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Male Athletes Became Action Stars, Can We Do The Same For Female Ones?

Entertainment

Male Athletes Became Action Stars, Can We Do The Same For Female Ones?

Male Athletes Became Action Stars, Can We Do The Same For Female Ones?

From top to bottom and left to right in descending order by height: Dwayne Johnson (6’5), Arnold Schwartzenegger (6’2), Samuel L. Jackson (6’2), Will Smith (6’2), Keanu Reeves (6’1), Jean-Claude Van Damme (5’10), Sylvester Stallone (5’10), Bruce Lee (5’8).

You might instantly picture one of these men when you imagine “action star” or “action hero”. For decades, Hollywood has helped create an image of the ideal male action star: he’s tall, often stoic, athletic, and ruggedly handsome. He’s the kind of man that most men wish they could be, and many people desire. Against all odds, he traverses rooftops, engages in car and foot (and in the case of Keanu Reeves as John Wick, even horse) chases, fights hand-to-hand, shoots guns, and awesomely walks away from explosions they are almost always sure to be the cause of. And yes, action movies are usually (if you really think about it) incredibly absurd and wildly unrealistic, but seeing these built dudes often helps the audience suspend their disbelief, for if anyone could do these things, surely it would be men who look like them.

Historically, Hollywood scouted out athletes and bodybuilders such as Arnold Schwartzenegger and Dwayne Johnson or martial artists like Jean-Claude Van Damme simply because they were already fully equipped to handle the action sequences and intense stuntwork to sell their belivabiliy. In the case of Johnson, his pre-established fame as The Rock also helped bring fan appeal to his projects on top of his impressive height and physique. Others like Will Smith and Keanu Reeves were not necessarily brought onto the scene out the gate to be action stars, but instead became molded into them, depending on who you ask.

With the male action stars presented here we get a clear picture, most of them are above average height at the very least and all look like they can kick your ass. Bruce Lee is the shortest on this list, and he’s not alone if you throw in folks like Tom Cruise, but his shredded build and iconic martial arts prowess helped cement him as one of the most iconic action stars in all of film history either way. And Lee and Cruise are not exactly the norm. With varying degrees of believability and athleticism, it seems like the majority of male action stars are about 5’10 and above. Once again, their height helps suspend disbelief. Most anyone can train and eventually look like a superhero, also train their acting to improve those skills, but height is something people either have or don’t. Hollywood seems pretty clear on male action heroes and casting accordingly, or at least has.

Action Girls in Film

From top to bottom and left to right in descending order by height: Uma Thurman (5’11), Karen Gillian (5’11), Sigourney Weaver (5’10), Charlize Theron (5’10), Milla Jovovich (5’9), Pam Grier (5’8), Zoe Saldana (5’7). Michelle Yeoh (5’4).

Much like in society in real life, women in action movies are fundamentally treated differently. It seems that, for the most part, Hollywood prioritizes female sex appeal before they worry about actual toughness even when casting for action movies. They feel the girls have to appeal to men first and foremost which means not being too threatening. She can be tall, but she can also be short. She can have some level of musculature, but it can’t be too much or you’ll scare men away. I have love and respect for almost every woman on this list, but I am also saddened by the fact that women athletes are not nearly as recruited or given chances for film acting roles or superhero roles the way men have been. Hollywood likes to play into the idea that women “too tall” or “too fat” or “too buff” can’t be desirable, or can’t lead blockbusters. It all seems so very formulaic and calculated, and quite frankly it’s utter bullshit. There is more than enough room for women who look like the ones above, but also ones who look like pro wrestlers.

Now, of the women on the list, a lot of them definitely look like they can kick your ass and have good training. Uma definitely takes the cake in terms of height, which at 5’11 isn’t wildly tall, but is still above average and impressive, and body tone. Like Bruce Lee before her, Yeoh is the shortest but more than makes up for it with sheer skill and acting ability. Pam Grier is about average height, but I had to include her for the sheer fact that not enough people give her the credit she is owed for being the first female action star. Sigourney, Charlize, and Milla always impress with their acting chops and their incredible action work. The standout here is Saldana, who I already don’t love due to her playing Nina Simone when she shouldn’t have. When she played Columbiana, she just didn’t look all that intimidating, physically. Her rifle looked about as big as she was and it was very hard to believe she could handle heavy weaponry. Playing Gamora, it seems like she might have trained/slightly bulked up, a la Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman (more on her later), but it might also be the makeup and wardrobe that helped make her look tougher.

