Female Superheroes Make Breakthrough on Screen

By TOM MOORE
On April 19, 2017

Marvel and DC’s film universes have captured the attention of worldwide audiences and smashed box-office records over and over again. But these films all have something in common; all tend to feature white male superheroes that completely outshine anyone else onscreen. While some female characters impact parts of their stories, there has yet to be a female hero who has had her own story told on the big screen.

While Marvel did make “Elektra” back in 2005 and focused it on the title character’s backstory, many people do not even remember the film existing. Those who do remember “Elektra” probably did not like it, and it came before Marvel started their cinematic universe so many may not have even cared to see it in theaters.

Heroines like Black Widow, Scarlet Witch, Mystique and Jean Grey have graced the big-screen and garnered a lot of fan support, but are often put aside to more mainstream male heroes like Captain America, Iron Man and even the less-popular heroes like Doctor Strange. Black Widow, who is played by Scarlett Johansson, has been especially popular following her first appearance in “Iron Man 2,” and fans have been wondering when her origin story will make its debut on the big screen.

It is a shame too since many of the female heroes seen in the comics are actually quite interesting and have stories that feel quite unique compared to their male counterparts. Some will argue that they are just not popular enough to be included in the big cinematic picture, but Marvel and DC have done quite well with making “non-popular heroes” fan favorites. Heroes such as Hawkeye, Doctor Strange, Ant-Man and even Iron Man were not seen so favorably and now have broken box office records with some of their origin films.

So at this point, there really is no excuse as to why there cannot be more female solo films. What makes most female comic characters so unique is that they often break stereotypes that negatively affect their outlook.  Women are no longer just the “damsel in distress” waiting for male superheroes to come save them and clean up the mess. Now, women in comics are seen to be strong, independent and completely capable of saving the day.

However, the cinematic universes have not been displaying this sense of independence amongst its female heroes and characters. Often times these characters are seen more as love interests and are in need of male heroes. Jane Porter, played by Natalie Portman, who is a part of the “Thor” series was seen to be more of a “damsel in distress” than a relevant character. Because of this, fans were not pleased with her character and Portman now has basically left the MCU because of her character’s unpopularity.

This kind of representation should not be accepted, and it is rather inaccurate for female characters like Jane Porter to be represented in this way. In the comics, Porter is seen as strong and intelligent, and she actually becomes the first female version of Thor in the comics. So making her more unappealing and helpless is a disservice to character as a whole.

It’s not like there are not that many female superheroes in Marvel and DC’s utility belts. Back in 2003, DC Comics made their extremely popular animated series “Teen Titans” and gave light to some of the lesser known heroes in their arsenal. To many fans, the team’s female heroes Raven and Starfire were seen to be more popular than some of their male counterparts, including Cyborg, who is in fact getting his own solo movie that will be a part of the DC Extended Universe.

But it seems as though things are starting to change. DC will debut their first female superhero movie with “Wonder Woman” in June, and Marvel will add “Captain Marvel” to its roster of heroes in 2019. The two were actually conceived in the comics to break the tradition of having only male heroes, with Captain Marvel actually taking over the mantle for the original male version in 2012, and will do it again with their origin stories being a part of these ever-growing cinematic universes.

tmoore3@ramapo.edu

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