Let me just begin by admitting that I’m taking the word of Katherine Timpf at National Review here because I have not seen the new Avengers movie. But Rebecca Jennings of Racked (?!?) has, and she’s not happy about it. I should probably also confess that I hadn’t run across Racked before either. Jones is a prolific writer, with recent articles including, Please Join Me In Being Furious About This Blazer along with Which Fruit Pattern Is the Horniest? and Incels Categorize Women by Personal Style and Attractiveness. (If you just had to Google what “Incels” means, please don’t feel too embarrassed. I did too.)
At any rate, Timpf is responding to a complaint raised by Jennings on the important subject of superhero movie heroines and female villains. Jones points out that most of the female characters have long flowing hair, but none of them put it up into a ponytail before entering battle. This, in the opinion of the Racked writer, is not only impractical from a logistical perspective but is also, wait for it… sexist.
Avengers: Infinity War broke presale box office records and had the biggest opening weekend of any movie ever. It combines characters from no fewer than 18 Marvel movies and an absolutely dizzying 76 superheroes and supporting characters, from Black Panther to Iron Man. But one thing you won’t be seeing a lot of when you watch the movie? Hair ties.
Which, to anyone with longer than shoulder-length hair who has played on a recreational soccer league as a kid, seems nuts. Aren’t these people, like, fighting each other? While doing flips and jumps and stuff? Even Violet Baudelaire, the protagonist of A Series of Unfortunate Events, famously had to tie up her hair with a ribbon in order to focus, which requires basically zero physical exertion.
Timpf, who I assume has more experience in the ponytail department that I do, took issue with this complaint.
Jennings actually admits that “comics are fun because they aren’t real life” — but apparently, she doesn’t see that that’s the entire point. Of course it would be tough to fight any kind of battle without your hair in a ponytail. Of course it’s difficult to do any kind of physical activity as a long-haired woman without your hair in a ponytail. But the fact is, comics aren’t supposed to reflect reality. They’re comics.
The long, mermaid-like hair on female superheroes is cool, and something that I very much wish I could achieve without hair extensions. I can’t, though — and very few can. Even fewer could fight any sort of battle (yes . . . including one with an elliptical) without tying it up. The whole thing is, that’s part of the fun of it. I also couldn’t defeat some kind of being with superpowers with my own superpowers because, well, I don’t have any. None of us do. The fun of superhero movies is imagining things that exist outside of reality, not mimicking it.
First of all, I’m guessing that Rebecca Jennings never saw any of the Tomb Raider movies because Lara Croft was famous for her waist-length ponytail. (Along with an incredibly tiny backpack which I assume she uses to carry a spare orange.) But that’s really not the point, is it? Most of the celebrity women who have long hair in real life never seem to show up on the red carpet with their hair in a ponytail or pulled into a bun. It’s because they want to look beautiful and long, flowing hair on an attractive woman looks beautiful.
It’s not as if the male characters are conforming to reality. If you’ve watched much of Iron Man (as played by Robert Downey Jr.) he doesn’t really need to worry about his hair. But he does have some issues with that suit he built. It takes off vertically, accelerating from zero to something approaching Mach 1 in the space of a few seconds. In real life, it would probably quickly tumble out of control and crash to the ground because if the initial g-forces hadn’t killed him, Tony Stark would have had most of his organs crushed into jelly. And while we’re on the subject, why does Spiderman have to have such a gym rat set of killer abs and a costume which displays them like he’s in a testosterone supplement commercial? Wouldn’t a nice Kevlar torso guard be more effective?
How the writer and director of these action movies style the hair of their female stars isn’t sexist. It’s a business decision. And much like racism, when everything becomes sexist, nothing is sexist. The entire population of the planet (or at least the male half) isn’t always as bad as you think we are. And as for the ponytail question specifically, this isn’t something pervasive. On that subject, Katniss Everdeen would like a word with you.