She Hulk comic cover

Originally posted at Bitch

This is a dark summer for geek girls. Though superhero and comic book-based films are all the rage these days, it’s male crime-fighters who get all the attention: there are no films starring female superheroes on the horizon.

Take the whip-smart spy Black Widow, for example. The Avengers member will co-star in Captain America: The Winter Soldier in 2014, but the buzz around a film in which she is the titular character all but died out in 2012. Likewise, every attempt to make a movie focused on Wonder Woman has failed to overcome the Hollywood “prevailing wisdom” that women action heroes don’t sell.

Frankly, that argument is hollow.The Hunger Games, starring deadly archer Katniss Everdeen, took in $687 million at the box office. In comic book world, the women in the X-Men have become so popular that they now have their own comic. Joss Whedon, outspoken critic of the lack of women heroes in film, is adding a woman to Avengers 2 with the Scarlet Witch. Yet the total number of women on screen is shrinking.

So why are there so few female superhero films? Hollywood’s extreme beauty standards mean that studios only want to make films starring a particular kind of beautiful woman, super heroines included.

For example: Would a She-Hulk movie ever get off the ground? This isn’t a wild idea—She-Hulk has been a part of the Avengers (she’s Dr. Bruce Banner/The Hulk’s cousin) and the Fantastic Four, and both franchises have new movies coming out in 2015. She has been a member of S.H.E.I.L.D—about which Whedon is currently making a TV show. She even once had an affair with an X-Man called the Juggernaut. She-Hulk is very much a part of the mythological universe that makes up these currently popular stories.

But would major studios ever make a She-Hulk film? She’s green. She’s angry. And she’s big. Having only been exposed to the Hulk’s blood and not to actual gamma radiation, she is less monstrous than he and has more control over her powers, but she is arguably the most muscular woman in comics at 6’7″ and 600 pounds. Shapely, flexible Black Widow is clearly an easier sales pitch.

An old issue of wonder woman with the titular lady riding a horseA She-Hulk movie may never be more than a pipe dream, but I don’t think it’s too much to ask that some of the women in genre films weigh in at something more than 120 pounds. Instead we appear to be moving backwards. Despite the popularity among both men and women of tough-girl Katie Sackoff in Battlestar Galactica, NBC’s The Bionic Woman, in which she co-starred, was quickly canceled. Smallville, which was on for ten years, gave us a Lois Lane with a third-degree black belt, and that character lives on in the Smallville comic. And yet, producer Deborah Snyder has said that Amy Adams’ petite Lois Lane in Man of Steel, though “a really strong female character, and very proactive” functions primarily to save Clark “emotionally.”

Justice League movie is in the works for 2015, and as of now, Wonder Woman is slated to be a part of it. But it’s going to take more than vocal comic book fans to get DC Entertainment to cast a woman who could believably be an Amazon. According to the 2004 DC Comics Reference Guide, Diana Prince/Wonder Woman was 6′ tall and weighed 165 pounds. However, according to the current DC Database, she’s 6′ and 130 pounds. At this rate, in a few years she won’t be able to stand up. But she will be more likely to get her own movie.

Man of Steel does feature a female supervillian: Faora of Krypton, a version of whom appeared in Superman and Superman II. Being Kryptonian, the earth’s sun gives her the same powers it gives Superman. Given that and the casting of Antje Traue, who ably defeated aliens and humans alike in Pandorum, I’m guessing Faora will be capable of wreaking quite a bit of havoc. But it’s not her movie, and it’s a little hard to really celebrate a character whose primary motivation is a hatred of men. Nor is it a coincidence that the most badass woman on screen this summer is also a bad guy.

It speaks volumes that Hollywood is willing to bank on superheroes who still fit into very, very narrow and petite beauty norms. Watching a grown woman fight requires us to confront our underlying suspicion that some women will never conform.

The stunning and talented women in this summer’s blockbusters are not the problem. The problem is a culture that can only stand to see women heroes who weigh no more than the average 16-year-old girl. The truth is that women of all sizes can be heroes. They already exist as such in comic books for now. Let’s get some up on the silver screen.


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Part Three

Lights up on a bar. A Woman enters carrying suitcases, travel bags, makeup kits, gym bags, and hat boxes, and pulling a trunk on wheels. She situates herself and her baggage at the bar. Bartender appears.

Bartender: What can I get for you?

Woman: New screen name.

Bartender: No more TK421?

Woman: Nope. Let’s try nromanoff.

Bartender: nromanoff. (Hands her a new nametag.) What else can I get for you?

Woman: Guys who like girls, Ages 30–50, Near me, Who are single, For new friends, short-term dating. Oh, and … a gin martini, dirty, extra olives.

Bartender produces drink and disappears. Man approaches.

Man: Hey there … (peering at nametag) … nromanoff. You know, I heard that since we won the Cold War, Russian women have really … (makes what he thinks is a sexy face but is actually just embarrassing) … thawed out. (Get it?)

Woman: Oh no, I’m not actually Russian, it’s a character —

Man: Oh.

He stares at her for a sec, disappointed, before he forgets about her entirely and moves on. Man 2 approaches.

Man 2: Hey there … (peering at nametag) … nromanoff. My idea of a perfect date is meeting for a hike in the late afternoon followed by cocktails on a terrace overlooking the ocean and a dinner of grilled fish tacos. How about you?

Woman: Well, I mean really, who doesn’t like that, right? I mean I want to go to there!

Man 2: That doesn’t make sense.

