Disney in Denial; Part 10; Disney Turns Wins into Losses
In my prior post I demonstrated how Disney's attempts to cater to women have alienated both male and female audiences in both its Star War and Marvel franchises. It's important to note that men, both franchises' core audience, were alienated more than women were. In this post I'll demonstrate the alienation of men is not a wholesale rejection by "men" of "strong female characters," as is often alleged.
It's a lazy allegation. Men composed over 60% of the audience for Disney's first two very successful Star Wars films, both of which featured female leads. "Men" didn't collectively and suddenly notice Disney's casting decisions with the release of The Last Jedi, Disney's third Star Wars film. Rather they took notice of the script--as did women. I demonstrated this in the sixth and seventh posts of this series.
The Mandalorian, Disney+ most popular show, provides another example where Disney reversed an initial success. You can divide The Mandalorian's 24 episodes into three segments: Those that feature Mando (the title character) alone and those that feature him along with one of two female leads: Cara Dune, played by Gina Carano, and Bo-Katan, played by Katee Sackhoff. The comparison of the ratings of these shows is revealing.
The Mando-only episodes (first set of bars in the above chart) earned high ratings from both men and women. That was a good start, but Disney improved upon it with the introduction of Cara Dune. The second set of bars show both men and women rated the episodes where she appears more highly than they did the Mando-only episodes. There's no definitive reason why, but I suspect part of it was that Gina Carano's background as a mixed martial artist lent an air of authenticity to her character.
Regardless of the reason, Disney had succeeded in improving a show by introducing a strong female character! But, alas, it wouldn't last. Lucasfilm's president, Kathleen Kennedy, fired Gina Carano over a tweet she made after the conclusion of the second season. After that, Disney reverted to form. Bo-Katan's rising prominence in Season 3 was accompanied by the same sort of writing that has served to divide male and female audiences in other Marvel and Star Wars shows.
You can see this in the third set of bars. Not only are the men and women's ratings for the "Bo-Katan episodes" lower than are either of the other two sets of episodes, but they are also characterized by the same male/female polarization I described in the eighth and ninth posts. The difference between men and women's ratings more than doubled to 0.4 points.
Viewership fell along with the ratings. The bottom portion of the above chart demonstrates season 2 enjoyed growing viewership for each of its 8 episodes . The final episode (week 8) of that season, featuring Luke Skywalker, excited such interest that viewership sharply increased in weeks 9 - 12 when no new episodes were released.
In contrast, after the controversial firing of Gina Carano, season 3's viewership started out weaker than where season 2 had left off. It went downhill from there. By the third week of season 3 viewership was tracking behind season 2. By week 10 The Mandalorian had lost over 20% of its audience. There are other factors at play, but this is Disney+ top-rated show. So, it's not completely surprising that Disney+ subscribers fell in both Q2 and Q3, while The Mandalorian was running.
You can find the next post in the series about Disney's continuing cold streak here.