After numerous retellings of Batman and Spiderman we are seeing female superheroes take the lead in upcoming films like Wonder Woman (2017) and Ant Man and the Wasp (2018). It’s an exciting time for women in the film and television world of Marvel and DC Comics.
We are also starting to see a transition from super women being portrayed simply as sex-icons towards being presented as strong women of substance, but have we arrived?
BBC Culture reviewed some past failed attempts at bringing women to the forefront of comic-based movies. “Halle Berry as Catwoman and Jennifer Garner as Elektra, capable actresses both, suffered from muddled scripts that demanded sexed-up portrayals. But Hollywood has spent the last few years tiptoeing toward a different type of superheroine.”
BBC Culture looks to recent portrayals such as Anne Hathaway’s Catwoman and Scarlett Johansen’s Black Widow—not to mention shows like Agent Carter and Jessica Jones—as characters that transcend the “sexed-up” heroine.
However, a recent article from Meredith Whitmore for Lifezette evaluates how these impossibly beautiful heroines are affecting young girls. “[I]f a teenage girl watches hypersexual Black Widow, Mystique, or even Harley Quinn, what is she going to believe about the world, herself, and the characteristics she should emulate?
“In other words, what is she going to believe makes these women truly ‘super?’”
Whitmore also discusses an experiment that was done on 82 college-age women who watched some clips of super-sexy heroines from X-men movies and then completed a survey. The result was that it was detrimental to their sense of self.
“Presumably, they compared themselves to the superwomen’s perfect bodies, strength, stamina, and other superior qualities, finding themselves lacking. To quote the study, ‘the sexualization of these female characters may supersede these empowering attributes and produce stereotypical gender-related perceptions.’”
Although we have some very exciting movies to look forward to, the struggle continues to take what’s positive, uplifting and entertaining in these films without making unhealthy comparisons of comic book characters to real women.