Powerhouse Women Take Over Superhero Scene

Heroic characters have been a staple of movies and television shows since John Wayne, James Bond, Jason Bourne, Batman, Superman, and more.  However, the tide has turned. More and more women – like Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games, Tris Pryor from Divergent, or Jean Grey from the X-Men franchise in 2019’s Dark Phoenix – are sticking up for themselves and being their own hero, rather than being a damsel in distress and needing a man to save them.  

The entertainment industry has been flooded with an overwhelming number of female heroes ever since 1977 thanks to the introduction of Princess Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) in Star Wars: A New Hope.  CHC Upper School students and alumni alike love the character of Leia and Carrie Fisher’s brilliant portrayal.  Princess Leia stands out to Taisho Miller (‘19) because she is “the only hands-on leader in Rebellion and ended up building the new Republic.”  Alumnus Patrick Jones (‘18) thinks that she is a “well-written and strong character that feels human and real.” Ty Boyle (‘21) also talked about Princess Leia, saying that if the character was not in the Star Wars saga, the movies “would lack a breath of fresh air and be more formulaic.”  He also shared that “only someone like Carrie Fisher could bring so much fire and bravado to a character like Leia.” The Princess-turned-General plays a central role in Star Wars Episodes IV-VIII and recent additions to the Star Wars universe like Rey (Daisy Ridley), Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran), and Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) increase the presence of female heroes within the franchise.  Whether it is training to become a Jedi, invading enemy territory, or delivering vital plans, all of these women contribute to the mission and help save the day from the First Order and the Empire.

Within the DC comics-based movies, Warner Brothers’ Wonder Woman was a smash hit for the studio, raking in $819 million in the box office in 2017.  In the film, Diana Prince – aka Wonder Woman, played by Israeli actress Gal Gadot – was created specifically by Zeus, the king of the gods, to defend the world from evil.  The movie was the first attempt in the entertainment industry at a solo film for a female superhero and it was immensely successful. A sequel for the movie is coming in November 2019, titled Wonder Woman: 1984, and Gal Gadot is assumed to lead the rest of the DC Universe’s movies in the future.  However, after the recent speculation surrounding Henry Cavill and Ben Affleck’s returns as their characters Superman and Batman, respectively, it remains to be seen whether Gal Gadot will follow suit with her Justice League castmates or embrace her role completely.

In the CW’s universe of DC comics-based shows, Supergirl, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, and Black Lightning all have strong powerful women that play characters who set an example for the world and represent all types of sexuality, religion, and race.  Melissa Benoist plays the title character on Supergirl, aka Kara Danvers.  Throughout the previous three seasons of the show, Supergirl has fought against alien invasions and crooked businessmen while providing a moving coming-out story for her adoptive sister, Alex Danvers (Chyler Leigh), and tackling controversial issues like equal pay in the workplace, gun violence, immigration.  In DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, White Canary, aka Sara Lance, (Caity Lotz) is the leader of a band of time traveling misfits that try to save the world and protect the timeline.  Sara’s bisexuality is made known throughout the series, but rather than being defined by her sexuality, it is only one part of who she is as a woman, and as a hero, which she does without any superpowers.  Zari Tomaz (Tala Ashe) is a recent addition to the team and the show incorporates her Islamic faith similarly to Sara’s bisexuality. These unique factors make them stronger characters and more accurate representations of women from across the globe.  On Black Lightning, Nafessa Williams and China Anne McClain play sisters Anissa and Jennifer Pierce whose alter egos are Thunder and Lightning.  Black Lightning mainly focuses on their father Jefferson (Cress Williams) and his journey as the titular hero, but Thunder and Lightning are heroes just as much as he is.  The girls save Black Lightning many times when he is in danger, and they all work together as a team and as a family to stop the enemy.

Moving to characters from the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), there is a plethora of female heroes, including Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), Shuri (Letitia Wright), Wasp (Evangeline Lilly), Okoye (Danai Gurira) and the Dora Milaje, the group of women that protect King T’Challa in Black Panther.  Phoebe More’s (‘21) favorite hero is Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson)  from Thor: Ragnarok because “she’s not perfect or really a hero, but she ends up saving people.”  Phoebe also noted that Thompson is perfect for the role because she is “an example of representation (because she’s not white)” and that the actress has even mentioned how she does not necessarily see her character as straight.  Izzy Myers (‘22) shared that she loves Scarlet Witch’s powers and how she was one of the only heroes with the ability to stop Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War.  However, before she could stop the Mad Titan, he obtained all six Infinity Stones and eliminated half of the universe.  Izzy added, “If Scarlet Witch hadn’t been in the movie, he would’ve won a lot quicker” and she played a critical role in delaying his victory.

In July 2018, Marvel Studios took a large step in promoting equality within its universe when it released Ant-Man and the Wasp.  This was the first movie that the studio produced that featured a woman in the title, and the lead actors Paul Rudd (Ant-Man) and Evangeline Lilly (the Wasp) share top billing.  During an interview promoting the new film, Lilly described how her “ambition was to have a superhero character that was feminine while also being incredibly strong.” She continued, saying, “It’s very easy to make the mistake of wanting to make a powerful female character and by virtue of that desire imbue her with the characteristics of masculinity. I really believe that that is a disservice to the true power of femininity in the world. Femininity often gets a bad rap, where it’s considered useless or weak, but I believe it’s very powerful.”  Lilly is scheduled to return in Avengers 4 in May 2019.

Though Ant-Man and the Wasp was a successful film for Marvel Studios, it took ten years and nineteen other movies before reaching this milestone.  2019’s Captain Marvel is set to build upon the progress made by Ant-Man and the Wasp and be another big achievement for Marvel Studios.  Captain Marvel stars Oscar-winning actress Brie Larson in a 1990s adventure as the lead protagonist and is the first true solo female superhero movie in the MCU.  The movie also features fan-favorite characters like Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) as digitally de-aged versions of their characters from the present.  Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige said that Captain Marvel is “more powerful than any character we’ve introduced thus far,” leading Marvel fans and theorists to speculate that she will have a vital role in defeating Thanos once and for all in Avengers 4.  After watching the first trailer for the movie, Izzy Myers (‘22) said that Captain Marvel “looks like a combination of Scarlet Witch and Superman” and that she will be a “very believable character.”  Phoebe More (‘21) said that she is “really, really excited for the movie!”

The wave of female heroes across pop culture has been overwhelmingly positive and it seems like Captain Marvel will meet the bar set by Star Wars, Wonder Woman, and Ant-Man and the Wasp and exceed expectations, making an outstanding movie.  Patrick Jones (‘18) said that “as long as Captain Marvel is a believable character that has flaws while still being strong,” the movie will be successful.  Ty Boyle (‘21) mentioned that Captain Marvel “doesn’t seem like a normal Marvel movie” and he is looking forward to seeing it in theaters.  Based on the anticipation for the film, it is certain that Captain Marvel will be another hit for Marvel Studios.


  • Season two of Black Lightning premieres on The CW on Tuesday, October 9, 2018 at 9/8c.  


  • Season four of Supergirl starts on The CW on Sunday, October 14, 2018 at 8/7c.  


  • DC’s Legends of Tomorrow begins its fourth season on The CW on Monday, October 22, 2018 at 9/8c.  


  • Captain Marvel is in theaters March 8, 2019 and the trailer is available here.  


  • Avengers 4 comes to theaters shortly afterward on May 3, 2019.  


  • Dark Phoenix will be in theaters June 7, 2019, and the trailer can be viewed here.


  • Wonder Woman: 1984 is scheduled for release in November 2019.