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Madame Web: Studios Are Blaming Women Instead Of Themselves

According to studio insiders, women should be blamed for the box office and critical failure of Madame Web and not the studio for making a bad movie.

Article Summary

  • Studio insiders blame women for the failure of Madame Web.
  • Analysis suggests bad movie-making and marketing are real culprits.
  • Critique highlights poor use of character, story, and universe building.
  • Clarion call for creativity and effort over blame-shifting in filmmaking.

Whenever there is a high-profile failure to the magnitude of Madame Web, you know that when the dust settles and Monday morning rolls around, people will start pointing fingers. The public spent a fair portion of the weekend doing just that, with most people citing the script as the thing that really broke the film and pointing out how the primary writers have several high-profile failures on their resume. The reality of the situation is always a little more nuanced because there isn't one big bad person that you can point to and single out for failures like this; it's a fundamental misunderstanding of the audience and the market by studio executives thinking they can piece together a hit. That isn't the answer that brings investors back to the table. We all know that Sony was never going to take on the blame for themselves even though they have yet to make a critical and commercially successful Marvel film [where Marvel Studios wasn't holding their hand] since 2012. Instead, studio insiders have decided it is the audience's fault, not the people who made the film.

Madame Web: Studios Are Blaming Women Instead Of Themselves
Director SJ Clarkson, Celeste O'Connor, Sydney Sweeney, Isabela Merced and Dakota Johnson on the set of Columbia Pictures' MADAME WEB. Photo By: Jessica Kourkounis © 2024 CTMG, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

The Hollywood Reporter put out the first of what will be many post-mortems on Madame Web. They got some studio insiders who have decided that because Madame Web was fronted by a female cast and directed by a woman, it was a movie made for women. Women didn't turn out for it, so, therefore, women don't like these movies. "I don't know if women are enough to carry the box office here," one veteran studio source outside of Sony said in the THR. They went on to report that males make up 70% of the superhero audience in North America, and Madame Web only had a 46% female viewership. The gender breakdown is meaningless if the movie is bad and the marketing is even worse.

We have been making fun of the marketing for Madame Web here at Bleeding Cool for weeks, pointing out how the posters seem to feature the same promo pictures of the cast repeatedly. The trailers didn't promise any fun or stupid action points that could draw in anyone of any gender or some good character dynamics or performances. Everything about the film felt flat from the moment they started releasing the footage. Sony decided star Dakota Johnson was the only one they put in front of the cameras for press. Johnson's stylist for press deserves a raise, but no one else was involved with this. The premiere red carpet was the first time we had really seen Sydney Sweeney, Celeste O'Connor, and Isabela Merced out and together.

Madame Web: Studio Insiders Are Blaming Women Instead Of Themselves
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – FEBRUARY 12: (L-R) Celeste O'Connor, Sydney Sweeney, Dakota Johnson and Isabela Merced at the Red-Carpet World Premiere of Columbia Pictures’ MADAME WEB at the Regency Village Westwood Theater on February 12, 2024 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Stewart Cook/Getty Images for Sony Pictures)

People of any gender want good movies, and Madame Web is not a good movie. Its quality has absolutely nothing to do with who the stars are or who directed it. It was a misfire because studio executives thought they could take any character connected to Marvel Comics and they would make money. They were trying to set up a mini-universe here with Johnson's Cassandra being the Professor X or the Nick Fury of this corner of the Sony Universe. It was essentially a prequel film for a cinematic universe that didn't exist yet. That's why the girls never get their powers, and we only see them in their suits in visions and flashforwards. It's another example of a studio putting the cinematic universe cart before the horse and dragging everyone down with them.

It's moviemaking by studio executives and committees, not creatives, and everyone is too broke and out of patience to waste their time and money on these films anymore. You have to put in a little effort and have some creative integrity. People, regardless of gender, want good films, and the box office takes of other superhero films prove that the audience has always been and continues to be there if you make good movies. Madame Web failed because it is a bad movie on nearly every single level, full stop, and its failure is the fault of those in upper management of Sony Pictures, not an audience that didn't turn out for a bad movie.

Madame Web: Summary, Cast List, Release Date

"Meanwhile, in another universe…" In a switch from the typical genre, Madame Web tells the standalone origin story of one of Marvel publishing's most enigmatic heroines. The suspense-driven thriller stars Dakota Johnson as Cassandra Webb, a paramedic in Manhattan who may have clairvoyant abilities. Forced to confront revelations about her past, she forges a relationship with three young women destined for powerful futures…if they can all survive a deadly present.

Madame Web, directed by SJ Clarkson, stars Dakota Johnson, Sydney Sweeney, Celeste O'Connor, Isabela Merced, Tahar Rahim, Mike Epps, Emma Roberts, and Adam Scott. It was released on February 14, 2024.

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Kaitlyn BoothAbout Kaitlyn Booth

Kaitlyn is the Editor-in-Chief at Bleeding Cool. Film critic and pop culture writer since 2013. Ace. Leftist. Nerd. Feminist. Writer. Replicant Translator. Cinephillic Virtue Signaler. She/Her. UFCA/GALECA Member. 🍅 Approved. Follow her Threads, Instagram, and Twitter @katiesmovies.
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