Damsel in Distress: The Lack of Female Superheroes in Hollywood

In the ’90s, my parents encouraged my tomboy ways and let me play with the boys toys, as if back then letting girls play with boys toys was taboo. They’re just toys, right? Almost 20 years later, I went to Target to grab some superhero merchandise for the opening night of The Avengers: Age of Ultron. To my dismay, all of the merch was located in the boy’s toy section; including the female superhero items, which wasn’t more than a pen-sized action figure or two. As I picked up the last Captain America mask, I passed the bright pink aisles where all of the “female-friendly” toys were. There wasn’t a superhero Barbie, plush toy or action figure in sight. What gives, Hollywood?

After seeing the film, I walked out disappointed. Scarlett Johansson played Black Widow in The Avengers: Age of Ultron, a former USSR assassin trained from a young age who uses her skills for her own gain and later on for the good of mankind. As a big Marvel fan, I was excited to see the return of the strong, female superhero in a Hollywood blockbuster (besides the X-Men). Unfortunately, her backstory was watered down as her relationship with Bruce Banner (e.g. Hulk) in the film grew into a sappy “woe is me” superhero complex as she revealed she was unable to bear children. As if in the year 2015 this was the number one, sure-fire way to humanize a former Soviet-bred killing machine to American women. Why does her mystery have to be washed over by pointless sentiments of humanity? They’re superhuman. Then, in the end, it’s Banner who ends up leaving her behind, despite their plans to run away together. Whether or not this was an accuracy issue from the comics to the big screen, why couldn’t Black Widow be the one to leave? Left at the altar, even in fantasy, the woman is still portrayed to be more vulnerable than her male counterpart.

I’ll admit, there’s the occasional female powerhouse (e.g. Gamora in Guardians of the Galaxy, the ladies of the X-Men and Catwoman in The Dark Knight Rises), but the damsel in distress routine is getting blase to say the least. These are the women who know they’re needed for a team to function and most importantly, vital in saving the planet if not the universe. In X-Men: Days of Future Past, without the women of the X-Men, the people of Earth would live forever in chains and the mutants of Earth left to be brutally murdered by robots. Without Gamora in Guardians of the Galaxy, Star-Lord wouldn’t have been able to save the planet. In the comic book world, there are plenty of women superheroes, but until those books come to life in a way that empowers us mere mortals on Earth, it’s a man’s universe; real or fantasy.

When comics started in the ’20s, it was a man’s world. While the comic book universe is booming with female leaders, it’s Hollywood who pass over these women like they’re minor characters. But, in 2015, something has to change. The question is: what is Hollywood going to do about it?

Bridjet Mendyuk

Bridjet Mendyuk graduated in 2013 from Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio. During her time there, she was a reporter/editor for the student newspaper, The BG News, and an intern for Alternative Press magazine. She currently freelances from her hometown in Columbus, Ohio. In her free time, she enjoys dancing in the car on her way to get a pizza.

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