One of the most common responses to women who criticize the lack of prominent, well-written female superheroes is something along the lines of: “Who cares if the main character is a man, as long as the movie is good?” Which is technically true, since movies like Citizen Kane and The Lord of the Rings aren’t any less great for revolving around rich white men (or, in the case of the latter, hobbits), and despite the growing dissatisfaction with TV antiheroes, Tony Soprano, Don Draper and Walter White will always be complex, fascinating characters.
But as much as some people try their damnedest to ignore it or to dismiss it as irrelevant, media representation is a big deal. Consider the explanations studios use to defend their reluctance to release a mainstream superhero movie headlined by a woman:
1) Women can’t carry movies (ahem, Sandra Bullock says hi and go fuck yourself).
2) Women don’t go to see genre movies (indeed, every single person who’s ever gone to any sci-fi, fantasy, action or horror movie is a white male between the ages of 12-25).
3) Catwoman and Elektra sucked, so clearly, female superhero movies just inherently suck (never mind that Daredevil and X-Men Origins: Wolverine, among others, also sucked).
4) It’s too big of a risk (after all, The Hunger Games was a major box office bomb – almost as bad as John Carter!).
5) There aren’t many actresses who are kick-ass enough to pull off action roles (oh, please).
Let’s not forget that time when so-called “fans” of The Hunger Games spewed racist complaints about a character that was explicitly written as black in the source material.
Perhaps most importantly, though, it matters because, as any English teacher will tell you, point- of-view is a vital part of storytelling, if not the most vital part. After all, at their core, stories are about the journeys of characters, their efforts to complete a task, satisfy a desire or overcome an obstacle; who those characters are defines the story’s direction, tone, pacing, ideology, everything. You can’t just choose any random character to be your protagonist, and you can’t change your protagonist without completely changing the story.