Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Monday Morning Quarterback: The Mockingjay Part 2 edition

Problem: The fourth installment of The Hunger Games film franchise opened lower than expected.

(Retroactive) solution: Target the underserved markets that were represented in the film.

How could the Power of Diversity translate into a bigger box office for The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2?

Here is a SWOT analysis of the film, followed by four concrete ways to get more butts in seats:

  • Mockingjay Part 2's opening weekend box office was $101 million domestic and $247 million worldwide
  • Jennifer Lawrence stars in the franchise that made her a household name, along with a passel of other famous actors
  • Three prior success blockbusters, based on the beloved series of books

  • Lower opening weekend than the previous three films, not accounting for either inflation or increase in ticket prices since the first film opened in 2012 
  • 17% decline in box office from Part 1's opening weekend
  • Not enough new elements to justify splitting the third book into two movies
  • Not enough story, too many characters with nothing to do  
    • For reals, y'all. Woody Harrelson and Elizabeth Banks are doing what they can with what they have, and Jena Malone is throwing shade and chewing up scenery. But they could contribute so much more with their own arcs, regardless of the source material in the book. Stanley Tucci deserves more than a propo intro. See Gosford Park for how to manage an engaging, yet large, cast of characters.

  • The Hunger Games has been marketed everywhere. But it doesn't look special, with no commemoration for the end of the series, like Twilight did. Remind audiences this is the last movie, so make it an event and go see it in the theater. Encouraging people to dress up like Katniss would have been nice.

  • Star Wars. The seventh film doesn't open till December of this year, but the big marketing push started before Mockingjay Part 2 debuted. With audiences being fed messaging about The Force Awakens in areas like ABC's TGIT and Wal-Mart commercials, the latest Hunger Games movie seems like old news.
  • The other films opening the same weekend as Mockingjay Part 2:
    • The Night Before, with promotions mirroring the ubiquity of Mockingjay, but with humor
    • Secret in Their Eyes, which is a more prestigious Taken
    • Legend, something about Tom Hardy?
    • Carol, a Cate Blanchett movie with minimal indie promotion

If I did it...

1. Announce that North America will have its first black woman President. And explain how she gets her perm done in post-apocalyptic Panem.

This is a female-driven franchise. But "white women" does not equal "all women." Not by a long shot.

If Lionsgate had asked Patina Miller to appear on daytime talk shows, late night talk shows, radio shows, podcasts, blogs, or a well-placed tweet promoting Mockingjay Part 2, mentioning that b-t-dubs, I'm going to be America's next President--tying the movie into the relevance of the current election season, then maybe "Mockingjay Part 2" would have been trending on its opening night.

And maybe more black women than solely me would have made seeing the movie a priority and shown up opening weekend.

2. Cast more than one person of Asian or Pacific Islander descent in a speaking role, preferably one who has a large fan base in China. The country, with a population of 1.4 billion people, is the world's second-largest box office market, as well the movie's second largest box office market.

3. Cast one identifiably Hispanic or Latin@ person anywhere in the film.

It's 2015. Hispanic and Latin@ audiences drive the domestic box office. How do you have no Hispanic or Latin@ representation in a movie set in North America and expect to have a robust domestic opening weekend?

4. Give Evan Ross a line. Or anything of significance to do, besides being another dead black man. Boggs already filled that quota, along with achieving Magical Negro status.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Less white men. More Asian women. Now.

[tl;dr: Most movies star white men. Most movies should star Asian women.]

The picture above fuels my work.

The picture below does, too.

 Population Reference Bureau

The second picture is a pie chart representation of the world's population, by continent and country, both in 2014 and in 2050, from the Population Reference Bureau.

Focusing on the 2014 chart, here are the populations of each continent or region, in order of bigness:

Asia: 4.4 billion

Africa: 1.1 billion

Europe: 740.7 million

Latin America/Caribbean: 618.1 million

North America: 353.4 million

Oceania: 38.6 million

Now, here are the percentages of the world population that each continent or region comprises:

Asia: 61%

Africa: 15%

Europe: 10%

Latin America/Caribbean: 8.6%

North America: 4.9%

Oceania: 0.5%

This means 61% of the world's population, or over 3 out of 5 earthlings, live in Asia. Over 37% of the world's population lives in two Asian countries: China (1.4 billion) and India (1.3 billion). India also has the largest English speaking population in the world (1.2 billion).

