Movie Mom

Movie Mom


Women Critics on Superhero Movies

posted by Nell Minow

The members of the Alliance of Women Film Journalists speak out on superhero movies. Are they just for boys?
ironman-05_normal.jpgMaryAnn Johanson, who’s carved her critic’s niche by taking superhero movies seriously, provides an introduction:
“Comic books and comic book movies ain’t just for boys anymore-if they ever were. The latest slew of superhero flicks, which began to come of age with 2000’s “X-Men,” have gotten increasingly sophisticated and now focus equally on the existential dramas of their heroes and the mythic arcs of their typically tragic stories as they do on slam-bang action…Today we’re seeing fantasy drama with an accent on the drama. Superhero movies are not longer lighthearted comedies dressed up in capes-as in 1978’s “Superman”-or expressions of over-the-top outrageousness-as in Jack Nicholson’s Joker in 1989’s “Batman,” for example. Even “Hancock,” which was marketed as a comedy, turns out to be more intensely dramatic than it is funny.

Lexi Feinberg comments, “I’d say they’re mythic. Adam Sandler movies represent the dumbing down of audiences much more than “Spider-Man” or “Batman”.”
The critics overwhelmingly chose “Iron Man” as the best recent superhero movie and hope for better superhero movies featuring women. The survey quotes my comment about Elektra and Catwoman: “they were made by people who don’t understand women, comics or movies.”



  • jestrfyl

    We got into this discussion in two youth group meetings on sexuality. The initial topic was fashion and costumes and wound up flying (pun intended) all over the topic. It lead to several other continuing sub-discussions and fascinating informal conversations. We dealt with concepts of power (power v. strength), rebellion (teen superheroes v. the “classic” heroes), maturity (as in Human Torch v. Reed Richards), and roles (stereotypes v. reality). They were great fun and I still hear from some of the kids involved, even though it has been about 10 years since the last one. I look forward to reading more.

  • Alicia

    Perhaps Sam Raimi needs to make a movie version of “Xena, Warrior Princess.” Or Joss Whedon needs to do a “Buffy” movie.
    For me, the fascination with superhero themes is the way they echo the conflicts of the identity crisis. The superhero is “special” whether Superman, the Hulk, Buffy, Xena, or Harry Potter. But at the same time, the superhero, on some level is also mortal, and the normal rules that apply to human beings also apply to him or her.
    So, the challenge for the Superhero is to come to terms with both her “specialness” and the common humanity she shares with others. This was handled so amazingly well in the Buffy Season 3 story of the renegade Slayer, Faith. One of the reasons that show mattered so much was the mature way it handled the temptations of power, especially as it related to Faith.

  • jestrfyl

    Akicia
    You have peked my interest in the Buffy series. I may take some time to watch it – especially the 3rd season and the story arch you mentioned.

  • Alicia

    Hi, jestrfyl,
    I suggest starting with Season 1. The first 3 seasons of “Buffy” are awesome, but the show lost some steam after High School graduation.
    I was thinking that Xena died at the end of that series, but she actually died at least twice during the series and came back, so that probably doesn’t present any difficulties for the film-makers.

  • jestrfyl

    Alicia,
    I am flat on my back for a while – spent 4th of July in the ER with a “Charlie Horse” in my back (unknown cause) – so your recommendations about Buffy may come in handy. I ignored the series at first simply because its timing and mine were completely off. I guess it is time to give it a chance.
    Some day I hope to open a sci/fi bar and restaurant. In my scheming I have thought about a Ladies night – focusing on what I perceive to be feminine oriented sci/fi & fantasy series like Beauty & the Beast, Charmed, and Buffy. I am fascinated by the gender expression and styles manifest in the genre. For instance, why are so many women drawn to vampire stories. The erotic implications are clear, but is there something else as well. Manifestations in heroic women like Xena and I am guessing Buffy are very interesting too. In some ways, I see many of the same sensitivities projected on the Virgin Mary (hence even bringing this up on a religious site).
    Sadly, my carreer and bar ownership do not overlap well – so it, like my favorite genre – will remain a fantasy. I scratch this itch with Spider Robinson’s Callahans series of books – which I think would make the basis for an excellent TV series.

  • Alicia

    Hi, jestrfyl. I hope you relax and enjoy your recuperation. One of these days, I hope you make your dream come true. I try to take little steps towards making my dreams happen, which has turned out to be surprisingly satisfying.
    Take care.

  • http://kidsironmancostumes.net/ironmanchildcostume.html/ Joe ‘Iron Man’

    Iron man rocks! But seriously, superheros in comics are the drawn-out fantasies of adults acting out their innermost desires. That’s why the men are always super-muscular & the super-women always dressed in skin-tight outfits with perfectly voluptuous bodies. They’re a boy’s wet-dream come alive. At least the latest incarnation of Wonder Woman is more in keeping with contemporary times…

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