How Superwomen Become Movie Damsels

— by H.G. WATSON —

Unless you camp out under a rock with all your comics, you’ve probably heard the news that “Gossip Girl” star Blake Lively will be starring opposite Ryan Reynolds in the upcoming “Green Lantern” flick as Ferris Aircraft head honcho Carol Ferris. I could go on a page-long rant about the issues I have with this casting in particular (too young, too Penny Lane-esque, not enough bitchy), but Lively getting the role got my mind churning about how women appear in comic book films in general.

Despite my many grievances with how comic books treat their female characters, those problems are evened out by the instances where comic book creators get it right. Selina Kyle (Catwoman) over the last 10 to 15 years especially has been a fun character to watch, and Batgirl in “Detective Comics” has definitely come into her own. “Y the Last Man” and “Fables” both prominently feature great and very capable female characters. And ignoring the headache that is the Star Sapphire Corps in the current run of “Green Lantern,” Carol Ferris was a good character. In a DC comics universe where all the corporations are run by either male heroes or villains, Ferris was a good addition and stood on her own.

So, it’s here I ask, why haven’t the movies been able to follow suit? Why do we, time after time, get female roles that are either: a) damsel; or b) a moral sounding board for the hero? Sometimes, like Rachel Dawes in both “Batman” films, they even fill both roles! And, lest we forget the eye candy factor, most of our females are arguably certifiable hotties.

The reasons for all this are clear, of course. Who primarily goes to see superhero films, according to the studios? Young men, who want to project themselves on a cool hero, which means getting the babe. That, in itself, I don’t have an issue with. It’s the portrayal of said babe that I hate. Studios take wonderfully thought out and written female characters and turn them into sad caricatures who only ever think about the well-being of the hero.

The worst example has, of course, got to be the on-screen portrayal of Mary-Jane Watson. In the comics, MJ was the coolest girl anyone knew. She was a successful actress and a close friend of Peter’s before they eventually got together romantically. This was not the MJ I saw on-screen in any of the “Spider-Man” films. We got a woman who was constantly needing to be saved and who spent all her time moping over Peter — while dating other guys. Because women always, always have to be in a relationship no matter what, apparently. Would it have been too much to ask for any other character development?

There are a few exceptions to the rule. Pepper Potts was a welcome change as her character actually got to participate in the saving the world! Perish the thought! I also have always loved the portrayal of Jean Grey in the first two “X-Men” films. While the love triangle with Logan and Scott was played up, she had an arc that had nothing to do with romance and was central to the plot of X2.” So it seems we can have more complex female characters in successful comic book films.

But I remain concerned. Lively, while a decent actress, is a mere 22-years-old playing a character who, aside from being years older in the comics, is supposed to be world hardened and business savvy. Is that the Ferris that we are going to get on screen? Or will it be another cookie cutter damsel for Ryan Reynolds to save at the end of the film?

Until the film comes out, I will reserve my judgment. But until then, colour me skeptical.

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6 Comments Add Yours ↓

  1. Kat #

    Nice story. I agree!

  2. moviefan #

    nice article

  3. Mo GB #

    I love it. Very well done!

  4. CPF #

    Pepper Potts was, and will probably continue to be, a lady in waiting until Tony gets bored with whoring around. Any strength she showed was negated by the fiesty reporter Stark dominated and then rejected.

  5. Jen #

    Well said!

  6. Bit #

    Great story!

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