The Fantastic Four and Feminism
For our 24th
anniversary, my husband and I went out to the movies. We wanted to see Ant-man,
but ended up seeing Fantastic Four instead. In general, I liked the movie’s
first half, but felt that it’s second half, once they receive their powers, had
too much crammed into it. But that’s not what I want to talk about here.
I want to talk about the women in
First off, Sue Storm is great. I
REALLY LIKED the way her character was treated for the most part. She was
clearly a scientist and valued member of the team (she designed the suits). She
didn’t play the role of a damsel in distress or
prize. The fact that if the writers follow the comics Sue and Reed are
destined to marry was barely alluded to at all. We have a vague impression that
Reed likes her and a brief scene with Victor telling Reed to back off that
makes us suspect Victor has a crush on Sue, too. But there is no indication
that Sue returns either of their feelings and no kissing. Sue has just as many
relationship moments with her brother, Jonny, and her father, Franklin, than she does with
Victor or Reed.
My husband (a comics fan) tells
me that in the original comics Sue started out with only invisibility as her
power, which was clearly the weakest of the four. I SO APPRECEIATE the fact
that movie Sue is given her full powers right away: invisibility, force pushing
and force fields. This makes her a combat-effective valuable member of the
So far, all is good. And then we
hit the scene when the travelling-to-another-dimension project is taken away
from the young scientists. Reed, Jonny and Victor get drunk together and decide
to do a secret solo journey to the other dimension so they’ll be famous like Neil Armstrong. Reed calls
up his childhood friend, Ben Grimm, (whom we’d met in the prologue) and asks
him to come along, too.
And they don’t call Sue to join
That’s right. Reed calls his
childhood friend, but not Sue, who has been working shoulder to shoulder with
them for months.
This burns me. Yes, it later
becomes useful for Sue to be back on earth so she can do hacker things and get
Ben, Reed and Jonny (but not Victor) back from the other dimension. But
Franklin could have filled that role just as well. Yes, it could be argued that
the boys knew Sue would be smart enough to stop them from going in the first
place—because she isn’t drunk off her ass. But that just brings up the other
question: why didn’t the boys invite Sue to their pity-party in the first
place? She’s equally devastated at having the project taken away.
And the only answer is because
she’s a girl.
How much better would the scene
have been if Sue had also been there and drunk off her ass, too? (Shockingly,
girls can also get drunk. Remember Kara “Starbuck” Thrace?) Sue deserved her
trip to the other dimension, too.
Secondly, let’s talk about the
other women in the story. Except, oh wait, we can’t BECAUSE THERE AREN’T ANY.
Now I realize that if the
moviemakers wanted to honor the original comics, they pretty much had to stick
with the original skewed male to female ratio of the fantastic four themselves:
one woman, three men. So let’s talk secondary characters. Villain: Victor von
Doom –male. Project leader: Franklin Storm –male. Board of director
spokesperson –male. That’s pretty much it for people who influence the plot.
Everyone else is basically a spear carrier. None of those roles had to be male.
All of them are.
Even among the spear carriers
only three women get lines (that I recall). Ben and Richard’s moms in the
prologue have brief appearances (along with their dads). A female military
officer confers with Sue on how to track down Reed. That’s it.
I never used to notice things
like this until I had a daughter. (Don’t even get me started on the Penguins of
And if you’re wondering if I can
walk the walk here’s the gender breakdown of my latest novel THROUGH FIRE &
Main characters: Leah (f), Holly
(f), Gideon (m), Ryan (m)
Villains: Duke Ruben (m), Qeturah
Elementals: Goddess in the Lake
of Fire (f), Grumbling Man/Isaiah (m), Thunderhead (m), Poison Cloud (m),
Cinders (m), Cauldron (m), Smoking Cone (m), Ocean Elemental (m)
Minor characters, female: Holly's mother, Dorrie,
Yudith, Jehannah, Beulah, Shannon, Ms. Prempah, Eleanor, Dana, Paige, Niobe,
Zamara, Sabra, Nimue, Cassie Burns, Councillor Ellona, Cook, Belinda, Gilda, Officer Pratt, Samantha
Minor characters, male: Joseph,
Kyle, Captain Brahim, Saul, Duke of Poison Cloud, Duke of Cinders, Duke of Smoking Cone, Emman,
Daniel, Officer Dunne, Yakob, Chad, Jason, principal, Malachi, ferryman
Women: 25 Men: 26
And no, I didn't deliberately balance the numbers beforehand. When I write both male and female characters naturally spring into my head. The only characters I deliberately gender balanced were the two police officers, Pratt and Dunne.