Superheroes are big right now, among boys and girls alike. So why don’t we see more women superheroes up on the big screen? Oh, they’re there in ensemble movies like The Avengers and The Guardians of the Galaxies, but so far women haven’t had a franchise of their own, despite there being many strong, interesting women superheroes on the pages of comic books. The numbers are staggering: of 16 Marvel movies in development or released, only one has a female lead (Captain Marvel).
And girls are starting to notice.
One in particular, an 11-year-old named Rowan, was motivated to write a letter to DC Comics after she received a Justice League Chibis set for her birthday. (Chibi are small anime statuettes that kids collect — yes, lame parent alert, I had to look that up). The set features ten male superheroes, such as Batman and Superman, but only two females, Wonder Woman and Supergirl. (And why is she Supergirl and not Superwoman? Hmm.) Speaking to The Huffington Post, Rowan said, “I also did not understand why the background for the girl superheroes was all pink, purple, and other ‘girl’ colors, but the boy superheroes got black, red, and dark blue.”
In her awesome letter to DC Comics, Rowan explains that she grew up loving DC’s comics, cartoons, and movies, but that she had finally become frustrated with how the woman characters take backseat to the men. “You have a Flash TV show, but not a Wonder Woman one,” she writes. “Marvel Comics made a movie about a talking tree and raccoon awesome, but you haven’t made a movie with Wonder Woman.” She ends the letter asking them to do something about this lack of equality. “Girls read comics too and they care.”
You’re my hero, Rowan! I don’t think I ever would have had the wherewithal to write a letter of complaint like this at 11, especially not such a thoughtful and pointed one.
DC responded to Rowan over Twitter, saying that a Wonder Woman movie is in the works (due out 2017), and Supergirl will soon be coming to CBS. They vaguely promised “more exciting girl power announcements” soon.
In 2007, Joss Whedon, director of The Avengers and its forthcoming sequel, tried to make a Wonder Woman movie but never got it off the ground. He blamed the lack of on-screen women superheroes on “genuine, recalcitrant, intractable sexism, and old-fashioned quiet misogyny.” Whedon, who made a name in the mainstream by creating the excellent and female-led television show Buffy the Vampire Slayer, recently announced that he’d like to make a movie about a turn-of-the-century female vigilante. This is great news!
My five-year-old son is pretty excited about superheroes at the moment, and I love showing him X-Men cartoons in particular, because they feature so many admirable, powerful woman characters, like Storm, Jean Grey, and Kitty Pride (Shadowcat). This comes through when he plays — I don’t think I’ve ever seen him enact a “damsel in distress” story. The princess in his LEGO castle set, for example, is often wearing armor and has a place among the troops. He digs Adventure Time characters like Princess Bubblegum and Marceline for the same reasons, and Firestar in Spiderman and His Amazing Friends. These are all smart, independently-minded women warriors who save the day, each with histories, enemies, and issues that are just as complex and interesting as male heroes.
Let’s hope we see more of them coming to big and small screens soon. Because as the #LikeAGirl campaign demonstrates, young women begin to change their image of themselves during adolescence. Instead of noticing, like Rowan, how they are demeaned and under-represented when compared to men, some internalize those messages without even being aware of it. They see themselves as secondary to guys, side characters in what is essentially a man’s world, a man’s story.
Heroes struggle and toil to uphold the ideals of our society, and one of those ideals is, for many of us, equality. Marvel and DC, will you please listen to real-life heroes like Rowan, and give your admirable woman heroes just as high a profile as the men?More On