Who are we supposed to look up to?

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Women are underrepresented in superhero roles

Haley McCoy, Center Focus Editor

     When it comes to role models, girls have plenty of people to look up to. Athletes, news anchors, authors, teachers and parents are easy to admire. Yet, there is one category in which female role models or leads of any kind are all but absent.

     When was the last time you’ve watched a movie that stars a female superhero? Chances are. The answer is never. In the two major cinematic universes, movies with female leads are nonexistent. If you wanted to watch Captain America or Superman save the world, there’s nearly a dozen films available for your enjoyment. But for little girls who want to see someone like them rise to the occasion, there simply aren’t any movies available to suit those needs.

     Marvel and DC both have female superheroes, yet none of those women have movies that are dedicated to the sole purpose of telling their story. Marvel has natasha Romanoff as the Black Widow and Wanda Maximoff as the Scarlet Witch both present in their superhero-team-up movies, but neither women have their own backstory movie. DC has Wonder Woman in all her glory fighting alongside Superman and Batman, yet she doesn’t have her own film either. And while Wonder Woman is scheduled to get her own movie in the coming year, it has yet to be put into fruition.

     TV shows are another story. CBS has Supergirl, a show that flaunts feminists and strong female leads left and right, and ABC has Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD featuring three main characters and half of the original staff as females who are perfectly capable of saving the world. While Kara Danvers, Melinda May, Daisy Johnson, and Jemma Simmons are all admirable, they make up only a small portion of leads on superhero shows currently airing in the United States.

     The CW Network has The Flash and Arrow, set in the same universe and keeping the same theme: few leading ladies. Felicity Smoak sometimes takes the stage away from Oliver Queen, and Iris West can steal more than just Barry Allen’s heart, yet the shows still take the camera away from these strong women in favor of their male counterparts. Smoak, for her part, is one of a handful of women on Arrow that have their own code names, christening the women as superheroes, but she and the others still find themselves sidelined.

     The problem with the lack of female representation is just that: female superheroes are not well-represented. When they are present, often their storylines lack diversity and depth, making them just another damsel in distress when all the dust has cleared.

     The message that the lack of women in roles of power sends to young girls is not positive. The movies show women as love interests, there to support their men during times of trouble. That teaches young girls that they should stand by and let the men save the day while they are merely accessories. The movies teach that women are supposed to wear makeup and look pretty, and not get into any trouble that might mess up their hair. That’s a terrible message for young girls to hear and see.

     Girls need to be taught that they can be whatever they want to be. They can stand by and let the men do the work, should they choose, but they are also entirely capable of saving the world on their own. Girls need to be taught that they can be both strong and weak, tough and feminine, while not compromising themselves. These big-ticket movies that feature male leads might not implicitly teach girls that they are lesser, but they also don’t leave a lot of room for argument of the other side.

     Girls should be able to look up to the likes of the Black Widow, and not have to settle for cameos in testosterone-fueled movies. Because if you told Natasha Romanoff that Tony Stark could beat her in a fight, you would be able to watch the Black Widow beat up on Ironman. And that’s exactly what young girls need to see.