I’ve had a chance to read and really absorb Tad Friend’s Anna Faris profile (Behind the paywall, but do I need to tell you to subscribe? Really?), which is excellent not simply because Faris is funny and engaging, but because it does a really nice job at what New Yorker profiles do best, which is use a person to explain a phenomenon: in this case, how comedies with women work. But while Jezebel and other outlets are right that the profile’s a stark explication of how reluctant Hollywood is to fund and film substantive movies about women, they’re ignoring something important. Hollywood’s decisions are determined as much by, if not more, what international markets respond to as by what American audiences are seeing. References to international grosses are everywhere in the article.
The U.S. is supposed to be a cultural leader, and there’s no question that the country makes a truly fantastic amount of money by exporting movies abroad. Rango, so far the top-grossing movie of 2011, has made just $7 million less internationally than it has domestically. Avatar made $760.5 million domestically and $2 billion internationally. When the market is that big abroad, American studios can export values and images—but they’re inevitably going to be responsive to what international audiences want, too. I’d be curious how Faris market-tests abroad. I wouldn’t be remotely surprised if raunchy women score much worse in major international markets than they do here.