15% of the world lives in Africa. Combined with Asia, over 75% of the people on Planet Earth live on two continents. Most of these individuals would be described as "people of color", or as I like to call them, colorful people. Additionally, women make up approximately 50% of the world population.

Therefore, 1 in 3 people on Planet Earth is an Asian woman.

Keep this in mind as we look at some box office numbers.

In 2015, the Media, Diversity & Social Change Initiative at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism published Inequality in 700 Popular Films, a study of gender, race and ethnicity in films from 2007 to 2014. The study found that of the 100 top-grossing films in 2014, only 21% had a female lead or co-lead, only 17% had a nonwhite lead or co-lead, and over 73% of all the characters were white. In the films studied from 2007 to 2014, only 30% of all the characters were female.


China has the second largest box office in the world. Fellow Asian countries Japan, India, and South Korea come in third, sixth, and seventh, respectively. Mexico is eleventh.


In the summer of 2014, a study showed that the most avid moviegoers in the country with the world's largest box office, the United States/Canada, "are Hispanic women over the age of 25."Additionally, women made up 52% of the moviegoers and 50% of the ticket buyers in the US and Canada in 2014.

What I'm saying is, THERE'S A PROBLEM.

There's a problem when, in 2014, a Sony producer argues against Denzel Washington starring in future movies, because "the international motion-picture audience is racist" and "in general, pictures with an African-American lead don’t play well overseas."

Huh. Well, as The Root reported, Denzel Washington's 2014 Sony-produced movie The Equalizer ironically "went on to make $191 million at theaters worldwide, and almost half of the ticket sales were international." And, The Equalizer 2 is coming in 2017.

And the seventh Fast and Furious movie, starring black-ish actors Vin Diesel and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, made over $1.5 billion this year, over 76% from international markets, over 25% from China alone.

There's a problem when a movie about the Genesis story of Noah, which takes place in the Middle East, stars a white New Zealander, a white American, a white Welshman, and a white Englishman.

There's a problem when a movie called Aloha stars no Asians, Asian-Americans, Native Hawaiian, or Pacific Islanders in general, and has a white American playing a hapa woman.

There's a problem when there are six films released in the last five years about Steve Jobs (13 altogether), but no films in the past ever released about Maya Angelou, Madeleine Albright, Sonia Sotomayor, Rita Moreno, Sandra Day O'Connor, Lena Horne, Diahann Carroll...

For a visual example of what typical movie stars should look like, read my reaction to the movie 50/50 over here.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Cross post! The Mr. J List on ForNerdyGirls.com

from Ava DuVernay's Instagram account
(Left to right: Shonda Rhimes, Ava DuVernay, Mara Brock-Akil, Debbie Allen, Issa Rae)

Are you looking for TV shows, movies, web series, or podcasts starring colorful women? Here is a sample of titles that make The Mr. J List! (hosted on ForNerdyGirls.com)

Also, here is Women and Hollywood's list of 84 Films By and About Women of Color motivated by Ava DuVernay's call to action on Twitter.

If you'd like to add a title to The Mr. J List, then please leave a message in the comments, or tweet tweet us on Twitter at @mahlenasguide.

(Updates found on each genre's page: Television, Film, Web Series, Podcasts)





All of Us

All-American Girl

Are We There Yet?

Being Mary Jane


Cashmere Mafia



35 and Ticking

Akeelah and the Bee

And Then Came Love

The Associate

The Back-up Plan

Baggage Claim


Beauty Shop

Before Women Had Wings



Bend It Like Beckham


Beyond the Lights

The Bodyguard

Booty Call

Bringing Down the House

Brown Sugar

Carmen: A Hip Hopera


The Cell

Chasing Papi

Clara's Heart



The Color Purple

Corinna, Corinna

CrazySexyCool: The TLC Story



Black Actress

Hello Cupid

The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl



Another Round

Black Girls Talking

Friends Like Us


Wednesday, July 15, 2015

“How exactly would you like me to be decisive"

"and stick to my vision and be strong about what I want, and yet not upset anybody? Please give me the secret to that. It is a fail-fail situation.”

Oof. It certainly is, Lexi Alexander.

