Frozen Proves We Can Have a Female Superhero Movie
The superhero movie has come of age, and I think we can all agree it's a glorious age. Sure, it would be nice to have Spider-Man, the X-Men, and the Fantastic Four in the Marvel Studio pen rather than being executed with varying degrees of success by other studios that understand comic movies are big now but not exactly why, but I can live with that if it nets me Winter Soldier and Rocket Freakin' Racoon on the big screen. I'm even excited about Ant-Man, and that sentence has probably never been typed before.
But look at that amazing line up of films stretching back to Iron Man and Batman Begins and you'll notice a pattern. I'll give you a hint; it's the parts that do not involve flying mammals or alloys. Superpowered females in any form are almost non-existent in the modern cinematic universe, and yet we've all just seen the best example that this is an error in movie studio judgment in the fact that Disney's biggest hit in years is for all intents and purposes a superhero movie.
Think about it... first off, Elsa has a superpower, the only Disney princess to do so that doesn't involve talking to the animals. Rapunzel has that healing hair trick and some of the rest are capable fighters, but Elsa has cryokinesis. That puts her in the big leagues as far as powers go. Iceman was classified as an omega level mutant, the highest level of genetic potential, for basically the same power. She is a magic-based meta-human. No argument.
Second, she has a tragic origin story that involves misuse of the power she was born with that almost killed her beloved sister. Throw in the fact that Anna's care falls to her after they are orphaned and you end up with the best parts of Spider-Man and Batman combined with the inner pain of having to conceal her abilities lest horror strikes again.
Is there any appreciable difference between Elsa building her ice castle while singing "Let it Go" and Peter Parker's initial joy at swinging happily through the city of New York? Not really. Next thing you know she's fighting off the army totally Hulk style with her snow golem as well as using pinpoint accuracy with her own abilities to go Wolvie-berserk style on the ones that make it through the juggernaut of her first line of defense.
Eventually, Elsa is forced to return to her kingdom, is betrayed and imprisoned, and then manages to escape and save the day. Granted, the final victory comes from the magic of true love more than Elsa's physical heroics, but even that has a fair precedent in the stupid reverse-the-world ending of the first Superman.
Still, at their heart superhero movies are about what powers represent. X-Men is a dissertation on civil rights. Spider-Man and Superman embody the concept of social responsibility. Tony Stark is a rumination on the right of military force. Elsa's powers too are an allegory not only for the dangers of emotional repression, but also the deadly double-edged nature of wielding authority. In the hands of a loving, stable person like she eventually becomes her powers are a gift. To a broken wreck wrought with guilt and pain she was a monster.
Frozen touched every single important trope of the superhero movie and it did so with a nuanced, unsexualized female protagonist... while singing!
Look, movie people, I understand the problems you face. First, good female comic characters that can solo lead a big budget movie are hard to come by. Black Widow could certainly carry a movie on her own, though it would end up more spy thriller than anything else. As a character she's often best as part of a team rather than solo.
If you eliminate characters that are just the Ms. version of other character like She-Hulk and Spider-Woman, you're left with even fewer options. Ms. Marvel has never been mainstream enough to bear a $100 million film about her. I think that having Ellen Page return as Kitty Pryde has some potential, but phasing is not know for its explosive cinematic appeal. I wouldn't trust any studio with poor X-23.
DC has a better female roster with Wonder Woman, and you'd think that the success of 300 would prompt someone to explore the Greek god route. It's doable, but of the big three there's not doubt Diana has always ranked below Bruce and Clark in public appeal. Unless her appearance in the upcoming Batman/Superman crossover goes well I fear she'll always be third choice.
Batgirl and Supergirl are always fun, but no matter how wonderful the stories Gail Simone writes are when the public goes to the movies they're just going to think Batman as a Girl. I trust a studio even less with Starfire and her recent redesign than I do with them and X-23, and I don't think that hack directors would be able to resist turning Black Canary's sonic scream into a women-talk-too-much joke.
So yes, I get that the safe properties are all dudes, but you have to remember that Iron Man was not exactly a hot item and that no one really wanted to see a Thor movie either. Taking a plunge on them paid off swimmingly, and thank you for doing so. You may feel that putting a female in the lead role is just as scary, and again I sympathize. Hundreds of millions of dollars are at stake, and I won't write off your concern.
That said, Frozen has shown us that you can totally take a superpowered woman, give her the spotlight, and she will sell millions of tickets and millions more action figures. The precedent has been set. It obviously can be done, just as you can take a popular property like Green Lantern and drive it into the ground. The basic idea of a girl not being able to launch a superhero movie has been shattered. Now it just remains for one of you big strong boys to decided which superheroine you'll let try in live action first.
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