An Analysis of Christopher Bell's "The Importance of Female Superheroes"
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An Analysis of Christopher Bell's "The Importance of Female Superheroes"

How Fiction Becomes Reality for Some but Not for All

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An Analysis of Christopher Bell's "The Importance of Female Superheroes"
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In at 2015 TED Talk Christopher Bell a media professor at Colorado University talks about the importance of female superheroes. Bell begins his speech describing his daughter who is an excellent athlete; he says that she gets her athleticism from his mother who was an all-state soccer player. Bell was a nerd when he was a teenager, so his daughter has a combination of athletics and geekiness which he loves. His daughter loves to dress up as superheroes, but every superhero she dresses up as is male. So he is asking the question, why is there so much access to male superhero merchandise but not female? He explains that there are plenty of female superheroes to make it accessible for them to dress up as. This is caused by what he calls “Public Pedagogy” which is how society is taught ideologies, like learning how to be a man or a woman or how to learn to behave in public. Basically how we learn, what we know about other people, and about the world. Bell continues by saying that America is a 100% media-saturated society, that everything is learned through some form of media. That in American society media doesn’t just exist as information distribution, technologies, and devices. It exists as corporate entities; Bell says that this distribution of information tied to financial gain is a problem, pointing out that in 1983 90% of the American media was owned by 50 companies giving a lot of different worldviews. Now in 2015 it is down to six Comcast, Walt Disney, News Corp, CBS, AOL/Time Warner, and VIACOM. They control 90% of the entire media. He says that “media can’t tell us what to think, but media tell us what to think about, they control the conversation."

He goes into depth about the Walt Disney Company because they have “100% penetration in our society” because we are all exposed to it. Disney has made a killing on the princess toys and dresses they made early on; his daughter doesn’t like any of those princesses she like Princess Lea from Star Wars. So when Lucas Films was bought by Disney in 2012, they flooded the market with merchandise. From Han Solo items to Darth Vader, he was trying to buy a Princess Leia outfit for his daughter, but little to no Princess Leia items out there, they did this because Disney didn’t want to see the original Disney Princesses to lose their “Public Pedagogy.” Disney does this all the time when they bought, Star Wars, then Marvel. Marketing toys along with attire of the new movies to the main male characters but not the women. People keep seeing this and showing their disdain for this sexism they would use different hashtags, like for no Princess Lea merchandise it was #WeWantLeia when Guardian of the Galaxy came out it was #WheresGamora, and then it was #WheresNatasha for the new Avengers movie. The most amazing one was the Avengers Age of Ultron example they had an action figure set called the Cycle Blast Quinjet playset which is based on an Avengers scene were Black Widow (who is a female lead) comes out of a moving Jet on an electric Harley Davidson bike which is awesome. But in the action figure set they didn’t have Black Widow on the bike like in the movie they had Captain America. Because they don’t think any girl would buy it. He also points out that in the next five years that Disney and Warner Brothers are releasing 30 new superhero movies, and only 2 of the 30 will have woman solo leads. There will be sidekicks and love interests in the rest. He says that these companies are teaching these young girls that no matter what you accomplish you will still be left out. He had to say about that, “I'm raising a little girl, and she has a little tomboy in her, which by the way is a terrible thing to call a girl. What that basically is saying is, those traits that define you, they're not really yours, they're just on loan to you for a little while from boys. But do you know how much grief she's going to take in her life for having a little tomboy in her? Zero. None. People will think it's cute. They'll call her feisty, because in our society, adding so-called male traits to girls is seen as an upgrade, seen as a bonus.”

In the end, Bell talked about why having gender-based toys leaves us divided between the sexes. Bell gives an example at the end talking about the “My Little Pony” cartoon show which is marketed to girls, but there are millions of boys and men who watch this show, they even made a club called “Bronies”, guys who like ponies. In this club, they learn to study hard, to work hard, to party hard, to look good, to feel good, and to do good. Which he states why is that a bad thing? I agree with him on that. But boys will be picked on because they watch this stuff. He says that it is starting to become better, like at Target where they will stop segregating toys based on gender. He has a great quote at the end of his presentation which I will conclude with as well because it is just too good. “It’s important that boys play with and as female superheroes just as my daughter plays with and as male superheroes. As a matter of fact, what I would love is a world in which every person who goes to the store goes with a little flowchart in their head of whether or not they should buy this toy for a boy or a girl, and it's a real simple flowchart because it only has one question on it. It says, "Is this toy operated with your genitals?" If the answer is yes, then that is not a toy for children. And if the answer is no, then it's for boys and girls. It's really simple. Because today is about the future of the future, and in my future, boys and girls are equally respected, equally valued, and most importantly, equally represented.” As the new Star Wars: Rogue One movie comes out I'm hoping that Disney learns from their mistakes and gives Jyn Erso apparel out, who is the main led in the movie. That way we don't have to see the hashtag #WheresErso. We should also make superheroes of all genders and races have different body types because most heroes or protagonists are thinner thanE average people are. We should switch it up because everyone does not look the same.


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