Hollywood Has a Heroine Problem

Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman
Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman

In the last decade superhero films have become a major part of film pop culture. Blockbuster films like “The Avengers” and “Man of Steel” have made billions and put comic book heroes on the big screen for a wide audience. The common thread? These films have all been headlined by white male heroes, even when there’s plenty of female heroes in the source material to choose from. Well in recent news, it seems as though the cry for more diversity has been heard by film executives. Recently, both DC and Marvel have announced films starring and centered around big name female heroes.

The first up will be the culture icon and very first mainstream heroine, Wonder Woman. She will be making her film debut in Zack Snyder’s “Batman Vs Superman: Dawn of Justice,” due in theaters May 6, 2016. More exciting is that after her appearance in that film, she is set to star in her own film sometime in 2017. Wonder Woman will be portrayed by Israeli actress, Gal Gadot (Fast 5, Furious 6). Her appearance in “Dawn of Justice” will mark the character’s first live action feature film appearance since her creation in 1941, her first big screen appearance being in 2013’s The Lego Movie. Not much else about the plot has been revealed as of yet.

On the ever growing Marvel side of comic book films, Captain Marvel will be the first female hero to star in her own movie. Due in theaters on July 6, 2018, former Ms. Marvel Carol Danvers will join the movie Avengers to take down the all powerful Thanos in the climatic end to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Captain Marvel’s powers include flight, super strength and shooting lethal energy burst from her hands.

The announcement of introducing the character into the movie universe came as a surprise, considering one of Marvel’s biggest on screen heroines, Black Widow , has starred in many Marvel films making her the front runner for the first female hero. No actress has been cast in the role of Danvers yet and not much is known about the script.

“This movie has been in the works almost as long as Doctor Strange and Guardians of the Galaxy.” said President of Marvel Studios Kevin Feige. “One of the key things was figuring out how to do what we really wanted to do with it, which is introduce one of, if not the most powerful hero into the MCU.”

Research has confirmed that 46% of comic book consumers are female. Many of those readers feel under represented when comic book films feature women exclusively as love interests or sidekicks.

Queens College student, Zully Arias, 21 said “ I’ve grown up loving Wonder Woman all my life. Every time a new comic book movie was announced I would cross my fingers hoping it would be a Wonder Woman movie.”

Arias continued “I think its going to be great for young girls to see a powerful woman on screen being just as tough as the male super heroes. Girls need representation in film so that we can be empowered and also because its just common sense, we make up half the population!”

The source material for the films have been a little more modern and forward thinking on the front of diversity. Just last month, Marvel comics relaunched Thor with an incredible twist.

But even though the comics industry is improving with adding diversity, comics are still struggling with how the medium treats and characterizes women. Their portrayal, even as strong characters often times lack depth as they are either highly sexualized or fulfill the usual butch female stereotype. There are highlights in the bunch though. DC recently relaunched Batgirl, with a new costume design that broke the traditional “sexy heroine” mold. Marvel just started a critically acclaimed relaunch of Ms. Marvel starring Kamala Khan, a Pakistani teenage girl who not only deals with the modern day issues of being a Muslim American, but striving to make the world a better place through what she believes in and in the vein of the heros she looks up to despite how different she may be. Both of these are standouts among the current Marvel and DC comic lineup. Also notable for Ms. Marvel is it is being written, edited and drawn by an entirely female creative team, the writer of which is an Egypt born Muslim woman.

Another shake up in the comic book world is the introduction of a female Thor. In the comics Thor has become unworthy and is no longer able to pick Mjolnir (the famous hammer that provides most of his powers) and is replaced by what fans refer to “Female Thor”. This sudden and unexpected change upset a lot of readers but writer Jason Aaron isn’t concerned “ I  take it all with a grain of salt, whether it’s high praise or people who are just venting rage. I never let any of that kind of stuff change the story I want to tell. It’s been exciting to see people anxious to pick up the book. That’s been great, but on the flip side it’s been disappointing to see people respond negatively to the fact that it’s a female picking up the hammer now. That part’s been disappointing, but that to me has been washed out by the people who are excited to see a new Thor story.”

Females aren’t the only minority gaining traction in comics. A more diverse cast of heroes can be seen on the race front. Steve Rogers is no longer Captain America, has been replaced by Sam Wilson, better known as Falcon an African American hero, after Rogers is not physically able to be Captain America. And Marvel is releasing “Black Panther” the first black headliner in Marvels superhero films

DC and Marvel are finally listening to its audience and giving fans what they want. These two films will hopefully just be the beginning of a new wave of female lead roles that prove that audiences will enjoy a film starring Wonder Woman just as much as they would Batman.

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