I’ll put it to you straight up, I understand and respect RottenTomatoes.com’s place in the world, but I feel audience’s are too influenced by brands. Let’s face it, phrases like “Certified Fresh” and “Tomatometer” are as synonymous with modern cinema as selling beer in the theater. RottenTomatoes is a brand. I like to be the one who decides how much I enjoy a film but even I have waited for Redbox because I heard a movie sucks ass. You’ve done it too, it’s okay.
Naturally, after seeing Aquaman I took a casual stroll to Rotten Tomatoes just to see how the latest DCEU installment has been rated by the masses. Not going to lie, I was pretty surprised to see that the Tomatometer showed only a 64%. The Audience Score seemed slightly more reasonable at 80%. This got me thinking… why would the critics give Aquaman such a low rating? What about the film (yes, it’s a film) could have turned them off so badly? Is it a journalistic conspiracy involving most major publications against Warner Brothers? Of course, but that’s a whole other topic for a rainy day. Still though, what is going on here?
Then it hits me… and remember, this is only my personal opinion but I believe many people were turned off from Aquaman because of his party-boy, ultra-masculine persona we saw in the trailers and Justice League. An archetype I call the “Brotagonist”. Ever see, James Bond? Like that but without the sophistication. And yes James Bond, you’re falling victim to the trends in Hollywood too. Why do you think Spectre featured such a heavy love story? The Brotagonist is appropriately under attack.
Does any parent want to raise the next Stifler? Hell no. Think about it, the Frat boy thing, not so hot in 2018. Between the Duke Lacrosse Team and the everyday Twitter punchline, Frat life isn’t the glorified collegiate icon it once was. Believe me, there are millions of descent people in these organizations, doing great things for communities across the country. Yet the persona has taken a beating over the last decade.
In fact, when was the last time the “man’s man” was a hit at the box office? It’s been a while. While The Rock is the definitive example of the Y gene, he’s light years from the super beefed out, hooking up with ten women per movie, not knowing vegetables exist, having wolves for pets, action movie stars we saw in the 1980’s and 1990’s.
That image of a hero is simply not sexy anymore. Don’t get me wrong, with the exception of Paul Rudd, these actors have abs on abs on abs. However, a hero’s personality travels equally as far as their body when it comes to audience relatability.
And audiences aren’t relating to the brotagonist anymore. These lovable man children have been phased out along with the flip phone. I wish I was able to cite scientific data on this one. But I know in my gut the general population can’t possibly find “the bro” appealing. Tony Stark is engaged to Pepper now, Peter Parker is the adorable nerd next door, Captain America doesn’t seem to have time for a relationship.
Regarding Aquaman, I feel somewhere in the production process, someone had a road to Damascus moment and realized the character Zack Snyder established couldn’t not appeal to today’s movie going audience. When you see the trailer, there’s a line about red-heads, peeing on something, simple bits of dialogue that feel more All In The Family than appealing to families. Like the studio threw them in there for the few people who thought Justice League was Avengers: Infinity War. The reality is the remnants of Snyder’s Arthur Curry (my opinion) were included so he could go from bro-to-protagonist, or development. He has to grow, he has to change.
Sure the character is rough, however not disrespectful, or an out right pig. He might come off that way if you only look at the surface. By the end of the movie, we realize Arthur actually has depth. The dude’s King of Atlantis, doesn’t get any deeper than that. Jason Momoa walks a fine line, he walks it well. Thank God Warner Brothers found a real star. He could tell me I need a root canal and I won’t care if it came from that mouth. A great persona can make even the worst of lines sound not as bad.
So what does this mean for the future? With Aquaman specifically, Zack Snyder’s character is dead. In the sequel (yes there will be one), expect a sort of different Arthur Curry. No more brotagonist. He might pound a beer as fast as it’s poured, but the manchild is gone. Think Iron Man 3 Tony Stark. He’ll still be funny, charming, but in a more intelligent fashion that stays true to the core of the character.
For the rest of Hollywood, the scope of the protagonist has to change in order for the film industry to stay prominent. Remember, movies are a reflection of society. When the people get turned off from certain personalities, you will see the difference on screen. While there’s a long way to go, progress (and not enough sometimes) is being made. Aquaman might end up being a major step in the decline of the Brotagonist.
There’s nothing wrong with being a bro, just don’t be a douche.
I almost forgot, flaws aside, I give Aquaman an 87%. We saw the death of Zack Snyder’s Aqua-Bro and the Rebirth of a hero that could be Batman underwater. It’s pretty damn amazing! Let the critics be the critics, us fans know a great product when we see one.
By Adam Chmielewski
Photo Credits- Warner Brothers/Universal
Do you think it’s time to say goodbye to the Brotagonist? Let Nerdbot know in the comments!!