Heroines rise up: Girls vs. gatekeepers

Women want nothing more than to see someone like them on the silver screen, especially in the superhero genre.

BBC America and the Women’s Media Center partnered to conduct a study titled “SuperPowering girls: Female representation in the sci/fi superhero genre.” The center found 63-65% of the women surveyed felt there are not enough role models, relatable characters or strong protagonists of their gender identity in sci-fi and superhero TV and film.

Unsurprisingly, though, the film industry is overwhelmingly full of men, along with the broader comic-based movie fan base. To confirm this concept, Statista reported 43% of surveyed men identified as fans of comic books, compared to the 24% of women who stated the same.

There is something to be said about men gatekeeping things deemed to be part of geek culture. Some men even go as far as to harass women who express their joy for gaming and comics. It has gotten to the point where 59% of women don’t disclose their gender while gaming to avoid harassment.

It all comes back to the idea that these matters belong exclusively to men and that women can’t enjoy anything more than the ideas the patriarchy projects on them.

Something to take into consideration is this misguided hallucination men have of “fake geek girls,” a term aptly used by The Atlantic, which perpetuates this idea that attractive women can’t truly adore something men happen to claim as their own.

An io9 article explained that geek culture, since its creation, has been revered as heterodoxically masculine in juxtaposition with the traditionally macho, brutish and even obtuse social view of where men’s interests should lie.

Still, women shouldn’t be at fault for men’s insecurities. This illusion that women only enjoy alternative topics, like comics and video games, for attention is steeped in internalized masculine fragility, not feminine duplicity.

I’m uncertain whether it’s their inability to accept the fact that women can enjoy comics equally as much, or the idea that superheroines are totems of a radical feminist agenda.

Perhaps they believe this because it was white men who directed the films they consider to be feminist propaganda. Take the "Star Wars" sequel trilogy for example, which was the first time the franchise had the opportunity to make a blockbuster set of films with a woman lead — if the director, JJ Abrams in this case, had taken it seriously.

Abrams confessed in an interview with Collider, “the 'Star Wars' sequel trilogy probably would have worked out better if the trilogy had a plan from the beginning.”

This blatant disregard for the immense opportunity speaks volumes. This is the exact reason why superhero movies in which a woman directed other women fares far better compared to male directors doing the same. 

Take "Wonder Woman," for example, which made over $820 million. After its release, people were stunned, and pondered what element made the movie so successful. I’ll tell you: It was a woman.

Not only are men directing women problematic, but they often sexualize them when they’re in charge. 

The late Carrie Fisher, known for her role as Princess Leia in the original trilogy of Star Wars, admitted to NPR that she was uncomfortable wearing such little clothing at times. But it doesn’t stop there — George Lucas, the director at the time, didn’t allow Fisher to wear underwear while filming.

To add to it all, men gatekeep comics from women and disproportionately label woman-led superhero movies as flops

Although, Forbes suggested this notion isn’t unfounded. The outlet pointed out that “Female-led superhero movies (Like 'Supergirl,' 'Catwoman' and 'Wonder Woman') often had the misfortune of following failed male-led superhero movies (like 'Superman III,' 'Batman & Robin' and 'Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice') from the same respective franchise.”

Therefore, woman-led superheroes are poorly received because of the bad movies preceding them, not because the movies are inherently bad.

All in all, the film industry and geek culture are deeply problematic, both together and separately. It’s only fair to do what’s right by giving women the opportunity to be on the movie screen.

On a daily basis, women soar above men’s crippling expectations and fight to make the world a better place by speaking up for what’s right. That makes us superheroes in our own right.

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