Most modern comics were developed to cater primarily to the tastes of teenage boys. Nowhere is that more apearant than if how female heroes and villains are oversexualized in the pages of even the most innocuous superhero fair.
That near constant oversexualization is also one of the main reasons that comics have historically had a difficult time attracting women. Nothing says “not for you” to women faster than a woman with breasts larger than her head and a waist smaller than her thigh.
To be fair, there are many women who enjoy the sexy, exaggerated aesthetic that is prevalent in comics. The number of women that buy those comics, cosplay as those heroes, and even get tattoos of their favorites is undeniable. And male heroes are also unrealistic — it’s just that male heroes designs are generally unrealistic in a way that caters to a male power fantasy — not in a way that is designed to be sexually attractive to women.
But if unrealistic body images from swimsuit and lingerie models can be damaging to girls’ psyches, how much more damaging might images of literally impossible bodies be?
The people at Bulimia.com deicided to show us what superheros would look like if given more realistic and average bodies.
Today, 33.7% of men and 36.5% of women in the U.S. are considered obese, and more than two-thirds are overweight. Weight gain has put millions of people at risk of heart disease, diabetes, and other preventable conditions. Meanwhile, comic books depict vastly different figures: men with massive biceps and shoulders and women with toned abs and tiny waists.
So what would they look like if they reflected more typical body shapes and sizes? We’ve Photoshopped several major comic book characters – not to touch them up, but to make the average hero look more like the average American.
We think the images Bulimia.com produced are good fodder for thought. Should superhero bodies be idealized? And if so, is that ideal sexual attractiveness and availability? Power and strength? Or something else?
As comics move into the mainstream and reach out to women, those are questions that need to be answered.
I’d suggest two routes that make sense: 1) draw men and women like fairly average folks (a la the modifications above), or b) draw inspiration not from porn or fashion models, but elite athletes. Gymnasts, track athletes, swimmers. That’ll cut out a lot of 14-inch waists and triple-H cups on the heroines, but I’m down with that. Show me a Black Widow who looks like a reasonably in-shape person or show me one who looks like the peak of athletic perfection because, story-wise, that makes sense. Logically, neither Batman nor Batgirl would have a beer belly because they’re Olympic-level athletes. I’ll buy that kind of “extraordinariness,” because I’m also comfortable with a world where, I dunno, Louis CK is not gonna get cast as Thor. (Although … what a movie that’d be, huh?)
And draw more ordinary characters with a wider range of body types. Lois Lane may “need” to be “beautiful,” but she doesn’t have to look like a Cosmo cover. And let’s not even get into Amanda Waller …
(And to reiterate, I’m also okay with the super folks lookin’ generally like folks, and even not dressing them in absolutely skintight spandex/leather all the time such that I have to contemplate their undergarment sizing or degree of ab sculpting. Can’t we all just fight crime?)
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