All of this is not to say that skinnier or shorter people can’t kick ass, but action is meant to make people see and believe in the impossible and unattainable. If someone doesn’t look particularly tough and is meant to be an action star or a superhero, it’s hard to buy any of it could ever be real.

Superhero Casting

A superheroine height chart someone created. Mind you, it’s inaccurate as hell but is still a fun visual. Left to right: Molly Hayes from the Runaways, Wonder Girl (Cassie Sandsmark), Rogue of the X-Men, Power Girl, She-Hulk, Mary Marvel, Supergirl, and Wonder Woman.

What is more wild and action-packed than superheroes? Superhero comics have been around for a very long time and, like action heroes, also serve as the pinnacle of what we might hope to be. Superpowers, cool costumes, fame, sometimes fortune (depending on the character), and a larger-than-life persona, superheroes typically share in common the kinds of things some of us can only dream of. Like the action heroes mentioned before, and many of the same ones playing some superheroes, Hollywood ideally people who are at least somewhat reminiscent of the characters from the comics to be adapted. Dwyane Johnson is soon to play Black Adam, Samuel L. Jackson plays Nick Fury in the MCU, etc. And while some castings for female superheroes have been decent, others are somewhat baffling. More often than not, they mostly cast pretty faces with no real regard for athletic ability or a pre-established ability to accurately sell the idea that this woman will absolutely kick your ass, and you having no prayer of a chance of doing anything about it.

Some action and superhero films have helped lead to the believability of the effectiveness of otherwise slim women in these roles by showing specific tactics, such as using their opponent’s body mass and size against them, using acrobatics and speed far surpassing the people they’re fighting, or, in some cases, simply being stronger. It is important to note that not all superheroes or even female superheroes all have the same athletic build. There are some characters who even in the comics look average at best, or downright scrawny. But superpowers are the ultimate equalizer, or rather unfair advantage depending on the power. It all depends on who you are and what you do: are you a fighter? Do you use ranged attacks? Do you physically transform into a bigger, stronger version of yourself? Are you a strategizer or a brute? As we look at some specific heroines, we will see the people cast to portray them in live action and how they measured up (or didn’t), by the time the finished products were released. Some of the women in each example never actually got to play these characters, but were (or are) fan-casted and desired, or were great examples of what could have been.

Wonder Woman

From left to right: Wonder Woman in the comics, Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman, Lucy Lawless as Xena, the wrestler Chyna, Adrienne Palicki as Wonder Woman, and Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman.

I don’t think many people can argue with the fact that Wonder Woman is the most recognizable female superhero of all time. She transcends generations and is known by almost everyone, even if they have never experienced a story with her in it. There have been many depictions of this character but almost all of them share the same thing in common: she is incredibly strong, and is a woman who doesn’t shy away from womanhood (aside from the gender-bent comic versions where she is a man). Despite not getting her solo blockbuster film until 2017, only one successful live-action tv series in the 70s, and a solo video game only finally upcoming at the time of this posting, she is still widely recognized and beloved.

Diana is also a character who has been designed to look very differently at many points in her comics history. She is usually tall but has not always been clearly depicted as such. She is somewhere between chiseled and modelesque but has leaned heavily in one direction or the other depending on the artist. Artists also go back and forth as to whether she wears high heels or flats. But for the sake of simplicity, we will go with the height of the character as of DC Rebirth, the current continuity, which states she is 6’2. This is not an unreasonable height for the world’s most famous superheroine and the princess of the Amazons.

Lynda Carter was the first noteworthy portrayal of Diana in live action at 5’9. It’s not 6’2, but it is also not clear what Diana’s height would have been at that earlier period in the comics in 1975. Given how she was depicted at the time, beautiful but slim, Carter was a decent choice. There was also Ellie Wood Walker in 1967 who played her in a failed pilot, and Cathy Lee Crosby (a blonde) who played her in a tv film based on Wonder Woman’s time as a powerless spy. I thought I would mention them so that people knew about them too, but we focus mostly on the versions closer to the beloved versions of the character.

