You're at a fabulous photo shoot/political fundraiser/Pulitzer Prize award ceremony/stage rehearsal when suddenly, you're kidnapped by a frightening clown/grinning goblin/spider creature/bald man. You fight back, because you're a feisty, intelligent, beautiful woman, but it's no use. But look in the sky! What's that? Is it a bird? Is it a plane?
No, it's your new superhero boyfriend!
Sound familiar? Although superhero comics have been around for the better part of a century, the narratives of America's most beloved superheroes haven't changed that much, especially when it comes to their girlfriends.
That fact was especially evident today, when photos were released of Emma Stone on the set of Amazing Spider-Man 2 wearing the same outfit her character, Gwen Stacy, wore when she died in the June 1973 issue of the Spider-Man comics. It's a disappointing photo, one that all but points to Gwen's demise. Staying true to source material is necessary regardless of how we feel the plot should move (just ask Game of Thrones fans), but it's hard not to wish that, for once, a superhero girlfriend could escape evil outside of the grasp of her powerful boyfriend. The 2013 version of Gwen Stacy may have been updated — thanks in large part to Stone's portrayal, she's smarter and more independent than her comics predecessor — but, let's face it, she still occupies one singular role: the damsel-in-distress.
It's hard out there for superhero galpals who have to cope with being mere mortals. (Still, gorgeous mortals with dream jobs, few flaws and shallow backstories.) In the Marvel and DC superhero universe, few female villains or superheroes exist. As women, we are left to identify with the only women who appear in the blockbuster films: You got it, the damsel-in-distress. And these women exist solely as superhero motivation: they're someone to save, someone to protect, someone to avenge. Watching a strong, independent woman like Stone be hoisted to safety seems as wrong as greenlighting two Spider-Man franchises in 10 years.
Even in the critically acclaimed film The Dark Knight followed suit. Maggie Gyllenhaal, who played Batman's love interest Rachel Dawes, called the character a damsel-in-distress... albeit a well-rounded damsel with such strong principles that she ultimately rejects Batman, but a damsel all the same. Like Gwen Stacy, Rachel Dawes dies amidst as a result of the battle between hero and villain and becomes the motivation for the hero's revenge. Are no ladies in superhero movies safe anymore? Or at least capable of protecting themselves? (Must we yearn for a time when Margot Kidder soared through the clouds?)
Of course, this could be a red herring — Gwen Stacy could live in Amazing Spider-Man 2, which hits theaters in May 2014. But, if we had our druthers, she'd not only live, but save the day as well. Or, you know, we'd get the Wonder Woman movie we've been asking for. But let's be realistic.