Good morning, fellow imaginers! Very grateful that you stopped by to read the latest post! Today, I wanted to write a little bit about my thoughts on women in the fantasy/superhero genre. There has obviously been a stronger push for more diversity in this genre following the success of movies like Black Panther and Wonder Woman, and the accolades have been well deserved. I, for one, have been excited to see the positive reception these films have received, and I hope that Captain Marvel can live up to these high expectations.
The topic crossed my mind this week when I attempted to start reading a well-respected, well-reviewed superhero novel series from a very successful indie author. With the limited number of options currently available in the marketplace, I was pumped to have a superhero series to look up to, and hopefully one day emulate its success. I barely made it through three chapters before shutting off my Kindle and deleting it in disappointment. It wasn’t the plot or the character development. It wasn’t the cover art or the editing that turned me off to this series. It was how it characterized women.
Within the first few paragraphs, this author basically took a very intelligent, attractive female character and turned her into hyper-sexual eye candy. Despite repeatedly trying to emphasize how intelligent she was, the next sentence just turned right back around to describing her body parts in detail from the perspective of horny teenage boys. Even when the POV switched to her, she still talked about how she used her body to gain advantages over her male friends. She had no personality and everything she did or said was simply offensive and demeaning. I was bitterly disappointed. Apparently, I didn’t miss much, as several reviewer spoke of the same thing occurring throughout the entire novel. That, I can’t support.
Frustrated, I decided to check out another series instead. This was from a newer author, whose book I have reviewed on my blog page, and whose series has garnered much praise and success as well. The novel was about a mixed-race, paraplegic woman who, along with being a genius millionaire, designed a mechanized suit of armor that helped her fight crime and search for her missing parents. That one sentence alone offers more than the previous book had contained in the entire novel. The result was one of the best superhero novels I’ve read period, and I will definitely be following the series.
It feels like ever since I could remember, every comic book or fantasy novel had the same main characters: same gender, same ethnicity, same socio-economic background. While I could never completely relate, it was all I knew and had to look up to. The women were usually viewed as damsels-in-distress and stayed mainly in the background. They were there to be the love interest, emotional support, or the nagging buzzkill. As for the black characters, we mainly tried to check off every stereotype that came to mind, and it was hard to differentiate between any of them they were so cliched. Kudos to you if you could find any Latino or Asian characters, and if you did, I’m sure you tried to overlook every offensive characterization of your culture.
It took a long time for things to start to turn around, and while we’re still not there yet, I am happy to see positive steps forward. When it comes to movies, aside from Captain Marvel, there are several projects currently in the works: Wonder Woman 1984, Birds of Prey, Black Widow, Dark Phoenix, just to name a few. In comics and graphic novels, there’s been an impressive emergence of female leads as well: Ironheart, Ms. Marvel, Buffy, Black Widow, Naomi, Female Furies, etc. Even the X-men and X-Force are currently being lead by female characters, a spot usually reserved for old men in wheelchairs and their proteges. While this pales in comparison to the number of male counterparts on the shelves, I hope the trend continues.
This past week, I’ve been in awe of my amazing wife who, despite all of life’s hardships, continues to push through her obstacles and overcome things I couldn’t even imagine dealing with. How she does it is beyond me, and there’s not a day that goes by when I don’t think that she surpasses me in mental and emotional fortitude. Her attitude and outlooks are what fuels some of the female characters in my novels and allows me to make them more than just background noise or eye-candy. Women are strong, intelligent, powerful people, and there should be more characters within the genre to reflect this. If I’m ever blessed enough to have a daughter, I hope she grows up in a world where she can read about these role models and know that she too can be a Superwoman.
Until next time, keep imaging!