Super Heroine or Sex Pot? (an old op-ed piece I did for a college newspaper, kind of timely cause of the Catwoman talk)
Since Linda Carter stepped into the Americana themed leotard of Wonder Woman, powerful females have graced our TV screens, movie theaters, and comic book pages. In the last few years there has been a dramatic increase in the amount of comic book based movies hitting theaters, all of which are male centered and always feature the damsel in distress or the female sidekick/secondary character. As a comic book fan I am getting more and more tired of seeing such great characters being whittled down to nothing more than eye candy for the boys in the audience. Skin tight costumes are nothing new, and I blame the narcissistic men sitting behind the story boards for that problem, but at least give the women behind the costumes some substance! For instance, this weekend Iron Man 2 opens and while Gwyneth Paltrow does a fantastic job as love interest Pepper Potts, the other female lead Scarlett Johansson is a sorry excuse for the kick butt spy that she is supposed to be. I have to imagine that director John Favreau chose her because that famous figure would fill out a catsuit pretty darn well!
While I understand that comic books have always been a mans world more and more women are joining their boyfriends at comic book conventions, and not just because they want to spend time with their significant others. As a woman and a fan, I love reading the story lines of favorite female characters and as a kid wanting to be as tough and frankly, as kick ass as some of them were. This leads me to keep getting disappointed as director after director pays more attention to the costume than to what the character is really about. Does anyone remember Halle Berry’s terrible job in Catwoman? That was a chance for a female lead to take center stage, but instead we still talk about how hot she looked instead of how great the movie could have potentially been. Female characters have just become reasons for men to groan or cat call the screen (during boisterous midnight showings) instead of valuable plot points. If we explore the philosophy of comic books and comic book heroes we see that most of these men are not just fighting for the world but fighting for the love of a woman. That love in some cases is unrequited for many years (Spider Man and Mary Jane Watson for example) or it is even lost love and revenge is ultimately necessary. Women are to thank for much of the beginning story arcs to venerable comic book and graphic novel series, but we are still depicted as flighty, bitchy, uptight, and sexy as can be. I can’t recall ever being seen as sexy when I was in the middle of a bitch fest, but somehow all of these women can.
With female interest in both comic book, video game, and generally “nerd’s” only arenas only getting higher, I am surprised that so little has changed. I give major kudos to video game series Resident Evil using a female lead and making her character pretty incredible. Her movie persona is even more amazing and a casting choice I can firmly get behind. Other movie studios need to follow their lead and pay attention when casting, because as an audience member I am getting tired of paying to see my heroines downplayed. Another film that took much flack for this but I respected was “Kick Ass”, because for those who have seen it you know how highly entertaining the character of Hit Girl was. In my opinion she stole the movie and has done more for female characters than any of the previous comic book adaptations have done to date. The controversy surrounding her age and graphic use of violence and language is not something I agree with, but oppose because she is doing exactly what a character of her skill should be doing. The women in comic books are often smart and just as tough as the men, but their boobs get in the way of that. It is more important for movie studios to have eye candy than to make something all genders can enjoy. I shudder to think what would have become of Hit Girl if her character had been 20 instead of twelve. Yes, I enjoy the movies themselves more often than not but I always leave the theater wanting and expecting more. When I saw “Kick Ass” I had no idea what kind of impression Hit Girl would leave on me but I have to say she is an inspiration. If more movie studios and directors would get behind the idea that woman can kick just as much ass as the men, this whole genre would be better off.