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Disney in Denial; Part 8; Customer Satisfaction is not a Gender-Based Zero-Sum Game

This is the eighth in a series of posts regarding missteps taken by The Walt Disney Company. You can navigate to Part 7 here.

As Disney’s problems get more obvious by the day, the coverage of the situation and Disney’s management are both missing a fundamental aspect of it. In a quest to gear content toward women, they dissatisfied both sexes.

The above chart gets at the very heart of the disconnect. It’s so counter-intuitive that I had to sit with it for a while before the implications became clear.

On the X-Axis is the difference between women’s and men's ratings of each Star Wars film. The farther a film is to the right of the chart, the more women rated it more favorably than men did.

On the Y Axis is the women’s overall rating of each film. The higher a film is on the chart, the more favorably women rated it overall.

Let’s compare two data points. Women gave a 7.1 rating to The Rise of Skywalker (lower right), which isn’t a very high score. Men gave it an even lower rating (6.5). So, women rated it 0.6 points more favorably than men did.

On the opposite extreme of the chart (upper left) is The Empire Strikes Back. Men rated this film 0.3 points more favorably than women did (8.8 vs. 8.5).

Here’s the counter-intuitive part. Women rated The Empire Strikes Back a full 1.4 points more favorably than they did The Rise of Skywalker. You might think the opposite would be true, given the fact women rated The Rise of Skywalker much more favorably relative to men. But that’s not what happened. [Here's where I had to sit with the data for a while.]

Interestingly, the relationship holds true for all the trilogy films together as well as for each trilogy separately. In fact, the relationship is much stronger within each trilogy than it is across them.

There are, perhaps, a number of potential explanations for this dynamic. I think the simplest one is that The Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker didn't so much offer content that appealed to women as it offered content that men disliked more than women did.

There's no end of social media criticism readily available to explain why, but I think it’s more helpful in this instance to cite an article heaping praise on The Last Jed that appeared in Vanity Fair, published on the day of its release. It was written by Joanna Robinson, a senior staff writer.

“This message—women being largely right, and men being mostly wrong—extends to most but not all aspects of The Last Jedi.” and

“. . . a movie that takes time away from the light and dark battles of Rey and Kylo to deliver a stinging referendum on gendered office politics.”

I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to think that’s not what most male and female Star Wars fans were looking for in a Star Wars film.

So far, I’ve concentrated on the films in this series. The next post will describe how the same relationship between men and women’s ratings plays out on Star Wars and Marvel shows on Disney+.


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