For my husband’s Predictive Analytics program, he has been asked to design a survey, and he chose the subject of superheroes. Questions like: What superhero qualities do you most identify with? Who is your favorite superhero? and others are on his list. Today we were talking with EmilyCC , her husband, and also ZD blogger Ziff today, about why there aren’t more female superheroes and why the few that I’m familiar with are overly sexualized. (If you are curious, check out this more complete list of superheroines, which made me realize that I have much to learn in this area).
Ironically, the only one I could think of who was more substantive than sex-object was from a 2009 animated children’s feature, “Monsters v Aliens.” If you haven’t seen, this film, I highly recommend it. It’s about a woman who is about to marry a self-centered man, but get’s accidentally turned into a giant (and renamed, “Ginormica.”) As a big and powerful woman, Ginormica is shunned by society, even her fiance, and taken captive by the government into it’s secret monster division.
While the plot is not remarkable, and nearly all the supporting characters are male, the message behind Ginormica’s metamorphosis is heart-warming. She is literally too big and too powerful to be appreciated by society and hates herself. When she embraces her own power, she is able to help save the planet from aliens in a way that she couldn’t have if she was able to be her normal, smaller self. Even at the end, she chooses to reclaim her big and powerful size, even when she knows she can never go back in an act of true self-expression and heroic sacrifice for humankind. Finally, during the plot’s resolution, when her egotistical boyfriend returns, she rebuffs him as she has come to value her own worth.
I’d love to see a similar superhero film made for adults. The message is fantastic. In our patriarchal culture, women fear being too BIG, both literally and figuratively. It’s the same cultural rule that says women should be shorter, smaller, and weaker than their man. By making this regular woman into a superhero who is BIG and POWERFUL, we have confronted our culture’s view of women as fragile and valuable only as a man’s arm candy.
As superheroes have been continually reborn in pop culture lately, I keep looking for a strong female lead to step in and fill the much needed role of counterpart to Batman, Superman, and Spiderman. What causes the apparent lack of superheroines? Does society not like to see strong women? Are women not consider the audience of comics? Do we not like seeing them beaten up, as all superheroes seem to be, before they prevail? What about the supporting role of men?
Why do you think that there aren’t many superheroines in movies and pop-culture? Does it matter to you to see females represented in the superhero community?
PS. This morning I saw a trailer for a movie about a superheroine called, The Mortal Instruments. It looks intriguing.
PPS. If you’re into comics, check out this Women in Refrigerators Trope that discusses the needless death of many superheroines to advance the storyline of a superhero. (H/T EmilyCC)