Whatever your opinion of Minions, there’s no denying Scarlet Overkill is an amazing super villain. She possesses an incredible skill set—she’s a master thief, martial artist, pilot, and savvy marketer, just to name a few. As if that weren’t enough she’s married to Herb, a super genius inventor.
Despite the Overkills’ lovey-dovey relationship being played for laughs, the genuine nature of their love shines through. In terms of gender roles they’re equals. All of this is what makes them one of the best animated super villain couples of all time.
Scarlet Overkill is the type of character we need more of in animated features—not just as a villain, but also as an anti-heroine. That said, she isn’t without her problematic elements: hyper-sexualized characterization, clichéd villain goals, and a weak backstory (though I understand why she couldn’t be too sympathetic—Minions is not about her redemption).
These shortcomings, however, could have been avoided with a different movie altogether. And that’s what we need to talk about, Illumination Entertainment.
Right Super Villain, Wrong Story
Scarlet Overkill is a dynamic character who could easily headline her own Despicable Me type film. Upon seeing Minions, it was painfully clear that Scarlet was too much super villain for Kevin, Stuart, and Bob, which resulted in a climactic battle with an awkward power imbalance. Where’s the fun in that?
In order for Scarlet Overkill to really shine, she requires an opponent on the level of Vector from Despicable Me. Watching her square off against a proper archenemy would be epic. It’d be a shame to let a super villain like her go to waste.
So let’s build the case for a Scarlet Overkill movie, shall we?
As of writing this, Minions is the second highest-grossing animated film of all time and also the tenth highest grossing feature of all time. Conclusion: movie audiences will see anything with Minions in it. That’s most of the case right there!
Universal Pictures backed Minions with a $600 million marketing budget. It wasn’t just marketing the Minions, however; it was also (Trojan horse) marketing Scarlet Overkill. So, it must have had a lot of confidence in the story. Therefore, why not make a Scarlet Overkill spin-off and make even more money?
If a profitable Despicable Me was enough for Illumination to justify Despicable Me 2 and Despicable Me 3, shouldn’t Minions’ billion-plus bonanza be enough justification for a Scarlet Overkill movie? It’s also possible a significant part of Minions’ success was because of Scarlet’s appeal for all the female fans who paid to see the film.
And we have more money to spend—on the right character.
I hear you—a Scarlet Overkill film would have to include the Minions. Naturally—even Gru is eclipsed by those little deviled eggs. But how to solve the creative conundrum wrought by the events at the end of Minions?
Is finding the right story the only thing holding Illumination back? It’s certainly not an impossible creative task. I truly hope the only reason a Scarlet Overkill film hasn’t yet been announced is because Illumination hasn’t decided on a story rather than because of that nasty thing called sexism.
Scarlet Overkill: A female super villain casualty?
Illumination Entertainment has a chance to serve an underserved market and rake in the cash while doing so. Seems like a win-win. Will it seize the day? It’s unlikely. I draw this conclusion based on an article from The Shuttle. Producers Chris Renaud and Chris Meledandri (also Illumination’s CEO) indicated their “dream” preferences for future super villain voice actor candidates, namely Chris Pratt and Robert Redford.
Not surprisingly, both are actors who represent the white, male demographic. Illumination doesn’t seem interested in reprising Scarlet Overkill if there’s even a remote chance of trotting out yet another white, male villain and an actor in the same category to play him.
Pardon me while I curl up in the fetal position and sob my heart out.
Even if Illumination were to green light a Scarlet Overkill film, would audiences respond positively? Some people resist the idea of villainesses earning redemption. The reason is sexism, plain and simple.
Also, Scarlet is portrayed as a sexually confident woman. Most people don’t blink an eye when a female villain is sexualized, but what about when that villain seeks redemption? Would Scarlet the sexually confident anti-heroine be embraced by general audiences then?
Another obstacle is the toxic myth that male audiences can’t identify with female protagonists, which of course is a load of bunk. It still creates a challenge, though. On the other hand, female moviegoers have identified with male protagonists for forever, so, logically, male viewers should have no problem engaging with Scarlet (and her foxy husband Herb, of course!).
In Minions, Scarlet Overkill’s narrative purpose is ultimately in service to Felonius Gru (i.e., she’s the last villain the Minions work for until they meet him). In a sense, she was a safe character for Illumination to have fun with because she doesn’t break any new ground. She’s part of Gru’s ongoing story, not the lead character of her own tale. Neither is she a protagonist with true agency.
To grant a powerful, progressive female villain like Scarlet Overkill a starring role in a mainstream animated film with a valuable redemption arc—one that’s usually reserved for male characters—would require a huge shift in perspective from Illumination’s core, all-male team. I wager the concept is simply too innovative and daring for them.
I will be eternally grateful for Scarlet and Herb Overkill, but, ultimately, my message isn’t for Illumination Entertainment. It’s for other animation studios who are courageous enough to serve female audiences in all the ways they deserve.
What’s your theory about a Scarlet Overkill movie? Is it possible or impossible?
This is a reader-submitted post by Heather Massey. She blogs about all things sci-fi romance at The Galaxy Express and is the New Releases Editor for Sci-Fi Romance Quarterly. Follow her on Twitter (@thgalaxyexpress; @TheOverkills).
Edited by: Hannah Wilkes