Every summer, Fandango polls consumers about the blockbusters they’re most excited for. And it turns out that the movie women reported being most excited to see is Snow White and the Huntsman, followed by The Avengers, Men in Black III, The Dark Knight, and Dark Shadows. Now, there are a lot of dedicated female fantasy and science fiction fans out there—I should know because I talk to all of you on a constant basis. But I don’t know that we represent 22 percent of the female moviegoing population, the percentage of women who named Snow White and the Huntsmen as their top ticket-buying priority.
And I think that gets at an important point: women, even outside the core fan community, will be interested in fantasy and science fiction if work in those genres have anything to say to them. Snow White and the Huntsman is being explicitly sold not just as a story with two female leads—Charlize Theron and Kristen Stewart—but as a story about the connection between beauty and power, about competition between women, and about styles of rule and command. From the outside, the women in the movie don’t look like women acting like men. They appear to be women acting like women but with the force of armies and heroes available to play out the issues that they’re grappling with personally.
Women watch Game of Thrones not for the incest and other sexual skulduggery, as the New York Times suggested in its utterly bizarre review when the show premiered, but for the variety of women we see on-screen the way they exercise power. We watch to see Cersei Lannister wonder what it’s like to be a man, and to struggle between the imperatives of command and family. We watch for that moment when Brienne of Tarth beats the Knight of Flowers, and reveals herself for what she is (and I watch The Return of the King for the moment when Eowyn spits out the declaration of her gender at the Witch-King of Angmar). We watch for Sansa’s bitter, brittle bravery, and Arya’s nourishing hatred.
The dudes who make much of our science fiction and fantasy are rightly confident that they’ll get my, and other women’s money, even if they don’t speak to us. We’re going to Men in Black III and The Dark Knight, after all, and we’ll turn out for The Avengers even if we’re supposed to accept Black Widow and Maria Hill as our representatives. But from a purely mercenary perspective, you could always get more of our money once in a while by catering to us as women first, and counting on dudes to come along for the swords and dragons as a secondary market.