Super Empowerment


Every Halloween, four-foot Spidermans, Supermans, and Hulks roam the streets, each seeking to be like their favorite superhero. Children everywhere idolize and imitate superheroes for their strength and super-powers. Therefore, when an entire race or gender is excluded from the mainstream superheroes, children begin to think of themselves as much weaker than the powerful white men fighting aliens on their television screens.
And, of course, they physically cannot be, for their strength is fictional and supernatural—but physiologically, knowing that not a single one of their favorite crime-fighters are like them makes minority children everywhere feel left out or even ashamed of their identity. It is therefore not only just important, but necessary to include all types of people equally in the field of the superheroes—and two films seek to do just that: Wonder Woman and Black Panther.
Wonder Woman had been a comic book for decades before the 2017 film’s debut, revealing the character’s popularity. However, she was constantly overshadowed by the much more popular Superman and Batman, DC Comics’ most famous heroes. She was only featured in two major motion pictures before Wonder Woman (including one in which she was played by a LEGO figurine), and in both she was an undeveloped side character.
But when Warner Bros. finally decided to make Wonder Woman a major motion picture, they went all in. They hired Patty Jenkins, one of the few female directors in Hollywood. The cast is overwhelmingly female, hiring few males for the film. The film was a huge success, supplying young girls everywhere with the positive, strong, female role model to dress up as for Halloween—and dress like her they did. Due to Jenkins’ film, Wonder Woman was named one of the most popular Halloween costumes by TIME Magazine.
Before the release of Wonder Woman, there was the widely held, slightly sexist belief that representing someone other than a white man as the lead of a superhero movie was dangerous, as it had no room for profit. However, Wonder Woman surpassed all expectations, grossing $411 million—the second highest for any film of 2017, falling just short of Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
Even after the tremendous success of Wonder Woman, many people still feel that minority superheroes will not sell movie tickets. Black Panther will likely change their minds.
Making its debut on the 16th of this month, the critically-acclaimed film stars a lesser-known Marvel superhero: Black Panther, played by a black man.
In fact, the entire cast, including the director, Ryan Coogler, is predominantly black, with just two white males cast for the seventeen largest roles.
Wonder Woman and Black Panther mark the beginning of a trend of equal representation in superhero films, one of the most consistently high-grossing film categories. But with them come two new trends: empowerment for children who desperately deserve it, and a more diverse group of characters to dress up as for Halloween.