There's a hero in all of us

Jordan Coleman

Staff Writer

Jennifer Stuller gave a lecture at Whitworth on Nov. 1, presenting her expertise on the representation and quality of “superwomen” within movies, television shows and comics. Stuller is a writer, editor and pop culture critic and historian.

Her presentation focused on the representation of female heroes within cinematic productions and how the journeys they take are connected to women in real life. Her mantra is that “there is a hero in all of us,” and one of the questions she uses to guide her study is “if there’s a hero in all of us, why are all of the heroes in media men?”

Stuller is the co-founder and former director of programming and events for GeekGirlCon, an organization that celebrates every geek and honors the legacy of women who contribute to science and technology; comics, arts, and literature; gameplay and game design, according to GeekGirlCon.com.

Anyone can adopt a geek identity, Stuller said. “It’s obsessive about technology and popular culture.” They combine their passions with their identity politics and are claiming space in spaces where they were not previously allowed within the community.

Geek culture is using its obsession and identity culture politics to push social change, she said.

“They are using the meanings from the stories and applying them to real world issues,” Stuller said. “People are looking for ways to actually do things but they don’t know what to do, so they are getting engaged through these stories that are such a big part of their lives.”

One of the examples she provided is Harry Potter and the leadership qualities he encompasses, initiating people within society to write letters to congress.

Her presentation focused on the representation of female heroes within cinematic productions and how the journeys they take are connected to women in real life. Her mantra is that “there is a hero in all of us,” and one of the questions she uses to guide her study is “if there’s a hero in all of us, why are all of the heroes in media men?”

Female superheroes like Wonder Woman are less prevalent within media than male superheroes such as Superman, Spiderman, Thor, Batman and more, Stuller said.

“When I started studying women heroes in mythology, I noticed that there aren’t many of them,” Stuller said. “They are usually the mothers, stepmothers and less important roles.”

Stuller also addressed the type of women that are typically displayed as superheroes.

“It’s not just the lack of woman superheroes, it’s the lack of diversity in the type of female superheroes we see,” Stuller said. “They are usually seen as one-dimensional and lacking substance or we only see one type of superhero. She is white, thin, able-bodied and heteronormativity culturally attractive.”

Some students who went to Stuller’s lecture found her openness to talking about the female body enjoyable and new.

“I found her opinion on the female body really interesting and intriguing,” junior Sarah Haman said. “I think a lot of people are afraid to talk about female bodies in general, and especially all body types. Her openness and celebration of the body was very refreshing.”

Both senior Phillip Bax and junior Michaela Mulligan said that they have a lot to take away from the lecture and the information they learned from Stuller.

“I think it makes me more critical of media that has female superheroes and analyzing how they’re presented,” Mulligan said. “Learning more about different ways women tend to be presented in cinema and television will help me to be more critical of the media I consume,” Bax said.

Although students had positive reactions to the information that was presented, Haman was concerned about the representation of the school within the audience.

“I found it interesting that Whitworth has an approximate population of 60% women and 40% men and the demographic group that showed up last night did not reflect that percentage,” Haman said. “I think at one point I counted like around 10 or so guys there and all the rest were women.”

Although Whitworth is attempting to diversify the speakers that are brought onto campus, Haman does not think that the entire student body on campus is taking advantage of the opportunities that are being provided.

“I think that’s what’s wrong with this world. That’s what adds to a lack of women being represented correctly because the men don’t show up to these things. I sincerely applaud the men that did show up last night because it was really important for them to be there. Women already know and experience these issues, but I don’t think men do to the same degree and, I saddened to see a group of mostly 85% women there.”

Stuller believes that the movies that incorporate women superheroes need to accurately reflect women because “these stories aren’t just lessons, they serve as potential mentors to us. We deserve to see images of us doing just that.”

In order to improve the situation of pop culture and media distorting the reality of women, Stuller provided advice for how individuals can avoid this phenomena.

“We can’t escape culture but we can have different relationships with culture,” Stuller said. “This is why media literacy is so important because you can understand what we are seeing and think critically.”

As Stuller displayed the handful of superwomen on the screen, the room lit up as the audience was provided with examples of powerful, strong women. Media does not equally reflect or accurately display women in reality, and Stuller proved them wrong. Like Stuller said, “women kick ass.

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