Female superheroes, as many of you probably know, usually bother me. There’s always something that screams femme fatale or gender normativity. However, Anne Hathaway as Catwoman was simply awesome. Here’s a few reasons why:
- Her outfit was practical. Still sexy. But practical.
- She rides the batbike without batting an eyelid.
- She was astoundingly complicated – sometimes a sex kitten, other times a down to earth girl, and at other times a witty crime fighting bad ass.
- She is not segregated from men – even when put into prison.
- And finally, she utilises the weaknesses of men (i.e. when they use their cocks instead of their brains) to get what she needs to get by.
The last point is critical because I had such an issue with Scarlet Johanson as the Black Widow and how she used her femininity to get information out of men. There is a clear difference here – Hathaway doesn’t play up the supposed weakness of her gender role – she is not pretending to be weak or submissive like Johanson. Instead, she simply plays up her sexuality and utilises men’s tendency to be horny and to harbour preconceptions of women in order to take advantage of them. It’s a comment on men, rather than women really.
I know what you’re thinking – isn’t using your sexuality, using your gender role. Well, not really. Females will always have vaginas, and many women tend to use them for this weird thing called pleasure so, personally, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being sexy. I see everything wrong with only being seen as a sex object – an oversimplification that Hathaway’s Catwoman avoids.
However, it’s not all positive. I see a trend developing in our female superheroes. They’re still the “spunky sidekick”. As Clute and Grant rightly argue in the Encyclopedia of Fantasy Literature “woman as spunky companion is an easy option, a way of seeming up-to-date and flattering readers without diminishing the role or values of the male hero. Woman as hero is more difficult to depict”. Now, I know we had various movies like the Supergirl movie in 1984, the abysmal Catwoman in 2004 and Electra in 2005, but then what? With all the male Superheroes, even such minor ones as Blade, getting time in the spotlight, when are our female superheroes going to get a real chance to shine? Does anyone even know of Spiderwoman? The Question? Cassie Hack? I guess I’m still holding out for my hero, but I think we’re getting so close.