‘Avengers’ shows female superheroes as tiny minority

This weekend “The Avengers” broke all box office records by grossing $200.3-million in its domestic debut.

By all accounts, I hear this is a great movie, but here is why I’m concerned. The male/ female ratio in this ensemble movie is 6:1.

The problem is that this same gendered ratio shows up in most movies made for kids. Even though The Avengers” is not for kids, the superhero theme is obviously kid friendly. I bet the images of “Avengers” superheroes from the movie will now be replicated in toys, video games, T-shirts, and sippy cups.

Even if these specific stars are not replicated in kidworld, the “successful” Holllywood formula will continue to be. Unless Hollywood actively does something about it, females will continue to be represented as a tiny minority in kids films. That sexism then infiltrates kids toys and then kids imaginary play in a huge viscous circle.

This is Hollywood, people! Fantasy. You can make up anything. Please make half of the characters in movies for kids female.

When you continually have only one female in movies for kids, it’s almost impossible to keep from limiting and stereotyping her. The more females you have, the more story lines you need to come up with, the more creative you must be.

Hollywood, I know “The Avengers” is for adults, but please don’t keep mirroring this male/ female ratio in kids movies. It teaches kids (KIDS!) that boys are more important and get to do more things than girls do. That’s not fair to children and their growing brains.

8 thoughts on “‘Avengers’ shows female superheroes as tiny minority

  1. I little late but i recently watched the film again and wanted to say than yes the ratio sucks but as far as the females characters go the film was much better than i expected.Not only BW is an outstanding character but she is not the only heroine in the film.There is also Maria Hill (portrayed by Cobie Smulders) a smart and highly capable S.H.I.E.L.D. agent.We’ll see her again in the second Captain America film.And I’d like to see the two women interact and work together in the second Avengers film.Also i thing the wardrobe of the two women was just fine,not too sexualized or anything.BW/Natasha’s outfit was sensible for what she was doing,tight and functional. Maria Hills outfit was the same as everyone else’s at S.H.I.E.L.D. and her hair was pulled back.

  2. I saw the movie and there’s a female Avenger, Black Widow, who KICKS ASS.

    She’s also way more level headed then the men and actually ends up doing something that’s of a HUGE importance to the plot of the film around the end.

    She’s not just there because she looks hot in tights (which she does). She’s 100% necessary to the story and a great character in her own right.

    The film, as I’m sure you know, is based on a series of comic books. I’m just wondering what you think they should do… Just make up some new female superhero and wedge her into the film so there’s more “female presence”? That’s so unnecessary.

    They did that to Looney Tunes and look what happened… we got the Lola Bunny abomination who’s the most unnecessary character…well ever.

    • If you think female’s presence is unnecessary, you’ll just have to agree to disagree with margot, because that’s a central point of her critique.

      “They did that to Looney Tunes and look what happened… we got the Lola Bunny abomination who’s the most unnecessary character…well ever.”
      In the movie, I think she got some pretty memorable moments in the cartoons.

    • Did you even read Margot’s post, Jim? Her point is that when we let a 6:1 ratio (yes, she noticed the 1) become the norm we are perpetuating a distorted view of the world. When it is good enough for people like you that there is one (ONE!) woman in a story otherwise entirely about men, then we have set the bar way, way too low.

      Why shouldn’t they make up other female superheroes (notice that plural thing I did there)? If the writers are good it will feel like creative expansion, not like wedging in. Lola Bunny is the result of bad writers showing creative poverty of mind, not ipso facto a result of writing a female character into an existing series, and you insult both writers and women to suggest her as an example.

    • My fiancé and I went to see The Hunger Games last night (loved it!) and I was bothered by the trailer for the Avengers film because there’s only one woman. Being a good character doesn’t make up for her being the only woman; indeed, in a way it’s worse because it reinforces the idea that for women to be worthwhile they have to be *better* than men. This article on ‘Strong Female Characters’ discusses some of the problems with such characters: http://www.overthinkingit.com/2008/08/18/why-strong-female-characters-are-bad-for-women/

      I get that they’re based on comic books, so maybe it’s not the best example of the imbalanced gender ratio, but I’d probably be more inclined to see it if they’d changed some of the male characters to women. It worked in Battlestar Galactica, after all (and Kara Thrace is one of my favourite fictional characters ever XD).

      At any rate, the problem is not that this single film does it, it’s that this film is so representative of gender ratios that appear throughout films and TV. The Fantastic Four (yes, I know, also a comic book) are three men and a woman. Other trailers I saw last night included ‘Prometheus’, which has two women and six men. The only one I saw that *didn’t* have more men than women was ‘What to Expect When You’re Expecting’ which, given the subject matter, naturally has a roughly equal gender split. This was before a film with a female protagonist, too.

      • “reinforces the idea that for women to be worthwhile they have to be *better* than men.”

        I couldn’t agree more.

        On a similar topic in regards to performing (but not movies), I watch a lot of comedy troupes. They are mostly made up of men. In a group of four, if there IS a woman, the ratio is usually 3:1 men:women. What this means is that in each troupe there is only one women. I can’t tell you how many shows I’ve had to sit through where only one person in the group was GOOD…. and by the law of probability, usually that person was a man. And that’s what people come away with. “The woman was bad! But the tall guy was good!” And they reinforce their notions that women can’t be funny, forgetting that they just saw twice as many men be unfunny as women.

        It’s frustrating.

    • Are you even familiar with the Avengers, as in, the comic book series? Black Widow is certainly not the only female avenger in the series (http://www.totalfilm.com/features/23-female-characters-for-the-avengers, http://www.flickr.com/photos/blprnt/6984526860/), they could have added another character to the film, but instead, they choose to go the easy route and have the token female character.

      Black Widow may kick ass, but she is still a minority (and you the very definition of neckbeard ;) )

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