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September 15 2008

Where are the super-heroine movies? Why the film industry "can't get it together to make a Wonder Woman flick? Or any true superheroine movie at all?"

References & quotes from Joss on Wonder Woman, Catwoman.

Despite his flaws (and they do exist), I believe Joss would be one of the few people who could make a decent She-Hulk film.
If there's a super-heroine who should have a movie, her name is Buffy.

But hey, Tomb Raider is a pretty successful movie and Lara Croft is an heroine.

[ edited by Rikardo on 2008-09-15 18:31 ]
If I were myself going to pick characters for such a movie, I'd go with Rogue or Mystique, both of whom have interesting back stories as well as interesting stories. I am not certain that the heyday of Wonder Woman has passed, but I'd favor that movie as well.

Of course, if I had my way, we'd have a Buffy movie. And then one for Runaways. Molly rules!
I don't know if man is ready for a green lawyer on screen. But I'd watch it!

Frankly at this point, I'm not holding my breath for a headlining female hero. I think a good way to get females and a younger generation into comic book movies is to bring Runaways to the big screen. It has a variety of ages, shapes, colors, and orientations to pull from. It could be really exciting. Just so long as it's not made by Nick or Disney.
I don't quite get it when writers talk about building things for the female demographic (a la Sex In The City apparently). When you try to change a superhero flick to make it 'appeal to women' you get Sharon Stone wielding toxic face cream, or whatever it was. The whole point is you can have all the moral complexity and high action with a female protagonist. That's what I'd like to see anyway, not something 'girled up' to draw in the pink pajama brigade.

But hey, I liked Tank Girl so WTF to I know?
I hear they are planning an X-men: Origins movie about Emma Frost, after they do Wolverine and Magneto.
Oh, and the first female Avenger, and founding member, was the Wasp (Janet Pym), so I would assume that she would make it into the Avengers film.

And I completely agree that a Runaways movie would be awesome, especially if it was written and/or directed by Joss :)
I'm ready for a She-Hulk movie. As long as either Peter David or John Byrne get to write it.

With the current rumour that more X-Men Origin movies are going to be made to go alongside next year's Wolverine I'd say there is a fair chance Rogue might get her time in the spotlight. Personally I'd prefer Dazzler (with Avril Lavigne in the lead role) but then I'm strange like that.
Well, this problem is obviously two-fold. As the article points out, there's plenty of female superheroes, but they're almost never the leads in their own stories. The few exceptions are usually not considered major pop-culture icons, quickening the pulse of fanboys if a movie version were to be announced.

There are a couple of great female characters in ensemble stories and maybe they could've been treated better in recent comic book movies, but while the examples the article raises (mostly from Brett Ratner's failed third X-Men movie) are true, I don't feel they're indicative of a line of thinking where the female characters are less important than their male counterparts. Certainly, Femke Jansen's Jean Grey and Anna Paquin's Rogue are not sidelined or marginalised in the X-Men movies and the mistreatment in 'The Last Stand' extends to all characters, including both male and female leads. The fact that two major movies featuring female leads (Catwomen and Electra) failed? I'd say pure bad luck, but a bigger pitty because we don't have many female characters with which to retry.

I do think, however, with Joss, that studios might have become scared - for the completely wrong reasons - by the flop that Catwoman was, to make another major studio superhero movie featuring a female main character, inadvertendly "setting the cause back", so to speak. One obvious movie to combat the lack of female superheroines would have been Wonder Woman, and it is a sad thing indeed that it shattered on the rock of creative difference between Joss and the studio.

So, the answer? Maybe an original superhero movie like 'Hancock' (or, for that matter, 'My Super Ex-Girlfriend'), featuring a new, inspiring female lead? Or lifting minor female characters from stories to form the lead in new major studio movies? These are possibilities, but don't seem very likely to me. Much rather, I'd see more strong female leads in modern comic books (anyone looking for an example on how to do that, needs to look no further than Peter David's more than excellent run on 'Supergirl' or - indeed - Joss' work on Buffy). Other than that, I think we might have to settle for the boys running the superhero action on the big screen for some time to come. It won't make me enjoy those movies any less, but it sure is a shame that there are not too many superheroes women can directly identify with. That, of course, to many readers is one of the major defining reasons for loving these characters.

Thankfully, for people in this fandom, the question 'What would Spider-Man/Batman/Superman do?' has long since been replaced by the equally usefull 'What would Buffy do?'. Even for a guy such as myself :).
Catwoman was a flop because not only did it fail to be a good superhero movie (regardless of whether said superhero was male or female), it also failed to be anything remotely like the original Catwoman, annoying even the built-in Batman fandom it should have been made for. Awful movie that actually did deserve the negative reaction it got.

Elektra, on the other hand, had a lot more potential. A feature character that had plenty of backstory to make her a solid lead in a movie. Decent set-up in the Daredevil film. Very attractive and talented lead actress in the form of Jennifer Garner (who actually did physically suit the character she was supposed to be). All it lacked was a quality script. Bit of a wasted opportunity, really.
I was talking about this with a colleague one day.

