I'm a little late to this conversation – even Defamer was calling for a superchick movie last week, but we all know you're stylish if you arrive late to the party. And frankly, as a geek girl, I'm given a pass and can talk about this stuff whenever the mood strikes me. Plus, if I had done it last week, we wouldn't have gotten to talk about all those cool comic books.
It's a surprising fact, but the comic book world is a lot more accepting of tough women than mainstream Hollywood. There are no doubt loads of men and women who disagree with me, pointing to Frank Miller or the unrealistic body expectations. No doubt there are a lot of damning storylines and panels ("Quiet, or Papa spank!"), but I find much of it easy to shrug off. I'm as staunch a feminist as you can find, but I've never been able to completely shake my fist at the industry because, dammit, there was Wonder Woman and Jean Grey. From the start, comic book heroines were strong individuals, capable of action. A glance through Marvel or DC titles show plenty of women who kick ass as heroes, villains, and all the ambiguity in between.
And they've been doing it for years! Wonder Woman was battling villains when women were still being run out of the workplace – and sporting a mini-skirt while women were still unusual in pants. Of course, they show leg, of course they are extremely pretty and curvaceous, but so what? The men are all cleft-jawed and ripped like gods, so we're hardly seeing a fair shake for either gender there.
The world of comic books is one of hyper-realism, broad lines and bright colors. Girls can dismiss it as silliness, but I've never thought we should be too insulted by it. (I'll only cry about it when the dudes say Superman is an unrealistic body type.) It's not a perfect industry -- sure, I'd love to see more women writers, and more realistic breast sizes, but I'm also pleased with the parts it has allowed fictional women to play.
No, what is more appalling than the unrealistic breast sizes is how long it is taking Hollywood to catch up. Not only has the movie industry never produced the amount of action chicks that comic books have, we aren't even getting girls with superpowers! It has been eight years since X-Men made comic book movies big business, and we have yet to see a proper superheroine. Ant-Man is on a faster production track than Wonder Woman – and who is more recognizable to the general public? Why is Thor more palatable to the mass audience than Black Widow? I don't buy that there isn't a mass appeal for these stories.
It probably doesn't help the studio perspective that the only two comic heroines allowed to fly solo were disasters. But was there ever a smidgen of care given to either Elektra or Catwoman during the writing or production process? Neither film was entered into with that Iron Man spirit; they were careless and cheap, and turned out predictably awful. It's no surprise that a movie bombs because it sucks – but surely, the suits are ascribing that largely to heroines being lousy sells. It says volumes that neither are worth the kind of relaunch The Incredible Hulk is getting. Why not bring back Elektra to revise big screen history? I'd pay to see it in a heartbeat.
We haven't even seen a proper Marvel or DC heroine playing a secondary role. Now, I love the X-Men movies, but not one of the X-Women was half as tough as she was on the page. I've always wanted to dismiss it as Halle Berry hating the role of Storm, or maybe the lot of them being bad actresses ... and maybe it is because of all those reasons, but really, they were almost an afterthought. The X-Girls were frequently put out of action in the first two movies, and X3, well, we don't really have to go there. But it's rather telling that the Dark Phoenix Saga gets revised from the story of a woman who has the power of the cosmos and eats the sun, to a grouchy chick with a clunky costume. (Grouchy at best – she was catatonic half the time. Oh, the potential symbolism of her zombie face when she actually summoned her full power!)
The X-Women weren't the only ones who fared badly. Look at Fantastic Four. Admittedly, I haven't seen all of either film. I made a valiant effort to watch Rise of the Silver Surfer while on a flight to London, but I actually felt my brain cells dying and gave up, preferring to watch the in-flight map instead. Sue Storm has never been as much of a badass in the sun eating, brain melting mold. But Wolverine actually feared her above the Four's male team members in Enemy of the State – a character factor that didn't quite come across in either movie.
What the superheroines need is a Jon Favreau or a Bryan Singer who will champion them, who will fight the good fight to bring all their awesomeness to the big screen. It is a bit worrying that Joss Whedon, the one big name thus far to champion a superchick, failed miserably. But don't let him be the last attempt, Hollywood. No more excuses, no more fidgeting, no more bargain bin attempts. Bring on the superheroines – give them the tight outfits, and give them the high heels ... but let them kick ass!