I taught my students about why representation in media matters using superhero movies to explain it. I put my attempt to be a math major in another life to good use by breaking down the Marvel Cinematic Universe by Avenger and calculating how many movies we've had where the main character is a man vs. how many where we have a leading lady.

Hulk - 1 1/2 (we decided that the first one doesn't count, since it's not in continuity, but it counts enough that we should split the difference and call it half a movie).

Iron Man - 3

Thor - 2

Captain America - 2 (upcoming one counted)

Hawkeye - 0

Black Widow - 0

So we start off at 8 1/2 movies for the men vs. 0 for the women.

Then we factor in Avengers. It's an ensemble, so let's just split it evenly. 5/6 guys, 1/6 women. Now we're at 9 1/3 for men vs. 1/6 for women.

We're also going to be optimistic and assume that Black Widow is equal partners with Cap in Winter Soldier, so there's another half a movie. We're up to 9 1/3 to 2/3.

But let's not forget Guardians of the Galaxy. That's another ensemble of two men, a woman, a talking tree (male), and a talking raccoon (male). That's 4/5 male, 1/5 female, bringing us to a final tally after Guardians of the Galaxy comes out of 10 2/15 to 13/15. Once Guardians comes out, we'll have almost managed, by cobbling together three movies, a whole film's worth of main female character representation. While the dudes have just over ten films' worth already.


DC isn't doing any better, of course. Their Justice League ramp up by the time World's Finest comes out will bring us to 1 2/3 to 1/3 in favor of the guys, and Wonder Woman doesn't even get to be on the movie poster (Black Widow and Gamora at least managed to make the posters for their partial films).

But all this was in service of getting my students to begin looking critically at their entertainment and how it reflects cultural power imbalances and hierarchies of oppression (we began this yesterday while talking about class).


Hooray, I think this is the best teaching I've ever done.