After the release of 2004’s Catwoman, the unbearably loose comic book adaptation (the way Paranormal Activity is loosely based on a true story), starring Halle Berry, it was said that its ultimate failure would ensure women stayed out of the action genre for years to come. Ten years later, in the midst of a comic book renaissance, it seems the prophecy has indeed proved correct.
Naturally, news this week of a new television series set around one of the best known female superheroes has been welcomed with widespread anticipation. Greg Berlanti, the man behind the DC Comics-based TV series Arrow and the upcoming The Flash is teaming with Ali Adler (Glee) to develop a new action-drama based on Superman’s Kryptonian-cousin, Supergirl.
The news follows both Marvel and Sony announcing super-female plans of their own, while DC is set to debut a new interpretation of Wonder Woman in the forthcoming Batman Vs. Superman movie. Alas, things have been conspicuously man-heavy of late. More bizarre however is that evidence does not seem to suggest that audiences don’t enjoy strong female leads. In-fact, it points to the opposite.
When Guardians of the Galaxy recently took over the world, 40 percent of its audience were women. And it wasn’t too long ago that Buffy the Vampire Slayer established a cultural movement. According to a survey of movies released in 2013, films portraying a strong female lead actually tend to do far better at the box office.
The last time Supergirl took to a cinema screen was the deliciously bad 1984 disaster starring Faye Dunaway (still high from her Mommie Dearest foray). Originally intended as a spin-off to Christopher Reeve’s Superman III (the one with Richard Pryor… ugh), Reeve apparently hated the idea, leaving the writers to explain Superman’s absence via a briefly-heard radio news report. Which barely matters, because the minute Supergirl arrives on Earth (via a vortex inside a lake), she becomes embroiled in a love triangle between a witch a gardener.
It wound up being a terrible piece of cinema that even the director admitted to not understanding, while star newcomer Helen Slater has refused to ever watch it. Though the 80s visuals are a wonder to watch (the opening credits apparently cost $1 million alone).
So, with Wonder Woman set to hit cinema screens, a gay character apparently palnned for TV’s The Flash, and Supergirl ready to helm her own show - could we soon be looking at some decent diversity in science fiction television?
As one Marvel Comics editor told Time, “The number of letters that I’ve gotten over the years from young women talking about how they only survived high school because of Buffy is overwhelming.”
“It’s not that they’re suddenly here. It’s that they’re suddenly more visible.”