Jennifer K. Stuller takes us on a journey that features women in comics, literature and movies as vehicles to introduce and enhance the mythos of the strong female archetypes as they relate to modern times. Heroes and leads like Wonder Woman, Uhura, Ripley, Aeon Flux and Dorothy are some of the ladies that are discussed and dissected to give the audience a feel for how important it is to have role models that can inspire little girls to achieve what once was thought impossible because of their condition as the weaker sex. As a fan of these archetypes, I was not disappointed by the content which delivers a unique look into feminism and what it did for women in the 60s, 70s, 80s and beyond.
The book was finished in 2010 and has not been updated or followed up since then. That is the only downfall because it misses the wave of female action stars and box office hits of the 2017 season. Superwomen are not those with superpowers like Buffy or Sue Storm, but include everyday, run of the mill ladies with extraordinary human talents like intuition or strength as the Lois Lane, Sydney Bristow and Veronica Mars chapters suggest. What makes these otherwise normal characters unique is that they do not conform to the societal expectations of wife and/or mother; they have careers, aspire to be more than housewives and have lived hard lives where they had to count on their own skills to thrive.
In truth, many see these types as unattractive or odd which is why sadly many of these characters become mothers or motherly type figures at some point in their scripted lives to appease the cognitive dissonance their independence causes. This is the theme that is the most striking and well explained in the book: the need to make strong women tragic figures instead of empowered ones. If they haven’t lost a mother, child, spouse or head of household the public doesn’t believe in their motivation to be ambitious or driven. The quest for motherhood is the only journey a female hero can aspire to embark in, and if she doesn’t there must be some unholy reason for her to exist, let alone survive.
Jennifer refers to other known authors and researchers of the theme of the representation of women in media which is another excellent reason to make this tome a part of your personal library or reading collection. The themes are well written and are apt for teenagers and tweens of all genders. If you have a child that loves comics, this is an opportunity to expand yours and their horizon. We are doomed to repeat history if we don’t learn about and from it. The way women are portrayed in film and print has to change so that we can all become the superpeople we were meant to become.
Why yearn for sons when your daughters can become engineers, doctors, lawyers and even president! 😎 Women makes us better.