Rotten Potatoes

Notes on the idiosyncrasies of the Irish box office


Another season, another crummy Nicholas Sparks film. It is often said that Mr Sparks’s oeuvre is discriminated against by a chin-stroking, high fallutin’ (and predominantly male) critical elite. But as proud owners of The Notebook on DVD, we know our high-end Sparks. And sister, Safe Haven – its No 2 placing and €102,473 weekend take notwithstanding – is not high-end Sparks.

We might at this juncture rehearse any number of well- worn arguments. The woman’s picture, as they were once quaintly termed, has gone to hell because women have only minimal input into the genre; because of the film industry’s remarkably low glass ceiling; because only 4.4 per cent of the top 100 box office draws between 2002 and 2012 were made by women; because all but 41 of the past decade’s best performing 1,100 movies were made by men.

We might, once more with feeling, run the Bechdel Test over the recent crop of Oscar nominees. The candidates don’t exactly stand up to the scrutiny of a feminist sliderule that determines how often, if ever, one female character speaks to another on a topic that isn’t boys.

Even Zero Dark Thirty – a female-centred project from a female director – could only muster some meaningless chit- chat between Jessica Chastain and Jennifer Ehle’s parachuted- in, makeweight “friend”.

And, in case we haven’t noticed the same film, structurally speaking, is a romcom: one lonely working girl searches the globe for that one special guy. GSOH and water-boarding experience essential.

Globally, we’re told that more women go to the cinema than men. So if they’re not going to Hollywood’s latest girly crap-o- rama, what are they watching?

Enter the fan-girl, aged 18 to 35, and the fastest growing demographic in the known movieverse. The new breed of fan-girl (classic edition) wouldn’t be caught dead at a Nicholas Sparks film. Her favourite movie last year was Marvel’s Avengers , and she was only slightly disappointed by The Dark Knight Rises, her No 2 pick.

Here’s the good news. In an era of instant karma, internet lobbies, and trial by Twitter, the fan-girl, potentially, wields a great degree of power. But as Spiderman tells us over and often, with great power comes great responsibility.

It falls to the fan-girl to ask why Avengers director Joss Whedon, the feminist creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, didn’t give Scarlett Johansson a little more to do. It falls to the fan-girl to wonder why women have to be trapped in an embassy before they’ll converse in Argo. It falls to the fan-girl to query why The Hunger Games film franchise sanitises the books’ Katniss.

Here’s the bad news: the contemporary fan-girl isn’t questioning such things, at least not audibly. And right now she needs to brave the trolls, dust off her critical faculties and demand more than Black Widow. There will always be silly girls who are perfectly happy to laugh off the baser female behaviours found in Bridget Jones Diary and Lena Dunham’s Girls. But fan-girls can do better.