I think the biggest problem with super heroine movies is that the focus is on making it stylized and sexy (Ultra Violet and Elektra) and the focus isn't on the building character and story as if often the case with superhero movies featuring male counterparts.

Elektra wouldn't have been a bad movie........if this had been 1985. A time that was rife with ninja sagas, cute smart-ass kids and the stoic protagonist finding redemption in said kid.

But in this day and age, it's cliche (uber-cliched even).

That's why Kill Bill, Buffy, Veronica Mars and a few others were successful because they kept the focus on story and character.

But that's my take on the matter.
Do the Resident Evil trilogy count as superheroine films?
Do the Resident Evil trilogy count as superheroine films?

Probably not IMO. Although Alice did have superpowers, I don't think she fits the "official" superhero pofile. Namely, because she doesn't have a secret identity/alter ego.

I do agree with Neo-Prodigy that lack of real character development is one of the things that has killed a lot of superhero movies. Not just superheroine movies, like Electra, but also the Fantastic 4. They overloaded on the flash and special effects, and comletely missed the point.

I don't think Ultra Violet was that bad though.
No one's mentioned Aeon Flux, was it really that bad ? I really like Charlize Theron, but I haven't bothered to rent the film because I loved the weird, adult, and often intelligent `90s cartoon way too much. I guess she's maybe not so much a superhero as she is a moral anarchist...

Where would a Rogue X-Men: Origins movie go ? She gave up her powers in X3, so they would either have to do a prequel (didn't sound like anything interesting happened to her after she ran away from home, pre-Wolverine) or the Origin movie would have to focus on how the "cure" is wearing off (as evidenced with Magneto at the end of X3, though maybe only certain mutants are immune). Whether the studios would want to do a Rogue origin flick is, I think, almost entirely dependant on Anna Paquin's new HBO show True Blood and any upcoming films she might have. Otherwise I can't really see her being desirable to execs as a big screen blockbuster headliner, much as I like her.

Are the X-origin films really the best place to be introducing new main characters ? I'd rather they concentrated on the interesting but short-changed characters we'd seen throughout the main three films. I dunno if I'm a vocal minority, but I don't care about Emma Frost at all (to be fair, I haven't read an X-comic in a long time, so maybe she's had some compelling storylines and worthwhile developments. I mostly knew her as a villain back when I read the comics and watched the `90s cartoon though).

I think Storm could carry a movie. Halle Berry got progressively better at playing her each film (she was pretty wretched in the first one, and I say that as someone who thought she'd end up being a real contender after she was great in Monster's Ball--one of the best Billy Bob Thornton and Heath Ledger performance pieces). I don't remember much of her backstory being explored in the films and, aside from becoming a strong leader of the team (I did like her a lot in X3, nevermind that she didn't get any of the big emotional gut-punching scenes), she had little to do. With the right writer...
My only issues with an Emma Frost movie would be whether or not they could pull that costume off in a three dimensional world and, if so, whether Kendra Wilkinson would be able to play the role.

Okay, not so much issues, more sources of endless enjoyable hours of speculation.
Storm should have been Angela Bassett, who I've always been able to buy as a kick-ass weather goddess. Halle Berry just never convinced me.
Where would a Rogue X-Men: Origins movie go ? She gave up her powers in X3

I assumed everyone would find the cure wearing off. Could be interesting seeing how she would cope with her presumably happy life to finding out her powers. and "curse", is coming back.

How about Kitty Pryde? Ellen Page is hot after the success of Juno.

And the problem I had with Electra is that the tone and mythology changed totally from what we saw in the Daredevil movie. I don't read comics so I don't know what their story is like but in the movies we went from a girl who had martial arts training to a movie where we had, as the article mentions, tatto's turning into animals. Where the hell did they come from? It was a totally different universe.
I think an original superhero movie would be a great idea. Even a "Hancock" sequel about

I think the best hope for a real superheroine movie of any worth is with DC -- they just have the most compelling roster. Even if Wonder Woman is on the shelf, there would be some value in considering launching the new, Jeph Loeb-devised Supergirl to the big screen. I actually got addicted to the new Supergirl in TPB form recently, and Kara is a great character. She's much more impulsive and darker than her cousin, and arguably more powerful. Actually, I think Supergirl would be a better fit for Joss than Wonder Woman was, since any Supergirl story, even brand new, is entirely "new" with this version of the character. Her origin story could be handled in flashback while just dropping a still-young-and-inexperienced Supergirl into some major new threat. Much like how the Buffy TV series started.

[ edited by KingofCretins on 2008-09-15 21:12 ]
There is, of course, one good superhero woman we have forgotten, because she took second place to her husband, and that is Elastigirl in The Incredibles. She was smart, sassy and talented, and she took no crap and got the job done. Too bad this was in the conext of a cartoon.

The other big problem is that there are few truly iconic superhero women, outside of Wonder Woman. Whether we talk Jean Grey, Rogue, She-Hulk, Storm or Black Canary, none of them carry the same emotional heft of, say, a Batman or Superman. None have enetered the cultural lexicon in the same way. Most are of more interest to comic geeks like myself than to the culture at large. This is why it would be far better to consider a Buffy movie, because Buffy really is iconic and everyone knows her and what she stands for. They could do much the same with, say, Xena, but I don't even think Xena holds a candle to Buffy.

