The Marketing of ‘John Carter’ and Hollywood’s Strange Views of Men

Since market research came back with some deeply awful numbers about audience anticipation that suggest that America has basically no interest in seeing John Carter, Disney’s epic and epically expensive movie set on Mars, there’s been a lot of dissection of the way the movie has been marketed. But I want to return to the first big decision in that campaign: to change the name of the movie from A Princess of Mars on the grounds that nobody goes to see movies about women, to John Carter of Mars, to John Carter.

The thing about John Carter is that it’s totally nondescript. This literally could be the name of anything — there have been 8 movies made that are simply called John, and they’re everything from creepy horror movies to drug flicks to foreign films. John Carter could be the name of a cubicle drone or a futuristic warrior. The novels by Edgar Rice Burroughs that the movie is based on may be lovingly remembered, but they’re not part of the canon like Ender’s Game. This name means nothing to be people. A Princess of Mars, or a variant like John Carter and the Princess of Mars, would have at least provided the crucial context that this movie is set some place other than the planet Earth.

And the central premise, that women don’t see enough science fiction to make up for the presumed hordes of men who would run in horror at a move with “princess” in the title is just bizarre. Sure, there are action movies that don’t involve romances. But the vast majority of the time, whether a dude is stealing cars or blowing up planes, he is also wooing a member of the fairer sex. Even if Disney is assuming that its audience is shy dudes who are afraid to talk to women in real life, that audience still seems to enjoy watching Paul Walker or Brad Pitt or whoever spit game and bed ladies. Would that they’d turn out consistently to see women be strong and powerful and be the ones who are delivering lines and seducing guys. But when Disney is setting the bar for their expectations of their audience even lower than I assume it is, dudes and women alike should find themselves insulted.

All of which is a way of saying this fan-made trailer looks amazing: