In my last post I talked about how female super heroes have changed in the comics (and are starting to change in films and TV as well).
My last statements were about the new Batgirl, the protégé of the original (now called Oracle and bound to a wheelchair from a bullet to the spine). This theme really speaks to me of an older woman taking a younger one under her wing (no pun intended, but still elicits a chuckle as I write it) and helping to guide her through her struggles. Oracle’s mother/older sister to her young pupil is inspiring, and calls to a number of young girls and women looking for guidance in a harsh world.
And yet subsequent stories involving Oracle (AKA Barbara Gordon, AKA the original Batgirl) show her becoming an indispensable source of information for the “bat-family” like Batman, Nightwing and others despite her disability. Another interesting aspect of this character’s storyline going forward is that she struggles with being so smart. She knows how to manipulate others in a way un-paralleled by someone without mind control powers, something that actually causes her internal moral and ethical dilemmas.
Recent films and TV shows have also begun to portray female superheroes differently, and maybe for the first time in a way that is actually feminine but simultaneously tough and independent.
The most recent version of this is the dark and complicated character as portrayed in Netflix’s recent show, Jessica Jones. Jessica is not the typical heroic figure we see elsewhere; she is damaged goods.
After being mentally controlled and abused by a sadistic brit with mental powers, Jessica decides to get out of the hero business. This is as much because of the trauma as it is a decision to withdraw from the world and try to forget.
Jessica becomes a private detective (owing to an internal hero’s desire to help people) and begins a complicated relationship with another low key super hero, Luke Cage (AKA Powerman) who is also hiding out. As Jessica starts to realize that her tormentor, the villainous mind controlling Killgrave, has returned she begins to regularly repeat an associative phrase to help her deal with severe anxiety (which, as it turns out, is a real therapy technique taught by many counselors and psychiatrists to help women who have been raped deal with the crippling anxiety that comes accompanies the fear of seeing her rapist). Jessica is a character that is both raw and real, yet relatable and not the typically curvaceous sex object as seen in many previous superhero TV shows.
Another example I’m fond of is that of Laurel Lance (AKA Black Canary) on the CW’s hit show, The Arrow.
While the first season was admittedly half hero/half CW drama (not great), as the show continues we see a number of very real changes. This line of character development sees Laurel go from a freelance lawyer ex-girlfriend of the protagonist to a district attorney, a struggle with addiction to pain killers and taking up her fallen sister’s mantle as a crime fighter. One of the things I love the most about Laurel’s Black Canary vs her assassin trained sister’s version is the fact that Laurel, unlike most of the Arrow crew, is not so great at being a vigilante at first. She gets smacked around quite a bit as she begins to get the hang of fighting the bad guys, which is not only realistic but refreshing (not her getting smacked around, the fact that she doesn’t become a ninja overnight!).
P.S. A big thank you to Cremation Services Atlanta for their support of my friend Steven’s family during a very hard time. What you do must be difficult for sure, but thank you for doing it with such compassion and genuineness.