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The surprising success of Arrow and target demographics. . .

. . . or somebody figured out that superhero comics really aren't just for boys.

I was just reading Charlie Jane Anders's post on io9 about why there's no good reason Stephen Amell shouldn't cross over to the big screen for a Justice League movie, and one of the comments made me laugh.

Why's he always without his shirt on?'

This is something that has been making me laugh since the show started, because I know exactly why we keep seeing Stephen Amell shirtless and the answer is bloody obvious to any sighted person willing to consider a gaze other than the heterosexual male one.


Hi. Shirtless Stephen Amell.

Although they've been (clearly sucessfully) trying to expand and diversify their viewership, the CW's main target demographic is 18-34 year-old women. And it's very clear the People in Charge are not ignoring this. I mean, we not only have Stephen Amell shirtless and working those muscles nearly every episode, we also have the beautiful David Ramsay playing John Diggle.


And, there's a competent, nerdy female character that is a vital part of the team, not a just an auxiliary love interest (there's one of those too, and a "teenage" spoiled brat sister whose angst we're apparently supposed to care about — she's got a pretty male love interest too).


There have also been scenes where Felicity Smoak is clearly a bit of a stand in for the female audience, as she appreciates the pretty pretty manly artwork. And then she gets on with being her competent self and gets shit done.

This show is hilariously bad in many ways, but it's not stupid enough to cater to only a very narrow audience demographic while actively trying to push away other demographics. The funny thing is, this is also crossing over into the advertising for the show in comic books. At first the full page ads in comics had a picture something like this:


But more recently, they changed to something like this:


It's actually a pretty fascinating ad. It keeps the "tough guy hero" theme going, but Ollie Queen is also posed in such a way that his posture is reminiscent of the lotus pose, so it balances "peaceful" with "warrior". His face is now fully visible, not half hidden. His abs are the centre focus, but the line of sight also gets drawn to the groin. It's a pose that practically invites elevator eyes while still radiating "tough guy".

Arrow seems to be going by a "something for everyone and especially something for the nerds" motto, and it seems to be working pretty well, since it's been pulling in the best ratings the network has seen in years.

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