Woman: Oh, I know it’s —

Man 2: It’s bad grammar. I. Hate. Bad. Grammar.

Scowls disapprovingly. Moves on. A Man passes carrying a sign that says cute4x4guy. He wears no shirt and the sign obscures his face. The Man in the Gray Unitard chases him.

Woman: Man, things are getting out of hand up in this joint.

Man 3 passes, heading off somewhere else. He is wearing plaid. His hair is purposefully messy. She flags him down.

Woman: Hey.

Man: Hi.

They look at one another for a while, sensing an attraction. They laugh.

Woman: So … (peering at nametag) … brucebanner. Nice. I’m guessing I won’t like you when you’re angry!

Man 3 (nervously): Oh ha. Yeah, no. Yeah. Really. Not. Uh-huh.

He smiles an awkward smile and shuts his eyes for a second.

Woman: Well, who am I to criticize. I mean how many times have I been brainwashed into completely forgetting who I am altogether! A ha ha!

Awkward pause.

Man 3 (not really laughing but sort of asthmaing): Yeah, yeah, but you know what’s weird? Your boobs aren’t nearly as big as Scarlett Johansson’s!

Awkward pause.

Woman: Well, that’s not really the point, is it? I mean the point is that they are all like heroes on like a mythological level and she is a hero too …

Man: WHAT DO YOU KNOW YOU’VE PROBABLY NEVER EVEN READ A COMIC BOOK.

Man 3 storms off as an alarm goes off and a neon sign above the Woman’s head begins flashing “FAKE GEEK GIRL! FAKE GEEK GIRL!”

Woman: Oh come on, seriously?

Everyone in the bar stares at her.

Woman: Are you kidding me? I don’t have to prove this to you. This is what I love. This is not about you.

The Men all look confused. The look at one another. “Do you know what she’s talking about? I don’t know what she’s talking about.” Slowly they go back to chatting up other women.

Woman: Note to self: whatever I have an impulse to do, do the opposite.

Bartender appears.

Bartender: What can I get for you?

Woman: Gin —

Before she can finish the bartender hands her a gin martini, dirty, with extra olives.

Woman: You do know what I like. (Winks.)

Bartender: What else are you looking for?

Woman: Someone with baggage that matches mine.

Men 4, 5, and 6 appear, holding signs that say, “musicaltheatreguy,” “lightmycandle,” and “technicolordreamcoat.” They are all gay.

Woman (to Bartender): Point taken.

Men 4, 5, and 6 move on.

Woman (to Bartender): Say, how bout you and me get outta here?

Bartender: Well, I’m a computer program, so I don’t think I’d get far.

Woman: You’d get to third base at least! Ask anyone, I’m easy.

Bartender: Har-de har-har.

Woman: Yeah, that’s what I thought.

Bartender: Listen, not that you’ve asked me, but it seems this scene isn’t quite right for you.

Woman (Sighs): What scene is, Bartender? What scene is?

Bartender: You’re the playwright. You tell me.

Woman: Ba-dum ching.

They smile at each other. Bartender disappears. Women sighs. Inhales deeply and closes her eyes. Man 4 appears. He looks at her, sitting at the bar, holding her breath.

Man 4: Hi.

The Woman is surprised, inhales more and then exhales suddenly and pops her eyes open.

Man 4: Hi.

The Woman now has the hiccups.

Woman: Hi. (Hiccup.)

Man 4: Hi.

Woman: So … what’s up? (Hiccup.)

Man 4: Not much.

Woman: Yeah. (Hiccup.) Me either. (Hiccup.)

Man 4: Okay, well then.

Man 4 starts to move on.

Woman: Wait! (Hiccup.) I can rewrite this! (Hiccup.)

Man 4: Look, I’ll be honest with you. I’m sure you’re more than well-versed in the things that I like … (points at his nametag ,which reads forklingonssex=violence) … but I’m looking for someone with a little more …

Woman: (Hiccup)

Man: Class.

Woman: (Hiccup)

Man: Yeah.

Man 4 moves on. Woman inhales and holds her breath as long as possible. As she exhales, she speaks into a pretend handheld recorder:

Woman: Captain’s log. Day 3 in Internet Dating World. Men continue to astound. No Exit yet presents itself. Sole comfort is the pleasure of drinking in private.

The Bartender appears.

Bartender: Don’t drink alone, Scarlet. People always find out.

Woman: Aha. But it’s not the Victorian age, is it? We’ve got options now, haven’t we?

Bartender: You tell me.

He gestures at the stage, the lights come up on the other actors and we see that all of the men–straight, gay, and somewhere in between, the business men and the geek guys–are, regardless of age, all pretending to be listening attentively while actually engaging in an elaborate game of Accidentally Cop-a-Feel: brushing hands on boobs as they presumably reach for a face, sliding their hands down a lower back and until they’re grabbing ass. The women, though actually trying to engage in conversation, are also adeptly avoiding the hands. It becomes a dance. The men reach for a boob, the women subtly move one shoulder back. The men run their hands up the women’s legs, the women cross them in the other direction. The dance accelerates. It’s a little Fosse: Sharp, straight movements in close quarters but without touching, accentuated with the sound of a slapstick and performed to the jazz of their own inane bar chatter. The men get more aggressive. In a few couples the dynamic changes and the women become the aggressors. The dance ends for every couple with either a kiss or a slap.

Woman: Sigh.

Bartender: ?

Woman: Exactly.

Blackout. End of Part Three.

… to be continued on the next Internet Dating: A Play.