I missed out on it during my big comic book years. (I more recently flipped through the paperback in stores and read information about it online.) Although, I might buy the paperback (particularly if I like the movie; or even if I don’t — I bought the first volume of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, but not V for Vendetta), though probably after I’ve seen the movie in this case, because I don’t want to read it so soon before seeing the film.

    What’s really tempting me right now are the action figures. :-)

  • Ide Cyan

    (I thought 300 looked good onscreen, but I’m really not into Frank Miller’s facist crap, so I never watched it all the way through. There were some wicked cool fanvids based on it, though.)

  • In other words, MaryAnn is asking “Who will watch The Watchmen“? ;-)

    But seriously, folks…

    My mother chose to watch a bad Al Pacino movie rather than take a chance on Iron Man, my sister is not likely to watch anything her kids can’t watch–and if the movie is anything like the book, this movie is definitely even less for children than The Dark Knight–and my best female friend is the type of person who gave up on Wanted within the first ten minutes.

    So apparently not too many women I know will be seeing this…

  • Left_Wing_Fox

    Paul: Just walk into any big-box bookstore, and head for the graphic novel section. Count your way through the titles and see how many you can find that feature a female character wearing something more than a unitard swimsuit, and is either the main protagonist, or has equal billing to the main protagonist. Now do the same with the manga section.

    Yes, there’s a lot of alternative comics in North America that don’t fall into the sexist superhero sterotypes. Yes, there’s a lot of manga that is horrifically and violently mysogynist. But neither of those make up the commercial mainstream in North America these days.

  • Joey

    Two things to expand on Left_wing_Fox’s comment and reply to Paul about manga and sexism:

    1. Mainstream manga includes a huge variety of genres rarely covered in western comics – including quite a lot of rom-coms and straightforward character dramas, actually, which vary greatly in their degrees of misogyny.

    2. A much larger percentage of manga is written by and for women and girls, and often these far outsell the male-centric shounen titles to say nothing of the really gory or squicky stuff (though some of the most popular are written by women – CLAMP, Rumiko Takahasi, etc. – mainly for boys).

    3. The less-mainstream misogynistic and ultraviolent manga tend to be much worst than the merely objectifying Western comics, though.

  • Joey

    Sorry, and Jackie’s original statement

  • I didn’t like the graphic novel, and I’ve heard that the movie is very violent. So I don’t plan to go. I didn’t see 300 or Sin City either.

    I needed to see a good movie last weekend, so I went and rewatched Milk.

  • Rebecca S

    I’m going to see Watchmen tomorrow night at the midnight show with eight people, six of whom are women. Pretty much everyone I know, male and female, is a big enough nerd to be really looking forward to this.

  • Jaco G

    My girlfriend is even more excited to see this film than I am, so I guess the answer is yes I know at least one woman who will see it. :) But then again, she also likes some of the very male-targeted Judd Apatow style stuff that I really don’t care for much.

    I take an interest in media aimed at women/kids, and it irks me what passes for entertainment. “Yeah, let’s put in a shopping montage… chicks dig that sort of thing.” “Get a hot guy for the lead to pine after, that’s all she needs to aspire to.” “ZOMG!!! Juno made like a bunch of money, let’s make more movies about pregnant women.” … Well that’s what I imagine goes on in industry moguls’ heads.

  • JasonJ

    My wife really wants to see it, and she knows absolutely nothing about it beyond the trailers we have seen. She really liked Sin City and iron Man, along with most of the comic adaptations. Of course, she is highly educated, so I think that is a factor.

    I’m sure someone will spool up and freak out at what I am going to say, but it has been my experience that most women who have had kids allow themselves to be dumbed down, and lose their individual wants in favor of the children. Their life becomes a series of play parties and children’s movies, and they forget that they are adults and that it is okay to have individual adult desires.

    I think more women will want to see Watchmen than people think. One reason, the current commercials show a woman laying out a metric ton of ass whoopin’ and women like to see fellow women portrayed as kicking ass. I also think the average woman who will want to see this movie will be of above average intelligence. The stupid bints that function at an 8th grade level will overlook this movie for something more compelling like Bride Wars.

  • Paul

    Actually, I used to dumb down around my cousins kids pretty easily. Kids are like a built in excuse to play with LEGOS, or for my dad to show off his magic card tricks. Or watch Bugs Bunny cartoons.

  • Shadowen

    I think the split between men and women comic geeks will be about what it was for The Dark Knight, as they had to have been expecting a somewhat similar tone. Some will know and like the source material and will go, and some will know and dislike the source material and won’t go. And vice versa, even. The difference is that women who know the comic may have more to be concerned about. The book contains what may be considered a pro-life monologue at one point, while one relationship could be seen as sympathetic towards rapists. (It’s more a monologue about the miracle of simple existence itself, and the relationship is portrayed as quite fucked up all the way through, but they can certainly be interpreted both ways.)

    As for the general populace…I think it’ll be hard for the average woman to not at least be interested, just like the average man would be, simply because the movie is being so thoroughly promoted.

    So yeah, I think that in the case of movies like this, it breaks down to an even 50/50 split, or nearly so.

  • Sara

    I’m female and saw The Watchmen–and yes, finally, a strong female role in a movie based on a graphic comics novel/book–Spectre II–she was integral to the movie and no killing her off misogynistically (or at all.) Also the pace, the story, the character development in general drew me in. Great job of allowing Nite Owl’s vulnerabilities toward a female show, and then see him deal with that in a positive way. (Younger females might not understand this part though.)
    That said, I think best character (and acting) was by Rorschach. More interesting, by far, to me than the Joker in TDK. And more complexity in the character.

  • Althea

    Just came back from Watchmen. Woooooowwww. Sitting in front of me was a group of 7 buddies, 3 girls, 4 guys. Some other women in the place, didn’t notice, but that was telling.

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