Young girls today have more onscreen female heroes to look up to than ever before, with characters such as Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman soon getting a sequel, Jodie Whittaker’s recent debut as the first female lead on Doctor Who and Brie Larson soon suiting up in Captain Marvel. And as a new study indicates, bringing more women at the forefront of superhero and sci-fi films and television shows has a hand in giving girls more confidence in their lives.
Just as the 13th Doctor graced the screen earlier this week, BBC America and Women’s Media Center recently released a study called “SuperPowering Girls.” Their findings suggest that girls aged 10 to 19 years old feel strong, brave, confident and positive about themselves when watching their favorite female sci-fi/superheroes onscreen. So closing the gender gap on female representation in this genre would not only be important for the disparity in the industry, but for how young media consumers perceive themselves as leaders.
Young boys have been growing up with strong male characters in media since television was new, with heroes such as Superman providing confidence and strength with them into adulthood. While superhero and science fiction tales have long been targeted toward boys, according to The Hollywood Reporter, there’s something specific about in these fantastical genres that can hold resonance in forming ideas of who both boys and girls can be.
The “SuperPowering Girls” findings show that girls between 15 to 19 years old feel 11% less confident, 13% less brave and 19% less listened to than boys of the same age. They agree that they don’t see enough strong, relatable, female role models onscreen and they want to see more. While the recent uptick in female leads in blockbusters such as Rey in Star Wars have indicated progress on this front, these genres are still primarily male dominated.
A look at the most popular movies of the year show more female character in the mix, but main leads in sci-fi and superhero films are heavily male characters. In 2018, A Wrinkle in Time was a sci-fi or superhero film with a cast female leads. Projects Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War, Incredibles 2, Deadpool 2, Ant-Man and the Wasp and Solo: A Star Wars Story certainly included strong female characters, but at the side of more prevalent male heroes.
There are tons of female sci-fi/superhero characters, even in the Marvel library alone just waiting to be adapted and introduced to young girls. Yet again and again we get remakes and reimagining’s of well-established male characters we’ve seen before. Taking a chance on more female role models in the superhero and sci-fi genres will not only bring refreshing new takes to the industry, but it can positively affect a young generation of media consumers. If the record-breaking success of Wonder Woman last year was any indication, women and men want to be inspired by powerful female characters onscreen.