Perhaps the heroine revolution in comic book cinema can be pinpointed to Scarlett Johansson’s excellent portrayal of the Russian assassin Natasha Romanova, a.k.a Black Widow, in Marvel’s Cinematic Universe. Time and time again the blonde bombshell turned redhead has proven a standout among some of Marvel's superpowered male counterparts.
Ever since her captivating debut in Iron Man 2, Johansson has gone on to steal the limelight in an additional four #MCU movies, and counting. With her recurring role only serving to increase the character's popularity, fans have been clamoring for a Black Widow solo movie. We weren’t alone in demanding that Marvel capitalize on the their most popular female character, and Johansson’s co-star Mark Ruffalo agrees.
Initially it looked as if Marvel was going to prove Avengers: Age of Ultron director #JossWhedon right when he highlighted the reasons behind the lack of female roles could be attributed to:
"Genuine, recalcitrant, intractable sexism, and old-fashioned, quiet misogyny that goes on.
"There’s always an excuse. You hear 'Oh, [female superheroes] don’t work because of these two bad ones ['Catwoman' and 'Elektra'] that were made eight years ago.'"
Kevin Feige Decides To Join The Revolution
But with pressure mounting behind the man behind the MCU, Kevin Feige announced that Marvel Studios would indeed commit to a Black Widow solo film:
“I would say certainly the one creatively and emotionally that we are most committing to doing is Black Widow. We think she’s an amazing character. We think Scarlett Johansson’s portrayal of her is amazing. She’s a lead Avenger and has amazing stories in her own right to tell that we think would be fun to turn into a standalone franchise.”
Of course, #BlackWidow was just the beginning of this heroine revolution. Before the studio could announce what would be its inaugural female movie (not counting 2005's Electra), #DC made its big announcement involving one of its most popular characters.
DC Capitalizes On Unpredictable, Unstoppable Harley Quinn
Suicide Squad may not have been critically acclaimed, but Margot Robbie’s portrayal of #HarleyQuinn was fantastic. Because of the undeniable momentum of Harley, DC didn’t hesitate to exploit arguably its most popular female character. Before you could say Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, DC announced that the #SuicideSquad spinoff would star Harley Quinn. Not only will Harleen Quinzel get her own movie, but Margot Robbie has been named as co-producer. An added bonus is the idea floating around that the film may also feature the Birds of Prey.
Like #ScarlettJohansson, Robbie stole the show in her ensemble film, despite being surrounded by a male-heavy cast of popular characters. She forced DC and fans alike to take notice, so now the #DCEU will bless us with more. Not bad for a character that was meant to be nothing more than a one hit wonder, an emotional and sometimes literal punching bag for the Joker.
Before we get to see the crazed hammer-wielding antihero in action once again, there’s another DC heroine who will set the tone for the comic cinema heroine revolution.
Wonder Woman Shoulders The Success Of Female Heroes
Thanks to Gal Gadot’s excellent portrayal of the Amazonian princess in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, we'll get to see the much anticipated Wonder Woman solo film on June 2, 2017. Long before Wonder Woman became a UN Ambassador, Israeli-born Gadot faced criticism when DC first announced that she'd be playing Wonder Woman. Indeed, the overt sexism pertaining to Gadot’s physical attributes ran riot across the internet, with many people insisting she wasn’t curvy enough to play the Amazonian princess. Gadot took it in her stride. When asked by Robot Underdog about the comments, she had this to say:
"They said that I was too skinny and my boobs were too small... When I was younger I would take criticism really hard. But now it mostly amused me. The true amazons had one boob so it won’t bother them in their archery. So it’s not going to be like real amazons. We always try to make everyone happy but we can’t.”
The expected success of Wonder Woman should prove many detractors wrong, including Marvel CEO Ike Perlmutter, who believes female superheroes aren’t profitable.
