Elderly Superhero Gives Hope to Underrepresented Demographic
Hollywood had already mined every DC and Marvel comic known to man, scraping the bottom of the barrel with films like Caterpillar Man and The Magnificent Monk. They’d lost track of how many ensemble movies had been made verses stand-alone ones. The list went on and on.
Batman, Superman, Spiderman, Ironman, Wonder Woman, Captain America, Thor, Hulk, X-Men, Ant Man, Black Panther, The Green Lantern, Daredevil, and the other ones were all great characters whose timeless tales could inspire generations of moviegoers, but production forecasts lacked representation among one key demographic: senior citizens.
Vice President of Diversity in Media Syndicates, Natasha Vassar, took the podium to address the room. A chart glowed onto the projection screen behind her, detailing box office revenues from all superhero action movies over the past seven years. There was a noticeable stagnation in the last two years of domestic grosses combined. This, Vassar described to the eager executives, was due to the exclusion of the senior citizens.
“Our research shows reluctance on part of moviegoers aged sixty-five years and older to embrace the very superhero franchises that have conquered every other demographic.”
She flipped through her binder as the slide changed to a theater filled with elderly patrons. “What’s keeping them away, you might ask? These are the same age groups responsible for the success of Cocoon, Driving Miss Daisy, and the longevity of Helen Mirren’s career. Among being the largest voting bloc in the country, senior citizens also love Alex Trebek, The Price is Right, and 60 Minutes.”
She paused and looked up at the skeptical faces before her. “Could their interests perhaps edge their way into the latest Avengers film? The results remain unclear, but it’s worth considering.”
A burly man in a suit with a bad comb-over at the head of the table erupted. “What is this madness?” All eyes looked his way as he wiped his sweaty forehead with a handkerchief and stuffed it in his coat pocket. “The elderly demographic you cite are clearly not the target audience for these franchises anyway. Why would you waste our time with such nonsense?”
“I respectfully disagree, Mr. Neumeier,” Vassar said. “Social security payments to retirees reached an average of $800 billion last year. Most monthly incomes to recipients are used to facilitate living costs, but at the end of the day, these people want to go to the movies like everyone else.”
“What are you suggesting, exactly?” Neumeier asked with a huff.
“I’m glad you asked,” Vassar said, flipping her binder to the next page.
The slide changed to a conceptual image of an elderly woman in 1920s flapper attire: pearls, a black and silver sequin dress, ruby-red lips, diamond earrings, and a bob-cut under a cap. “By day, she’s retired silent film actress Gypsy McCrea, relishing her glory days in her mansion of solitude.”
The slide then changed to a different conceptual image of the same elderly woman, wearing a skin-tight leather suit, stilettos, sunglasses, and a whip in each hand.
“By night, she’s kicking ass and taking names as Sylvia Steele, crime fighter and martial arts expert. Her specialty is an arsenal of whips that she uses against hoodlums, beatniks, and diamond thieves.”
“Excuse me,” Neumeier said, flabbergasted. “Beatniks?”
Wallace nodded in agreement then referred to her notes. “Our research shows that today’s senior citizens still hold a clear animosity toward beatniks. And nothing is more important than grandchildren. That’s why Sylvia Steele—or Gypsy McCrea—will spend a large portion of the movie with her twenty grandchildren.”
“In her mansion of solitude?” Neumeier asked.
“Yes,” Vassar answered. Her face then lit up. “She also fights against shady nursing homes.”
“Okay, enough!” Neumeier shouted.
The room went silent as the eight other suits at the table nervously looked away. No one was sure who invited Natasha Vassar of Diversity in Media Syndicates, but whoever was responsible would most likely be out of a job.
“I’ve heard about all I can take,” Neumeier continued. “The scenarios you’re presenting may connect with the quote-unquote, ‘elderly demographic,’ but they will also alienate every other moviegoer on the planet.”
Vassar stared at her notes as the air conditioner hummed from above. No one knew if she’d get out of the office alive. Nevertheless, she remained undaunted by the top executive’s admonishments. “We’re looking at signing Angela Lansbury.”
Audible gasps filled the room as the door swung open and the legendary actress slowly entered the room dressed in tight leather spandex and holding a whip in each hand. Vassar then smiled and addressed the room with confidence. “I’d like to introduce three-time Academy Award nominee, Dame Angela Lansbury.”
The stunned executives applauded as Lansbury waltzed in front of the table, peering at the executives through the holes of her pointy-headed leather cat mask. Vassar offered a quick caveat. “Ms. Lansbury is currently wearing Halle Berry’s Catwoman outfit until we can design her actual costume.”
Lansbury glared at the men as she gripped the table and leaned forward, not saying a word.
Neumeier nervously wiped his forehead and smiled. “Greetings, Ms. Lansbury.”
She shot him a piercing stare that immediately silenced the room. “Gentlemen,” she said, “this movie will be made. You want to know why? Because if you refuse, I’ll pummel your asses into the ground.” Her English accent seemed to add a sinister quality to the threat. “Go ahead and try me. See what happens. I want you to say no. I need you to say no.”
At first, no one said anything, so she continued, glaring at them with sheer contempt. “Perhaps Murder She Wrote was too subtle of a title to demonstrate what I’m capable of.” She paused and waited as all eyes returned to Neumeier.
He looked around the room in a daze and then pulled out a rubber stamp and a stack of crumpled documents and vigorously pounded them. “No need for that, Ms. Lansbury,” he said, wiping a hand across his forehead. “You’re in good hands here. Say hello to Sylvia Steele!”
Applause rang throughout the office as Angela Lansbury arched back and smiled, basking in their fear. “One more hit,” she muttered. “One more, and then I’ll retire.”
“Elderly Superhero Gives Hope to Underrepresented Demographic” is an excerpt from the short story collection Super Sassy Headlines for the New Millennium by Shawn McKee.