I recently re-watched the whole of Justice League (re-titled Justice League Unlimited for its last three seasons), and have come to an important conclusion: it is not just the best superhero show ever made, it is one of the best television series ever made. While it does feature jaw-dropping action, intricate plots, excellent character development, an incredible voice cast,* and a mature approach to superheroes as a genre, the reason I’m writing about it here is its treatment of women and other minorities.
For the first two seasons, Justice League features only seven central characters, mostly iconic figures from the comics. Two are white men, one a black man, one a white woman, and three are aliens (two male, one female) who can pass for human to a greater or lesser degree. Essentially, this is the lineup of the League’s “magicificent seven” lineup with a few changes – the Green Lantern used is the black John Stewart, rather than the better-known white Hal Jordan, and Aquaman (a white man) is replaced by Hawkgirl (an alien who resembles a white woman). This less-than-diverse cast actually represents a significant step up from the comics.
With the third season, the show was retitled Justice League Unlimited to go with a massive expansion of the cast. The producers took this as an opportunity to greatly diversify the cast, including a large number of female characters. In addition to founding members Wonder Woman and Hawkgirl, the series prominently features Big Barda, Black Canaray, Fire, Huntress, Dr. Light, Stargirl, Supergirl, Vixen, and Zatanna… and that’s just the League members with speaking parts.
Despite such a large cast, the show provides excellent characterization and character development for just about every character in the show. Apart from a few male gaze issues (which will be addressed in a forthcoming article), the female characters are treated just as seriously as the male characters. Since the show focuses quite a few episodes on specific characters, I’m going to do the same and address each in their own article. Starting, of course, with Wonder Woman. Where else?
*Fans of Joss Whedon shows take note: Justice League’s voice cast includes Adam Baldwin, Alexis Denisof, Amy Acker, Juliet Landau, Morena Baccarin, Nathan Fillion, and Gina Torres.