Bring on the Lesbian Superheroes in Movies

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One of the interesting things to come out of ClexaCon’s UK popup was the desire, stated by multiple actresses, to play a superhero. In a profession in which actresses can play anything from drug dealers to Victorian queens, cops to single moms, it’s notable that this particular role was mentioned multiple times by lesbian and bisexual actresses.

Then again, it’s also not surprising. Around the world, there is a widespread adoration and veneration of the “hero:” from Greek legends like Perseus and Theseus to Rama in India and Gilgamesh in Sumeria, the hero forms a cornerstone of a society’s cultural foundation.

In modern times, the “superhero” in particular, a fictional crusader in brightly colored spandex with superhuman powers and a civilian alter-ego, has appealed to the public mindset. Superheroes represent the pinnacle of wish fulfillment and living vicariously through a fictional character: they are physically powerful and represent both the individual’s ability to overcome obstacles and the moral triumph of good over evil.

From a career perspective, playing a superhero is full of perks. Actors get to undergo strength and martial arts training to prepare for the role, possibly train in wire work, and embody a character with a pre-existing and dedicated fan base. In the last decade, many (although not all) actors playing iconic superheroes have seen their careers soar. Hoards of children dress up as their characters for Halloween, and they are met by thousands of screaming fans at film premiers.

Often, the role comes as part of a multi-movie package, ensuring a multi-year paycheck potentially worth millions of dollars. Seeing the roaring success of Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman, it’s no wonder that lesbian and bisexual actresses want in on the fun, and their reaction to the casting call for a non-heterosexual actress to play Batwoman reveals just how excited actresses were to play the role: although Batwoman ultimately went to Ruby Rose, many actresses throughout the English-speaking world eagerly threw their hats in the ring.

In the last few years, there has been an explosion of openly lesbian or bisexual superheroes on the small screen: Renee Montoya (The Question), Kate Kane (Batwoman), and Tabitha Talavan (Tigress) on “Gotham,” Karolina Dean (Lucy in the Sky) and Nico Minoru (Sister Grimm) on “Runaways,” Anissa Pierce (Thunder) and Grace Choi on “Black Lightning,” and Sara Lance (Black/White Canary) and Nyssa Raatko (Nyssa al Ghul) on “Arrow” and “Legends of Tomorrow.” On the big screen, we’ve have Negasonic Teenage Warhead and Yukio (Pink Pie) in “Deadpool 2”…and kind of sort of Trini (the Yellow Ranger) in “Power Rangers.”

None of these characters would have been on screen in 2012 or before, when the idea of an LGBT superhero in a blockbuster movie was anathema to Hollywood.

But while the creation of more LGBT superhero roles on TV is a welcome and vast improvement, the real need is for lesbian superheroes on the big screen. Millions of viewers around the globe have watched “Black Panther,” “The Avengers,” and other superhero movies, while the average TV superhero show viewership probably averages in the low millions. A bigger audience means more exposure, something we drastically need, and who better than to fill these roles than lesbian and bisexual women? There are so many gorgeous, talented actresses who would be great in these roles.

If Hollywood doesn’t want to add yet more characters to an already confusing number of superheroes, here are some ladies who have already been on screen who are canonically bisexual in the comics: Valkyrie from “Thor: Ragnarok,” Psylocke from “X-Men: Apocalypse” and the upcoming “Dark Phoenix,” Harley Quinn from “Suicide Squad” and the upcoming “Birds of Prey,” Catwoman, Mystique (who somehow turns up in every X-Men movie), Wonder Woman, and Poison Ivy (who could be in the “Birds of Prey” movie with Catwoman and Batgirl).

If Hollywood wants new characters, comics are full of bisexual (and a few lesbian) super-empowered individuals, including: Miss America, Spider-Woman, Phyla-Vell (a Captain Marvel), Rainmaker, Destiny, Sunfire, Moondragon, Ice Maiden, Donner and Blitzen, Bling, Karma, Knockout, Jackpot, Sunspot, Mirage, Scandal Savage, and the list continues.

Ideally, the superhero would be a well-known and popular one like Wonder Woman, but the likes of Batgirl would work in a pinch. What is important is that lesbians and bisexual women are given a hero to cheer just like our straight counterparts, and straight people are exposed to the idea that not all superheroes are heterosexual.

Sure, we’d prefer that our hero wasn’t sexualized and that her sexual orientation not be exploited for male titillation (it’s easy to see a bisexual Harley Quinn going sideways for representation), but let’s be honest: Hollywood hasn’t figured out how to have female superheroes on the big screen who aren’t dressed for the male gaze.