Google+ Girls on film: Did spandex pave the way for female heroes in film?

Saturday, 2 April 2011

Did spandex pave the way for female heroes in film?

I'm just fresh from watching X-Men Origins: Wolverine for the first time. Quite a surprise seeing as I own all the X-men films, Wolverine is my favourite character and  I find Hugh Jackman particularly attractive in this role.

Despite the fact this film is lacking in the kick-ass women we're used to in the X-Men films, it got me thinking. The Marvel women are not new characters, they have been about for a long time, albeit it in paper form but they embody some quite modern ideas about female empowerment.

I was never a comic geek. Reading with pictures just doesn't do it for me. I was however a huge fan of the cartoon series that they used to show on Live and Kicking back in my younger days.

I was always torn between if I wanted to be Rogue or Storm. Although these women did a fair bit of passing out I still think they were very strong, powerful females and good role models for my younger self.

In fact, I know many fans were disappointed with Halle Berry's portrayal of Storm as she was much weaker and blander than the strong and beautiful character from the comics.

So why did the likes of Marvel see fit to create these characters 50 odd years ago, long before the arrival of such women on our cinema screens.

I'm not a comic-book expert. I'm not even a comic-book novice. So I may be jumping to conclusions here but I think the spandex costumes and physiques of these characters might of had something to do with it.

The men also have these qualities, but you can see why they added some big-boobed tiny waisted women in skin-tight clothing to a product consumed mostly by teenage boys.

Although I do have to say, they did put a little something for the women in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, with a nice spell of naked Hugh Jackman.

But with these sexualised female figures we also got strong female heroes, who weren't palmed off with the crap powers. Storm rising into the air, white hair flowing, bringing thunder and lightening and hurricanes on her enemies, often saving the day by doing so, is quite something.

The genre might still be male dominated but allowing women to be seen as heroes, rather than damsels in distress was something that took a lot longer to filter into cinema.

Sure women have been the villans before. The cackle of Disney Villans is a sound we are all familiar with and the 50 ft woman did her fair share of terrorising. But, despite being quite strong-willed characters, it was a step away from allowing women to take on the masculine role of sweeping to the rescue of others.

So I think for all their unobtainable figures, the Marvel women have done something good for the plight of women. Young girls, and indeed fully-grown women, get subjected to a lot of ideas about how they should look and perhaps associating strong confident women with the sexualisation of their bodies is a bit of a mixed message but I think that's better than supermodels starting fights or Miss World saying she would like peace on earth in a sickly-sweet voice whilst parading around in a bikini.

Male superheroes may be more popular and I think they always will be but the transition of superheroes to the cinema screen has paved the way for a lot more women to be exposed to some good role models. They've seduced men with their lycra, and then showed them just how kick-ass the female of the species can be.