Buffy movie, Buffy movie!
My problem with Catwoman is the same problem I had with Steel. She's not Selina and he's not John Henry Irons. If you take everything out of the character that makes them who they are except for a version of the costume, how can you expect anyone watching the film to care?

Iron Man works because the casting is perfect, and Tony is Tony.

I'd be interested in seeing a Fallen Angel movie.
The negative buzz on 'Catwoman' started with the costume in fact, just because not only was it not Selina, it wasn't even a good redesign.

... tatto's turning into animals. Where the hell did they come from? It was a totally different universe.

Well it's the same universe but just not a side of it most people are into. The DC (i.e. Batman) universe has magic for instance (though he himself has variously used it and kind of lived in denial, depending on the writer) but I think after the down-to-Earth naturalistic Begins and Knight it'd be a huge mistake to introduce it (as it was in 'Electra' after the fairly down-to-Earth, gritty 'Daredevil').

I think the problem is that female super-hero films are where male/ensemble super-hero films were back in the late 90s and early 00s (before 'X-men' and 'Spider-man' showed you could make a good film that happened to feature super-heroes) - i.e. the market isn't seen to be robust, basically they need some decent hits under their belt so they can stand a few flops ('Aeon Flux', 'Catwoman', 'Electra', not seen any of them, principally because by nearly all accounts they're just not very good, and that's obviously not a great way to launch solo female super-heroes into the film world).

Trouble is there aren't many big-name female super-heroes to begin with so there aren't too many opportunities left to make a smash hit. And what female super-heroes there are (Alice clearly is to me, as is the woman from 'Ultraviolet' even if I thought that was all flash and no substance) aren't always given credit for being super-heroes because they're not from a comic.

Storm as we know her from the movies couldn't carry a film by herself IMO, Electra and Catwoman are totally blown, except maybe for some off-the-wall reboot of either one. Best bet now IMO is with either 'Wonder Woman' or to have a few really well-written female super-heroes in the upcoming team movies (Avengers and JLA) and see if they can be spun off into their own "franchises".
A film version of the Christine Spar era of Grendel would be cool.
The depressing thing about Catwoman is that there's a wealth of story in just the two series that have come out in the past 15 years. There was plenty of material to choose from if they wanted to make a movie based on the actual comic book character. Instead, they made something so blargh that, as a longtime fan of the character, I refuse to watch. I like when movies make me cry, but only if they're actually supposed to.
Yeah, the most successful super-hero movies have kept the essence of the character and used elements from their comic origins for plots and themes while still making them films in their own right, rather than just straight adaptations (Sam Raimi famously had a comics origin for every pose Spider-man struck in the films and the emotional backbone of the second movie was based on a classic story from the comics, 'Spider-man No More'. 'The Dark Knight' has a lot of themes from 'The Killing Joke' and a few scenes similar to parts of 'Year One' the 'X-Men' movies variously used - and in X3, fumbled - key arcs from the comics etc.).

The biggest flops have, by and large, totally missed that lesson.
What about Birds of Prey? I know the TV show didn't make it, but I think a movie could be very compelling. These women in various states of messed up super hero lives team up to take back the night and the city. I'd love to see Oracle on screen.
There are plans to make a Witchblade movie.
Gosh, this topic just kills me. I've no doubt that Joss would've created a smashing Wonderwoman movie. I also know it would've flopped at the box office so I'm glad he didn't. The truth of the matter is.....well, imply your thoughts here.
I'm not even certain that Joss could have made Wonder Woman watchable for me. Absolute zero interest in the character.

Now, maybe a Joss written Emma Frost movie? Starring Kendra Wilkinson. That would work.
I'm pretty sure Joss could rock a epic poem about a rock, an exceedingly boring rock, and still I would be interested in it. (Pun not intentionally intended.)

So I would have given anything to see him write/direct Wonder Woman or write anything for any of the amazing female superheroes laying around like forgotten toys.

And pardon me if I'm wrong but isn't Runaways going to the big screen? Written by Brian Vaughan? Anyone?

Inara should have her own movie. Secret Diary of a Companion.

[ edited by Likewithpie on 2008-09-16 03:35 ]
Does Selene from Underworld count as a superhero? Admittedly I'd watch Kate Beckinsale in that costume if she was reading the phone book. In Russian.
I liked the films, but thought there were many bits that could have been done way better.
They are making a prequel, sans Ms Beckinsale, so it looks like you can start a reasonably successful action franchise with a female lead.
I don't think that Halle Berry's Storm could pull off a solo movie.

I'm not sure why, but as much as I like Juno, I didn't like Ellen Paige as Kitty Pryde. I'm not even sure why, but something was off.

All of the Origins movies are going to be prequels, what whith being about the characters' origins and all.

Serial Rocker your Emma Frost/Kendra Wilkinson fetish is starting to creep me out :p and in any case I think that most of Frost's costumes from the comics violate the Laws of Physics and would therefore be impossible without major CG work.

