Why Women Are Not Underrepresented As Superheroes

“I will teach them what it means to put a lion in a cage, Cersei thought.”

(George R. R. Martin, A Feast For Crows)

Who isn’t a fan of comic books or the movies based on them in this day and age? It’s become so deeply ingrained into our culture that I’d be hard pressed to think of a time in my life that I wasn’t enamored with superheroes. However, in that same breath, I also can’t think of a time I wasn’t disgusted that females were underrepresented as superheroes. I have fought with numerous people about how I felt this needed desperately to be fixed. I will not say that female heroes aren’t out there, as evidenced by the new Female Thor and Spider Gwen, for instance. However, at first glance, the news of Black Widow’s action figure being replaced in the Avengers: Age of Ultron scene with the Captain America action figure shocked and appalled me. It had to be on purpose, right? It had to be a gender thing. I thought, “Why can’t we get an honest to gods superhero girl her own movie or television show? Why isn’t my gender recognized in this male-dominated world?”

Then I watched the Supergirl “First Look” video.

This is a 6 minute 36 second video; however, set the time aside and watch it now.

When I first heard the idea of Supergirl becoming an actual show; I winced a little but I also found myself rooting for her show. As someone who watched damn near every season of Glee, I was already familiar with Melissa Benoist. I felt her presentation of the character, Riley was horrid and bland. Also, I feel the need to state upfront that I am not in DC’s corner pretty much ever, but I do find myself enjoying the content that they bring to the television realm. For example, I feel Gotham has excellent storytelling as well as very strong character development. So, I tried to keep my shred of faith that we’d get some kick ass content out of Supergirl.

That faith has been dashed. I realize the television show hasn’t come out yet; however, I now have absolutely no interest in it. Why, you ask? It’s honestly not the poor special effects, the poppy and “girl power”-fueled songs or even the acting that bothers me, even though both are particularly laughable. If you didn’t take my advice and watch the full video, at least go to this section of the video above 5:46, which reads:

“It’s not a bird. It’s not a plane. It’s not a man. It’s Supergirl.”

Why have we stooped to this level? The second we get a new female-led superhero television show and the way we define her is that she isn’t a man? Now, just a few seconds ago weren’t we just saying females weren’t displayed in this world? You now see why. We get serenaded by overly poppy music and stereotypical “female bait”. This isn’t a female superhero. This is the mainstream media throwing us a bone.

Seeing this trailer alone made me think a lot about this ongoing argument and it has brought me to this conclusion: women aren’t actually underrepresented as superheroes.  Throughout all forms of media, we are given wonderfully constructed female superheroes. While they are not the “superhero” you may commonly think of when you hear the word; they should most definitely be rewarded for their heroism.

Hermione Granger

Photo courtesy of Warner Brothers

Photo courtesy of Warner Brothers

“Excuse me but I don’t like people just because they are handsome.” (Hermione Granger, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire)

Hermione Granger, of the Harry Potter book and movie series, is an intellectual powerhouse. She’s strong-willed and clever as hell. She also has most of my list beat as she possesses the power of magic, but let’s just put that aside, shall we? Marked as an insufferable know-it-all, she also packs a mean spellbinding punch, as witnessed in the video below.


Donna Noble

Photo courtesy of BBC

Photo courtesy of BBC

“This friend of yours, just before she left, did she punch you in the face?” Donna Noble, “The Runaway Bride”

I may not have particularly enjoyed Donna Noble for the good part of the time she was on Doctor Who; however, I can’t dismiss that Donna is one of the stronger companions in new Who. Donna stood beside the Doctor not as a romantic interest, but as an actual companion. I may also be referencing that tiny little episode towards the end of 10’s run. You know, that one where she gains the consciousness of a Time Lord? Oh, you don’t remember? Silly you!


Leslie Knope

Photo courtesy of NBC

Photo courtesy of NBC

“I am so sick of moving like a slug. I want to move like a cheetah. Or a slug driving a remote controlled car. Something more plausible than that. But fast.” (Leslie Knope, “Kaboom”)

Leslie Knope of Parks and Recreation was one of those characters in television that just never leave your mind. She’s opinionated, sassy, quirky, and powerful without having to say anything (Let’s be honest, she never shut up). Leslie has that “superpower” of finding such beautiful and wonderful things in a town that no one even thinks matters. She takes risks. She sees hope in people that had long forgotten how to find hope within themselves. She may just be the most heroic person that’s ever graced television.


Katniss Everdeen

Photo courtesy of  Lionsgate Films

Photo courtesy of Lionsgate Films

If I’m going to cry, now is the time. By morning, I’ll be able to wash all the damage done by the tears from my face. But no tears come. I’m too tired or too numb to cry. The only thing I feel is a desire to be somewhere else. So I let the train rock me into oblivion.”  (Katniss Everdeen, Hunger Games)

In the Hunger Games series, we are introduced to Katniss Everdeen, who is a force to be reckoned with. Suzanne Collins wrote these books that proved to us, not through expressing “girl power” heavily or giving Katniss man candy, but by Katniss’s stubborn motivation to fix the world she loves. All of the obstacles that get thrown at Katniss, she manages to fight through (of course, with a resting bitch face intact). For example, there is a spectacular scene in Mockingjay: Part 1 when Katniss is fueled with so much rage and emotion that she utters, “If we burn, you burn with us” and you can’t help but feel that shit is about to get real.

Conclusion

Why do we need justification when we have such wonderfully written role models in the media? Instead of fighting about Black Widow not having a movie yet or feeling saddened by the fact that we haven’t had as many female superheroes grace the screen as we want, remember that we do have these models of heroism you seek. We have these beautifully constructed depictions already written into our culture. We don’t need to be labeled as a typical superhero because we’re more than that. We don’t need fancy labels to prove our worth in the world.

 

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