On Monday, an email circulated online between Marvel Entertainment CEO Ike Perlmutter and Sony Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton with the subject "Female Movies." It contained an apparent list of woman superhero-fronted movies that were "disasters."
News outlets, blogs, and Twitter users picked up the email as another indicator of the sexism and distaste for female characters Marvel has been accused of in the past few months.
Though some attributed this to Perlmutter's reputation for valuing Marvel's finances above anything else, others maintained that the note was "small-minded" and that Perlmutter was ignoring the hundreds of male-led superhero movies that bombed as well.
Perlmutter and Marvel Studios declined to comment.
Before the leaked email gained attention, recent frustration over Marvel's treatment of women began in early April over the lack of Black Widow merchandise available to promote Marvel Studios' new film Avengers: Age of Ultron.
Even Mark Ruffalo, the Hulk himself, took notice.
The frustration bloomed into online anger when Chris Evans and Jeremy Renner called Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson's character) a "slut," a "whore," and a "flirty sidekick" during a press junket.
The two, who play Captain America and Hawkeye respectively, soon after issued statements of apology through their representatives.
But this week, Renner stopped by Conan O'Brien's show and said he was unapologetic, even restating his comments.
Some dismissed this as an off-color joke, but others believed it to be an indicator of a larger problem with the portrayal of women in Marvel films, Hollywood, and the world in general.
The release of Age of Ultron last week continued the public aggravation over the treatment of Black Widow. Many were upset by her new romance, fertility-driven plot line, and "damsel in distress" scene.
Jen Yamato of The Daily Beast wrote a much-quoted op-ed on her disappointment over Black Widow's portrayal throughout the two Avengers movies.
"Marvel's most badass female characters keep getting exploited — and utterly wasted — just to prop up the men around them," Yamato wrote.
She also noted that in the decision to make Black Widow infertile as part of her training, and have her suggest running away to live a domestic life with the Hulk, "[writer Joss] Whedon gives his favorite character the kind of female troubles only a man can write."
Others, like Alyssa Rosenberg of the Washington Post, perceived Black Widow's plot line as being inherently feminist. Rosenberg argued that through Romanoff, Whedon is portraying a woman working well in a male-heavy work environment while maintaining her femininity.
Saturday Night Live even took a swing at the character's portrayal with their mock trailer for Black Widow: Age of Me.
Many speculated that it was this online outrage that caused Joss Whedon, a formerly avid Twitter user, to delete his account. He told BuzzFeed News yesterday that this theory was "horseshit."
Whedon said that he was unplugging to concentrate on his writing. He added that he would never have left Twitter due to being "attacked by militant feminists," and that the first person to check if he was OK after he "dropped out" was Feminist Frequency founder Anita Sarkeesian.
In a Reddit AMA yesterday, Mark Ruffalo spoke on this recent uproar saying that Joss Whedon is a "a deeply committed feminist."
Yet a few weeks before all this controversy occurred, Marvel announced its debut female-fronted superhero movie Captain Marvel will be written by female screenwriters Nicole Perlman and Meg LeFauve.
The screenwriters, known for their work on Guardians of the Galaxy and Pixar's Inside Out, respectively, will be adapting the comic book tale of U.S. Air Force Major Carol Danvers for the big screen.
In the Marvel comic books, Danvers develops flight and superstrength, among other powers, after acquiring extraterrestrial DNA during an accident on a military base.
Marvel is rumored to be pursuing Angelina Jolie as the film's director.
Due to the timing of Perlmutter's email on female-fronted superhero movies, it's possible it was part of a conversation about Captain Marvel. Fortunately, the film was approved regardless, and an "all-female superhero team" seems to be in discussion.
According to other leaked emails between screenwriter Drew Goddard and then–Sony Pictures studio chief Amy Pascal (among others) from February 2014, there is discussion of a movie or TV show being made about the "Night Witches ... real-life female bomber squadron of WW2," Goddard wrote in the email.
"I've long wanted to made a movie about them. Could be a good model for our all-female superhero team," he added.
Marvel Comics, on the other hand, has had hundreds of women superheroes, many of whom are outselling their male counterparts.
Marvel's female character database has 641 pages with about 100 characters listed per page. They have a number of LGBT characters and women of color in their comics, none of whom Marvel Studios have yet chosen to turn into a movie.
In February, Marvel announced the creation of an all-women superhero comic book team called A-Force, a compilation of all of Marvel's most-loved superwomen.
It's about time these powerful ladies were invited off the page and onto the big screen to join their fellow superheroes.
Carol Danvers rose to the rank of Major while in the Air Force. Thanks to a sharp-eyed commenter for pointing this out.