A Runaways movie was greenlit but I'm not sure if Vaughan is writing it(?). I hope he is, but if not it would be amazing if Joss did.
It was something Joss wrote that got me into reading Birds of Prey, at time written by the unrivalled Gail Simone. I mean, let her have a job at a one-and-a-half hour Birds of Prey film script, and it will wow critics.
I'd venture that part of this dichotomy is a result of different desires from male and female viewers. If I can tread into unpopular ground....

Males are typically obsessed with being the hero. From a very early age they want to do something big and world-changing, and they're pressed from all corners to step in and protect their women, their homes, their families, their country. This has become increasingly difficult in a society that doesn't require that much protection anymore, so males enjoy immersing themselves into a made up world where they can live out their fantasies.

While some women want to go out and change the world, speaking generically, I think this isn't viewed so much as a personal desire, as it is a responsibility. What did Buffy teach us about being a hero? It's a real pain in the ass. It's a burden.

I think women have more of an intrinsic understanding of this than men do (again, speaking generically). It's hard to make a movie about a super-heroine that appeals to a demographic that empathizes with the drawbacks of real-life heroism.

And on topic, I'd really enjoy seeing a movie or two about Black Widow.
"Serial Rocker your Emma Frost/Kendra Wilkinson fetish is starting to creep me out :p"

Not a fetish, exactly. Just a perfectly understandable obsession. ;)

"I'd venture that part of this dichotomy is a result of different desires from male and female viewers."

Well, sleeper, only speaking for myself here but personally I prefer my women to be on a more level ground to me than a 'hero/damsel in distress' type relationship. Got no problem with being a hero but at the same time I tend to be attracted to girls that don't really need that from me because they are strong enough to take care of themselves. Many of my favourite heroic characters are female. Buffy, being the obvious example but also Aeryn Sun, Starbuck, Kate Austen and Samantha Carter, to name just a few. I don't think what men and women want from their superhero movies is as different as you might think, at least not anymore.
sleeper; Good point. (I know in various fantasy/sci-fi novel ideas I came up with as a teenager or 21-year-old as usual had a hero based on me but he was always the one person among the characters who was alone.So not wanting to live as the hero even if you are one is a realistic desire.)
But regardless of what a specific demographic thinks, existing characters do offer good proeprties if the itnerest can be piqued.

I gave up comics in the 80s so I don't know much about the current Daredevil and Elektra worlds, but yes, except for some fantastic martiala rts maneuvers and mysticala bilites (DD tried tor esurrect Elektra but failed but in the process he "cleansed her soul" so Stick, by scarificnign his own life, broguht ehr backa s a heroine rather than an assassin) but beyond that, yes, gritty realism with soem ridiculous acrobatics thrown in, like Batman.
Tatoos which become animals is quite plausible in the MArvelverse as a whole but it sounds like a bad fit to that corner of it. Maybe the screenwriter read Rifts:Atlantis too many times.

But trying to sell Black Canary or Zatanna or Spider-Woman or even She-Hulk or Dazzler to a general audience would be a toughie.

[ edited by DaddyCatALSO on 2008-09-16 01:19 ]
Serial Rocker, I guess a desire to see Kendra Wilkinson in an Emma Frost costume is understandable, but I'm not sure she has the acting chops to pull off a movie :)
I don't think what men and women want from their superhero movies is as different as you might think, at least not anymore.

I agree, I don't think the stereotype of male viewers wanting manly men superheroes, who do nothing but fly around saving the day and generally having an awesome time doing it, really applies anymore. I don't think Buffy is more targeted at women because it is a more realistic take on what it is to be a hero. If you look at modern comics (or even some classics, like spider-man), the idea of the cost of being a hero is a trend across the board. It's one of the reasons why I don't like classic superman and wonderwoman: they're extremely two dimensional, focused only on saving the day and protecting people without any kind of objective view of what it really means to live a dual life. Yet, even shows like Smallville, focus on this more modern idea of a hero. In short, it's not a male versus female thing, but rather old versus new.
"Superman II", "Superman Returns", "The Dark Knight", and "Spider-man 2" all centrally deal with a male hero who feels almost overwhelmed by the burden their power and/or mission places on them. That's not exclusive to Buffy or any other female superhero.

Which is to say, you can show Wonder Woman, Supergirl, Emma Frost, or whoever else in the midst of an existential crisis about being a superhero without losing the male demographic. The question is just finding the female superhero that's going to have the awesomeness and be iconic enough to draw an audience.
I know this is wishful thinking, but I'd like to see a movie based on the Kingdom Come storyline... so we'd have an older Batman with spinal problems, a Superman who gives up on Earth, and a Wonder Woman who's favoring war more often than diplomacy. Ensemble piece, sure, but Wonder Woman plays a fantastically meaty part in it, and she reminds me of Xena -- another character I'd love to see in a movie, despite the fact that the series told all the stories needing to be told. But I really miss Xena anyway.

How about Jax Epoch from Quicken Forbidden? Now THAT would be a fun movie that could start a franchise depending on how much of the plot they'd go with in the first movie.

