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

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


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.


Comic Book Action Hero Stark Moment Commercial Failure Vampire Slayer 
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© Fiona Handyside and Kate Taylor-Jones 2016

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  • Martin Zeller-Jacques

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