I Need A Hero: The Modern Female Superhero
By: Amanda Roberge
Anyone who knows me knows I am a pretty big superhero movie buff. My fascination with superheroes started when I was in middle school; when the first of the modern Spiderman trilogies came out. With Marvel and DC raking in millions every year I am not alone in my love affair with superheros; for some it’s the scantily clad outfits, for others it’s about being able to overcome adversity (think origin stories), for some they envision themselves as the hero,and for some it’s a chance to escape and be rescued from stresses in their lives. For me it is a little bit of all these things and the fact that you have this near perfect person that is still flawed in some way and also still has the same everyday problems I may face, like relationship issues or struggling at work. Growing up through the 2000s female superheroes who had their own movie on the big screen were few and far between. It wasn’t until really 2017 when the “Wonder Women” and again in 2019 with “Captain Marvel” both came out that there was a superhero movie with a female lead that really stuck with me.
My major concern in 2017 when going to see Wonder Woman was that it would fall into the movie trope of having Diana's primary focus to end up in a relationship and falling in love. Although many women have romantic relationships throughout their lives, too often in movies and television the only thing the female character amounts to is a romantic partner. Because of this, these characters end up losing what makes them special. Even though Diana does end up falling in love with a soldier named Steve Trover in the movie, the relationship is not the main point of the movie. Instead, giving Diana the love interest of Steve helps propel the movie forward. When Diana starts doubting if the humans are worth saving with their endless wars, Steve’s self sacrifice (resulting in his death) reminds Diana that humans may have some redeeming qualities after all, and is able to direct her grief towards Ares thus ending the war. It could have been easy for the writers to give Diana a happily ever after with Steve or even worse, for Steve to have to rush and try to save her from the villain. I am very pleased with the balance that DC was able to achieve within the movie. Wonder Woman may be able to save the struggling DC Comics multiverse that they have been reaching for ever since the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).
Two years later, getting ready to see Captain Marvel, I had concerns again about how Marvel would portray their first solo female superhero. My major concern with Captain Marvel was how other female superheroes were previously portrayed in the MCU. Captain Marvel isn’t nearly the first female in the MCU; Black Widow appeared in a number of movies before Captain Marvel made her first appearance. Even though Black Widow is a physically strong character, she lacks the depth and complexity of her male Avenger counterparts. Unfortunately, this causes her character to fade into the background. I was worried that Captain Marvel would similarly lack complexity and that I would pay $10 to only wind up snoring at the back of the theater. My fears were quickly alleviated shortly into the movie, battling amnesia and nightmares, Vers (later known as Carol Danvers), is forced to figure out who she was, and battle the Kree who had kidnapped her after her accident giving her superpowers to use her for their own war. Eventually, Carol is able to recall who she is and is able to defeat the Kree. One of the most powerful scenes in Captain Marvel is even though she has these superpowers, she realizes her inner strength in a montage of her at different ages getting up back to her feet after life knocked her down. I was moved to tears the first time I saw this clip, and this helped provide so much depth to Carol’s character. It showed no matter what life threw at her, she was going to get back up and not let anything keep her down.
Hollywood is going to keep making superhero movies as long as they keep raking in the superhero sized box office sales. As they keep trying to progress, I hope the writers not only keep writing about strong and dynamic female leads, but that they continue to develop superheroes that represent all walks of life and that are as diverse as the fans who love them. As much as I love both Ironman and Superman and all their tech... being a white, genius, male, and billionaire is not relatable to an overwhelming majority of the population. We need more characters like Wonder Woman, Captain Marvel, and Black Panther. I’m hopeful that the sequels to these three movies pick up where the originals left off. I hope, especially in the case of Black Panther, that Marvel listens to their fans. After lead actor Chadwick Boseman’s passing earlier this year, fans have been wanting to have his sister take over his reigns as Black Panther. This would be a great opportunity to give more little girls a strong and smart superhero to look up to! I’m also keeping my fingers crossed that when Blalck Widow finally gets released, her origin story gives her character the depth she deserves.