A new study published by the Women’s Media Center and BBC America reveals the need for more diverse superheroes in media.
Titled Superpowering Girls, the report details positive effects of female superheroes and characters in science-fiction programming for girls aged 10-19.
They spoke to 2,431 participants from 3-10 August. Participants included girls and boys aged 10-14 and 15-19, as well as parents of girls and boys aged 5-9.
‘Media tells us our roles in society,’ the report reads. ‘It tells us who we are and what we can be. It frames, interprets and amplifies our policies and politics. It tells us who has power and who matters.’
To start, the report found teen girls feel less brave and confident than their male counterparts. They also don’t feel listened to as much.
In female characters, especially superheroes and those in science-fiction media, however, 9 in 10 girls describe them as positive role models. They also perceive female characters as more powerful than male characters (70% to 60%) as well as smarter (70% to 42%).
These characters inspire multiple positive traits in girls:
- 84% say they make them feel strong
- 81% say they feel braver
- 80% say the characters inspire confidence in them
- 77% also say they feel inspired
- 75% report more positivity
- 74% say the characters motivate them
85% of girls aged 10-19 want more female superheroes and characters in sci-fi, while 88% of parents of girls aged 5-9 want better representation. There is also a majority amongst boys aged 10-19 (69%) and parents of boys aged 5-9 (75%).
For the first time ever, Doctor Who has a female Doctor. In this report, 81% of girls who responded said Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor makes them feel like they can do anything.
Race is also a matter of needed representation for people.
Nearly 3 in 10 black participants listed Black Panther as one of their favorite heroes, compared to only 6% of participants of other races.
Further, 83% of black girls and 82% of black boys want to see more characters that look like them. The same goes for Latinx youth (78% and 74%).
What does this mean for LGBTI representation?
The results show when children see themselves reflected on screen, especially in heroic capacities, there are positive effects.
Given there are positive connotations between gender and race representation, it is likely there would be similar themes for LGBTI representation.
More representation in media could be a good step forward for LGBTI youth, as it is for others.