When I walked out of my bathroom last Halloween, dressed as Marvel’s Black Widow, the first thing my son said was, “Wow mama, you look strong.” And I felt strong.
Dressing up like a female character that needed little saving, and instead claimed her power to protect herself and heal her own emotional wounds, made me have a highly coveted proud mom moment.
I never thought much more about superhero gender roles (a course that should be offered in universities?!) until I recently previewed the new Marvel Universe Live Age of Heroes show brought to life by family entertainment juggernaut Feld Entertainment.
What I discovered was a feminist sub-culture in the Marvel Universe, full of butt-kicking, norm-hacking, damsel-in-distress rejecting badass chicks showing the boys how it’s done.
This show included Marvel women (that even I was privy to) like Black Widow and Guardians of the Galaxy’s Gamora, but new (to me) female empowerment heroes like the witty Wasp, and sexy villains Black Cat and Nebula were also present. And, when mixed with a fleet of popular male characters, guess who was keeping their cool when the boys were lashing out with often-ineffective action? That’s right – the ladies.
While the existence of these characters is no surprise to Marvel devotees, they were unknown to me: a fresh Marvel enthusiast who now plans to dress up like a different female superhero every Halloween, and maybe every birthday as well, because why not.
But, more noteworthy than the feminine characters (who are writing a new definition of feminine) are the female fighters, dancers, motorcycle wizards, and more who are bringing them to life. These ladies are just as buff and skilled as their male counterparts, and are so savvy in conjuring the essence of heroes that many play some of the male characters. These women left me slack jawed and inspired to learn some motorcycle tricks… or maybe just take a kickboxing class.
There’s even a performer, Louie Musselman, who is such a savant she can play every female role in the show, which translates into countless kicks, jumps, motorcycle flips, and more. I wouldn’t mind being her when I grow up.
I would assume that an action heavy show such as this would be brought to you by men, but no, a petite powerhouse, Juliette Feld, is the force behind the show, working with her sisters Nicole and Alana Feld to run the largest family entertainment business in the world, which includes other productions I used to equate with super charged testosterone: Supercross, Arena Cross, and Monster Jam.
Beyond Marvel’s team of women, there are other female superheroes stepping into public glory – ever heard of a little movie called Wonder Woman? It seems brands that commonly focus on the men have finally come around to the realization that women are just as capable, and often more complex and interesting, than the dudes, making them prime candidates to be the stars of these multi-million dollar franchises.
With the increasing unease I’ve felt with the American culture, I’ve been heartened by the fortified power and sense of purpose women like this (both fictional and real) are unapologetically splashing into the world. Members of this phenomenal gender are creating this change through words, images, acting, business decisions, and a multitude of other ways they’re allowing their intricate, ballsy (or “womby”?), and paradigm shifting roars be seen, felt, and heard.
You go girls.