ByS.C. O'Donnell, writer at
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S.C. O'Donnell

Over the last decade, superhero films have become the must-see genre, and the properties continue to rake in money and attract big name actors. Until recently, most of the superhero roles have catered to men and, apart from a few exceptions, women have been grossly underrepresented in the genre.

Patty Jenkins’s hit film, Wonder Woman, helped widen the scope of the genre by being the first successful big-budget female-led superhero film; however, it was only one film in an ocean of male led films. But beyond the number of roles for women in superhero films, there is also a problem with the way female characters are written in the scripts.

Tessa Thompson, who plays in the upcoming Thor: Ragnarok, recently addressed a huge problem regarding how roles for women are written in superhero films – and her words are certainly ones that need to be listened to.

Tessa Thompson Comments On How Women Are Written In Superhero Scripts

Thor: Ragnarok [Credit: Marvel Studios]
Thor: Ragnarok [Credit: Marvel Studios]

During an interview with the L.A. Times, was asked about why she decided to take the role in Ragnarok. She commented that her and the film’s director, , wanted to break some of the stereotypes surrounding women in superhero films, while also bringing the character into the modern age.

Thompson then went on to explain the problem with the way women are represented in the slew of superhero scripts she had read:

"There’s an unfair position that women are sometimes put in, in the context of superhero movies and action movies where at once they have to be very strong and fierce, but also sexy. Obviously, it’s still a superhero movie and so you’ve got to figure out when you need to stand with your hands on your hips and what makes sense. But we wanted to create a character that occupied her own iconography."

Out of all the superhero scripts Thompson has read, she says that one word keeps popping up, and it's one she has come to loathe:

"There's one word I hate in all scripts in Hollywood at the moment in describing women, and that is the word ‘badass.’ That word has just crept into every script that is pushed around this town now. It’s terrible, because it doesn’t mean anything. It’s a dumb male writer’s way of saying, ‘Ah, uh, she’s like, she, uh, she’s tough.’ Then straight after that it’s like, ‘She’s badass, but she’s got a beauty about her. And she’s sexy. Unconsciously sexy.'"

Thompson’s point is valid. It’s not that being a badass woman is an unwelcome thing; it’s that writers are just tacking the characteristic onto an already existing stereotype. Sure, the character can kick ass, but she also must be the same formulaic “sexy” female lead that has existed in films forever. There's no depth to most "strong female characters" other than "kick ass and look sexy while doing it." That's a problem.

Instead of building a new character type around the ideals that the woman is resilient, independent, fearsome, flawed, and a number of other things that are rarely depicted in film, writers just add those traits onto the same two-dimensional structure. It doesn't mean that the character can’t be attractive, but it shouldn't be one of their defining characteristics.

Since we haven’t seen yet, we don’t know how Thompson’s Valkyrie or Cate Blanchett’s Hela are handled, but based on the trailers, they appear to characters of depth – which speaks to why Thompson took the project. It's worth noting that Cate Blanchett's character, Hela, will be the first main female villain in the 's history, and she certainly looks formidable in the trailers.

Based on Thompson’s comments and what we have seen of the film, Thor: Ragnarok looks to be a great addition to the MCU and might be a game-changer in the way women are represented in the genre. Hopefully, the film will live up to all the hype, and be a great addition to Studios' growing library of great films.

Sound off! What do you think of Tessa Thompson’s remarks about how female characters are written in superhero films? Let your voice be heard in the comments section below!

[Source: Los Angeles Times]


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