The Disney Princess line of merchandise is one of the amazing business successes of the 21st century. Since the early 2000s, Disney has made billions by catering to girls’ love of their princesses, from Snow White to Pocahontas.
However, realizing that princesses might not be the best way to reach boys, Disney acquired Marvel Comics (2009) and, later, Star Wars (2012). Now, they have all their bases covered.
Given all the money Disney spent to acquire these male consumers, it’s weird to see how intently executives want to alienate them.
“Solo: A Star Wars Story” made just $83 million over the weekend, an absolute a failure by Star Wars standards. Disney publicists will chock it up to competition from “Deadpool 2” or franchise fatigue, but they won’t admit that Social Justice Warrior (SJW) politics are to blame.
Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy has been systematically injecting feminist identity politics into Star Wars to its detriment. She refuses to cater to male fans in the historically male franchise. She put a female lead character in “The Force Awakens,” “Rogue One” and “The Last Jedi.” She’s mandating more female creators. And she’s famously adopted the sexist phrase, “The Force is female.”
Piggy-backing on that last one, one shill reporter wrote that “The Last Jedi” proves the franchise’s future is female!
Except, of course, it isn’t.
“The Last Jedi” made $300 million less than “The Force Awakens,” and the previous year’s “Rogue One” made $100 million less than that. A Star Wars movie almost always finishes no. 1 at the yearly box office, but with “Black Panther,” “Avengers” and “Jurassic World,” “Solo” won’t even medal this year. (And the franchise has utterly failed in China, a country with zero patience for SJW politics.)
Disaffected male fans are speaking with their wallets. More important than ticket sales, merchandising revenue is way down: Star Wars toy sales dropped in 2017 by almost 50 percent. Kennedy’s gambit is backfiring like a power cable chewed on by mynocks. If she continues alienating her core fanbase, Star Wars’s future isn’t female.
It’s future is no future.
To voice frustration with this — the grandest brand mismanagement in American history — one angry YouTuber has even started using the phrase “make Star Wars great again.”
Now, typically, if a company starts losing its core customers, they’ll adapt to try to recapture them. When New Coke wasn’t working, they went back to Old Coke. But New Coke happened before the insanity of social media.
In response to dwindling fondness for Star Wars from male fans — the customers who’ve spent billions — director J.J. Abrams took to the Internet to call them sexists! Demonizing sci-fi nerd beta males may play great on Twitter, but it won’t win them back. (Maybe he should have called them “deplorable” instead.)
This has come to a head with “Solo,” a prequel about fan-favorite bad boy Han Solo billed as “the hero all feminist men have been waiting for.” The marketing leading up to the film showed that pandering to left-wing media was more important to Lucasfilm than winning back fans – and even promised a preachy SJW droid to lecture us!
How does any of this fit for a character who’s a male-empowerment fantasy? How are these ideas getting green-lit?
Engagement vs. Conversion
A sign Star Wars was headed the wrong direction came a few years ago with a piece of adver-tainment on “Saturday Night Live,” in a digital short making fun of sci-fi nerd beta males who live in their parents’ basement and buy three copies of each action figure.
It has 3.6 million views, which is good internet coverage for any piece of product placement. But that advertising belittles the people to whom it’s supposed to be advertising. Why would any company pay to attack its loyal consumer base?
Star Wars is proving a very high-profile victim of how meaningless social media data is misleading corporate decisions.
In social media, the generic term “engagement” encompasses retweets, likes, shares, comments and so forth. Getting engagements with buzzwords like “inclusiveness” is easy. But then there’s a digital marketing term called “conversion”: that’s when a business turns someone’s online activity into a purchase.
One of these means nothing. The other means everything.
Impossible-to-please SJWs will attack you on the Internet, but they won’t buy your toys or movie tickets.
You will never win by catering to your critics at the expense of your customers. It’s why insipid protests are destroying the NFL’s bottom line, while transgender playmates and plus-size swimsuit models will do nothing to help Playboy and Sports Illustrated. “Inclusiveness” may sound great, but “market segmentation” is how companies pay the bills.
A company’s purpose is not to challenge social norms or service liberal guilt; it’s to provide value to customers and shareholders. Lucasfilm is doing neither. Kathleen Kennedy would love to see Star Wars toys in more girls’ hands, but instead, we’re seeing Star Wars toys somewhere they should never be: the clearance rack.
Fixing this problem is easy: officially make Princess Leia one of the Disney Princesses. That kind of horizontal integration would be a boon to both product lines. SJWs will call it “problematic,” but they won’t buy merchandise either way. Who cares what they say?
Jared Whitley is a 15-year political veteran who worked in the US Senate and Bush White House. He studied digital marketing and social media at Georgetown University and earned his MBA from Hult International Business School in Dubai.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.