For centuries, the concept of superheroes has fascinated people of all ages and cultures in all areas of the globe. Although the definition of what makes someone “super” has varied over the years, superheroes as we know them today have a universal purpose: they protect others from danger, fight for justice and serve as role models for the youth and even some adults. For practically the same amount of time, the exciting stories of such superheroes have also captivated our imaginations — immortalized in works of literature, television series, film and perhaps most prominently in comic books. Unfortunately, it seems that too many of these stories only show extraordinary men, and not women, as the ones who save the day.
A new initiative by DC Comics, however, is working to change that. DC, along with Mattel and the animation division of Warner Bros., announced their superhero campaign for young girls on Wednesday. As soon as this fall, girls will see teen versions of female comic book characters such as Batgirl, Poison Ivy and Wonder Woman in toys, television, comics, digital content and apparel.
As a fan of many of these vastly underrated and under-represented comic book heroines, it’s great to see justice finally be served, and not just on the pages of a comic book or on a movie screen. Comic books and other superhero-related content are notoriously male-dominated. They are still made mostly by men, for men and about men.
Women’s exclusion from comic book universes is basic sexism, but it is also misogyny that contributes to an even greater concern — the way women are portrayed when they are finally included. More often than not, many heroines and villainesses are hyper-sexualized to cater especially to male audiences, and not necessarily women as a form of sexual liberation or feminist empowerment. Instead of focusing on their powerful abilities, female characters, compared to male characters, are contrastingly objectified and not portrayed in a positive light for those who may want to see them as role models.
Moreover, these female characters most importantly also do not receive the narrative attention that some would like. And it’s this “some” that has become especially significant. According to TIME, “some” amounts to 47 percent of female comic book fans, and their growing demand for representation is the reason entertainment groups such as DC and their rival Marvel Comics have made efforts to broaden their fan bases.
Regarding the new initiative, DC Entertainment President Diane Nelson said in a statement that DC Super Hero Girls “represents the embodiment of our long-term strategy to harness the power of our diverse female characters” and “offers relatable and strong role models in a unique way, just for girls.” Just as young boys grow up with comic books and heroes to look up to, so do countless enthusiastic young girls. Representation in media is incredibly important and can have a profound effect on young girls’ confidence levels. It’s great to hear that soon, girls finally won’t be disappointed when searching for a female superhero to admire and emulate.