Superheroes and Women: How About Some More Women Superheroes, Already?

Summer brings a slew of superhero movies. This summer we have Hancock, The Dark Knight, and brought to you by the letter "I": Iron Man, Incredible Hulk Part Two, Electric Smasharoo and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, among others, such as Mans Doing Serious Man Things and Man vs. Creepier Mans with some Hot Twenty-five Year Old Actresses Thrown In. Do you enjoy seeing superhero movies? I will admit that I love action and used to love them until I started becoming critical of the imbalance of strong female characters. Now I watch fewer of them, and cringe my way through.

Recently, the Alliance of Women Film Journalists had a discussion of

...the current crop of superheroes and their movies, their appeal to and
treatment of women, and the root of the genre’s importance in
contemporary culture. We look at how women play in superhero movies and
whether their roles have changed in this summer’s crop.

The results were pretty interesting, if a little unsurprising. They asked the respondents which women they would like to see directing a superhero movie, but not about which character should feature in one (if they should feature at all), which I think is a more relevant question, since the presence of and the way female characters are portrayed on screen will probably have more of an impact on an audience than who is directing the film. As far as I know, there are no female superhero movies slated for this year. The AWFJ asked their respondents why recent female superhero movies (Elektra (2005) and Catwoman (2004)) have failed, here is a sampling of the responses from the same article:

“They were bad because they had poor scripts and not very good actresses,“ says [Laura] Emerick. And, “they were made by people who don’t understand women, comics or movies,” comments [Nell] Minow. And, “they played to centerfold fantasies rather than female empowerment,” according to [Carrie] Rickey.

Okay, fair enough. This made me wonder: what do women want in superhero movies? Do we really want a female lead? Would we really have more naked guy action and less technobabble? I like the idea of more women as superheroes, and less as a tacked-on, bosom-heaving plot point, staked to the nuclear warhead and rescued moments before it goes off. "Oh creepy masked hero with apparent psychological issues! Now that you have saved me my panties are just flinging themselves off!"

As for the opposite of panty-flinging, what about platonic relationships in the superhero genre? It seems like we've got beloved mom or babe. Or evil babe.

Kalinara over at Pretty, Fizzy Paradise calls for a She-Hulk movie, which sounds like it would ROCK.

Jen's a great heroine. She's got a simple, easy to follow origin:
(timid lawyer, shot trying to help her cousin, got blood transfusion,
becomes giant, green and awesome), she's charming, smart and funny. And
she makes a fascinating contrast to the Hulk, because for her, the
transformation is a source of strength rather than an out of control
curse. It allows her to free herself from her own fear and anxiety and
embrace her confidence and inner power.

How great is that? A movie that could feature smashing and strong female empowerment? I confess up until now I thought that She-Hulk, much like Ms. Pac-Man, was just "Hulk with a Bow" so to speak (sorry, Ms. Pac-Man fans).

A Wonder Woman movie has been in pre-production since 2001, apparently. Even Joss Whedon tried to write it, and walked away. I loved Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman when I was little, and would love to see a movie featuring her. Ragnell says that many call her a "cipher" and therefore hard to write, but counters with

Hell if I know who she is, but I know who she isn't and I know she knows who she is.

not the usual characterization for a woman. According to what I've seen
of women in fiction, we're unsure of ourselves. We're uncomfortable
with ourselves. We're uncomfortable with our bodies. We're
uncomfortable with our sexuality. We don't know what we're capable of.
We second-guess ourselves. We surprise ourselves. We hate ourselves. We hurt ourselves and the people around us. Society seems designed
to make us that way and that's what I see in most female characters.
Every woman's story in fiction seems to be a coming into herself.
Learning those traits.

Wonder Woman is not supposed to be like that. Wonder Woman is supposed to already be the woman other women in fiction learn to be. She's at the point where you are done working on your inside and ready to work on the outside world.

Using this interpretation of her character, could Wonder Woman be a good model for young women? A self-actualized, grown-assed women who can fight baddies using her wits, strength, and experience? Hell yes. Perhaps it's easier to write a character, like Batman, in some kind of psychic torment, or a woman as a crude stereotype, such as overly-sexualized or helpless. But I would like to see the Wonder Woman movie come to fruition.

So, please, Hollywood, give us some more starring roles for superwomen. And I don't mean like Super Ex-Girlfriend, which should be called Super Unhinged Stalker, and no more squealing helpless babes. I see strong women in my everyday life, and I try to be a strong model for my daughters. So why is it so hard to find in the superhero movies?

SJ also wishes she had her own rubber catsuit over at I, Asshole.


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