In the wake of the Avengers – Age of Ultron’s premiere, I started thinking about a trend that has been emerging during the last few years: the empowerment of female characters in super-hero comic books and movies, an all-time favourite boys’ club, AND of female comic book readers.
Granted, the Avengers’ franchise is not the best example of a movie where girl (super)power is mostly felt, since, until now, it only had one female superhero, the Black Widow, and she didn’t have a lot of screen time (SPOILER alert: that actually changes in the Avengers – Age of Ultron).
However, it did help to bring light over this issue, mainly due to an interview conducted by a Cosmopolitan reporter, where, instead of asking Scarlet Johansson shallow (sexist!) questions like “How do you keep in shape, in order to fit into you latex costume?”, the reporter ended up asking Mark Ruffalo those very same questions in a rather ironic way. Check the interview here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T9sEkdJrIRM
Female super-heroes have always been around, from Batgirl, to Wonder Woman, from Mystique to Captain Marvel. Both DC and Marvel where never shy about giving wild powers to girls. But, in reality, until recently, there was no real investment in those super women, unless they were part of a team. There was no movie or a TV show focused on a female super-hero, while there are many focused on the male ones (like Arrow, the Flash, among many others).
But things are finally changing. In 2017, DC will launch its Wonder Woman movie. Although that was one of the few super-heroines who had had a TV show once (in the 70s), the fact that they are bringing back this Amazon princess to the big screen, under the direction of a female director (Patty Jenkins), says that they are committed to this “super-hero equality quest”
Meanwhile, Marvel presented the first all-female Avengers team: the A-force, whose first comic book will be launched this month. “She-Hulk, Dazzler, Medusa, Nico Minoru and other fan favourites, will take charge,” says series co-writer G. Willow Wilson (in http://marvel.com/news/comics/24048/marvel_comics_presents_a-force#ixzz3ZB8oOD4V)
Marvel is no stranger to the empowerment of women within their narratives, but its efforts don’t ever go as well as expected. When they announced that Thor was now a girl, the whole world, women included, felt like they were getting the sloppy seconds. The action totally backfired, basically because female readers don’t want re-heated or transgender superheroes, they want their own badass super-heroines!
Whether we’re talking about Marvel, DC, Black Horse or other comic book publishers, once thing is certain: they must pay more attention to their female audience. As an eleven year-old girl put it, on a letter to DC, “Girls read comics too” (in http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/booknews/11383820/11-year-old-tells-DC-Comics-Girls-read-comics-too.html). In fact, 47% of comic book readers are female and they represent an astounding 62% of Facebook fans of female comic characters, according to a study made by Comics Beat (in http://www.comicsbeat.com/market-research-says-46-female-comic-fans/)
And guess what, those numbers are not incredibly greater than a few years ago. It’s just that, now, it’s cool to be geek and geek girls are cool and they’ve found ways to connect with other girls with the same level of coolness, like Tumblr, Pinterest, Facebook groups or even “organized groups”, like the Valkyries, a group formed only by “women behind the counters of comic book shops”.
So, brands, listen up, the things you were taken for granted are not so simple anymore. Girls love comic books. They also love football and skating. Guys are into skin products and laser hair removal. Millennials love vinyl records and grandmothers are on Facebook.
Hence, instead of defining your audience according to your gut and pre-created demographic standards, talk to your audience, do some research. You may be surprised…