Friday, February 17, 2012

Superheroines vs Female Wrestlers

In class last week, Professor Lirette mentioned the possible connection between superheroines and female professional wrestlers.  In both scenarios, women are characterized by their violent actions.  After thinking about this idea, I looked up some female professional wrestlers.  I found that they resemble superheroines in many ways, from their tight and skimpy outfits to their actual fighting.  They incorporate much of what comics do, but without the crime fighting context or superhuman abilities.

When I started thinking about female wrestlers, I tried to find some examples and came across a WWE “Diva” called Layla El.  In a video, which I have provided the link to below, she wrestles another woman as the announcers cheer her on.  The outfits that they wear are revealing and tight, similar to the outfits worn by superheroines like Storm and Wonder Woman.  Their clothing makes it clear that they are meant to look attractive while they fight.  This is reminiscent of the “male gaze” we have discussed in class.  In the same way that this applies to drawings in comics, it is shown with female wrestlers.  Their revealing clothes seem to be targeted towards a male audience.

Not only do their outfits stand out, but so does the acceptance of their violence is in this context.  Even without the opponent being a supervillian or criminal, the commentator is supportive and calls Layla El’s wrestling move “beautiful”.  Professional wrestling seems to be a real life outlet where people believe it is acceptable to fight and be violent.  Perhaps this is because much of it is choreographed and planned ahead to prevent actual injuries from occurring.  There is not blood present, or anything graphic that would make the viewer wary of their actions.  Similarly in comic books, the superhero or superheroine may fight a villain, but there is usually not many gory images that accompany it.  In both of these situations, violence and fighting seem to be accepted, and even supported.

Overall, superheroines and female wrestlers have many things in common.  The main difference is the lack of a superpower for wrestlers, who have to work to gain physical strength in order to fight their opponents instead of being born with special abilities.  Another point of difference is that female wrestlers fight other women, instead of comic book superheroines who fight villains of both genders.  Regardless of these differences,  there is an interesting connection between female wrestlers and superheroines.


  1. Now that I think about it, I do agree with you that female wrestlers are very similar to superheroines. Another similarity I found interesting is that the number of females in the professional wrestling and in comics dwarves the number of males in both. Male wrestlers and superheroes overshadow female wrestlers and superheroines. One reason is that whenever we associate wrestling and violence, we often think of males. Females are often looked up as compassionate caretakers, nothing to do with violence and fighting.

  2. Having never seen female wrestling before this video clip you attached, I can definitely see the similarities between comic books and this sport. The fighting styles, costumes and strength could be taken almost directly from a comic frame. The fact that these women are going against the stereotype by appearing in fighting matches that are typically performed by men for primarily male audiences also parallels comics. However, one thing that is particularly interesting to me is the fact that the matches are choreographed, or the outcome at least predetermined. I feel like this decreases both violence and bravery needed by the women involved in the match, making them less superheroine-like.

  3. Just to defend the "worked" or predetermined nature of the fight. Most of the fight is not choreographed, but improved based on certain parameters. The ending is always decided--but that doesn't make this a non dangerous activity. There's danger of concussion, blood loss (there is blood in professional wrestling, search Bret Hart v. Steve Austin at Wrestlemania 13 if you want to be grossed out), not to mention limb danger and lasting internal injuries. Wrestlers perform over 300 nights out of the year.

    There's actually an interesting dynamic, because the wrestler him or herself is responsible for both making the match look real and not harming his or her opponent. So right, it isn't real violence, but neither are comic scenes.

    I do agree that the women are only there for eye candy. The best stories and matches are still in male matches. But this isn't necessarily the fault of the women wrestling, but rather the bookers and producers who decide how much energy and time can be spent of women's segments and matches.

  4. I see the connections made while both watching the video and thinking back to all the more modern recent comics we have been reading. The one difference, and I feel as though this is a big one, is that the wrestlers do this as a career but as Chris mentioned, the ending is always decided. Since this is the case, there is technically no "good" or "bad" person dynamic to throw into the mix. I feel that in comics, the superheroines have to not only overcome their opponents physically but they often have to overcome many mental issues they are dealing with, either internally or externally. This makes what the superheroines are doing in the comics looked upon with much more awe than these women wrestlers who merely do it to be "eye candy".

  5. They are similar in someways, the fighting and the outfits, but where wrestlers end on those points, Superheriones have a whole plot and story along with them. This is not to say anything bad about wrestling. But a comic is a story; superheroines have back stories and do more than fight other women. There are elements of duty, love triangles, growing up, self-actualization or anything else that makes a story good.
    Wrestlers are a real world example of the fighting aspect of superheroines, but that's it. I think a character is not a superheroine just because they fight. Their story, which isn't the goal of a professional wrestler, is a key component as well.

  6. Maggie has a really good point. After seeing this video (having no previous experience with female wrestlers except the negative opinion I have to such unnecessary violence), I can see a correlation between the two. I don't, however, think they are VERY similar; I believe the comparison ends with the fighting and skimpy outfits.

    The nature of a superhero is what defines them as such. I don't think their costume does (or else what about all those kids who dress up on Halloween?). The fact that they are fighting for the good of humanity and not their own personal gain is also something to consider. I honestly don't believe in violent sports like wrestling and can't consider them in the same category as superheroes.


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