Where are our women superheroes?
Batman has flapped to the top of the charts, with $200-million in his vault. Superman returns next year—it is easy to believe that we are being held hostage by a quango of preening male superheroes.
If little boys have the Bat and the alien that wears turquoise tights, who can little girls admire? I go to the video shop and take four films: Catwoman, Elektra, Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life and Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle. They will have a heroine to send Batman back to his cave for me—won’t they?
My first supergirl is Catwoman.
Patience Philips, played by Halle Berry, is a graphic designer at a cosmetics company. When Patience learns that evil genius Laurel Hedare (Sharon Stone) has designed a new moisturiser to make all Americans ugly, Hedare has her flushed out of a pipe. Patience dies but is reanimated by cats. She meets a guru who says, “Catwomen are not contained by the rules of society. You will often be lonely and misunderstood.’’ I wilt and Catwoman eats tuna.
Catwoman is drippier than a -batcave. She finds a cop boyfriend and looks up at him. She steals a shopful of jewellery and returns it in a bag marked: “Sorry’‘. Doesn’t being a supergirl mean never having to say you’re sorry? Catwoman‘s best friend is the office fatso, an indication Catwoman regards herself as alienated.
She is also thick. Hedare runs rings round her and frames her for murder. Kitty has to sob (to a man!) to be released from jail. My finger trembles over “Eject’’ but relents. Perhaps she’ll have an epiphany.
She doesn’t; she plays it as Rabbit-woman. Although she succeeds in rescuing the world from killer face-cream, as the credits roll the boyfriend is dumped—“You are a good man ... but you live in a world that has no place for me’’—and Patience pads into the moonlight alone. This is not superheroic, it’s a pathetic example of victim behaviour. Shouldn’t a superhero always get a supershag? Even on celluloid, even in 2004, even if you are half cat, you just can’t have the cream.
My next potential idol is Elektra, from the supergirl class of 2005.
Elektra is a reincarnated knife-throwing ninja babe-assassin who can only stab people if she is wearing a red satin bustier. “Legend tells of a warrior—a lost soul,’’ says the voiceover. A pattern is emerging here—a superheroine always has to be lost; she gets good thighs but is denied a map. “It is her destiny to tip the balance of good and evil.’’ Elektra is not only lost, she’s poisoned. Her guru, Terence Stamp, says, “You were poisoned by tragedy.’’ My heart is sinking faster than a megalomaniac tossed off a Gotham roof.
As Elektra battles the evil Hand, a rival ninja sect, we watch her being damaged. It’s very boring, like staring at people doing cardio in the gym.
Elektra has an obsessive—compulsive disorder and likes to arrange bananas and shampoo into rows. She’s bitter—“Nobody tells the truth about themselves’’—and her dialogue is culled from the TV re-runs channel—“My mother died when I was young. I should go. Thanks for dinner.’’ Like Catwoman, Elektra is not super enough to have a functioning relationship.
When she does kiss a man, she panics. “I’m not the kind of person you should get involved with,’’ she wobbles. “Sorry.’’ Exit with daggers, pursued by flying snakes.
Another pattern seems to be emerging. At one point, Hand breathes on Elektra‘s face and gives her spots. Ah, it’s the face-cream that maims again. In Superland, the worse thing you can do to a superwoman (after making her a superwoman) is to give her acne. Elektra triumphs over the evil Hand but, like the Cat, she pays the price. Just two films in, the message to women from Hollywood is squashing my face into the carpet. You want to be a superwoman? Well, tear out your soul and expose your breasts; unhappiness is mandatory and being a miserable bitch vital.
The girls with supernatural powers were unsuper. They were more like alcoholics. So I turn to the girls with superskills, beginning with Lara Croft, as played by Angelina Jolie. Lara is like the girls I was at school with: an ordinary suburban cow who talks like Liz Hurley and lives in leafy commuter-land. Her quest is to find Pandora’s Box, the source of the world’s grief, before evil scientists get hold of it.
Lara drives a motorbike along the Great Wall of China and sky-dives off a bank, but just as I am beginning to relax, The Message pops up. “Do you ever do anything the easy way?’’ asks her colleague. “You’re afraid of letting anyone in,’’ says her lover, who is the sort of man deaf-blind women pick up after a crack binge. Lara shoots him, snivels and strikes the noble superheroine-in-solitude pose. Superwoman can’t have a super relationship or super contentment and the pay-off for her super gift is isolation, loneliness, misanthropy and, eventually, no doubt, super-arthritis.
My quest for superwoman ends with Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle. In scene one the Angels, wearing very small clothes, lay waste a gaggle of cheery Mongolian gangsters. They return to LA, to lie under the heel of Charlie, who is voiced by uber—patriarch John Forsyth. The Angels have to recover some important data for the FBI. I watch as they succeed by lap-dancing, pole-dancing and disco-dancing. They change costumes every 30 seconds and wear aquamarine mascara and, after two hours, the Angels’ state-of-the-art vaginas see off baddie Demi Moore and her tits. It is less heroic than naked; less fabulous than herpes.
My video screams for mercy. My girls-night-out in Superland is over. Under their masks, I saw only sickness; under the corsets only high-quality breast augmentation. Batman has won.—Â