With companies like Marvel and DC bringing superheroes into the spotlight through movies, comic books, games and toys, superheroes are quickly becoming a big part of a child’s upbringing and are now more influential than probably ever before.
According to a new study by the Women’s Media Centre and BBC America, most girls believe there are not enough female role models in the spotlight, strong female characters and relatable female characters on film and television. Interestingly enough, both girls and boys both agreed that they’d like to see more female superheroes on-screen.
The study, which was launched as a part of BBC America’s “Galaxy of Women” Initiative, which seeks to highlight successful women across the network while also connecting fans with more powerful female characters first began by surveying a wide range of children between the ages of five and 19, and eventually found that every demographic group expressed a desire for more female lead roles in the sci-fi and superhero movie genres. The results stemmed from a survey that was administered to a total 2,431 girls and boys between the age of five and nine years old, as well as their parents.
“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,” stated Women’s Media Centre president Julie Burton.
She continued,“We know that representation matters, as evidenced by this report. Our research found that female sci-fi and superhero characters help bridge the confidence gap for girls, making them feel strong, brave, confident, inspired, positive and motivated.”
Other findings from the study included a 23 point gender gap between teenage boys and girls with regards to interest in STEM careers and a stated that one in three teenage girls will have fewer opportunities than boys to be leaders later in life. Aside from this, the study also found that teenage girls are less likely than teenage boys to describe themselves as confident and brave.
The study also found that seeing female sci-fi and superhero characters has a greater effect on girls than when boys see male sci-fi and superhero characters. In general, both children and teens would choose role models who are the same gender as themselves when asked who they look up to most. Shockingly, 85% of girls and parents of girls named a female role model, while 87% of boys and parents of boys named a male. “Wonder Woman,” for example, ranked the No. 1 hero for 39% of girls, while 44% of boys chose Batman. It’s worth noting that only 26.7% of all DC and Marvel characters are female, and only 12% of mainstream superhero comics have female protagonists, according to a report by gender and diversity website The Pudding.
Numerous studies on this topic have been done in the past, showing that women and girls progress better when they see role models who look like them, in which they can relate easily to. Studies in the past have also shown that these obstacles are even more prevalent among girls of colour, who are significantly less likely than their Caucasian counterparts to feel heard when they speak.
Over the past few years, it’s no secret that heroines like Katniss Everdeen, Rey, Furiosa, Wonder Woman, and more slowly seeped into the cultural consciousness and proved that they can be noticed just as much as other male superheroes. Although not every new film is bound to have a prominent female role, this new study suggests that young audiences are hungry for female role models in the sci-fi and superhero genres, which could be enough for producers to sway when casting roles.