Last season, I wrote about how Heroes, an awesome show in so many respects, could stand to work on its portrayal of women in big ways. I had heard they were paying some attention to the common criticism of gender imbalance and they’ve responded this season by adding some female characters. They’ve made one major improvement that I’ll talk about in a post tomorrow, but there is a long list of their continued shortcomings (I’m also a few episodes behind, so I may be missing some things, but hopefully not misrepresenting the big picture).
First–I was definitely looking forward to seeing Kristin Bell (Veronica Mars) join the cast, but her introductory episode revealed her to be working with the enemy. Worse, she seems to be doing it in direct response to a need to impress her father. Like Candice and Eden before her, she seems to be motivated by an insecurity and a desire for power that ultimately comes from a place of internal weakness. The million dollar misogynist question here is: Why is it that the women seem disproportionately inclined to become pawns to this organization, to succumb to these corrupt offers of power based in pride? Why are the men, numerically speaking, so much more likely to be willing or able to take up the quest of the noble, suffering hero while the women often forego morality in favour of some sort of selfish personal advantage (often involving the use of both stereotypical feminine sexual wiles and violence)?
The complementary option for the women continues to be that they are allowed to have power, but they can’t quite handle it and are unable to use it without male guides or supports. In Maia, the writers have kindly introduced a character that demonstrates this nearly literally. Maia doesn’t choose to use the ability she has. It overpowers her against her will when she gets emotional (whether justifiably or not), and she becomes destructive. Murderous, in fact. She’s naturally terrified of this, to the extent that she just can’t find the resources to control and channel her strength productively. The only thing that keeps her from destroying others and herself is her brother Alejandro, who has a corresponding heroic power to diffuse Maia’s. Like Niki, Maia has a power that is actually more of an illness, and she has to be saved from herself more than she’s actually able to do any active saving.
Plus–Candice’s death reveals that the “fat girl” reality we were concerned about (but still sort of debating) here was, in fact, the case. This is all without even mentioning Claire, whose current storyline ended up being extensively discussed in the comments thread of this post. (The good news has come so far in the form of Monica Dawson, but we’ll save the happy thoughts for tomorrow).