Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Comparison of Super Powers and Gender

 I used Google to search “Top 10 Superheroes” and “Top 10 Superheroines,” hoping to find equality in their powers but fearing I’d discover the opposite. After clicking on the first hit for each, I immediately noticed a difference in the two sites.
The hero site was not ranked 1-10; it simply had all 10 top superheroes, in no particular order. The superheroine page, however, was ranked… by sex appeal! The first hit for “Top 10 Superheroines” was purely aesthetic. Descriptions of these women were along the lines of, “#1: Wonder Woman: The first Superheroine, the sexiest Superheroine” and “#7: Powergirl: World's most famous bosom.” I mean, sure it’s just somebody’s blog, but that being the top Google hit really worries me.

Furthermore, the hero site included small descriptions of the characters, when they first appeared, and who created them. The heroine site included pictures, names, and in 7/10 cases, brief and irrelevant descriptions such as those above. I do have to say that it somewhat made up for its lack of quality information by providing hyperlinks to wiki-type pages about each heroine.

This blatant sexism, appeal to the male gaze, and objectification of (albeit fictional) women aside, I then looked at the cast and powers of each site.

Batman-no powers, gadgets, good fighter
Superman-fly, heat ray, strength, speed, bulletproof, freeze breath, x-ray vision
Power rangers-no powers, magical/scientific gadgets, good fighters, combine into Zords
Spiderman-jump, climb, web, senses, strength, agility
The Thing-strength, size, toughness
Wonder Woman-strength, fly, lasso
Wolverine-claws, healing, skeleton
Hulk-size, strength, healing, invulnerability
Thor-flight, strength, hammer, lightning
Aquaman-swim fast, strength, telepathic aquatic communication

Wonder Woman- strength, fly, lasso
Supergirl- fly, heat ray, strength, speed, bulletproof, freeze breath, x-ray vision, super hearing
Emma frost-telepath, diamond form, intelligent, good fighter
Storm-weather control
Starfire-strength, berserker, learns languages by touch, energy absorption, starbolts, flight, speed, sight, good fighter
Black Canary-no powers, good fighter, (canary cry?)
Powergirl- fly, heat ray, strength, speed, bulletproof, freeze breath, x-ray vision
Ms. Marvel-strength, speed, agility, stamina, flight, invulnerability, energy absorption & projection, regeneration, danger sense, cosmic awareness, minor molecular control
Mystique-martial arts, shape shifting, healing, strength, no aging
Elektra-martial arts, weapon master, best ninja/assassin in the world

Wonder Woman appears on both sites, and a couple females are Power Rangers, but besides these outliers, the sites are evenly split based on gender. Finding similarities in skillsets, I find that the Wonder Womans cancel each other out, as do the Kryptonians. Batman and the Power Rangers have similar attributes (lack of actual superhuman powers) as Black Canary and Elektra. Thor and Storm are both weather-savvy forms of Gods. The Thing and the Hulk are essentially the same idea, power-wise, as are Ms. Marvel and Starfire, so we can combine them for simplicity’s sake.

Though that says a lot in and of itself (of equality, or perhaps lack of creativity), that half of the Top 10 Superhero(in)es have opposite-gender counterparts, and though this post is already quite long, I still want to go on and compare/contrast the remaining supers.

Spiderman, The Thing/Hulk, Wolverine, & Aquaman vs. Emma Frost, Ms. Marfire, & Mystique.

Spiderman, Wolverine, and Aquaman all have either literal or figurative ties to the animal world, while none of the remaining superheroines come close. This relation to animals in turn relates men to animals, as do their powers, which equip them specifically for hand-to-hand combat and bouts of strength. The females, however, have more range and subtlety to their skillset. Telepathy, intelligence, shape shifting, and osmosis-like learning all are invaluable during reconnaissance or spy missions. Could this be commenting on the female nature? Or perhaps reducing females to secondary roles? I would say that Ms. Marvel challenges these theories, but she was originally created merely as a counterpart to Captain Marvel.

I suppose, even on the front of superpowers, women are still not treated equally as men. Whether superheroines are looked down upon as secondary characters, or superheroes are looked down upon as brutes, they’re definitely unequal. But are men and women equal in actuality? In our idealistic future reality, is it even possible to have this utter equality? I’m not too sure; with our different hormones, natural instincts and tendencies, perhaps this trend in superpowers is justified.

Regardless, the skimpy outfits still need to go.

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