Superheroines fighting stereotypes

The superhero movie genre has really taken off in recent years and has prompted companies to continue to profit off this cash-cow. Within the next 5 years alone, Marvel plans to release 12 superhero movies and its rival DC will be putting out 10. However, out of all these, only 2 are dedicated solely to female superheroes, Captain Marvel and Wonder Woman. Much like in our own world, women are once again underrepresented, if not underestimated.

With how strongly feminism is being preached all over the world, it was no surprise  that there was uproar among the comic book community saying that these line-ups are only more evidence that the industry needs to create more female superheroes and stop letting the men take the spotlight. I, however, disagree. We don’t need more female heroes, we need better ones. Just like we don’t need more idle women joining the cause, we need more women willing to fight for it. Flooding the stores with a wave of new female characters won’t mean anything to society if they are just knock-offs of male characters everyone knows. Numbers are important when it comes to movements and causes, but so is the quality of those standing with you, if they even bother to stand up at all.

That won’t do anything to end sexism or the exploitation of women. It won’t help the ongoing struggle for women’ rights. In the comic book world, it would give people more reason to dislike female characters because they’re seen as copycats, or even just pretty faces to look at while reading familiar story arcs. And in the real world? It would just be another thing for sexist bigots to laugh at.

What Marvel and DC need to do is utilize the female characters already at their disposal, such as what they’ve done with Captain Marvel’s fresh story and dynamic character. The authors, especially female comic book writer Kelly Sue DeConnick, are not afraid to show both her heartbreakingly flawed human side right along with the qualities that make her a true hero. The concept of her character is not new by any means; she first appeared in 1977 as Ms. Marvel. What is new, is how her character has been developed and built upon over the decades and has gained respect. The cover art for her series is rarely hypersexual unlike other females such as Spiderwoman and Wonder Woman, whose cleavage and posteriors are always posed in such alarmingly impossible angles. The art alone in those comics is disrespectful towards all women.

What Marvel has been doing for Captain Marvel is reminiscent of what Emma Watson has been doing for HeForShe. The only difference is that Watson is not hiding her endgame agenda. She knows the fight for gender equality is not just a woman’s fight. It’s also a man’s. She knows that even if every woman in the world supported it, it would all mean nothing if men didn’t see the light either. Comic books are just one of the many ways to transmit gender equality since their popularity has really taken off among both genders.

Think about all the other female characters? Wonder Woman is getting her own movie, but for years she has been objectified as a sex symbol, especially since she was, at first, the only woman in the Justice League. Only recently with DC’s New 52 have writers and artists worked harder to make her a firm hero in her own right that has people buying the comics for her, not her body. This is how we stop ignorance form breeding. We start with books, and comics, and TV shows. We start with the younger generations and teach them not to hate.

Black Widow, Mockingbird, Storm, Batgirl, Black Canary, Raven. These are all very popular and well-known characters in their respective universes just waiting to be written to their full potential; waiting to inspire generation of both girls and boys. Still, there is some hope for these ladies.

Marvel’s recent announcement of the all-female team, A-Force seems to be their response to the need for better female heroines. What could be more feminist, more gender equalizing, than that? It’s to be seen whether the plot and characters will live up to my hopes of there being a future where female heroes aren’t compared to their male counterparts, but to each other instead, where heroines are portrayed in an as equally inspiring way as heroes without being objectified or static.