Lucy Lawless was famous for playing Xena, who was very similar to Wonder Woman and many people wanted to see her play the actual Diana in a film. At 5’10 and already a beloved action star, even for tv, she would have been an amazing choice. The WWF professional wrestler Chyna (R.I.P.) was one of the closest people to share a comics-accurate build in common with the modern, true warrior Wonder Woman we recognize today, first established in 1985 by George Perez in the DC Pre-Flashpoint/Pre-52/Post Crisis On Infinite Earths continuity. Even Lawless, with the same height, lacked the body tone and musculature of Chyna (though Lawless still looked tough and like she could kick your ass). While Lawless would have been the superior actress of the two, Chyna could have received acting lessons and coaching to help bring the character to life. But alas, neither of them got the chance.

Adrienne Palicki, known for such tv roles as Mockingbird/Bobbi Morse on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and her role in the G.I. Joe sequel is no stranger to action and was definitely not a bad choice to play Wonder Woman at 5’11. Yes, we could have done more to bulk her up a bit more, but she might have done a fantastic job if her pilot for the show had been picked up. Despite a few misguided choices for the planned series, it, and she, had potential and could have improved with the right direction. But for our first and thus far only blockbuster film we have Gal Gadot. At 5’10. she shares the same height as Lawless and Chyna. Gadot herself is a veteran member of the Israeli armed forces and was also considered for Faora in Man of Steel before having to turn it down due to pregnancy. Beautiful and good with action, it makes sense why she was cast, but unfortunately she is not the best actress. Also, despite her military background, Gadot had been known for her role in the Fast & Furious films, as Giselle, who was skinny as hell. Gadot put on muscle in training to be Diana, but it still pales in comparison to the warrior of the comics. That coupled with less than ideal acting, a director who didn’t understand what makes the character work, a shoehorned romance that would define her character in her films, the fact that this was the New 52 daughter of Zeus version, and her sequel bombing with audiences, this was ultimately a weird mixed bag. Aspects of Gadot and her films were inspired, but a lot just didn’t work. Here’s hoping that in the future we get teams, and casting directors who know and love the character and can cast someone who looks like an actual warrior princess.

She-Hulk

Left to right: She-Hulk (6’7), Tatiana Maslany (5’4), Jameela Jamil (5’10), and D’Arcy Carden (5’10).

She-Hulk has finally received the live action treatment, thanks to a series on Disney +. Even more than Wonder Woman, she is a character who is known for her height, standing at a whopping 6’7 (though I also feel like she would be taller, at least 7 or 7 1/2. Something more impossible). The sources I checked indicate that Jennifer Walters, She-Hulk’s human persona, is about 5’10. Above average, but not impossible. While many know and love Maslany’s acting, why on Earth would the MCU cast someone at only 5’4 to play someone like She-Hulk? You might be wondering, why does it matter what Jennifer’s height is if she transforms to become the taller, stronger, greener She-Hulk? The problem is the very first impression we got of the character in that disastrous first trailer, was ridiculed by social media. She-Hulk, a CGI mess, had proportions that didn’t make sense and was designed to look extra slim, though still tall as hell, despite being known to be at least very toned in the comics. And it wasn’t even like they had to contend with who they cast… the actual superhero persona was designed, deliberately, to look that way. Even though we contend with the Hulk being CGI, was it really necessary that his cousin also be as well, especially if the end result looked like that?

This is why some fans lament the fact that Jameela Jamil, at 5’10, is playing antagonist Titania instead of She-Hulk herself. With some good makeup, body paint, and practical effects, She-Hulk could have been set apart from her cousin. She also deserved to be the sole Hulk to retain her human intelligence and personality in super form, but the MCU had to give us ‘Professor Hulk’ in Endgame and stick with it, which utterly annihilates what made She-Hulk unique in the first place, but that’s neither here nor there.

Another great choice for Jen could have been D’Arcy Carden, former co-star with Jamil on The Good Place. Her height in Amazon Primes’s A League of Their Own series was noticeably higher than her co-stars. It also would have been hilarious to see Janet fighting Tahani from The Good Place. We should also mention Bridgette Nielsen who nearly played She-Hulk in Lou Ferringo’s live-action Hulk tv movie The Death of The Incredible Hulk. Nielsen is a staggering 6’1. Yes the promo images of her as She-Hulk were… fascinating… but she is by far the tallest and the casting people understood that She-Hulk should realistically be tall.

