Film Forward

Female Superheroes Are Inspiring Young Girls, And They Want To See More

"If you can't see her, you can't be her."

The ways we watch TV and movies have evolved, and it's time for the talent in front of and behind the camera to do the same. Film Forward speaks on the initiatives to diversify the film industry and the stories it tells. New articles premiere every second Thursday of — and throughout — the month.

If you think young women don't care about superhero movies, think again. A new study shows that not only do girls feel inspired by the female heroes they see on screen, but they want to see even more characters who look like them in the future.

The study was conducted by BBC America and the Women's Media Center on the impact of science fiction and superhero media on young viewers. The organizations surveyed 2,431 participants, including girls and boys between the ages of 10 and 19, and the parents of children aged 5 to 9.

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According to the study's results, 90 percent of girls say that female superheroes and sci-fi heroines are positive role models for them. The majority of girls also say that these heroines make them feel strong, brave, confident, inspired, positive, and motivated. Overall, girls (especially girls of color) agree that watching these characters "makes them feel like they can achieve anything they put their mind to."

If you want to get specific, the survey also found that 81 percent of girls say seeing a woman (Jodie Whittaker) as the Doctor on Doctor Who made them "feel like they can become anything they want." Wonder Woman was also the most popular choice for favorite superhero among girls of all ages.

These same young viewers also recognize that the representation of women on screen still needs to improve. The majority of girls aged 10 to 19 agreed that there are not enough strong, relatable female role models in film and television. And although the numbers were higher among girls, kids of both genders said they want to see more women in superhero and sci-fi media. Seventy-four percent of girls also say they want to see more characters in these genres who look like them, with even higher numbers among girls of color.

"At this time of enormous, sweeping, social change, it's important that television and film provide an abundance of roles and role models for diverse girls and young women. We know that representation matters, as evidenced by this report," said Julie Burton, president of the Women's Media Center.

As BBC America President Sarah Barnett added, "If you can't see her, you can't be her. It's time to expand what gets seen, and we hope this report will contribute to sparking change in the stories we see on screen. With greater representation of female heroes in the sci-fi and superhero genre, we can help superpower the next generation of women."

It's hard to argue with these findings if you've seen how many girls dressed up as Wonder Woman when the film came out last year, or read the schoolyard reactions from kindergartners which director Patty Jenkins tweeted after the release. A video of a girl crying when she met star Gal Gadot at San Diego Comic-Con also went viral last year.

It certainly doesn't hurt when the actors and studios behind these iconic characters also embrace the power of representation. Earlier this year, Gadot took a break from filming the new Wonder Woman movie to visit kids at a Virginia children's hospital. Just last month, Captain Marvel star Brie Larson responded on social media to absurd criticism that her character should smile more. Last year, Marvel even launched a contest for teenage girls to show off their skills in STEM, with the chance to attend a mentorship with Disney Imagineering.

Here's hoping that young girls' wish for more female heroes comes true — sooner rather than later.

(H/T: Hello Giggles

Cover image: Kathy Hutchins / Shutterstock.com

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