The all-female lead Ghostbusters movie bombed recently. I didn’t see it, mostly because I don’t care for that franchise and because previews looked terrible, but also in part because ‘all female’ or ‘female lead’ marketing puts me off. And not just for movies.
Steam has game tags, and one of those tags is “female protagonist, and basically every game I see with that tag I almost instantly dismiss (it also doesn’t help that, as far as I’ve seen, those games also just generally look terrible). This isn’t because I ‘hate women’, or even because I don’t want to play a female character or watch a movie with females in primary roles. I’ve played Queen Elizabeth in Civilization and Ashe in LoL, ok?! (read in “I have lots of black friends” voice).
What I am avoiding however is being force-fed ‘female power’ during a movie or a game, and such tags, or in the case of Ghostbusters, such a strong marketing push around the actors being female, generally do that. I’m for equality, in that I don’t want to treat women differently than men. There is no ‘male protagonist’ tag on Steam, and if there was and it was used the same way the female protagonist tag was used, I’d avoid those games too.
I also think such heavy-handed positioning doesn’t really help you succeed, or even drive your message home to ‘convert’ anyone. I don’t think I’m alone in that such marketing pushes people away, and I also don’t believe it draws others in to replace those it repels. Did a lot of people see Ghostbusters in large part because they wanted to support an all-female cast? The results suggest ‘no’. Same for the Steam tag; do a lot of gamers seek out and purchase games based on that style of marketing? I certainly don’t, and I don’t see those titles on the top charts either.
Tomb Raider was (is?) a successful franchise, mostly in gaming, but also with some cross-over into cinema. The lead was a female. But was that point ever driven home as hard as it was for Ghostbusters? In other words, let the product’s quality itself do the talking, and if it results in a certain subset of the population feeling good about that or identifying with it, that should be viewed as a bonus, not as the focus. Because when you do make it the focus, you overshadow the other aspects of the product that most people are actually interested in, like is movie X worth seeing, or is game Y fun to play.