My Favorite Superhero(ine)

I want to preface this article by saying that I really enjoyed The Avengers, and I in fact enjoyed the whole series leading up to it. I am a huge comic book movie fan, having seen every one of note made in my lifetime except for Spiderman 3 and Ghost Rider 2… for what I consider obvious reasons. I even sat through Elektra and Catwoman. I always keep an eye out for the women in superhero movies — Pepper Potts, Sif — because I am ever so tired of women in refrigerators and because damn it, I’m a woman, and when is it going to be my turn to have someone to look up to?

Maria Hill, perhaps because she’s badass without being a secretary (even though she’s sort of a second in command type, I’m okay with that because there’s a distinction between being a vital part of an organization and Batman’s Robin) or vamp (I love Black Widow, but she very much plays into female stereotypes and as neat-o as Anne Hathaway’s Catwoman is, so does she). She’s simply what she is, and without ignoring her gender isn’t ruled by it. I love that, and Cobie Smulders (by the way, when I first saw her surname I thought someone was joking with the image title) does a fantastic job there.

I know that in the comics, she’s got a strong backstory that I might not be as enthused with. The issues with registration, the problems with Fury, fine. I haven’t read any of the superhero comics in any kind of serious way — at most I’ve flipped through the the Civil War series, because when I read comics I prefer the Charmed stuff, the Constantine: Hellblazier series, or Witchblade, mostly because I feel like I can actually follow the storyline instead of jumping into the middle of a morass, the way it feels most superhero stuff is structured.

But while I like comics, I’m not a purist. I like superhero movies, I’m a big fan of superhero movies, I don’t really care all that much about what she was in the comics and but they changed her from what she ought to be!. What I care about is how the characters appear on screen.

Maria Hill’s screen time was awesome. I mean, it was the Avengers, sure. Everybody’s screen time was awesome. The theater erupted into cheers at the HULK SMASH moment and heaven knows I laughed when Cap and Iron Man went at it. But it’s Cobie Smulder’s performance I keep coming back to, because the character of Maria Hill quite honestly blew me away. I’ve never looked at a woman in a superhero movie and had her resonate with me before. I want to grow up to be Maria Hill. I want to be that badass, that trusted, that in charge, that on a level playing field, that competent, that calm, cool, and collected.

Heck, I’m barely even articulate about why I like her so much. I love that she starts out in a fairly typical “female backup/sidekick” role, at first glance. She’s the administrative version of Coulson, except she’s not — the more I think about it, the more I realize that she’s the military version of Coulson. She runs the hovership, she fights, she commands. She wears a uniform, not a suit, and if it’s a fairly form-fitting jumpsuit, you know what? That’s okay, it doesn’t sexualize her or make her look ridiculous or patently interfere with her ability to do her job the way a spandex or leather suit would. It’s a sleep jumpsuit, no more annoying to me than any other Holywood version of a futuristic uniform.

If I could be any superhero, it would be her… and she’s not even a superhero. But you know what? I don’t care — Tony Stark doesn’t have any special “powers” and neither does Batman. I’m okay with Maria Hill just being awesome.

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One thought on “My Favorite Superhero(ine)

  1. Hi Eleanor,

    We often forget or overlook that many women throughout history, and in these current times, have possessed and do possess courage and are willing to make sacrifices for the greater good. (Women have played critically important roles in some of the turning points of history.) Women have made and continue to make valuable contributions to society. Sounds obvious, but sometimes is overlooked or even triviialized.

    For what it is worth, coming from a man, I think that the new Sue Storm of the ultimate Fantastic Four is an impressive super-heroine. Best, Larry

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