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Salt Lake Comic Con 2014: Utah Women in Film meet superheroes

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With the meteoric rise of comic book films, from 2008's The Dark Knight to this year's surprise hit Guardians of the Galaxy, the focus in the film industry seems to be on the female superhero. While many characters like Black Widow in The Avengers and Gamora in the aforementioned Guardians, however, many oddly still don't see female superheroes as equal to their male counterparts.

In a panel entitled “Utah Women In Film Meet Superheroes: How Do We Keep the Feminine But Also Add the -Ism?”, this was analyzed in many different ways. Heading up the panel was Utah Women in Film founder Taunya Gren, as well fellow member Susan Phelan, and other filmmakers Tatianne Dobben, Cate Allen, and Valerie Cameron-Walker. Each of them brought a different side to the subject, though sharing the same message: change is on the horizon.

“85% percent of money-making decisions are now made by women,” Gren explained about the current climate of both movies and comics. “More comic books are bought by women now, and more women are climbing to positions of power and influence in films.”

The first topic that was thoroughly analyzed by the panelists was the word feminism. “It's become a divisive word,” Phelan said. “It's like many men fear women rising to power, as if we want to take over completely, which is not the case.”

“Men and women aren't the same, and they never will be the same,” Dobben added. “But, at the same time, there can be equal ground between the two genders.”

When asked which female superhero the panel felt was a true representation of both feminine and feminism, the panel, again, had different ideas of that as well.

“Wonder Woman,” Gren immediately came out with as she displayed her Lego figurine of the iconic heroine to the audience. “She is a warrior, an Amazon, and has the strength of a man. And, unlike Batman or Superman, Woman Woman did kill when she felt it necessary for the greater good. But she was also a nurturer when she needed to be. It's this that makes her the epitome of feminism because she's just as strong as the men, while maintaining the nurturing side of a woman.”

Playing devil's advocate, Walker suggested Storm and Black Widow. “Both have issues,” she explained. “What woman doesn't? But both Storm and Black Widow realize it's okay to take care of yourself first before taking care of the people around them. It was okay to wear the skin-tight, revealing costumes if it was their choice, but the costumes weren't what defined them.”

“Black Widow, especially in Captain America [:The Winter Soldier],” Dobben added, “showed that the woman could be strong, but still have regrets and emotions – even though the woman doesn't wear them on her sleeve.”

Forecasting of things to come, the panel concluded that stronger female characters are becoming more in demand than ever.

Frozen, one of the top-grossing films of last year, featured two women,” Walker pointed out. “Paramount [Pictures] and [20th Century] Fox took note of this, and their upcoming slates of films shows this.”

In recent interviews, Marvel big-wig Stan Lee and Iron Man himself Robert Downey, Jr. have both said that a Black Widow solo movie is in the works, and is clearly in more demand now than ever before.

“Oh yes,” Walker said when the topic was brought up. “It's coming.”

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