The world of superheroes on screen has long evolved around giant white guys called Chris. There might be a Ryan in there and of course the never aging Hugh but how much variety is that?
“But what does it matter, women don’t like action movies anyways!” Well first of all, that’s not true. Women make up just under half of the audience of action movies even without being catered to most of the time. So just imagine if there were more movies with heroines at the center.
While watching Captain Marvel the other day I realized once again what an empowering feeling it is to see a badass woman on screen. And Captain Marvel is not even a character I can closely relate to – she’s an All-American blonde with military training who can pull off grunge looks. All of which have nothing to do with me personally. But she is a believable woman getting her very own spotlight for a whole movie.
And when I say “believable” I’m definitely looking at what Avengers: Age of Ultron did to the beautiful Black Widow character who Scarlett Johansson spent countless movies fleshing out in the margins of the white guy’s story only to have her reduced to a ridiculous romance. Suddenly filling this proud and complex character of an international assassin with remorse and shame over not being able to have children was possible the most ridiculous case of simpleton male logic I’ve seen in superhero movies. Was there no woman you could’ve run that by ANY woman?
But it’s in the small things too – from high-heeled combat boots and the long flowy hair in fights to the sexy poses on posters. All of these are the little things that men writing, styling and presenting female characters tend to do. Let women be powerful, fierce and badass without ridiculing these ideas by adding “but also extremely sexy in everything they do” to every character description. Women know that when anything remotely physically happens, you first tie back your hair. Or that high heels look great but also make running a hazard to your ankles – not to mention that the run will look like that of a newborn giraffe. Or that smiling isn’t a default – Captain Marvel dared not to smile on her posters but to pose scowling like any male superhero and got so much hate online for not smiling. Tell any woman to smile to her face and I hope she’ll rip you a new one.
When I walked out of the first female driven superhero movies of my generation – DC’s Wonder Woman – I turned around to my friend and said “I feel powerful now”. I know that Wonder Woman is a literal goddess with superpowers and has Gal Gadots otherworldly face and I certainly don’t claim to be anything like that. But she is also badass female with roughly my complexion, hair and eye color who dominates not only by superpowers but also with values like loyalty, justice, knowledge and love. I had finally found someone to project myself into, to aspire to. And I don’t think I was alone. Wonder Woman is the highest grossing superhero origin story of all time.
Superheroes can give us character traits to aspire to because they are overdrawn in their abilities but also in their values and the obstacles they face. But we are all watching the world from the perspective of the bodies we’re in. And while I admire Thor’s protectiveness and Cap’s sense of fairness, I also do find it just a little bit harder to mentally morph the dark haired woman I am into the giant golden boys those two Chrises are.
I hope to see more women watching superheroes because they are not only entertaining but can overdraw the good, evil and brave in a way that makes you think.
I hope to see more women making superhero movies so we can be represented better in the biggest movie trend that has ever been and be portrayed as strong and fierce and not just “worth saving if sexy”.
I hope to see more female superheroes because these characters have the power to be role models. Little girls should get to see more strong and powerful women.