Fight for gender inclusivity in superhero films

Female representation can’t be just a trend, it must become a fixed piece of the film industry.

In the rare event that an action blockbuster featuring a female identifying lead is released, the public goes crazy. The 2017 hit Wonder Woman made $822 million in the box office, and social media was flooded with responses praising the movie for its portrayal of fierce female heroes. It’s fantastic that movies like Wonder Woman exist and receive so much attention, but female representation should not be a rarity— it should be a constant.

The superhero/action genre has a massive following to begin with, but movies starring women and other minorities generate even more attention because they’re anomalies. There are strikingly few of them. According to Book Riot, the number of Spider-Man spin off movies alone is equal to the number of female-led superhero films.Only 26.7% of DC and Marvel characters are female. 12% of mainstream superhero comics have female protagonists. And in addition to being exceedingly rare, female characters in the superhero genre are often sexualized and stereotyped. The industry is overwhelmingly male. It feels like there are more male actors named Chris or Tom in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) than the sum-total of female superheroes. Women are severely underrepresented in this genre, and audiences are hungry for media that they can connect with.

The upcoming film Captain Marvel looks to be the next step towards gender inclusivity in the superhero genre. Brie Larson stars as Carol Danvers, who “becomes one of the universe’s most powerful heroes.” The movie hasn’t even been released, but it’s internet presence has already gone wild. In the midst of critics picking apart trailers and saying that Larson “needs to smile more” and that the film is “set up to fail,” Captain Marvel has gained an incredibly positive and supportive following. But that following needs to linger long past the March 8 release date— female representation can’t be just a trend, it must become a fixed piece of the industry. 

Even when movies are packed with extraterrestrial villains, magic, and alternate dimensions, they have the real world potential to change the public’s perception of minorities. Female representation in superhero blockbusters helps to dismantle negative stereotypes. Heroes like Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel show that women are not contained to domestic life; they can be powerful, physical, independent, and individualistic. Diverse and inclusive action films teach women that they can “experience and express their ferocity and femininity,” as put by Danai Gurira, who starred as Okoye in Black Panther. Representation has massive impact— it can’t just be a fad.