Ok, so I talked about this a little in the Avengers review. But I think I want to expand on it. One of the reasons that superheroes resonate with us is that we can relate to them on some level, like my infatuation with Hawkeye using a bow. But female superheroes seem to lack resonating traits for geek girls. Or at least most of them do.
Let’s start with some well known male heroes. Both Peter Parker (Spider-Man) and Steve Rogers (Captain America) started out their lives as reedy little geeks, who sucked with women and had lousy physiques. But with the aid of SCIENCE, accidentally in the first case, on purpose in the second, they overcome their natural shortcomings and become HEROES, and save people, beat up bullies and score with chicks. Ok, maybe Captain America is a little too much of a boy scout to just “score,” but you get the picture.
So, um, female heroes.
Well, Kitty Pryde does join the X-men in her early teens. A cute, adorable little minx of a teen-ager everyone loves and tries to protect. She’s smart, and super computer savvy, but even at her nerdiest, she’s still pretty damned hot. I can’t think of any current female superheroes in the Big 2 (Marvel and DC) who started out as “kryptonite” to the opposite sex, who underwent some transformation to hotness along with hero-ness. They all start out pretty conventionally attractive, and either stay the same or get even hotter. None of them start out as chubby nerd girls with bad skin and braces. Barbara Gordon, starts out hot. Huntress, hot. Jean Grey, hot. White Queen, hot.
Can anyone think of a mainstream superheroine who not only isn’t so grotesquely sexualized that she’s a mockery of the human shape, but that started out of average or below average attractiveness? Karma spends part of the Asgardian Wars fat, but slims down. And her fatness was the result of a spell by a villain to punish her, not her natural state.
I mean, hell, there aren’t even any “stocky” superheroines. Well, I take that back, I think Gert from Runaways started out a little chunky, which is one of the reasons I loved that book, but it didn’t last. Also, I mean, really think about how many superheroines actually even wear glasses. Even that small a flaw is rare. Kitty, although she usually wears contacts, Gert… I’m running through X-women in my head and Kitty’s the only one I can come up with.
So, while the dudes get Spider-Man, Captain America, Superman with his nerdy alter-ego Clark Kent, Doug Ramsey (who actually stays kind of dorky and is still a hero), and loads of other former geeks to man-crush on, we get hypersexualized male fantasies posed in ways that make contortionists wince, and reasonably healthy, active, athletic women hurt themselves trying to emulate. Not to mention that the dudes get fully realized backstories that are often part of their initial comics run, but the women don’t. Kitty’s the closest to that we’ve got, because we see her found and brought into the X-men. Jean Grey’s family life is explored a bit. But apart from Kitty’s parents divorcing (which was a much bigger deal in the 70s when that storyline was written), they both have happy, all-American lives until their powers (brought on by adolescence, clumsy analog for burgeoning sexuality anyone?) mess it all up. The thing is, we see Peter Parker’s struggles in high school. We see Steve Rogers failing out of the Army. We see them being skinny dorks. What do we get with the female characters? Thin conventionally pretty girls whose lives are pretty damn good, until powers fuck it up.
Wait a minute… I mean, I know that not all of the guys have powers that improve their situation, Cyclops springs readily to mind here. But Rogue, Mystique (or at least the Mystique of the movies), Jean Grey, Kitty, all of their powers fuck up their lives. What the hell? I just noticed that. It’s like becoming “super” is redemptive for dudes, but apparently doesn’t work that way for women.
Ok, that’s a rant for another day.
Look guys, we’re not saying you guys can’t still have your eyecandy. Hell, fine, have becoming a superhero fix some girl’s bad teeth, acne and weight problem like they fixed Spider-Man and Captain America. Fine. But we’d like some female heroes that speak to us, like Spider-Man and the others speak to you. You know, heroes we can relate to.
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