This Bloomberg Business Celluloid Ceilings documentary would have been better had it included even one more nonwhite woman directors, e.g. current media darling/incredible business person Ava DuVernay.

Though incomplete, the film did point out some necessary truths, like the fact that Catherine Hardwicke turned a $37 million dollar budget for the first Twilight movie into an almost $400 million box office, thus paving the way for not only the over $3 billion saga, but also similar YA franchises like The Hunger Games and Divergent. Despite the success of Catherine Hardwicke's film, there have been no other women directors on any of the subsequent Twilight films, nor on the Divergent or Hunger Games films. Catherine Hardwicke also got paid less on her next movie.


Update (7/15/2015): Lexi Alexander let me know that she is Palestinian.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015


From Wikipedia:

Inside Amy Schumer is an American sketch comedy television series created and hosted by its star, Amy Schumer.

Episodes watched by me:

Most of them.

Does the series pass the Bechdel Test? (Two female character speak to each other about something other than a man.)

Yes. There have been multiple sketches in which Amy and her character's female friends all talk about themselves, each other, or other women.

Does the series pass The Mr. J Test? (Two nonwhite characters speak to each other about something other than a white person.)

This episode could count since Sasheer Zamata does speak to her black male coworkers over the loudspeaker. But they don't speak back to her. Also, the sketch is about how Amy's character thinks all the black men in the store look alike. So...

Does the series pass the Unicorn Bonus Round? (Two nonwhite female characters speak to each other something other than a man or a white person.)

I have only seen a handful (five) of nonwhite female characters on the show, and they primarily speak to white women. So, no.

Will I keep watching?

Probably. Though, not because of Amy's lackluster apology. Because there aren't many other comedic shows that comment on feminist issues, like military rape culture or unrealistic expectations of female friends, partners, customers, millionaires, and strangers.

Would I recommend this series?

I have recommended certain episodes and sketches before, but some of Amy Schumer's jokes, both on and off the show, have been racist. So watch the series at your own peril.

Final judgments?

More funny women on my television, please. I can't keep watching reruns of The New Adventures of Old Christine to get my fix.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015


From AMC.com:

"HUMANS is set in a parallel present, where the latest must-have gadget for any busy family is a Synth – a highly-developed robotic servant, eerily similar to its live counterpart."

Episodes watched by me:

"Episode 1" and "Episode 2"

Does the series pass the Bechdel Test? (Two female character speak to each other about something other than a man.)

Yes. Anita, Laura, Mattie, and Sophie--who are all female characters--all speak to each other about each other at some point in time during the first two episodes.

Does the series pass The Mr. J Test? (Two nonwhite characters speak to each other about something other than a white person.)

So far, no. Each of the nonwhite characters--Anita, Max, Fred, Harun, Niska's madam, the scientist on the TV, and the government lady whose name I don't know--only speak to white characters. Additionally, the characters with the most agency in their lives and plotlines are all white men: Leo, Joe, even Dr. Millican--who is being bossed around by his new government-issued synth--has more control over his body than Niska, the able-bodied female synth forced into abusive prostitution.

Does the series pass the Unicorn Bonus Round? (Two nonwhite female characters speak to each other something other than a man or a white person.)

Not even. For that to happen, using the characters that we have now, Anita would have to talk with Niska's madam about maybe the government lady. Right now, Anita's trying not to get molested by her boss's sexual predator son.

Every story is so reliant on the choices that the white male characters have made. I wonder what led Humans creators (and white males with hairSam Vincent and Jonathan Brackley to create such goal-oriented white male characters, while many of the female characters are portrayed as sexual objects, assault victims, likely adulterers, jealous shrews, domineering harpies, bad mothers, or some combination thereof. Hmm...

BTdubs, the two black male characters on the show currently fill the role of Bagger Vance (Max) and dead slave (Fred). So there's that...

Will I keep watching?

For now.

Would I recommend this series?

Considering that I can name characters on fellow AMC series Mad Men that had more insight into human nature, less misogynistic views, and greater respect for colorful people--including serial cheater, xenophobe, and blackface enthusiast Roger Sterling--no.

Final judgments?

Instead of Humans, watch a holiday marathon of the original Twilight Zone on Syfy. This classic created by Rod Serling (another white male with hair) presented more progressive ideas in 1959 than this modern day series does in 2015.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

"I want to feel like my past has counted for something."

