A Million Ways utilizes gags involving child marriage and associated pedophilia, violent death of various outlandish kinds, a shooting gallery themed after runaway slaves, and a whole bunch of bits at the expense of every woman in the movie, particularly Amanda Seyfried’s “gold-digger.” Early into the film, she has the audacity to leave MacFarlane’s bumbling, unbearably smug protagonist and spends the rest of the film being shamed for not seeing what a nice guy he is.
In one of the film’s many allegedly emotional moments, Charlize Theron’s love interest is tasked with lending an empathetic ear to MacFarlane’s dejected monologue about how all women leave nice, hyper-intelligent guys like him for total jerks. (Seyfried, for her part, leaves him for Neil Patrick Harris’ foppish dandy, who’s the only tolerable part of the film.) Not only is Theron, an Oscar winner, tasked with playing the role of the “enlightened” hot girl who can see the value of an obnoxious cad, but she has to sell with genuine emotion MacFarlane’s referring to himself as a “good guy.”
The idea of the entitled male considering women a reward for good behavior has come under fire in recent years, and especially in the past week given Elliot Rodger’s horrifying manifesto. And while it’s reckless to claim that virtually any figure in popular culture could drive a disturbed mind to fatal violence, it’s hard to deny that MacFarlane has had the poor fortune of trying to stage a two-hour, Western-nostalgic apologia for he-man, woman-hating MRA rhetoric.
It’s as if Disney has been paying close attention to its recent acquisitions of Marvel and the Star Wars franchise and tentatively decided that live-action fantasy is something it can do, too. In this case it helps that rooting for the villain is de rigueur, and that the villain is box-office delight Angelina Jolie.
The change is striking. Just compare these posters to the lackluster marketing efforts for the 2012 flop John Carter. Not only did Disney change the source title from The Princess of Mars because they feared it would scare away dudes, but the posters made the film seem like a cross between Mad Max and The Last Samurai instead of an epic space fantasy from the author who brought us Tarzan:
But oh, how times have changed in a post-Avengers world. Now, not only does Maleficent get to wear horns…
…and be the title of her own story, but Disney is eagerly saying, “Hey, guys. Guys. You want pixies? We got pixies!”
No, really, they do.