Also, I second the Hancock sequel, as I loved that movie and everything about it.
dunno if I'm a vocal minority, but I don't care about Emma Frost at all (to be fair, I haven't read an X-comic in a long time, so maybe she's had some compelling storylines and worthwhile developments. I mostly knew her as a villain back when I read the comics and watched the `90s cartoon though).


Well, Kris, you've been missing out. Emma Frost in the hands of a good writer, is a nice and complex character, because of her former status and her complex relationship with Cyclops. I liked the way our own Joss used her in Astonishing X-Men (which, really, you should run out and buy right now :)). For that matter, I also loved his take on Kitty Pryde. She deserves a solo movie, possibly written by Joss (which is not going to happen, sure, but it's okay to dream ;)).

As for the Hancock sequel... I'm 'meh'. It was an enjoyable movie, but it had its share of problems and was nowhere near great. Not at all on par with, say, an X-Men 2, Spider-Man 2 or The Dark Knight, which are - in reverse order - my three favorite comic book movies of all time (although I may be unjustly leaving off the original Superman movie). I'd much rather see a completely original new female superhero, like I said upthread. But above all else I'd very much like to see a new female comic book character in a title that becomes popular and survives for some years to come.

Also: 'Y: The Last Man' movie. There's some amazing female characters in there, even if the lead is still a man.
I think I want Joss Whedon's Wonder Woman, because even sight unseen, it's got to be better than anything anyone else is likely to come up with. I was a fan of WW since I was 9-years old. I'm a lot older than that by a long shot now. It would be nice to see a Wonder Woman movie before I die.
Me, I'd like to see more of River Tam's story, Zoe's story (Pre- or Post-Wash) and Inara's Story (Prequel or continuance.).

Yes, Serenity is about Mal, but it's also about Family, and a majority of that family is Female at the moment. :)

More Serenity!
This thread inspired me to invent a new female superhero on my way to work (not a creative process I recommend; when I missed the light changing I got honked at), complete with backstory and a recurring villain/rival. Moreover I rooted her superpowers in what I see as one of the greatest strengths of real-life women: endurance.

When I got back to this thread, however, I realized that perhaps I hadn't taken my audience into account quite enough, which led me back to Joss's old saying: "I don't tell stories that people want, I tell stories that people need." Wish-fulfilling superhero stories are, by definition, what people want. Whereas the story of any true female superhero would by definition be a story people need: a demonstration of women's strength, showing people that women can in fact be strong.

I have a sneaky suspicion that people would pay more to see a story they want.

So the cynic in me wonders if any superheroine movie will ever take off.

(An aside, if a very interesting one in the context: Whedonesque's built-in spellchecker recognizes "superhero" as a real word, but not "superheroine.")
What do women want from a female superhero? I'm not much into comics per se, but I love action films and women, of course, have mostly gotten short shrift over the years. Most of the women who do make an impact are in supporting roles; Michelle Pfeiffer's Catwoman, Sandahl Bergman as Valeria in Conan the Barbarian, for example. Then you have to define what a female superhero actually is and how will we all agree? I have no use for films like Elektra. I actually remember the first Resident Evil film better. But I will say I would respond more to one who is smart, complicated, not afraid to get down and dirty, cut up, get dark, battle personal demons, or take a punch in the face. In short, everything that their male counterparts do, except worry about their fashion sense. Unless it's peripheral, not the focal point.
Off the cuff, METAI, I sort of wish 'heroine' wasn't a word as I think "hero" covers both sexes just fine. Super, too.

Superhero I want to see more of: River.
Superhero I want to see but doesn't exist: a woman that is a cross between Jubal Early and Malcolm Reynolds, set in the future where she is Bene Gesserit and Pitch Black, and she has an Ahab lust to right an ancient wrong and see an Alliance and Leto's Golden Path derailed causing chaos on a hitherto unimagined level. She is despised in the now and worshiped in the future. ...River could do all that... Yeah, a grander, more epic River story for me, please.
Tonya J, that's an interesting question - what do women want from a female superhero? ...does a superhero have to be dominant physically? Mentally? What's left - spiritually or emotionally? What would a spiritual superhero do?

I guess a superhero ultimately, when distilled down, is an entity that can enforce their will on others. Without the ability to turn desire into action, then we're left with a superdreamer. Since taking action is all about the doing, superhero's are really superdo's. (With really super hair? Ug.) To 'do' one must take action; to take action one must engage or compel physical largess.

Okay, I guess I just answered my own question. Women superheroes have to kick ass right along with the male superheroes. No Walter Mitty superheroes allowed. I think that'll be the sign I hang outside my superhero hangout.
Spiritual, physically-challenged, ugly, plain, short, tall, everything ... but most of all, and I should have added this before, inspiring. Women are starving for examples of strength that encompasses many qualities, and not just brute strength.
Can there be a superpower other than strength that would be appealing to an audience about a superwoman?
Well, I wasn't going to drag in the character I invented, but like I said: endurance. She's not exceptionally strong, but she can bear up under all kinds of grueling punishment. Think Ripley.