To some extent, Gadot will have the weight of comic book cinema female heroines on her shoulders. #WonderWoman will no doubt look to not only be a much-needed boost for the critically unimpressive DCEU, but also for all women in the comic book world.
Captain Marvel Will Be Next To Take The Baton
Marvel lit the internet on fire with the long-overdue announcement of #CaptainMarvel during San Diego Comic-Con. Oscar-winner Brie Larson was revealed to be playing Carol Danvers in the upcoming movie, set for release in 2019.
With this big reveal also came the announcement that Niki Caro would direct. This was yet another step forward for female heroes in comic cinema, and leading roles for women in Hollywood in general. Unlike #GalGadot, Larson didn’t fall victim to body shaming. Instead, her selection for the role received overwhelming support. The fan adoration even surprised Larson, who had this to say via Instagram:
"Woke up this morning thinking about the tidal wave of support I got this weekend. It was nerve-racking to trust fall into the Internet! I know who I am, but it's wild how quickly you can forget once someone calls you something terrible. I was reminded how the acceptance of community is a deeply rooted need."
Heroines Also Dominating The Small Screen
From one Danvers to another. On the TV front we've seen #MelissaBenoist's portrayal of Kara Zor-El "Danvers" bring fans to the #CW. DC’s Supergirl has lit the Arrowverse on fire since debuting on the network. Despite the introduction of Superman to the show, Kara didn’t play second fiddle. #Supergirl hasn’t played second fiddle to any of her male co-stars. The last female of Krypton has soared past her male DC counterparts in viewership, with a +1 weekly rating. In fact, since the show's debut, Supergirl has shattered records and boosted CW's Monday night programming. Though this news is nothing but good, nothing topped what would come from Marvel.
Jessica Jones's creators shocked and delighted with the recent announcement that Season 2 would be directed exclusively by women. That's some good news coming from #Netflix, and the news just keeps on coming. But some wrinkles still need to be ironed out.
There Are Still Questions Needing Answers
Often times we are quick to judge without looking at the entire spectrum, especially with casting announcements. Case in point — the overwhelming and undeserved criticism Tilda Swinton received when she was cast as The Ancient One in Doctor Strange. After being criticized, Swinton explained to Den of Geek that the script she received didn’t indicate an Asian actor playing the role:
"The script that I was presented with did not feature an Asian man for me to play, so that was never a question when I was being asked to do it. It all will be revealed when you see the film, I think. There are very great reasons for us to feel very settled and confident with the decisions that were made."
However, Swinton did understand the vitriol and agreed with the root of where the somewhat misdirected criticism was coming from, telling EW:
“Anybody calling for more accurate representation of the diverse world we live in has got me standing right beside them. I think when people see this film, they’re going to see that it comes from a very diverse place, in all sorts of ways. Maybe this misunderstanding around this film has been an opportunity for that voice to be heard, and I’m not against that at all. But I do think that when people see the film, they’ll see that it’s not necessarily a target for that voice.”
She has a point. Let's hope Swinton proves the naysayers wrong when she takes on a role that allows her to be a true representation of strength in women.
Speaking of strong female characters, unfortunately for fans of the al Ghul family and especially those looking forward to seeing Talia al Ghul on the big screen, you should tamper expectations. It was recently reported that DC will keep the mother of Damian Wayne on the shelf for the foreseeable future.
Despite DC’s unwillingness to give us Talia al Ghul — one of its strongest, most compelling characters — and the outcry from cynics and puritans against Swinton, there are so many more female heroes waiting in the wings. It can’t be denied that there is still some really great momentum, with women becoming prominently represented in comic book cinema.
In fact, Logan will introduce the world to X-23, a female version of our favorite clawed mutant. Could this possibly open the door for X-23 being featured in the X-Men franchise? No matter what happens, let's just hope the superheroine momentum equates to financial and critical success so that it can continue. Beyonce asked the question about who runs the world; Hollywood is apparently answered, and more specifically, so has comic book cinema.