Saturday, October 22, 2011

Nature vs. Nurture: Superheroine Edition

We've talked about how most (if not all) superheroes and superheroines were created for a reason, whether social or political, so it is expected that that their actions and behavior bleed certain ideas and principles. Does the environment play a role at all, then? Does the definition of a "heroine" change depending on the environment that they're placed in, or are all heroines inherently connected by some super-traits?

Let's compare the modern Batwoman and Disney's Mulan. Upon first glance, they're completely different. One's a red-headed lesbian from Gotham City, and one's a woman warrior from ancient China. Batwoman is cool and sardonic. Mulan is more or less a Disney princess. Batwoman wants revenge, while Mulan is driven by filial piety and honor.

How about Wonder Woman and Promethea? Both of the superheroines end up in America despite coming from somewhere else (Paradise Island and Egypt/the Immateria, respectively). Wonder Woman is simultaneously the Amazon Warrior and the All-American superheroine, while Promethea is not only a goddess, but also the essence of the imagination. One believes in loyalty, mercy, and forgiveness, while the other wields "the cup of compassion, the sword of reason, the pentacle of worldly knowledge, and the wand of will."

The list of differences can go on and on, but in the end, the traits described are all embellishments that give each heroine personality and help them "fit" into their environment, whether dark, grungy, traditional, or mystical. Ultimately, I don't think that these characteristics define our beloved heroines half as much as their strong will and the ability to keep fighting on no matter what happens to them. Most people have seen, experienced, or can relate to some form of violence, tragedy, or trauma, but the qualities that separate the normal individuals from the "super" individuals are those that lead to overcoming the mentioned obstacles, such as courage, determination, and most importantly, something to fight for.


  1. It seems like heroes are defined by their noble characteristics, as you mentioned above. However, it could be argued that these traits are inherent of the superhero (nature) or developed over time (nurture.) As seen with Nikita, for example, she initially was a drug-addict whose journey allowed her to develop into a superheroine defined by strength and bravery. Such characteristics developed because of her environment. However, they could have also been constantly present through Nikita's nature just simply underdeveloped.

  2. I agree that there are some inherent characteristics that almost all, if not all, superheroes share- but I also think the differences are equally important. They are what make a particular character stand out to you. The differences between different superheroes are important, but also between different versions of the same superhero. Like Wonder Woman, who goes though many different transformations, writers and illistrators. Maybe that's where the nurture comes into play.


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