Since most of us can't leap tall buildings in a single bound, etc., "Never give up" is in some ways a more inspiring lesson than "First, get bitten by something radioactive..."
I'll second the nomination for endurance (or is it third?). There's nothing greater than getting up after being knocked down - I'm visualizing Buffy in Chosen as she's been stabbed and says through gritted teeth, "I want you to GET.OUT.OF.MY.FACE!"

Other than endurance, I'd vote for intelligence/wilyness. I love seeing heroes outwit their foes. The best example I can think of a female running mental circles around her opponents is Veronica Mars: "After all these years, don't you instinctively fear me? Maybe you should write yourself a note."

Plus some badass fighting moves are always a plus.

Honestly, if you're asking me what I look for in a hero I'd just point to Buffy. Badass fighting moves, wilyness, wit, endurance, that feisty spirit - it works for a reason.
I would say that Buffy is a superhero. But although she has everything that I look for, I would say that it's her strength & strong immunity & rapid healing that point her to "super" in the classic comic-book sense.

Anyone can have great wit, intelligence, & endurance. Mal had endurance, but he's not necessarily a superhero. River I'd argue was a superhero, but she's not much for endurance. And while I love Veronic Mars (hope the movie works out!), she's still a hero, but not a superhero.

What would women want to see/be? Invisible? Super-fast speed? Rewind time? Fly? What physical characteristic(s) would draw both men & women to see a movie (besides all of the human-quality crap jk ;) )?

That is my question.
Well, I wasn't going to drag in the character I invented, but like I said: endurance. She's not exceptionally strong, but she can bear up under all kinds of grueling punishment. Think Ripley.

That made me think of when I first saw Aliens. The men and boys in the audience started scoffing and groaning loudly when Ripley was helping the badly wounded Hicks along and telling him to stay out of the fight. That was a long time ago, but maybe not much longer than when those studio bosses who ever saw movies in a regular theater saw their last one. And have things really changed that much?
That's a real pity but I have to say, most of the blokes I know think Ripley totally kicks ass and in 'Aliens' Hicks and her were one of the great male/female team-ups of all time IMO (made all the better because they didn't end up shagging, as male/female team-ups are apt to).

What did Buffy teach us about being a hero? It's a real pain in the ass. It's a burden.

That's not a male/female split at all IMO sleeper, in virtually every super-hero comic since Spider-man came on the scene (and several comic-book films, as KingofCretins points out) heroism is represented as a burden, the "great responsibility" that comes with "great power". In Batman we repeatedly see him give up any kind of normal life in order to continue "the mission", Bruce Banner is often shown to be deeply haunted by and afraid of his own bestial side (as represented by The Hulk), the X-men saga is one long essay in the down-side of being different, even Superman is sometimes shown to be burdened by his inability to save everyone and so on. In that sense Buffy was very much nothing new.

I'd go as far as saying that continuing despite the weight of the heroic burden is part of being a super-hero (there's a memorable story in - I think - 'Legends of the Dark Knight' wherein a weak - and possibly hallucinating, s'been a while - Batman is wandering across a snowy plain carrying "The Burden" which turns out to be an injured Joker - the subtext made text really since his "burden" is the rule of law or civilisation in that he can't kill his enemies, has to, in fact, take all possible steps to preserve their lives, even though he knows they'll eventually just escape to do it again).
How can you really answer a question about what women want when women are not a monolithic entity? (Wow, alliteration…)

Surely all the things mentioned are what anybody might want from a hero?
"How can you really answer a question about what women want when women are not a monolithic entity?"

Now say that three times, fast.

You're right, of course, but I'd say most of this discussion is based on assumption of the desires of the majority. Nothing more than that. As I said further up, even that is no longer a safe assumption, given how trends are now far from what they once were, whether you are discussin men, women or both sexes. Stereotype thinking is hard to break though, for anyone. Kinda why the stereotypes developed in the first place.
What do women want from a female superhero?

I'm still astonished by the fact that people seem to think that women want something else from superheroes or superhero movies than men. Are there any figures about the demographic of viewers? What percentage of the audience in superhero flicks is male, or female?

I'd have loved a catwoman in the lines of the dark knight. Why can only Bruce Wayne be a badass and an anti-hero?

With female superheroes, I think studio execs panic. They think they'll lose half the audience (namely the male one) if the chick isn't super sexy and soft. And they think they'll lose the other half (namely the female one) if the movie is not about getting the guy or donning the lipstick.
That a woman can strongly identify with a female lead that saves the world from terrorists or a fear-inducing drug or battle her own desire for revenge /without/ treading in the all-feared feminist waters has escaped those people. Instead, we get a make-up corps as a fiend. And catwoman saves the beauty of our women. Duh.

Both these assumptions are, in my mind, pulling it short. The new Batman franchise has shown that you can do dark, intense and sexy at the same time. Regardless of gender. The magical word is 'integrity' of character. And love for what you do, as Joss has taught us.

So, please, give us a female badass. Believe me - she can still be a woman. The world is in desperate need of it.
Re: stereotyping - in fairness, we're told often enough "what men want" (usually in the context that we're simple creatures easily satisfied with sex, sport and beer - clearly not true, some of us also need computers ;) as if we're also a monolithic entity. How true generalisations are is debatable but everyone's a victim of 'em.

