There is a problem in the world of geek, and it’s not a small one. No, it’s a large problem, and one that doesn’t seem to be going away, even in the forward thinking, super tolerant society that we have become. It’s one that has been around forever, but I really started noticing it on a personal level about six years ago. It’s basically this: Go down the superhero aisle of any toy store and you will find a lot of different characters. You will find Superman, Batman, The Flash, Green Lantern, Captain America, Spider-Man, Thor, Iron Man, Wolverine, etc. You won’t find any Black Widow, or Batgirl, or Wonder Woman. In fact you’d be lucky to find any action figure type toys that represent any strong female protagonist. Yes, you might find some purple and pink Superman logo or Batman logo merchandise in the girls’ section, but that’s probably it. I am also not talking about the collectible figures that cost $25 that are targeted to the collector and not the kids. Why can’t you find any of these female characters in the superhero aisle? Simply put, boys don’t want to play with girl figures. This is what the marketing people believe and what the toy manufacturers believe. This was highlighted recently when a toy was released, based on a scene from The Age of Ultron movie, in which Black Widow is launched from a Quinjet on a motorcycle to help Cap out. Problem is, in the toy version, it is Cap on the motorcycle instead of Black Widow.
Here’s the thing, marketing people and toy manufacturers are probably right. Most boys don’t want to buy the girl figures. I have two boys who would probably agree with that. But you know what? I have three girls who would probably love to play with a motorcycle toy that featured a girl instead of Captain America. And there is the real issue. There is a growing number of young, geeky girls today. Geeky dads and geeky moms don’t see gender when raising the next generation of geeks. In their minds it is just as necessary for their girls to grow up as geeks as it is for their boys. My girls love the superhero movies just as much as my boys do. I would buy them just as much superhero merchandise if there was any of it made for girls. It’s all targeted at the boys.
It extends beyond the toys as well. In the next 5 years, there will be a billion superhero movies made, and two of them will have a woman as the main antagonist, we assume. One will be Wonder Woman, scheduled for the summer of 2017, and Captain Marvel, scheduled for the end of 2018. Black Widow has been deemed a side character and will not be receiving her own film. Which is good, because she is not an interesting character at all (I know sarcasm does not come through in type, so let me just tell you that last sentence was oozing with it). We have heard that Captain Marvel will be the Carol Danvers version of the character, but who knows? Maybe they will instead use the original version of the character, who was a male. In any case, it is easy to see that women as the main protagonist are hard to come by, and that is frustrating as a dad.
Being able to share my geekiness with my kids is pretty awesome. I love it when they get excited about the stuff I am excited about. I love when my boys run around pretending to be their favorite heroes, and it makes me sad that the girls don’t because they don’t want to pretend to be boys. My oldest will usually pretend to be Wonder Woman, the one female character everyone seems to know. My other girls pretend to be Batman or Thor (imagine their excitement in finding out that there is now a female Thor). Unlike my boys, though, they don’t get to see women being heroes like the men on the big screen, or even the little screen, and that’s hard as a dad. Don’t get me wrong, I don;t consider myself to be super feminist or anything, and I am trying to not make this a political discussion. All I am saying is that I want my girls to see heroes on the screen who are like them, and are just as awesome as their male counterparts, instead of always playing a supporting role. I don’t view my marriage that way. My wife Dani both have the leading role, and we are equal partners. I just want my girls to have an opportunity to see some of that too. And, I want to buy them cool toys like I buy the boys.
So what does this have to do with Supergirl? Well, DC finally has a shot to beat Marvel and be ahead of the curve. With their upcoming CBS series, Supergirl, they have an opportunity to be the first of the two companies to have a show centered on a strong female lead. They don’t come much stronger than Supergirl. The preview for the show looks promising, and I hope it is a smash hit and really popular. Movie makers and show runners have it in their heads that girl superheroes don’t sell. I think that was probably true 20 years ago, or 30 years ago, but I am hoping it has changed. I am hoping that this series will be the one to break the mold, and show Hollywood that there is an audience for this.
If Supergirl is successful, it will open the doors for future series and movies. It could open the door for more girl targeted merchandise in the stores for both companies. It could be a real beginning. In a lot of ways, it would be kind of cool. Superman was the first successful superhero, and because of him we have all the different superheroes today. If he had not been successful, who knows where the comics industry would be. Now, maybe his female cousin can do the same for the super heroine. Maybe her success can lead to many more successful superpower females on the big and little screens and on merchandising shelves.
I know that Marvel seems to be ahead of the curve on a lot of things related to superhero stuff, but this seems to be one where they are holding themselves back. I should say, it’s Disney, not Marvel, that’s holding them back. Marvel has a stable of strong female characters, but none of them seem to show up on screen or on toy shelves. Disney has always had the strict boy/girl lines. They have their characters for girls (usually princess something) and now with Star Wars and Marvel, their characters for boys. It is going to take a lot for them to break this mold, and let’s be honest, they have had years and years of success in their marketing format.
DC and Warner Bros. are not hindered by that. They can finally beat Marvel at being the pioneers in something superhero related. I’m not saying it will be enough to put them on top at the box office, but it might start them on the path to discovery. There may be geeky parents who are drawn to DC simply because they show the same respect for their female children that they do for their male children. I am hoping it will be enough to at least keep DC in the game. I am still holding out hope that somehow DC will end up on top. In any case, I will be lining up to watch Supergirl this fall on CBS.