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Helpless princesses to kick-ass superheroes

When I was growing up, I did not have many powerful female characters represented in movies, television or books to look up to. There were either Disney princesses playing damsels in distress and were being saved by their “prince” or movies like Mean Girls, purely based on how girls can’t stand each other. I could not relate to any of these two portrayals of women.

The first “strong” character that I loved and could relate to, was Alex Russo from Wizards of Waverly Place. The quirky, witty, mischievous and smart character played by Selena Gomez instantly became my most favorite character on television. Alex Russo could make any bad day better for me.

Then I watched “Penelope” – that showed the power the self-love. Like one of my favorite lines from the movie goes “it’s not the power of the curse, it’s the power you give the curse” – I, for one, never liked the way I looked, and this movie showed how loving and accepting yourself for who you are is the greatest power you can give yourself. This movie introduced me to the idea of “self-love” that none of my moral science books did.

While movies were largely producing songs and storylines objectifying, sexualizing and dumbing down women, and I kept looking for those rare gems that actually showed female characters that girls like me could look up to, and this search was a difficult task. As the world is changing, I have great hopes that the next generation of girls can grow up with television shows, books and movies that they can look up to. With movies like Captain Marvel, Wonder Woman, Bird Box, Frozen, Hunger Games and Wild among others, the entertainment industry has managed to produce a considerable pieces of art where strong, powerful and real women are portrayed.

That being said, in the past few months, female led movies and television series have made an outstanding turn. As happy as it makes me, I have also witnessed that these movies and/or series or specific episode of the series are labelled as forced or unreal by a large portion of the audience. I have three examples for the same.There are people who didn’t like Captain Marvel and thought it was too forced and unnecessary, while there was me in the movie theatre crying my eyes out because this was the first marvel movie that I could relate to on a personal level. When Carol realizes that her real superpower is that she is never the one to give up and she always manages to stand up strong no matter how many times she falls down, that hit me on a different level. For most boys or men, they have Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Hulk, Star Lord, Spiderman, Black Panther, Winter Soldier, Falcon and so many more male superheroes portraying different shades of men, and for the girls, we didn’t have many to look up to except for the few great scenes of Black Widow and Scarlett Witch. While I realize that I, being a girl can look up to male superheroes, “representation” plays a great part. I love all the above mentioned characters, but I don’t feel represented, that’s a big difference. Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel are the best and the shiniest gems in the superhero universe, because I felt represented – not just because of their powers, but because of how they showed different shades of women in these larger than life characters.

Many people thought Arya Stark killing Night King was forced. Many thought Jon Snow deserved the kill. The term “deserve” has a great significance here. Why did he deserve to have that kill? Arya Stark is the most skilled assassin in the seven kingdoms and has been training this whole time with the best trainers, why didn’t she deserve the kill? And how is it forced? Why was she training to be the best assassin if her purpose was not to kill the greatest villain on the show? Game of thrones shows some of the most powerful female characters in their own ways. While characters like Arya Stark and Brienne of Tarth are shown as physically skilled and strong, Sansa Stark is politically and intellectually equipped. Likewise, Daenerys and Cersei are shown as fierce, determined and ambitious. These characters have their flaws and their own strengths. However, instead of celebrating these women, they are constantly pitted against one another. I never see the same being done between Jamie Lannister and Jon Snow. Why?

The one scene that stood out the most for me in Avengers Endgame was when Peter Parker gives the infinity gauntlet to Captain Marvel and all the female superheroes come together to help her. That scene made me cry just because of how powerful it was (although I was missing Black Widow in the scene, she is the OG). I was in tears because of the meaning it held for me. There are all these amazing women coming together to help each other – not competing but helping. I was so proud. I was one of the few people hooting in that scene because for many others, it was “too forced and unnecessary”. There are so many times male superheroes get together to help each other out, that’s not forced, why is this?

I am so glad that the next generation of girls will get to grow up watching these kick-ass characters and look up to them. The times are changing.The portrayal of women is changing. But when will the society change?

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