I am going to geek out on you all for a minute and I am sorry. This is something that has been on my mind for a while, and with a Wonder Woman movie in the works, as well as a possible Black Widow movie from the Avengers, I need to say this.
I read an article a while back where filmmakers and Stan Lee explain as to why they put a female superhero movie on hold. The reasons included getting more of the essential characters of the universe out there, creating a better back story, and that female starring action movies just don't do as good. In fact, movies for women are still considered a niche market. The latter reason made my head spin. So I started wondering, why would they think that? Two examples, Electra and Catwoman. TERRIBLE representations of awesome female characters.
You can read the original article here.
I first want to share with you a lovely quote from Meagan Marie who is a phenomenal cosplayer and Crystal Dynamics employee who I feel worded it perfectly.
"One of the problems I think female superheroes face is that because there are so few of them, they have an unfair onus put on them to represent "women" across the board, rather than a unique person. Essentially, they are painted as easy-to-digest stereotypes - a vixen, a damsel in distress, a motherly character, and so on. They tend to be less interesting as a result. With a slew of male characters to feature in any given movie, each has the opportunity to be nuanced." Meagan Marie
That explained the reason why the characters are not as diverse, but there are amazing characters out there regardless of stereotypes, and I don't understand why anyone would think they would be less successful in film. So I sat down and watched some of the best, and my favorite strong female staring movies.
For starters, I notice an over-saturation of female stereotypes. In almost all female hero movies I have seen, frankly, the women characters are written differently than men. More specifically, I am targeting the dialog, interactions between characters, especially with the male ones. There is too much hip swaying, cheesy attempting-to-be-witty-and-seductive dialog, and over-sexualization of the female form. Sure, we all want to see an attractive actress portraying our favorite character, kicking some ass, and taking names, but what we don't want to see is our favorite characters painted up as bimbos in costume trying to be more sexy, versus standing up for the greater good.
The other thing I noticed was the dialog. Women in some of these movies are more Coy, flirty, and sassy. When the women are giving the crappy dialog you lose both men and women. Your character and story lose substance. Even though it's not real, we want it to feel real, and let us be honest, most people don't talk like "that". What I am trying to say, is if you think about conversations between male and females in movies, the flirtatiousness, and the one-liners most of the time are cheesy, but also not necessary.
The Next thing is the sexualizing the characters. Yes, men are the ones who primarily see the comic book and action based movies. Sure guys want to see sexy, but again there is a line that you don't have to cross, that is often crossed. With that being said the gap is closing and more women are seeing the same movies, so to us when you represent women as very sexy, or seductive, the women don't respect or take the character seriously because they are represented more like bimbos.
The idea that female leading action movies don't do as good is false because we saw great success with the Selene character in Underworld, Princess Leia in Star Wars, as well as the Alice character in the Resident Evil movies. Why do they stand out so much from other female leads? Because they weren't written differently. Their conversations were solid, their actions were solid. They were not based or influenced by their gender or emotions, they were based on the story and relevant situations happening in the movie. Sure Selene was sexy in the corset and catsuit, but she also had brains, she was strong, and could handle herself.
So in short, you want to see a successful female action based movie, then write them like you would write the men. The male dialog isn't dripping with excess testosterone, so the females don't need extra estrogen. Write Wonder Women like you wrote Man of Steel or Batman. Write Black Widow like you would any of the male Avengers. You can have witty, but Think Tony Stark Witty or Princess Leia witty, not Hallie Berry Catwoman cheesy.
I truly feel it isn't the female aspect, or even the character aspect as to why female leading movies do poorly, I truly feel its how they are written, how they are represented, and how they talk. In short, we can clearly see a beautiful actress playing our favorite characters, we don't need the extras.