Catwoman

From left to right: Catwoman (5’7), Julie Newmar (5’11), Halle Berry (5’5), Zoe Kravitz (5’2), Lee Meriweather (5’9), Eartha Kitt (5’4), Michelle Pfeiffer (5’7), Anne Hathaway (5’8).

Catwoman is a somewhat tricky character. Sometimes a villain, sometimes indifferent, other times an anti-hero, but always a fun-loving badass, she can go many different ways depending on who is using her character. Like Wonder Woman, she is one of the most recognizable characters in all of fiction and is the most enduring love interest to one of the most famous and beloved superheroes of all time. She is fun, charming, complex, thrill-seeking, and sometimes morally ambiguous. She is also drop-dead gorgeous and tough as hell due to being Gotham’s finest cat burglar who has to stay ahead of Batman and the police.

I had no idea Julie Newmar was 5’11. That’s quite impressive. Much like Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman in the ’70s, Newmar, Kitt, and Meriweather played a version of Catwoman in the earlier days who might not have been characterized by musculature. Her body type was just fine for the character at the time and she remains iconic for her work. Meriweather, just shy a couple of inches from Newmar, served her purpose for the tv film, with some fans not even noticing the change of actress. Kitt, while much shorter than the others and visibly different as she was Black, was iconic and by far had the best voice for Catwoman of the three. The most important takeaway is that at the time, there really was no established height or build for Catwoman, save she was petite and shorter than Batman.

While Selena even in the modern comics isn’t exactly She-Hulk or Wonder Woman, she is depicted with far more fitness than before. Michelle Pfeiffer’s take on the character was so far removed from anything we’d ever seen in the comics, yet remains the most popular film version even today. Standing at 5’7 she wasn’t particularly tall, but not painfully short either. Many sources I found state that Selina is 5’7 in the comics, which may or may not have to do with Pfeiffer’s iconic portrayal. Halle Berry would play the much-criticized version of the character, but since she was not actually Selina Kyle, her height not matching is inconsequential. But while she was not the same Catwoman, she was still a superhero, just as she was when she played Storm (more on that later). While many of us love and adore Halle Berry, not a lot of people talk about how she’s miscast in her superhero roles due to being too short. Well, I suppose for Catwoman, the heels helped. In speaking of heels, we have Anne Hathaway and Zoe Kravitz. Some fans love them and those who didn’t love them as the character. At least Hathaway has the sheer acting chops to pull off her scenes, while Kravitz struggled with her more emotional scenes. Also, Hathaway is 5’8, just an inch taller than her comic counterpart, while Kravitz is a whopping 5’2. Given how vocal she was about how wrong Will slapping Chris was, which was a slap and not a beatdown (seriously, everyone chill the hell out), I’m happy to admit that I found her portrayal largely underwhelming aside from her body language and looks.

But at the end of the day, do any of these women seem like they trained extensively in martial arts and conditioned their bodies to prowl rooftops and do impossible flips and acrobatics? No. The important thing was that they looked good, could even somewhat act, and added to the chemistry with their Batmen (except for Halle, there was no Batman there). With varying degrees of success, they all accomplished that, but here’s hoping someday that another Catwoman actually looks like the athlete she is.

Barbara Gordon

From left to right: Barbara Gordon aka Oracle/formerly Batgirl (5’11), Yvonne Craig (5’4), Alicia Silverstone (5’5), Dina Meyer (5’7), Savannah Welch (5’6), Leslie Grace (5’6).

Barbara Gordon, often known as Batgirl, sometimes called Oracle, is another iconic member of the Batman Family. Sources claim she is 5’11, which seems odd since Catwoman is said to be 5’7 and I don’t see Babs being so much taller than Selina, but I digress. Yvonne, like others before her, played a version of the character that appeared in earlier days when physicality wasn’t as obvious or blatant, unless it was. But for a lot of female characters at the time, it wasn’t. So Craig is fine for her portrayal aside from the fact that Babs is a natural redhead in the comics and didn’t wear a wig as Batgirl. But worse than Craig was Silverstone. Being renamed Barbara Wilson, for instead of being Commissioner Gordon’s daughter, she was now Alfred Pennyworth’s maternal niece (as in these films Gordon was not important, but Alfred was). She was blonde like Silverstone and for the vast majority of her appearance, she wore a domino mask, a la Robin, instead of a cowl a la Batman. Needless to say, many fans ridicule this version.

