Saturday, March 3, 2012

What Did Charlie’s Angels Have That Unsuccessful Superheroine Films Didn’t?

     Charlie’s Angels became a successful TV show on ABC Family in the 70s, drawing a large audience of both males and females. Since then, besides the Charlie’s Angel’s movie that came out as a spin off of the show, the production and success of superheroine movies has gone drastically downhill. Take Elektra for example. The movie grossed a little over 56 million, compared to Charlie’s Angels’ 260 million. The question really is though, what characteristics made Charlie’s Angels so likeable that characters like Elektra did not possess?
            I recently found an article that strove to answer this very question. The article talked about how when superheroine movies first became popular again through Charlie’s Angels, producers created a general formula for success in the genre: attractive women in tight costumes, some fight scenes, and everything else would happen naturally after that. However, this did not hold true, shown by the many superheroine flops that followed Charlie’s Angels’ success. Obviously, Charlie’s Angels must have contained something other than just attractive women fighting a little bit.

One of the main differences that probably led to the success was the ability of the movie to draw both a male and female audience. The article outlined the characteristics necessary to create a superhero who appeals to both males and females.  The guidelines the article set went as following:

1. Do fight demons. Don't fight only inner demons.
2. Do play well with others. Don't shun human society.
3. Do exhibit self-control. Don't exhibit mental disorders.
4. Do wear trendy clothes. Don't wear fetish clothes.
5. Do embrace girl power. Don't cling to man hatred.
6. Do help hapless men. Don't try to kill your boyfriend.
7. Do toss off witty remarks. Don't look perpetually sullen.

These points accurately sum up many of the discussions we have had in class about what makes a superheroine effective for all audiences. One of the most important guidelines, and one we tend to talk about particularly a lot in class, is #4. Like Maggie pointed out in her post “Beauty as an Advantage”, the girls in Charlie’s Angels use their beauty as a tool for fighting crime, not just as a product of creation by the “male gaze”.  The use of beauty as a weapon is definitely an interesting topic, and one that many audiences probably also really appreciated because it means that they use their beauty to their own advantage, not just as a tool to please male audiences. Women can respect the use of beauty in this way, as women also idolize beauty, but are offended by beauty being misrepresented by the “male gaze”.

Overall, I realized that the traits that tend to make a good superheroine are ones that women would like to have themselves. Going back to Elektra, her revealing costume paired with her self-pity just could not live up to the confident, beautiful and mentally and physically strong women playing the superheroines in Charlie’s Angels. Females were drawn to watch Charlie’s Angels because they could idolize them not only on their looks, but also on their character traits that adequately empower women. After all, what women wouldn't want to be one of the three Charlie's Angels in this picture as they walk up onto the beach laughing together after a victory fighting crime? They represent most things women strive to be: strong, happy, and surrounded by friends.

Photo from:'s Angels.jpg
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  1. Emily, you make a great point about superheroines representing the type of person that women want to emulate. I think that men and women have different ideas as to what characteristics that an admirable woman should possess, however, they do share some as well. In order to make a successful superherione movie, the creators should determine the characteristics that men and women value the most and create the ultimate woman by combining these ideals. I agree with Emily that the Charlie's Angels movie was such a hit because the superheroines possessed traits that appealed to both male and female audiences. For example, Cameron Diaz played a character that was very attractive and enjoyed life. Men are going to want to watch Cameron Diaz and women are going to want to go watch a successful, happy woman. I hope that the next superherione movie emphasizes both the ideals of men and women as to give a good name to female heros.

  2. Emily, I really liked how you brought up beauty as a weapon, instead of merely a "male gaze" technique to reel in the male audience. I feel that in class, we only look upon beauty/looks in general, as negative ploy to attract men, and that is the sole reason. However, there are positive connotations to being attractive that help in other aspects of life. We need to find that balance between complete bafflement when in the face of beauty and sheer disgust for it. Isn't that what we want, ultimately? A balance?


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