At a time when the world of pop-culture essentially lives and dies by the most recent superhero movie, the demand for variation of protagonists has never been a more vital part of the conversation. This revelation has led to some groundbreaking (albeit at times controversial), decisions, focuses, and general interpretations of characters in the spotlight.
That demand has caused Hollywood to put tireless effort into changing the face of traditional (less-diverse) heroism. This has led to changes such as: Marvel’s Falcon upgrading from a B-tier sidekick (in the comics) to a central member of the Avenger’s film canon, a grittier and morally ambiguous Batman (the two most recent iterations), a clamour for anti-heroes (Deadpool, Preacher, the Punisher, etc), and of course the promotion of female heroes to the forefront of the genre (the latter being the most recent and important).
Concerning the expansion of women’s role in the superhero genre - no studio has thus far put as much emphasis on this as the DC Extended Universe. Here, we will look into how DC has trailblazed the increasing use of female leads in their superhero films (by way of several of their iconic characters) to extend the reach of their ever-growing franchise.
There are few female comic book characters, (or for that matter comic book heroes in general), that can hold a candle to Wonder Woman in when it comes to popularity, and for good reason. Created by psychologist William Moulton Marston and his wife Elizabeth Holloway Marston - Wonder Woman became an instant sensation in the DC comics universe. Initially seen as a veritable equal to Superman - Wonder Woman grew into a valuable entity all on her own - leading to a proliferation of appearances, merchandise, and variations. Specifically her inclusion into the infinitely popular Justice League (and all of its subsequent media), as well as her own films, television shows, and video game appearances.
Because of this, it should come as no surprise that the DCEU was anxious to bring this heroine back to the big screen. Audiences most recently saw her appear in 2016’s Batman V. Superman. Though the film itself was generally panned, Wonder Woman’s appearance and portrayal were universally praised - leading to an unwavering anticipation for her return in 2017’s Wonder Woman - which will mark the first solo, live-action appearance for the character in nearly 30 years. The film is expected to be amongst the year’s highest grossing.
We’ve all come to expect a certain level of fandom for any superhero character who manages to transcend the the pages of the comic, to the cinematic universe - though this one is no different, she actually got her start in the popular 90’s cartoon, Batman: The Animated Series.
Since making her debut in the 1992 episode “Joker’s Favor”, Harley Quinn has arguably become one of DC’s most popular and recognizable properties. Born and developed from the minds of creators Paul Dini and Bruce Timm, Harley Quinn’s carefree and manic demeanor won the hearts of audiences across the globe. Though initially slated to be a “walk-on” affiliate of the Joker - her potential was quickly noticed and she just as soon became a major part of the Joker’s mythology.
It should go without saying that once her character was announced to appear in 2016’s blockbuster Suicide Squad fans were ecstatic. Soon after, it was announced that Margot Robbie would be portraying the character. Unlike her peers (also cast in well-known roles) the decision to cast her was met with praise. Though early, this praise was not undeserved, as Robbie's performance garnered universal acclaim from audiences and critics alike - leading to talks of her starring in her own solo spin-off film -which Robbie herself is slated to co-produce.
Created by John Ostrander and Kim Yale in the late 1980’s, this antagonist (sometimes antihero), made her first appearance in the 1986 comic Legends #1, as a high-ranking government official and liaison for the Suicide Squad. Though, she may be lesser known to infrequent comic fans - her television appearances (Justice League, Arrow, and various DC animated shows and feature films) has grown her visibility exponentially.
Waller provided a different type of threat to DC universe - citing her considerably ruthless methods, moral ambiguity, and government backing as prime reasons that the Justice League can not simply “punch, and put this one away”. DC and Warner Bros. must have realized this as well - which undoubtedly led to her inclusion in 2016’s Suicide Squad. Waller was portrayed by Viola Davis -with her portrayal receiving considerable praise. It’s no wonder they’ve slated the character to appear in no less than three additional feature films, adding yet another vital piece to DC's female-driven road to dominance.
First appearing The Brave and the Bold (issue #200), this sword-wielding heroine was conceived by Mike W.Barr in the early 1980’s. Though she just recently transitioned from the page to the screen, Katana has proven herself as a draw to audiences and an engaging character with a remarkable level of combat and tactical skills. Aided by a 14th-century sword and a touching backstory - Katana has some of the greatest cinematic potential of any of the other properties recently introduced into the DCEU.
Portrayed for the first time (cinematically) by Karen Fukuhara - this promise has not gone unnoticed by the actress who stated that she “would like to explore the character further”. Should the DCEU continue to prove a box-office powerhouse - she may just get her shot.
Diane Nelson (President of DC Entertainment/ CCO of Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment)
With all that can be said about the progress and success of women in the DCEU - we’d be remiss not to acknowledge one of the most influential forces behind it. Diane Nelson has served as the President of DC Entertainment since 2009 and the Chief Content Officer of Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment since 2013.
In 2014 at a time Warner shareholders meeting, she is noted as addressing the lack of visibility of female characters in the DCEU, as well as the need to expand their role in DC’s other properties as well - a stance she has fought to see come to fruition. Through her effort and leadership, we have seen a vast influx of female characters in the multitude of DC properties, to the praise of audiences and critics. Her successes have led rival studios to follow suit and push their female characters to the forefront of their media as well.
So, while we enjoy the ever-expanding role of women and minorities in our superhero films - let’s take a moment to remember some of the real ones and hope that the DCEU is just the beginning of equal representation for everyone -in our pop-culture.
Enjoy your popcorn.
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Published by Antwan Crump