Thursday, February 25, 2016

Are female superheroes finally getting their due?

Posted by: Angela Campbell

A reader who recently discovered my books has posted several reviews noting that she’ll now read anything I write because I write strong heroines who aren’t stupid. That’s great feedback to hear and also highlights the fact strong women in fiction are a trend that is still growing, not weaning.

That is probably highlighted best these days by the emergence of female superheroes in film and TV, and not just as secondary characters to male superheroes or in a team ensemble.

Anyone who knows me knows I’m a total geek for superheroes. Superman has always been my favorite for reasons I won’t get into here (but you can read more about that on my personal blog if you wish). Growing up with three older brothers, I was only exposed to comic books with male superheroes unless my brother Steven happened to have a book featuring the Trinity of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman. 

When I was a little girl, “Wonder Woman” was on TV in the form of Linda Carter, so in my little girl world, Wonder Woman was everything. I totally dug the idea a woman could kick a man’s hiney same as Superman or Batman. I loved Wonder Woman even more because I was gangly and tall, and Wonder Woman was tall, too. 

That's right. Wonder Woman is my spirit animal. 

For a while I even liked the godawful movie “Supergirl” with Helen Slater until I got old enough to understand it was utter garbage — not Supergirl herself, just the atrocious script that got turned into a movie.

It wasn’t until I got older and superhero movies became all the rage in the early 90s that I realized there were plenty of other female superheroes out there. After the first X-Men movie, I discovered the comics and became all about Rogue for a while. I loved the WB TV show “Birds of Prey,” which featured the Huntress, Black Canary, and Oracle as a trio of female crime-fighting heroes, but it was prematurely canceled back in the 90s. They made a movie about "Elektra" but it flopped at the box office. Let's not even talk about "Catwoman" starring Halle Berry. Female superheroes in TV and film were finding some ground, but they couldn't quite keep their grasp. I'm convinced this is because they were handled by male executives who didn't understand the characters or their fans.

Flash forward to now, and I’m feeling all kinds of giddy because of two female superheroes in particular — Jessica Jones and Supergirl. That's right. Someone hold the presses because there are not one but two female superhero-led TV shows on TV now. Not only that, but I like them and, gasp, their ratings have been good!

First, let’s look at “Jessica Jones.” I had no idea who she was before I watched the Netflix show, but it’s a great show with some outstanding writing behind it. Jessica is more of an anti-hero than a traditional superhero, and that’s incredible in and of itself. As much as I like strong heroines, personally, I do question the ones who don’t have many flaws because, hello, reality. Jessica Jones tackles so many female-relevant topics in a refreshingly honest way, I’m convinced it deserves an Emmy or something. I love her relationship with her best friend, Trish Walker. If you haven’t binge-watched it yet, do yourself a favor and go watch the first episode right now.

Second, “Supergirl.” Whereas Jessica Jones is dark, Kara Zor El is light. For the record, yes, I think it's fine to like them both (I lean toward DC, but I like Marvel, too!). 

I really, really wanted to love "Supergirl" as soon as I heard it was coming. I enjoyed the pilot, but something about this one has felt off to me. Some episodes are great. Some are meh. That said, it has gotten better and I now absolutely adore it. I really like the fact Kara is also flawed, but in an awkward, trying-to-fit-in kind of way. This show also belly-punches you every week with a feminist statement, usually delivered by Cat Grant verbally and through its three strong female leads and their relationships with one another. Plus, can I say how much I love the relationship between Kara and her adopted sister, Alex, who is human but still a strong character in her own right?

Now, “Wonder Woman” is finally getting her own movie, but first she’ll appear in “Batman v. Superman” out in March. To be honest, I dislike the director of “Man of Steel” so much I really don’t have high hopes for that one, but I remain cautiously optimistic and will be at the first showing anyway. I hope they don’t screw up Wonder Woman because she, out of all the superheroes, really deserves some fair treatment. Plus, her solo movie is being directed by a female director and will hopefully do her justice. Fingers crossed.

Have you watched "Supergirl" or "Jessica Jones"? Do you plan to see "Batman v. Superman"? Let me know who your favorite female superhero is.

Angela Campbell is the author of the psychic detectives series from Harper Impulse. Learn more about her and her books at


  1. I don't do Netflix...yeah, I know, but I do watch Supergirl. My hubby laughs at me, but I love superheroes and the light tone of the show. I love the play between her and her boss.
    sherry @ fundinmental

    1. I know! It's a fun show. Thanks for commenting, Sherry.

  2. I gotta get caught up on Supergirl, though I've watched the first few episodes. The only reason I have NOT watched Jessica Jones is that from everything I know about the plotline, it's actually too dark for my personal comfort--particularly given that David Tennant plays the primary antagonist. Mind you, everybody says he's brilliant, but that doesn't really change how I don't think I'd be comfortable watching him play that kind of role. *^_^*;;

    I have recently gotten into reading digital comics in no small part because of female-led titles. I've followed Black Widow, Storm, the new female Thor, Captain Marvel, and Ms. Marvel out of the Marvel crowd. (And I need to take another look at what's available now that Marvel is post-Secret-Wars.)

    I WANT to get excited about Wonder Woman's first appearance on the big screen. But I'm dubious about the whole dark and gritty turn the DC movies are taking, and I'm dubious about how they're going to shoehorn Wonder Woman into a plot that, in all the marketing I've seen, is all about Bats and Supes going GRRR at one another.

    Which, honestly, is way less interesting to me. To date my favorite portrayals of the DC universe characters were the excellent animated run on the WB of Batman, Superman, Justice League, and Justice League Unlimited. There's an _excellent_ crossover three parter of the Superman cartoon that has him a bit at odds with Batman before he has to team up with him to stop the Joker and Lex Luthor. That handles the rivalry between them with humor, which I appreciated.

    I'm still keeping half an eye on B vs S, though, just because I have also seen some kernels of interesting ideas about how our modern society might actually react to having a godlike hero like Superman around. That, along with how they handle Wonder Woman, will be determining whether I see this movie.

    1. I'll let you know my thoughts on B vs S, although I am dubious at best going into the thing.

  3. I've heard good things about Jessica Jones, but haven't tried it yet. I understand its very dark.

    One of the things I most appreciate about Supergirl is that it's a family show. My husband and I can watch it with my 13-year-old son and 8-year-old daughter and all enjoy it equally.

    1. That's exactly what I love about "Supergirl" — that it's a great show for little girls. Yes, "Jessica Jones" is very dark, but if you don't mind that, it's written very, very well.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...