I’ve had many discussions over the past few years about the idea of female-led movies, especially female superhero movies. Most of these discussions have been between me and one or more male friends or relatives, and usually involve me saying that I’m glad that female-led movies are happening, and them explaining to me why female-led movies aren’t important or aren’t as good as their male-led counterparts.
It’s incredibly frustrating for me to hear people who have never had to deal with media not being catered to them try to defend media being catered to other people.
When I was a kid, my brothers and I would often pretend to be superheroes and I remember constantly having to create my own super hero identity, while they had a huge range of superheroes to choose from. One brother could be Batman while the other could be Superman, or Spiderman or Green Lantern. I had the choice of being Wonder Woman or having to create my own superhero.
Of course, they never really understood my frustration at having such a small amount of representation that I could fit myself into. They’d spent their entire lives with any type of role model they could imagine, and characters they could pretend to be no matter what they could imagine.
I, on the other hand, had a very limited number of female characters, and even fewer who weren’t the stereotypical female obsessed with her appearance and earning male attention.
The hardest thing that I’ve found with defending any sort of “diverse character” (women, LGBT+, POC, etc.) is trying to explain to people who’ve always had representation that the people clamoring for diversity just want to see someone like themselves portrayed in a positive way.
People who are looking for diversity in their media generally don’t want just another “girl story” or “gay story” or “POC story.” There are plenty of those kinds of stories that exist. But, honestly, that doesn’t really count as diversity at this point.
Diversity should be things like the new “Ghostbusters” movie; an “any man” story that happens to be cast with women, or LGBT+ people, or POC.
Instead of placing minority individuals in a specialized role that propogates stereotypes, directors should strive for portraying minorities as they are. Normalizing the portrayal of underrepresented groups can help in fighting against stereotypes, assumptions and other effects of underrepresentation.
Beth is a senior English major from Canton, Michigan.