Dina Meyer was the first actress to play Barbara Gordon as Oracle, which she did as a regular in the short-lived but campy fun, and delightfully bad Birds of Prey tv series from 2000. A lot of the show didn’t work, but she did. She was ripped right from the comics, looked just like the character, acted like her, felt like her, and sounded the way one imagined she might sound. Meyer even dressed up in a rather decent Batgirl suit for the pilot backstory flashback sequences and an episode she walks again and wears the suit. She was convincing as both Batgirl and Oracle. Savannah Welch would be the next and latest actress to play a version of Oracle (though they didn’t call her… I’ll stop talking to avoid spoilers, but it’s rather odd), but she was the new commissioner much like she had been in Batman Beyond (but this Babs is still young). Welch perfectly encapsulated all of the qualities that make Babs who she is in the wheelchair and had great chemistry with Dick Grayson which made me, a longtime Dick and Babs shipper, very happy. The real issue was that the season had way too much Gotham and Babs was a cop now, and as I’ve said before, no more copaganda. Leslie Grace was cast as Babs and Batgirl in her first live-action film, but the project was recently canceled. While some report the film might have been a little rough, Grace and fans overall deserved the chance to see the film and decide for themselves, so it’s rather fucked up that this new man in charge at Warner is doing stuff like this out the gate and hiring more and more cishet white men in decision-making roles.

But overall, it seems that while Babs Gordon may or may not be a little tall, her casting tends to be shorter or average at best. Maybe one day if we ever get another Batgirl movie that gets to see the light of day, they cast someone who looks like a superhero, whether she runs rooftops or ends up in a wheelchair, or both. Note that even when Babs was Oracle, she was still once Batgirl and had that physique and capability. She still had dat body and could mess fools up with a martial art called escrima, which uses batons and one’s arms. So even if we do Oracle and not Batgirl or Batgirl becomes Oracle in a future project, she should still look and be badass.

Harley Quinn

Clockwise: classic comics Harley Quinn (5’7), Margot Robie (5’6), Lady Gaga in promo teaser for Joker sequel (5’1).

Harley Quinn, who is my age as we both first appeared in 1992, is a gymnast, among other things. The comics’ image shows a woman who looks like she has the muscle tone and physical training for gymnastics. Margot Robie, bless her heart, does not look like a gymnast. Lady Gaga, who I adore, also does not look like a gymnast, though time and training could change that, but is a shocking 5’1. I don’t know anything about gymnastics or how tall a gymnast ought to be, but I found this height difference interesting nonetheless. At least this ain’t Desperate Housewives and a short woman is masquerading as a runway model. Harley’s height isn’t as important as, say, Wonder Woman or She-Hulk’s, but it would still be nice if Gaga could or would work on those moves and get that training.

Storm

Clockwise: Halle Berry (5’5), Kiki Layne (5’9), Storm (5’11), Dominique Jackson (6’1). Yetide Badaki (5’3-5;4), Alexandria Shipp (5’6).

Storm is a character I feel not a lot of people understand because there is so much to her. She is tall, regal, graceful, badass, measured, but fierce underneath it all. More than her being a goddess, she is a fighter. She is brilliant, clever, and an excellent leader. An actress worth her salt (which Halle Berry always was) must be paired with writers and creatives who understand and love the character (which Bryan Singer and the FOX team never were). Most people understandably agree that lighter-skinned biracial actresses Halle Berry and Alexandria Shipp were examples of colorism. While true, it is also true that Berry was not the first choice. Angela Bassett was the first choice but turned the role down. At the time she couldn’t have known how much the superhero genre would blow up and envigorate peoples’ careers. At the time it was a huge risk and flops as Spawn and Steel had already happened. And while Bassett is 5’4 and an inch shorter than Berry, she is at least darker and has had quite the arms and physique, famously, since playing Tina Turner. Shipp is even more egregious casting, for Berry was the next big Black actress at the time of her casting after Bassett turned the role down, but Shipp had already been the title role in the Aaliyah biopic flop. Worse yet, she showed an utter lack of awareness when people pointed out the colorism of hers and Berry’s castings. Her hopeless and pathetic battles with Black Twitter have made it impossible for the MCU to cast another light-skinned biracial or mixed person to play the character, at least not without immediate and decisive backlash.

