Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Action-Babe Flicks: Seven Mistakes Superheroines Make

As more and more comic books are being turned into superhero heroes on the big screen, there has been the birth of a new genre of movies, "action-babe flicks." In this article "Seven Mistakes Superheroines Make," ( Christina Larson analyzes the key factors that determine the success of an action-babe flick. Due to the early successes of certain action-babe flicks, Larson noted that Hollywood began to use "a formula that pandered to all of the wrong instincts: Trot out hot bodies in tight costumes, choreograph some fight scenes, and wait for the profits to roll in." Yet simply over sexualizing these superheroines surprisingly did not lead to instant box-office success. Larson states that the failure of many of these flicks is due to seven mistakes...

1. Do fight demons. Don't fight only inner demons.

2. Do play well with others. Don't shun human society.

3. Do exhibit self-control. Don't exhibit mental disorders.

4. Do wear trendy clothes. Don't wear fetish clothes.

5. Do embrace girl power. Don't cling to man hatred.

6. Do help hapless men. Don't try to kill your boyfriend.

7. Do toss off witty remarks. Don't look perpetually sullen.

Larson applauds Tomb Raider as well as Buffy the Vampire Slayer for being the "first crop of warrior women won a following because they were strong, smart, and successful in addition to being sexy." As #4 states, superheroines should be well dressed, but not to an extent where they are overly sexualized. This is one major rule that flops Elektra and Batwoman made, with both superheroines donning Victoria-Secret inspired lingerie as their crime-fighitng costume. Larson is particularly critical of Elektra, stating that "she's a gloomy assassin who suffers from nightmares, insomnia, and OCD. Plus she hates her job but can't--or won't--figure out what else to do with her life." The main issue with Elektra according to Larson is that Elektra is far too consumed with her own problems that she becomes trapped in the identity of a normal girl and never rises to the rank of superheroine. She states that "the woman-searching-for-herself trope might work in other genres, but it's a bad fit with superheroes. For female fans, the superheroine saga is a fantasy about being in control. Successful heroines defy everyday restraints."

I personally agree that a superheroine needs to show an image of a successful and confident woman, with or without her super powers, but to criticize certain superheroines for having too much "real-life problems" is something I disagree with. Superheroines are made as role models for women, fantasized versions of themselves that everyday women wish they could be. When superheroines are forced to deal with their own problems in addition to their saving-the-world duties, the women audience can further identity and relate to the superheroine's struggles, wanting to root for the superheroines even more. Buffy, for example, is a successful superheroine financially, but also dealt with a lot of personal problems throughout the series. Rather, I feel like Elektra's failure is due to the fact that it never shows the heroine actively fighting her own inner struggles. I personally find it better to relate to a damaged superheroine that faces her own personal issues with bravery than an ideal superheroine who is perfect already. What do you all think makes a better superheroine? Is it better to have these superheroines be similar to goddesses or to have them be more similar to everyday women with their struggles?


  1. This is such a good article! I completely agree with the seven things not to do. I find it interesting that a few of them increase feminine power, not decrease it. For example, "Do exhibit self-control. Don't exhibit mental disorders:" don't be a "crazy woman" who gets too emotional and breaks down. "Do wear trendy clothes. Don't wear fetish clothes:" look smart and fashionable, just don't look like a slut to turn on the guys. "Do embrace girl power. Don't cling to man hatred:" self explanatory. (Smart yet sexy) girl power!

  2. I agree with you that superheroine's real life issues are not something that the creators should avoid. In fact, I find it easier to connect with the heroines when they are a good combination of "super" and "ordinary." Like Buffy and Nikita, when heroines were seen struggling with personal problems and showing emotions and reactions like regular people, I found myself able to get into the story more easily and love them more.

  3. I really enjoyed this article! I sort of chuckled as I read through the list especially since so many different characters popped in my head. I actually feel like Elektra is such a powerful character, I've always admired her. I agree with Katherine in that personal problems make them way more relatable


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