Surely all the things mentioned are what anybody might want from a hero?

This is precisely the key IMO. Studios try to "girl up" female super-heroes when in fact they should just write them well, give them good lines and convincing characterisation (like the guys get - now anyway) and have them be tough when a super-hero would be tough. That's all it takes because that's what people want to see.
"No one's mentioned Aeon Flux, was it really that bad ? I really like Charlize Theron, but I haven't bothered to rent the film because I loved the weird, adult, and often intelligent `90s cartoon way too much. I guess she's maybe not so much a superhero as she is a moral anarchist..."

Kris, I wouldn't classify her as a superhero either, and would agree that she has more anarchist leanings (and is a kinkmeister in the cartoon). Should you decide to watch the movie in the future, prepare to separate your thoughts from the Aeon that was, and what she is within this new construct. The futuristic costuming and environment are there, but the personality from the 'toon? Not so much.
META: You say "Wish-fulfilling superhero stories are, by definition, what people want. Whereas the story of any true female superhero would by definition be a story people need: a demonstration of women's strength, showing people that women can in fact be strong."

Honestly, I have no idea what you mean. By definition? Whose definition? How would you know what people want or what people need? This seems tautological to me.
You just aren't going to find any female super-heroes in movies, and certainly not based on comic book characters (unless they're comics written by Joss or based on Joss's characters).
Why the studios didn't learn from the Alien series that a woman can carry a sci-fi/action film as well as a man, is an eternal mystery to me.
But then, it's hard enough to find strong female lead characters in any kind of film, not just genre. TV is actually doing a much better job of putting strong female characters in lead roles, genre and otherwise.
I haven't got time to read all of this thread unfortunately and I'm probably way wide of the discussions (mostly around costumed supes yeah?). But I'd just like to urge anyone who likes watching strong fictional females to check out the film Freeway. Reese Witherspoon's character Vanessa Lutz (a petite, poor, illiterate teenager) represents a hero to me in the very real sense of the word and gives me more thrills than watching Batman or Superman any day. I won't spoil the plot too much but it's a modern take on Little Red Riding Hood and she completely rocks.
I'm going to be showing this movie (and BtVS of course!) to the newly-formed confidence-building women's group that I'm part of.
Why the studios didn't learn from the Alien series that a woman can carry a sci-fi/action film as well as a man, is an eternal mystery to me.

Honestly I think the reason the Aliens series was so successful, in the studios eyes, is that it started out with a horror movie. The original Alien wasn't so much an action film, as it was a slasher, which often feature a female protagonist barely foiling a monster's attempt to kill them. That Ripley ended up being presented as a badass was probably completely lost on the execs who were thinking they were just following the slasher formula with a scifi twist. Even when they greenlit the sequels they were probably thinking that the following that Alien had developed would bring in lots of money in a sequel, completely ignoring the real draw of the series: Ripley's badassedness.

Also Shey, they are making movies with female superheroes. All of the major ensemble films will have them: Lustice League has Wonderwoman and Avengers has the Wasp (at least I would hope that they would). Plus, they will make a Wonderwoman movie eventually. The only question is, will it suck without Joss?
Ripley was important in many ways - she/Weaver bent the genre of the horror/action hybrid and proved a woman could carry a film (even in the original Alien, she was the one who stood out).

I don't know how many of you know this but I received an email from the HERO Project (Martin Firrell) on August 30:

Sigourney joins HERO as the female face of heroism. She speaks about Ellen Ripley, women's power and strength, and her own vision of heroism. Watch out for release dates soon.

What a coup.
"Sigourney joins HERO as the female face of heroism. She speaks about Ellen Ripley, women's power and strength, and her own vision of heroism. Watch out for release dates soon.

What a coup."

Indeed. What great news. An admirable choice.
What do women want from a female superhero?

I'm still astonished by the fact that people seem to think that women want something else from superheroes or superhero movies than men. Are there any figures about the demographic of viewers? What percentage of the audience in superhero flicks is male, or female?


You didn't see my clarification, I guess. (I'm a chick, btw.) Spider-Man, Superman, The Hulk, Wonder Woman, X-Men, the Fantastic Four, etc... are not human, but possess qualities that regular humans don't. I think what makes them engaging is that even though there's a clear difference between these superheroes and us regular heroes, is that we both possess the same human-like emotions. An indestructable man can be emotionally hurt by the woman he loves. Buffy is a perfect example of someone who's not quite human, but expresses the human turmoil we go through that makes her accessable, relatable.

Batman, while awesome, I think is still human with neat gadgets. Like Iron Man. And this discussion has been brought to the black before (Marvel's more relatable characters, fallable superheroes versus DC's god-like superheroes). Superman & Wonder Woman are great, but are we readily able to relate to their human qualities like we are the Marvel characters?

In the end, both comics make money in film & comic books. But, if that is assuming that their targets are male (like Saje mentioned before with the unfair generalization monolithic stereotype), then what do the studios & comic book companies think women want to see? How will this bring us our superhero woman? I would argue that Buffy has the characteristics we're looking for (superhero strength + humanness), but is there someone else in the comic world that possesses that as well?
META: You say "Wish-fulfilling superhero stories are, by definition, what people want. "

Honestly, I have no idea what you mean. By definition? Whose definition? How would you know what people want or what people need? This seems tautological to me.