Before Shipp was cast, people wanted Lupita N’yongo. But now she’s playing Nakia in the MCU. Others want Kiki Layne, who is dark-skinned and a very talented actress. She is also young and can grow into the role with repeated appearances. At 5’9 she is much closer to the real Storm’s height, and with the necessary training, she can look more like her too in terms of physicality. Another person fans want, and whose actress would love to play is Yetide Badaki of American Gods fame. She too is darker and more so resembles the character. The only real issue is that she is rather short at 5’4, but it’s likely her performance can overshadow this, especially if she trains and manages to pull off some sweet fighting moves. Finally, many fans also agree that Dominique Jackson is a great choice for her skin tone, stature, reality, and fierce energy. It would also be a welcome thing to have a trans actress play such an iconic role, whereas cishet actors get to play what they choose. However, if going by her biggest role as Electra in Pose, while a delight and a fan favorite, Jackson fits roles that are more extroverted and expressive, and delightfully over the top. Storm is subtle and understated because she literally has to be: her powers are controlled by her emotions and if she expresses too much at once, she can destroy the earth. If Jackson can demonstrate subtly and restraint, she would be epic, but as we’ve seen her, it just isn’t a match as is.

Either way, we need a Storm who is dark-skinned and can pull off regality, gentleness, fierceness, and toughness. Though she doesn’t fight all the time hand-to-hand, she absolutely can and will. She needs to look like she can and will wreck someone in a fist fight. Because is utterly capable of doing just that.

Black Widow & Scarlet Witch

From left to right: Black Widow (5’7), Scarlett Johansson (5’5). Scarlet Witch (5’7), Elizabeth Olsen (5’6).

Two iconic Avengers, sources state that both Black Widow and Scarlet Witch are 5’7. Widow always came across as taller to me, but I digress. For Widow, Scarlett Johansson is only a couple of inches shorter, but I wish that they had cast someone who looked slightly tougher. A deadly super spy, Natasha should look pretty intimidating, and I’m sorry, but that is not a word I associate with Scarlett Johannson. As for Wanda, she is the perfect example of when I said that it all depends on what you do. While comics’ Wanda was trained to fight by Cap, she is not about to throw punches as a first resort. Olsen is merely an inch shorter than the real Wanda and captures what she needs to: she’s really pretty, she’s mysterious, mystical, with an anger streak, and the capacity for extreme love, loyalty, and cruelty. Wanda does not look jacked the way classic Black Widow does, because the type of training she does for her skillset is not physical.

Elektra

Clockwise: Elektra Natchios (5’9), Jennifer Garner (5’8), Elodie Yung (5’7).

Elektra, like Black Widow, is a very deadly and physical character. Her core traits are that she’s hot, she’s pretty, and she can, and very likely will, beat the ever-living shit out of you and maybe kill you too if she feels like it. Jennifer Garner was in her bag when she was on Alias, and it was that role that made her casting in the Daredevil film make perfect sense. Though her role in Alias was more reminiscent of Black Widow, down to being a spy, Elektra still made sense for her. Due to her years of kicking ass on her show, it was a mostly effortless feat for audiences to suspend their disbelief for her as the iconic assassin.

Elodie Yung was a somewhat different story for some. While she previously did action roles such as Jinx in the G.I. Joe sequel, she wasn’t as recognizable as Garner. Some loved her take on Elektra and welcomed the added diversity, but others felt her storyline and characterization were muddled. The ‘Black Sky” storyline was a particularly sour note for many. But above all, she did a fine job selling the action sequences, even if she was a bit skinny when compared to the character from the comics. But both women did great and their castings made sense. They were also pretty close in height to the real Elektra.

The Other Women of the Defenders: Misty Knight, Colleen Wing, Jessica Jones, and Hellcat

From left to right: Misty Knight (5’9), Simone Missick (5’4), Colleen Wing (5’9), Jessica Jones as Jewel (5’7), Kristen Ritter (5’9), Hellcat (5’8), Rachael Taylor (5’8).

