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Daddy’s Little Sidekick: The Girl Superhero in Contemporary Cinema

  • Martin Zeller-Jacques
Part of the Global Cinema book series (GLOBALCINE)

Abstract

Since the turn of the Millennium, Hollywood-produced superhero movies have dominated US and global box offices. This cycle of films, beginning with X-Men (Brian Singer, 2000) and continuing to the present day, has provided three of the ten highest grossing films of all time (The Avengers [Joss Whedon, 2012]; Iron Man 3 [Shane Black, 2013]; The Dark Knight Rises [Christopher Nolan, 2012]);1 earned a new cultural respectability for superheroes through Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy (Batman Begins [2005]; The Dark Knight [2008]; The Dark Knight Rises); and established new models of transmedia synergy with Disney/Marvel’s Cinematic Universe of films, TV shows, games, and toys. The contemporary superhero cycle has failed, however, to have very much to say about or to women. In many of these films, women remain confined to roles as victims, love-interests, sidekicks or, at best, team-mates. Male superheroes still vastly outnumber female superheroes, and it remains exceptionally rare for a female superhero to be the central character in one of these films. (Elektra [Rob Bowman, 2005] and Catwoman [Pitof, 2004], both critical and commercial failures, remain the two recent exceptions.) Even rarer than the adult woman superhero, however, is the figure of the girl superhero.

Keywords

Comic Book Action Hero Stark Moment Commercial Failure Vampire Slayer 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 2.
    Superheroic girls based on existing comic book characters have featured, for instance, in Batman: The Animated Series (Fox, 1992–1995); Birds of Prey (WB, 2002–2003); X-Men (Fox Kids, 1992–1997); Smallville (WB and CW, 2001–2011); Teen Titans (WB and Cartoon Network, 2003–2006); Teen Titans Go! (Cartoon Network, 2013–present); Young Justice (Cartoon Network, 2010–2013) and more. Meanwhile, the most prominent superheroic girl, both in television and in television studies, remains Buffy, The Vampire Slayer (WB and UPN, 1997–2003). (See R. Wilcox, Why Buffy Matters: The Art and of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (London and New York: I. B. Tauris, 2005); and the open-access journal Slayage [Online: http://slayageonline.com/ [Accessed: February 25, 2015] for a small selection of the extensive critical exploration of this character.)Google Scholar
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    G. Jones, Men of Tomorrow: Geeks, Gangsters and the Birth of the Comic Book (New York: Basic Books, 2004), pp. 270–277.Google Scholar
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    F. Wertham cited in G. Klock, How to Read Superhero Comics and Why (New York and London: Continuum, 2002), p. 32.Google Scholar
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    For a detailed critical account of the way this shifts toward “realism” functions in one particular cycle of superheroic narratives, see W. Brooker, Hunting the Dark Knight: Twenty-First Century Batman (New York and London: I. B. Tauris, 2012), pp. 89–133.Google Scholar
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    S. Hopkins, Girl Heroes: The New Force in Popular Culture (Pluto Press: Anandale, AUS, 2002), p. 3.Google Scholar
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Copyright information

© Fiona Handyside and Kate Taylor-Jones 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Martin Zeller-Jacques

There are no affiliations available

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