Archived: Marvel CEO: Women Can't Be Superheroes

In the latest news on the Sony hack, Marvel CEO Ike Perlmutter finds himself in the midst of a controversy after slamming female superheroes.

According to an email exchange between Perlmutter and Sony CEO Michael Lynton, Perlmutter believes “female movies” do not hold up as well in the box office as superhero movies with male leads.

The email, published on WikiLeaks, reads:


As we discussed on the phone, below are just a few examples. There are more.



  1. Electra (Marvel) Very bad idea and the end result was very, very bad.

  1. Catwoman (WB/DC) – Catwoman was one of the most important female character within the Batmanfranchise. This film was a disaster.

  1. Supergirl (DC) Supergirl was one of the most important female super hero in Superman franchise. This Movie came out in 1984 and did $14 million total domestic with opening weekend of $5.5 million. Again, another disaster.



Perlmutter’s email has received backlash for several reasons. For one, as stated by Perlmutter himself in the email, Supergirl came out more than three decades ago, making it an outdated example. In addition, Perlmutter fails to acknowledge all of the movies in recent years with strong female leads that have done phenomenally at the box office.

The Hunger Games franchise, starring Jennifer Lawrence, has grossed over $2.3 billion around the world to date. Similarly, the Divergent series, with Shailene Woodley as its leading lady, currently totals at an impressive $561 million. And the four Underworld films, which were released from 2003 through 2012 and starred Kate Beckinsale, totaled $458.5 million worldwide.

Another famous series that has been praised for its strong female hero presence on and off the screen (albeit not in the title) is the Harry Potter series. Emma Watson portrays the brave and witty Hermione Granger, who has served as a literary hero for girls and women all over the world. And Watson has become a household name for female equality, being appointed a UN Women Goodwill Ambassador and playing a major role in the HeForShe campaign.

Perlmutter’s narrow way of thinking has also been seen among actors in the past few weeks. Actors Jeremey Renner and Chris Evans (known for portraying Hawkeye in Marvel’s The Avengers and Captain America in Fantastic Four, respectively) both made crude comments about Black Widow, a female hero in The Avengers series, calling her a “slut” and “whore.” While Evans has since apologized for the remarks, Renner “remains unapologetic.”

Comments of this nature especially Renner’s lack of remorse do nothing but perpetuate the negative stereotypes witnessed in Perlmutter’s email.

Marvel has already been under scrutiny over Black Widow by fans of The Avengers who have been awaiting the release of a Black Widow film.

In response to Perlmutter’s meager attempt at a list of failed female-driven movies to highlight his sexist point, Think Progress fired back with a list of its own. It cites six superhero movies that starred males and flopped at the box office, which must have slipped Perlmutter’s mind at the time he crafted his now infamous email.

Several months ago, Marvel announced an extensive movie lineup, releasing titles all the way up through 2019. One of the films, Captain Marvel (in theaters July 6, 2018), will have a female lead (probably to Perlmutter’s disappointment).

Last year, as a result of the Sony hack, President Obama found himself the subject of racist emails between Sony Pictures CEO Amy Pascal and film producer Scott Rudin.

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