Half the population is made up of women and there is a pantheon of female superheroes that exist in the comic universe already. So, what’s the hold up!? There’s more to female superheroes than Catwoman, Wonder Woman and Elektra! I contend that if more indie filmmakers write original characters for us to identify with, then we will start to crave more action/adventure female protagonists that are neither vapid strumpets and wooden autobots void of personality.
Where Have All the Super Heroine Movies Gone?
Wonder Woman has so much cultural baggage at this point that any movie with her would have so many cooks in the kitchen that it would probably turn into a stone soup of a film. There are several other female superheroes but to be honest, many of the Golden Age super heroines don’t have the depth that the male characters do. These characters were written in a time when misogyny was the norm and female characters were written by men for men. It is not that there aren’t good female superheroes, the issue is who they were written for.
Female superheroes on the big screen so far (Black Widow, Catwoman, etc) are shown through a male lens–camera lingers on cleavage, butt, slinky walking, etc. A big studio would probably continue this gaze and alienate both genders. Men don’t want to identify with female protagonist; women don’t want to watch a 90 minute reminder that they are walking philly cheesesteaks. Another issue with existing tropes are overcompensating with wooden, aloof ladies who are completely unrelatable regardless of gender. Characters like Batman and Spiderman are able to be superheroes while still being vulnerable, damaged, and emotional.
This leads us to wonder why we need female superhero movies. There are tons of superhero movies and movies with strong female protagonists, why do we need a movie that combines those two elements? To put it simply, we need female superheroes for the same reason we need male superheroes. Regardless of gender, we know that superheroes allow us to escape reality and imagine an individual that can put a stop to whatever evil is plaguing us.
It seems that the main reason that female superhero movies aren’t getting made is because big studios have too averse a reaction to risk. Logistically speaking, many of the female superheroes that could possibly carry their own film are either tied up in other movies or have conflicting character rights within different studios. This problem is exacerbated by the fact that so many classic female superheroes are tied romantically with other characters whose character rights may be tied up in yet another studio.
As a child, who loved action/adventure, science fiction, and fantasy, I found that I always had to play make-believe as a male character. When you play Indiana Jones, you want to play-fight against the bad guy, save some treasure, and slide under doors that are just about to close! You don’t want to play “get tied up and wait to be saved.” I had become so accustomed to watching an action movie and identifying with a male protagonist that I was shocked when Xena came along in third grade, and all of a sudden I had a female “hero” with whom I could identify. You can bet I was Xena two Halloweens in a row.
I think our best bet for getting the super heroine ball rolling is if independent filmmakers start making them. If these independent films can prove an interest, then the Fat Cats may be willing to pony up and put the cheddar on the line. This means that fantastic new female superheros need to be created for a new generation. We don’t need to rely on the limited cache of our grandparents’ superheroes; surely we can muster up a few amazing new characters that can hold a movie. We don’t need a franchise–just enough characters to prove interest and get audiences accustomed to identifying with compelling female heroes. Certainly, TV drama has prepared us with shows like Fringe, Homeland, and Battlestar Galactica.
The ultimate reason that super heroines can’t get their own movies is money. Most reasons for anything in Hollywood is money. In addition, so many of the popular super heroines most of us are familiar with were not written with a modern audience in mind. The issue of licensing and character rights are also ever prevalent in Hollywood, and it doesn’t seem like Hollywood is going to be creating any original characters anytime soon. Regardless of Hollywood’s holdups when it comes to starting film franchises with older properties, we need to have female superheroes, so little guys and gals can identify with female protagonists! Indie filmmakers need to get busy making more Xena’s and Starbucks!