In 2015, the long-running US TV variety show, Saturday Night Live (SNL) released their skit for a film trailer for the Marvel superhero, Black Widow, who at the time was the only Avenger character yet to receive her own film. In this skit, SNL suggested that while Marvel had yet to make a film for their only prominent female character at the time, they still ‘get women’ and created a parody that put Black Widow into the plot of any other ‘chick flick’ film. 

In this skit, which you can watch on YouTube here, Black Widow gets a new job, finds love, gets her heart broken and then finds love again. The end.

In 2022, Marvel did the same thing when they released their Disney+ series, ‘She-Hulk: Attorney At Law.’ The only difference was that this series wasn’t supposed to be a joke. 

The ‘Chick Flick’ Safety-Net

The She-Hulk series follows the life of defence lawyer Jen Walters, aka She-Hulk, after an accident that causes her to get her powers from her superhero cousin: the Hulk. As this was the first time the character was introduced on screen, it was meant to give us her origin story and set her up for future roles within the Marvel Universe. However, it didn’t quite do that. 

Instead, the She-Hulk series focused on her love life both as Jen and as She-Hulk, with minor side plots on her life as a lawyer, her petty feud with the superpowered social media influencer, Titania, and a run-in with a misogynist group — which is still centred around her love life. From the focus on romance and heartbreak to her getting a new job, there are some undeniable parallels between the SNL skit and Marvel’s She-Hulk series. Essentially, they both divert from the set-up of a superhero story and instead opt for the themes and storyline that quintessentially define the ‘chick flick’ genre.

For those unaware, the ‘chick flick‘ genre is made up of films and TV shows that are meant to appeal to women due to their focus on romance and its related drama. While there is nothing wrong with this in itself, it becomes a problem when the genre is not appropriate for the series.

Marvel first introduced She-Hulk into the Marvel comics in 1980. As a result, there is a large repertoire of events and storylines that the creators could have used rather than confining the character to the safety of the chick flick genre. 

 Is It Because She’s A Woman?

So why did they do what they did? And does the fact that this is a female character have anything to do with it? Yes and no. While it would seem that this is just how ‘Marvel gets women,’ the problem is a bit more complicated than that. While this particular show seemed to throw in stereotypical tropes that destroyed the storyline to make the series more ‘feminine,’ other Marvel films and series with a female lead didn’t do this.

The films Captain Marvel and Black Widow and the series ‘WandaVision’ and ‘Ms. Marvel’ all had female leads while retaining the superhero focus. So, what’s different about ‘She-Hulk: Attorney At Law’?

In all honesty, I can’t give you a definite answer. However, unlike previous films and series as well as all of the films and series in the Marvel Universe, She-Hulk was a completely new character that didn’t have any immediate connection to any other character or story that already exists on-screen. For instance, Black Widow only got a film after recurring appearances in The Avengers films and ‘WandaVision’ was needed as it partially set up the events of Doctor Strange: Multiverse of Madness

In the latest series, however, the creators of She-Hulk were given something of a blank slate. They were expected to ‘break the mould.’ Well, they broke something … the very mould of an origin story and a superhero story, in general, leaving viewers with almost nothing to keep their interest.

One reason the creators reverted to stereotypical tropes may, ironically, be down to the negative connotations that sometimes accompany ‘chick flicks.’ Chick-flick films and shows aren’t normally considered ‘respectable’ even if they are the work of pure cinematic genius. So, the idea to use a new series in order to modernise the chick flick genre and give it some credibility may have been the intention. It could have worked, too. In theory, breaking away from the seemingly ‘masculine’ superhero genre by substituting it with the chick flick framework could have been novel — if only the history of the character was given some complexity and depth. Instead, all we got was the same formulaic setup that didn’t fit the potential the character had to offer.

The creators seem to have decided, falsely, that the classic superhero model is inherently flawed precisely because it is too masculine and so chick flick tropes must be applied necessarily to a female character to mitigate this flaw. The problem is that in doing this they have created more division between the genders and killed a perfectly good TV series.

What we need from Marvel and the media is to see women represented positively — as capable and powerful — without the need for stereotypical tropes to do the legwork.

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