Jessica Chastain Perfectly Highlights the Problem With Hollywood's Female Superhero

With the stream of comic book blockbusters cashing in at the box office in recent years, the demand for an empowered, female-led superhero movie is growing.

Indeed, years after the failure of films like Halle Berry's Catwoman, the industry has a lot of incentive to pay attention to the growing dissent. Moviegoers and comics fans are (rightly) pretty frustrated, but they aren't the only ones. Now, talented actresses like Jessica Chastain are speaking out about the problem as well.

While championing Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow character, Chastain said she would be happy to suit up as a comic book character for a movie — but not as the sexy sidekick or girlfriend. As she told the Guardian

"I would love to do a superhero movie!" the Zero Dark Thirty star said. "I would have loved to have played Black Widow. ... A couple of times I've gotten really close. The problem is, if I do a superhero movie, I don't want to be the girlfriend. I don't want to be the daughter. I want to wear a fucking cool costume with a scar on my face, with fight scenes. That's what I'd love."

Exactly.  

For years, people were buzzing about Joss Whedon — feminist icon and creator of the Whedonverse's most kick-ass female characters, from Buffy and Willow to River Tam and Fred/Illyria — directing Wonder Woman. But the project went nowhere, with Whedon turning his attention to The Avengers instead. 


Gal Gadot, who will play Wonder Woman in the upcoming Batman-Superman flick, has signed a three-picture deal with Warner Bros., but that is still no guarantee a Wonder Woman film will be made. While the list of strong, independent and therefore feminist female characters leading television series has been virtually endless, cinema has consistently struggled to find a balance between badass and bombshell. 

"Where is the Scarlett Johansson superhero movie? I don't understand it — why is it taking so long for this?" Chastain recently asked TheWrap

She's right. Where is the that superhero movie? Some critics contend that Johansson's character, the Black Widow, is having to "earn" her own film by playing second-fiddle in other films (Iron Man 2The AvengersCaptain America: The Winter Soldier) first.

The double standard is obvious, writes Forbes: "Thor didn't have to play a proverbial bridesmaid in other superhero films nor did Chris Hemsworth have to prove his box office might elsewhere before a Chris Hemsworth-starring Thor got the green light." 

What makes this whole thing so ridiculous is that in 2013, movies centering around female characters outgrossed their male counterparts by close to one-third at the box office. Not only would an empowered superhero role for Chastain make sense from a storytelling standpoint, it makes fiscal sense, too.

Are you listening, Hollywood?

How likely are you to make Mic your go-to news source?

Marcie Bianco

Dr. Marcie Bianco is a Staff Writer at Mic, a Contributing Editor at Curve Magazine, and an adjunct associate professor at Hunter College. She has contributed to AfterEllen, Feministing, The Feminist Wire, The Huffington Post, Lambda Literary, XO Jane, and The Women’s Review of Books. She writes and lectures about ethics, from feminism to race relations. Her current writing projects include a manuscript about lesbian academic affairs and a collection of feminist essays.

MORE FROM

Dozens missing after tourist boat carrying more than 160 passengers sinks in Colombia

At least six people are confirmed dead and dozens more unaccounted for.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich's website hacked with pro-ISIS propaganda

The same attack also hit government websites in Brookhaven, New York, and Howard County, Maryland, according to reports.

8 of the biggest moments from the 48th NYC LGBTQ Pride March

The biggest Pride event in the world was a sight to behold.

Movement for Black Lives activists disrupt Minneapolis Pride to protest Philando Castile verdict

Protesters reportedly held signs with messages like "No KKKops at Pride."

Protesters reportedly arrested near NYC's Stonewall Inn, Pride March endpoint

The reason for the arrests were not immediately known.

Marchers arrested in Istanbul as Pride parade continues despite cancellation

The organizers' decision to move forward with the previously cancelled march led to clashes with police.

Dozens missing after tourist boat carrying more than 160 passengers sinks in Colombia

At least six people are confirmed dead and dozens more unaccounted for.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich's website hacked with pro-ISIS propaganda

The same attack also hit government websites in Brookhaven, New York, and Howard County, Maryland, according to reports.

8 of the biggest moments from the 48th NYC LGBTQ Pride March

The biggest Pride event in the world was a sight to behold.

Movement for Black Lives activists disrupt Minneapolis Pride to protest Philando Castile verdict

Protesters reportedly held signs with messages like "No KKKops at Pride."

Protesters reportedly arrested near NYC's Stonewall Inn, Pride March endpoint

The reason for the arrests were not immediately known.

Marchers arrested in Istanbul as Pride parade continues despite cancellation

The organizers' decision to move forward with the previously cancelled march led to clashes with police.