Marvel Changed Iron Man 3 Villain from Female to Male "Because of Toymaking"

Monday, 16 May 2016 - 12:40PM
Marvel
Iron Man
Monday, 16 May 2016 - 12:40PM
Marvel Changed Iron Man 3 Villain from Female to Male "Because of Toymaking"
It's no secret that selling toys has an impact on creative decisions in big movie franchises (BB-8, anyone?). But it often doesn't actually hinder the storytelling, it just leads to slightly ridiculous things happening in the background, like naming all of the cool-looking alien extras in The Force Awakens (and occasionally leads to wonderful things happening, like BB-8). But apparently, the behind-the-scenes shenanigans for Iron Man 3 was a different story altogether, as director Shane Black admits that Marvel made him change his entire original script purely for the merchandise. 

Iron Man 3 turned out to be a great movie, but if not for studio intervention, it might have been a much more progressive one. Black told Uproxx in a recent interview that in the original script, both Rebecca Hall and Stéphanie Szostak's characters had bigger roles that were subsequently reduced, and most significantly, the main antagonist was supposed to be female.

Opening quote
In the earlier draft, the woman was essentially Killian – and they didn't want a female Killian, they wanted a male Killian. I liked the idea, like Remington Steele, you think it's the man but at the end, the woman has been running the whole show. They just said, "no way."
Closing quote

According to Black, the studio made him switch the villain's gender because they didn't think a female villain could sell toys:

Opening quote
All I'll say is this, on the record: There was an early draft of Iron Man 3 where we had an inkling of a problem. Which is that we had a female character who was the villain in the draft. We had finished the script and we were given a no-holds-barred memo saying that cannot stand and we've changed our minds because, after consulting, we've decided that toy won't sell as well if it's a female. So, we had to change the entire script because of toy making.
Closing quote

This is completely maddening, both on a creative and political level. When Disney makes the story editors come up with backstories for their extras so they can sell more toys, that doesn't substantively impact the storytelling, but when the desire to sell more toys impacts a movie's entire plot, you're pretty much guaranteed that the movie won't be as great as it could be. And, of course, it's absurd to say in this day and age that girls don't buy toys, considering how much clamor there has been for Black Widow toys, Wonder Woman action figures, etc. Even if it is true that female action figures don't sell as well (and I've never found reliable evidence that confirms or denies this), it's only because the toymakers aren't even trying to sell to girls, because they assume girls don't want them. There's no substantive difference between a Frozen figurine and a Black Widow figurine, but at this point it's a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Black quickly went on to say that this attitude is not necessarily shared by Kevin Feige, who was not in charge at the time. Ike Perlmutter had control over the studio when Iron Man 3 was in production, and although it's not clear whether he was directly involved either, Black believes that the changes in management have helped the studio avoid 

Opening quote
If you ever say anything about decisions made at Marvel, I hope you'll qualify it by saying that Kevin Feige is the guy who gets it right. And I don't know if it was Ike, I don't know who it was. They never told me who made the decision, we just got that memo one day and it was about toy sales. That's all I know.
Closing quote

Point well-taken, and female representation has gotten better in the Marvel universe over the last few years. But considering that all of the controversies surrounding Black Widow and Scarlet Witch being left out of the merchandise and even replaced in their own scenes have still happened under Feige, it looks like this is a pretty pervasive problem.
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