You know what’s weird? We live in a time where, in movies at least, we’re capable of making animals talk, men fly and even the resurrection of dead actors, yet the idea of a woman leading her own superhero film is still considered novel.
It’s strange, isn’t it? Especially considering that comic books as a medium boast a whole cavalcade of colourful female characters for Hollywood studios to use in their wildly successful superhero movies.
But in the last decade, I can only think of last year’s wonderful Wonder Woman as an example of a mainstream superhero film which has been helmed by a woman as opposed to a man.
Of course, there’s an ‘obvious’ (and laughable) excuse as to why studios favour male leads over female ones in the superhero genre, ‘girls don’t like superheroes’.
But with Marvel’s release of Ant-Man and the Wasp here in the UK just yesterday I think it’s time for studios to admit that this prehistoric way of thinking is deader than the Justice League’s sequel hopes.
For my mind, Hope Van Dyne, aka The Wasp, (Evangeline Lilly) was one of the best things in the film and the equal of Ant-Man in every single way.
Following the screening at the secretive UNILAD post-film pub debrief it was agreed that Wasp could have easily had her own solo film and that (source material aside) it was a shame she had to share her big screen debut.
And while arch defenders of following the comics to the letter would probably argue that The Wasp is traditionally a supporting character of Ant-Man, therefore, she has to be established in an Ant-Man film before she can spread her wings in a solo outing, I think that’s nonsense.
Firstly the Ant-Man movie already firmly established the character and her abilities well enough that she doesn’t need him around in the sequel.
Secondly, the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Ant-Man is cobbled together from so many different versions of the character it’s hard to argue that he’s the ‘traditional hero’ from the comic anyway.
So why couldn’t The Wasp just do her own thing while Paul Rudd’s diminutive hero was under house arrest?
Well, it goes back to what we were saying earlier about women not being the traditional audience for these films.
This patriarchal way of thinking means that superhero films tend to be marketed towards men and studios have got it into their heads that men won’t watch a film led by a woman.
And while you may argue that Wonder Woman surely proves that wrong it’s undeniable that some female-led superhero movies have bombed at the box-office leading to the presumption that the market (men) don’t want them.
Unfortunately, when you examine these flops (Catwoman and Elektra spring to mind) it becomes clear that the problem’s less to do with women in the title role and more a question of quality.
Both Catwoman and Elektra are perfect examples of how bad the superhero genre can be and audiences reacted badly to them because they were so dreadful.
When we compare them to films like Wonder Woman and Ant-Man and The Wasp, both of which are quality films we can see that audiences aren’t against female-led superhero films, just bad female superhero movies.
Unfortunately, though, the studio’s belief that people as a general rule aren’t into female superheroes is accidentally reinforcing traditional gender roles and ensuring that women never become interested in the genre.
Now, of course, I’m not saying that women aren’t interested in male supers but I know from personal experience that my ability to relate to certain characters is part of what I love about superhero movies. You can see yourself in the character.
And while most people with some degree of empathy can see past gender I think it’s undeniable that it’s easier for someone who identifies as female to identify with other females because that’s an experience they can relate to that I can’t.
Nothing exemplifies this more to me than my reaction to Wonder Woman compared to my girlfriend’s.
We both love superhero films and I really enjoyed the movie, but that was about it, I didn’t think it groundbreaking, just a decent superhero flick.
But to my girlfriend, it was the first time, in her words, that she’s been able to properly relate to one of these characters, because she’s a woman, and because of that the film meant a lot more to her than it did to me.
And the same thing happened again after we left Ant-Man and The Wasp, she felt empowered by such a strong and confident depiction of a woman which you so rarely see.
This is why I believe there should be more female-led superhero films because films like Wonder Woman and Ant-Man and The Wasp make me realise how privileged I am as a man to be so well represented in films, and everyone deserves to see themselves as a hero on the silver screen whatever your gender.
Of course, platitudes like this aren’t going to convince studios to make more movies like this. Only one thing will make these vast corporations change their perception of the audience: money.
If people see these films then the studios will make more of them and if enough women see them then, in an entirely cynical ploy, studios will believe that making them is a way into an untapped market.
Pathetic business schemes aside the future looks bright for female heroes. My beloved Doctor recently regenerated into a woman (Jodie Whittaker) and despite some protest from ‘fans’ the new series of Doctor Who looks fantastic.
Not only that, next year we’ve got the sequel to Wonder Woman, WW88, on the way, as well as Marvel’s first female-led superhero film Captain Marvel both of which are sure to inspire a new generation of superhero fans.
It’s just a shame it’s taken this long to get here.
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More of a concept than a journalist, Tom Percival was forged in the bowels of Salford University from which he emerged grasping a Masters in journalism.
Since then his rise has been described by himself as ‘meteoric’ rising to the esteemed rank of Social Editor at UNILAD as well as working at the BBC, Manchester Evening News, and ITV.
He credits his success to three core techniques, name repetition, personality mirroring, and never breaking off a handshake.