Taraji P. Henson, Viola Davis and Drama Actress A-List Tackle Race, Sexism, Aging in Hollywood by Stacey Wilson Hunt, The Hollywood Reporter

Viola Davis:

"I've been doing this for 27 years. I've performed in basements, churches, off-Broadway. I want the work to reflect my level of gifts and talent. I don't want it to reflect my color, my sex or my age. That's what I want most."

I hear you, buddy.

And by "buddy", I mean, "Ms. Davis", madam.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

"The only expectations I need to live up to are my own."

"The road ahead is not going to be easy. It never is, especially for folks like you and me. Because while we've come so far, the truth is that those age old problems are stubborn. And they haven't fully gone away. So there will be times, just like for those airmen, when you feel like folks look right past you. Or they see just a fraction of who you really are.

"The world won't always see you in those caps and gowns. They won't know how hard you worked and how much you sacrificed to make it to this day. The countless hours you spent studying to get this diploma... Instead, they will make assumptions on who they think you are based on their limited notion of the world...

"The realization that no matter how far you rise in life, how hard you work to be a good person, a good parent, a good citizen, for some folks, it will never be enough."

Monday, April 27, 2015

I hear you, Cristela.

 Sad lawyer

It's hard being the only one.

It's even worse knowing that if you don't succeed, you might not get another one remotely like you for over 20 years.

A Possible Goodbye: Cristela Season Finale Tonight…., Cristela Alonzo

The thought that my show would have to represent Latinos everywhere is impossible.  Do you know how many countries the word “Latino” covers?  If I tried to please everyone, then I wouldn’t appeal to anyone because my truth would be watered down and that’s not who I am.  I speak my truth to find the people that connect with my story.  To tell those people, “Hey, you’re not alone. I had that same experience.  I know it’s hard sometimes to fight against the ideals you grew up with but trust me, you can overcome them.” And that my friends, surpasses the Latino world. That is something that anyone that feels like the underdog, regardless of color or ethnicity, can understand.


This year, I became the first Latina to create, write, produce and star in her own network show.  I’m proud to say that out of eleven writers, four of us were women and four of us were Latino, with one of the Latino writers coming from my hometown area of McAllen, TX.  We are a show featuring a Latino family that is actually written by Latinos and I think it’s important for my show because it needs to have an authenticity to it.  I would love to see how other shows’ writing staffs compare to our staff because I don’t think other shows have that kind of number. Maybe I’m wrong?  Cristela got to hire six Latino actors as series regulars on a sitcom, do you know how rare that is?  


I don’t know what the future holds for the show but whatever it is, I can say that I am proud of what we’ve done.  I think we employed more Latinos than any other show on the air right now… If the show ends and tonight’s season finale is the last episode the world gets to see, just know that this show gave opportunities to Latino writers and actors that are hard to come by.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

I'm part of the 75 percent!

'Furious 7' Audience 75 Percent Non-White: Inside the Diversity Stats, by Pamela McClintock, The Hollywood Reporter.

An ethnically diverse cast is paying off in a big way for Furious 7.

The Universal movie opened to a franchise-best $384 million over the weekend at the global box office, including $143.6 million domestically — the biggest debut since The Hunger Games: Catching Fire in November 2013 ($158 million). More impressive, its global bow was the fourth-best of all time.

According to Universal, 75 percent of the audience in North America was non-Caucasian, generally in line with previous installments. Hispanics, the most frequent moviegoers in the U.S., made up the majority of ticket buyers (37 percent), followed by Caucasians (25 percent), African-Americans (24 percent), Asians (10 percent) and other (4 percent).

"The importance of diversity of the ensemble cast in the Fast and Furious franchise has been an integral part of the success of the brand," said Rentrak box office analyst Paul Dergarabedian. "There is literally someone within the cast that is relatable on some level to nearly every moviegoer around the world, and this has paid big dividends at the box office and also in terms of how casting decisions will be made in the future for these types of large-scale action epics."

Additionally, Furious 7 passed the Bechdel Test, the Mr. J Test, and the Unicorn Bonus Round. Hooray!

However, the franchise really needs to work on its increasing objectification of women (and their behinds). Boo.