The Need for Female Representation in Superheroes
And no, not for the skimpy outfits.
By Heather Ware, Bowling Green State University
As more superhero movies come out and do well in theaters, audiences are seeing an awesome increase in the number of female superheroes.
From the feature of Storm, certified badass mutant extraordinaire in “X-Men: Apocalypse,” to the upcoming “Wonder Woman” movie, women are slowly but surely getting more representation in superhero movies. So why is there only one woman in the new Justice League film?
Of the seven heroes in the upcoming blockbuster, only one is female. For those keeping track at home, that means that 14.3 percent of the Justice League is female. I’m not a mathematician by any stretch of the imagination, but I’m almost positive that more than 14 percent of the population is female. Women are sick to death of being barely represented when some of the coolest superheroes are ladies, so I posit this solution: Make a Justice League movie with an entirely female cast.
I can already hear every pissed off misogynist aggressively rubbing his neckbeard in outrage. “But this is about canon, not gender representation! In the ‘New 52,’ these are the founding members of the Justice League!” That is an undeniable fact and let me just say, from the bottom of my heart, that I don’t care.
Do you know what every superhero movie has in common? They are always breaking the canon. Hell, DC alone has 52 different universes, so why couldn’t this movie have taken place in one with an all-female start to the Justice League? DC certainly had no issue with breaking their canon when they turned Harley Quinn from a deep, interesting villain trapped in an abusive relationship, to a psychopath with no personality other than the desire to screw the Joker. Did we really need to see yet another movie about how, even with obscene amounts of money, Bruce Wayne still finds a way to be dull and broody?
Let’s look at the lineup for the new Justice League movie: The Flash, Batman, Aquaman, Cyborg, the Green Lantern, Superman and Wonder Woman. With the possible exceptions of Cyborg and Aquaman, haven’t all of these male characters been done to death in the past few years? The Flash has a TV show; the Green Lantern already screwed up his own movie, and don’t even get me started on the dozens of repetitive Batman and Superman storylines. People are bored with seeing the same handful of rugged faces over and over again, so why not switch it up with some characters that haven’t gotten anywhere near the screen time that they deserve?
Why don’t directors take gender out of the equation and pretend to be unbiased for a moment? Who would rather see a movie with Batperson, the ultra-rich hero who’s only powers are buying high-tech toys and being born into a white “old boys club” over seeing a movie featuring Raven, the Native American child of the demon overlord Trigon who has to balance using their powers with fighting their father’s demonic influence? Nobody, of course, but fans are still stuck with an endless stream of movies about Batman’s manpain.
We get it! It’s hard to have responsibilities! I can’t pay my electricity bill, now go out and get some real problems, Bruce!
Male superheroes aren’t picked for every superhero movie because they’re the most interesting characters or the ones with the coolest stories; they’re picked because it’s what audiences have gotten used to seeing. I would have no problem with a predominantly male Justice League, or at least less of a problem, if it hadn’t become the standard that Hollywood was determined to conform to. Remember how pissed men were over the all-female reboot of “Ghostbusters”? Imagine Melissa McCarthy had replaced Superman or Batman in all of their movies, and now the only man in those films is a shirtless Channing Tatum who inevitably dies to fuel McCarthy’s inner turmoil. That is the kind of bullshit that women have been putting up with for years.
The token female character appears in pretty much every superhero movie. Think I’m exaggerating? Let’s check the receipts. “The Fantastic Four”? Invisible Girl is the only woman. If anyone is interested, the number of women and the number of rock monsters starring in this movie are exactly equal. “The Avengers”? Black Widow is the only woman, and rest assured that she is depicted as sultry and sexy whenever humanly possible. “X-Men Days of Future Past” has a whopping two women on their promotional poster, but that’s out of 8 men, and one of the women is completely naked. Because X-Men needs to appeal to the blue boobs audience, apparently.
The issue here is not that this one superhero movie is going with a mostly male cast. The issue is that every superhero movie does this, and it’s exhausting. There are dozens upon dozens of amazing female superheroes, so why are fans only getting one kickass lady per movie? The short answer is of course “misogyny,” but the longer answer is also misogyny.
Look, it’s great that there are ladies kicking ass on screen and using their powers to help others. That is an amazing thing that would not have been possible a few decades ago. But it is 2016. Audiences are sick and tired of Hollywood putting in token women and letting the men dominate superhero movies when almost half of all comic book fans are female.
Give fans a Justice League that is entirely female. Put Raven, Vixen, Black Canary and all of the other ignored women on the screen and show the audience what these characters can do. It doesn’t mean that every superhero movie has to only cast women, but men have been stealing the spotlight for decades. Let women have just one movie to themselves, then let’s move on. The sequel can be a 50/50 split, and everyone can stop pretending that all of the best superheroes are white dudes with broken razors (looking at you, Green Lantern).