In the year 2015, one is unable to contemplate a trip to the cinema without encountering some sort of superhero movie. In 2008 we had glittering, emo vampires, but now, it’s all about action heroes and big-budget destruction sequences. As much as I am a fan of the genre, my interest is definitely starting to dwindle. Not only because of the sheer volume of productions and the in-your-face-everywhere-you-go marketing approach, but also in part due to the lack of diversity and outright exclusion of minorities. In this day and age, there is absolutely no excuse for their all-white, all-male cast. And over at Marvel, the only female superhero, Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow, is constantly being mistreated and underused. She is noticeably missing from the DVD cover for the latest Avenger’s movie ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’. She is the only Avenger who doesn’t have her own solo movie (Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye doesn’t have his own movie either, but he does feature more prominently in Age of Ultron). Marvel’s idea of developing Black Widow? Making her the Hulk’s girlfriend. This is the only way we get even a glimpse of her backstory. At this point, she has been in four MCU films and all she has been reduced to is a hot, acrobatic redhead who shows a lot of cleavage.
SNL recently poked fun at Marvel’s attempts of writing storylines for Black Widow with a spoof trailer promising to be ‘A Girl Superhero Movie’. In the trailer, Scarlett Johansson reprises her role, but the film is in fact a rom-com. However funny it is to watch, the sad reality is that it’s exaggerated stereotypes are not too distant from where the character is headed in Age of Ultron, where she is practically a love interest who’s only concern is her ability to conceive a child. Even the film’s stars have a hard time defending Black Widow, with Jeremy Renner & Chris Evans causing a bit of controversy when they referred to the character as a ‘slut’ because of her flirtations with the male characters.
Personally, I have always preferred DC comics to Marvel. Superman is my favourite superhero, and I’ve watched just about every adaptation up to this point, both on TV and on the big screen. I feel like DC has always had a much better representation of female characters. In 2012’s ‘The Dark Knight Rises’, I thought that Anne Hathaway’s Catwoman was fascinating and I would have gladly watched her in a spin off feature. Right now, DC are in the middle of a reboot of sorts, with ‘Batman v Superman’ and ‘Suicide Squad’ set for a 2016 release, and I’m pleased to see that they seem to be a bit more inclusive than Marvel.
The internet went crazy over Harley Quinn when the ‘Suicide Squad’ trailer premiered. Not to mention the fact that the anti-heroes are a fresh take on a tired genre, as well as being a more diverse group of actors (Will Smith as Deadshot is perfection). And ‘Batman V Superman’ is set to introduce Wonder Woman to cinemagoers for the first time, before her own solo effort in 2017. I am crossing my fingers that this will be the first successful female superhero film (I’m looking at you, Catwoman and Elektra). DC are also doing a better job of showing off their female superheroes on TV too. Supergirl is set to premiere later this year, and although the initial teaser looked alarmingly similar to the SNL spoof trailer, I’ve seen the first episode and it looks quite promising. There is also a wide variety of strong female characters on shows such as Arrow and The Flash. They may have their flaws, but I think generally speaking they are doing a good job of making the characters appealing to both males and females, a balance which I imagine can be difficult to achieve.
There is an interest for these female superheroes (or even supervillains). It’s just a case of doing them justice (no pun intended). I honestly don’t know why the world of female superheroes is not being explored fully. Films like The Hunger Games, The Divergent series and even the latest Terminator have all featured strong, empowered women and all have gone on to be very successful. Joss Whedon, director of the Avengers, has always written and directed female leads very well. He created Buffy The Vampire Slayer! You’d think that if anybody could achieve a successful female superhero it would be him.
And even if it weren’t a sure-fire hit, Marvel has been taking some massive risks recently. The Guardians of the Galaxy was a relatively unknown comic book that went on to become one of the most successful MCU movies (and up to now, my personal favourite). They’ve recently released Ant Man and the rebooted Fantastic Four, once again two films that were very risky for them (both of which haven’t been very successful for the company, commercially or with the critics).
People are still complaining about the thinly written Black Widow, and fans are desperate for a solo movie. Even though it has been discussed and teased ever since her introduction in 2010, nothing has materialized yet. If that day should come, I think it will be a real turning point for the ladies. And then, we can maybe start thinking about introducing more new, diverse characters. Like a black superhero. or a gay superhero. Or a gay black woman superhero. After all, the only Avenger of colour is green.