Some interesting parallels and observations in this last section. First off, it’s ironic and hilarious that both Misty Knight and Colleen Wing are the same exact height, as are their actresses who are also shorter than them. What is deadly serious is how utterly brilliant both women were in their respective series. Missick was one of the best mainstay characters in a show with a man who was corny as hell and the least interesting character on his own show. But while Mike Colter as Luke Cage was mostly underwhelming, at least he wasn’t completely insufferable and was tall, attractive (mileage may vary), and buff enough to warrant his casting even if just physically. Finn Jones as Danny Rand aka Iron Fist was an utter disaster. The first season of his show was almost unwatchable, aside from the saving grace that was Jessica Henwick as Colleen. Her increased role in season two and Missick showing up only helped make it more watchable, as well as a criminally underrated performance by Alice Eve as Typhoid Mary.

Physically, Henwick was the superior casting choice in terms of fighting ability and athleticism, as the girl was shown training regularly and kicking ass. Missick, much as I loved her, just acted as a cop, though admittedly brilliantly so. But as I understand it, the series was slowly building towards Misty becoming a vigilante and martial artist like her counterpart after she, much to my joy, quit the police force. It’s a shame we couldn’t see where it all might’ve led. Many of us would gladly watch a Daughters of the Dragon spin-off starring the two and not the men from the shows they previously starred in.

As for Jessica Jones and Trish Walker. Jessica Jones and Kristen Ritter are interesting in that the actress is actually taller than the character. Like Gal Gadot before her, Ritter is also usually quite petite but I could clearly see she had trained and gained a little muscle mass to look a little more like her character, which I appreciated. Some other subtle changes between the characters: Jessica is (originally) a brunette but Ritter is raven-haired, Jessica is somewhat more casual or personable in the comics while Ritter as Jessica is aloof and rude as hell (which I also liked, not all women have to be likable. People praise or don’t mind male characters and P.I’s having these kinds of traits, why can’t a woman too?), also Jessica’s beauty is noticed more by random men and noteworthy characters in the original Alias comic while Ritter as Jessica can barely manage to smile let alone give a fuck what men think about her (though obviously there are guys who are attracted to her). Both characters have physiques and powers that are relatively average in the superhero world: not super jacked with muscles or possessing powers more flashy than flight and super strength which are pretty common.

Meanwhile, it seems comics Hellcat and Rachael Taylor as Trish Walker share the same height, though I wonder if someone didn’t change it to reflect the actress, like possibly with Michelle Pfeiffer and Catwoman. Though we know behind the scenes Kristen Ritter trained to become Jessica Jones, we actually get to see Trish Walker train several times on screen. Though mostly at first it was just because she wanted to be able to defend herself and had a past with abuse, we later also see her train once she acquires her powers, once again a delight.

What all the women in the Marvel Netflix shows have in common are carefully crafted women characters and an emphasis on actual training, even Misty who did it the least. It is inspiring to see women training and honing their skills in male-dominated fields and proving to be just as deadly, if not deadlier, than them.

Conclusion

I hope that in the future more action and superhero projects will consider the same kind of character crafting for people meant to be badass and effective. Also, like men before them and a select few women, Hollywood needs to consider casting far more women athletes in these kinds of roles. They already don’t get the kind of pay or endorsements that the male athletes are regularly showered with, they can use the opportunity and would likely jump at it. Some good, reputable acting classes, coaching, workshops, and the like, and they likely could be more than capable of headlining their blockbuster projects, tv series, and the like and inspire many more women and girls who might want to be super, or at the very least athletic.

When men get to have more variety in builds and appearances, but women tend to look one way, it paints a specific picture of what a female superhero should look, which isn’t even accurate. Also, keep in mind that fitness is not one size fits all: there are people, and yes women, who are fit and can kick your ass who are fat, thick, slim, or chiseled. We need to see a wider range of size inclusion for our women in all roles, not just action and superhero genres. Who cares if a woman is taller or bigger than her co-star? What matters is what she brings to the project and how well she is developed and performed. And I don’t just mean supporting or side characters either: lead roles, meaty roles, and important roles with lots of screen time deserve this consideration.

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I identify as a womanist. I am also gay. I am a Black American-Descendant of American Chattel Slavery. My pronouns are he/him/his, and I am a comics, tv, movie, and video game stan. My expertise for comics and related media are DC Comics, Marvel Comics, Archie Comics, and a little bit of others here and there, but I'm hoping to branch out to other, Blacker and indie comics and related content. I'm a binge watcher and can talk about shows for days. You can find me on YouTube and various other social media platforms as thaboiinblue.

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