If a movie is "wish-fulfillment," then it is the kind of story (some) people want, because they're the ones doing the wishing, which is then fulfilled in the movie. Obviously there are different kinds of wish-fulfillment stories for different people, but I'm certain Joss would classify them all as "stories people want."

I'm not sure if that actually made sense, but I think if I go back to check I will start bleeding from my ears...
This may be going against some of my earlier comments, but I think I've figured out the studios' hesitation to make superheroine movies. When an action movie comes out like Iron Man (a movie with a great, well crafted, multidimensional, and extremely well acted male superhero protagonist) most of the people who go see it are men. When they make an action movie with (what they view as) more feminine qualities, like Catwoman, everybody universally hates it. When they make an action movie with a strong, well-balanced female protagonist, like in Alien or Resident Evil, most of the people who go see it are men.

So I think the real question isn't: "what do women want in their superhero," but "does the average woman have any interest in action movies at all, regardless of the gender of the protagonist?"

I have no idea why it works out this way, given the number of women who have commented on this post saying they like certain action movies, but action movies always seem to draw a predominantly male audiences. So I guess it's kind of understandable that the studios would be hesitant about making real superheroine movies. Which isn't to say they shouldn't try.

(Note: TV shows don't count. For whatever reason action oriented TV shows, like Buffy, have a much wider audience than action movies. I would go so far as to bet that if Buffy had been a hardcore action movie, most of the people who went to see it would have been men.)
Wow, icallitvera I just now, for the first time, read your handle correctly and realised it actually said something. Heh.

(No, I have nothing more to add. Everyone continue ;))
I'd love to see a Birds of Prey movie. It even included the Black canary. So you get to use the Batman world and history, It's still dark enough to fit the current theme of the Batman movie, and you could introduce a few more characters from the Batman universe, like Black Canary, and see how well they test out.

I thought the point of X-men: Origins, was to be prequels? So ideally, you need to follow the lives of the older X-men who we only meet once theyve been trained etc. Storm has an interesting backstory, which could be explored by introducing her nephew into the mix. With Rogue, I guess the fact that Mystique is her mother, and Nightcrawlers (is that only in the X-men evolution series?) could make a fun little movie.

I'd also love to see a Hancock Prequel/Sequel.

I barely know who Emma Frost is. I watched the cartoons religiously for a while, but never big on reading the actual comics.
GHV :)

Ivalaine, a Birds of Prey movie would be sweet.

Mystique is Nightcrawlers mother and raised Rogue (not her birth mother i don't think), but in the movies it looked like Rogue already had a family and is a lot younger than the comics Rogue, so I don't think she would be a very good choice for a prequel. I do think that a Mystique Origins movie could be good.

edited for stupidity

[ edited by icallitvera on 2008-09-17 03:17 ]
So I think the real question isn't: "what do women want in their superhero," but "does the average woman have any interest in action movies at all, regardless of the gender of the protagonist?" icallitvera | September 17, 01:18 CET


This is way off the front page but it's a favorite subject of mine. I've never been accused of being the "average woman" and women on this forum are obviously genre fans. But I personally love a good action movie and I know a lot of other women who do, as well.
And I'm not talking just about "super hero" flicks, I'm talking action in general. The operational word being "good", as in, a quality production.
If the quality is there, it can be superhero, spy thriller (probably my personal favorite, from Tom Clancy films to Syriana ) to a really good mob film (The Departed was beyond perfect, although this may be getting rather far afield from being an actual "action' film). Transformers was fun, too. :)

I draw the line at the Die Hard franchise, I want more than blowing things up.

On the other hand, I (in general) loath "chick flicks". Again, give me good quality and I'll go for it (The Hours, Far From Heaven, North Country). But quality chick flicks are few and far between.
I couldn't drag myself to the theater for PS I Love You, even to see James Marsters on the big screen, and when I rented the DVD, I probably would have fast forwarded through half of it, if I hadn't been watching it with someone else. (Not the JM parts, he's yummy as ever and really such a talented actor). :)
Just one woman's perspective, in response to "does the average woman have any interest in action movies at all?"
You thought Transformers was fun, but Die Hard is just blowing things up? Really??? My incredulity is making me over-punctuate!!!
I'm not saying that a lot of women don't like action movies. I know they do. Most of my female friends like a lot of genre, read comic books, and like action movies and other traditionally "male" things. It's probably why I hang out with them ;) And personally I like a lot of action movies staring women, most of which have been mentioned here. I personally think the studios are trying too hard to get inside the head of the "average woman" and should just try to make good action flicks, regardless of the gender of the protagonist.

But I understand the reluctance to spend $100+ million dollars on a superheroine movie, when they're not sure if anyone will show up. And by average woman I was refering to the numbers. Like if you took a poll of all female movie goers to see what they liked in their movies. There is no such thing as an average woman :)

And what's wrong with Die Hard . . . ?

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