Women: Still hazy after all these years - Diane Wagner

Why do Wolverine and Cyclops get their own Dr. Pepper cans while Storm and Rogue have to share one?

The soft drink cans are featuring pictures of X-Men characters as a tie-in with the popular movies but, apparently, it takes two female superheroes to equal the value of one male.

I was griping about the inequity last week when I saw a column by Justin Reedy dealing with the humanity in superheroes, and the superhero in us all. And he didn't name a single woman.

He later apologized, and tossed out enough names to keep his reputation as a renaissance man intact. But these two instances underscore the second class status strong women are still accorded in our pop culture, three decades after the Women's Liberation movement caught fire.

Ms. Marvel wasn't the first female superhero, but she was the first one to stand on her own.

When ex-spy and NASA security boss Carol Danvers got a dose of alien energy and became Marvel Comics' answer to Superman in 1977, the Wasp was pining over Henry Pym and the Invisible Girl was baking cookies for the Fantastic Four. I think the woman-warrior Valkyrie was around by then, but she was so assertive that everyone just assumed she was a lesbian.

Ms. Marvel was a single woman with a good job and she could put a dent in Iron Man's armor with one hand tied behind her back. Of course, that couldn't be allowed to last.

Naturally, a time-traveler used advanced technology to manipulate her mind, took her to another dimension and impregnated her with himself. Stay with me now.

She eventually came to her senses and, although the word wasn't used, realized she had been raped. Over the years she wound up losing the best of her powers and sinking into an alcoholic depression. So there, for uppity women.

It's the 21st century now and Carol Danvers is getting back on her feet, although I can't remember if she's Binary or The Huntress now. The Wasp became the best team leader the Avengers ever had, and the Invisible Girl is now the Invisible Woman.

But that's only because the writers of Marvel comic books are producing high-quality story lines, while mass-marketed movies and soft drink cans are playing to the lowest common denominator with early 80s pap.

In the X-Men movies, Rogue has a mutant ability to absorb the powers of others. In real life – the current Marvel Universe – she can also pick up memories at the same time. Plus, she drew some powers from Ms. Marvel a while back, so she's nearly invulnerable, she can fly and she can kick Wolverine's tail. Why do you think they call her Rogue?

The movies also have her love life all mixed up with that of a younger mutant named Jubilee. Rogue's real boyfriend is Gambit, a master thief and a heck of a lot of fun.

Then there's Storm, who keeps getting smacked around in the movies and winds up taking a back seat to the others. She's really the leader of the X-Men.

Come on. She can control the forces of nature. And she's so in tune with the workings of the world that she's practically a goddess. Halle Berry, the Oscar-winning actress who plays Storm in the movie, got rooked.

We're all getting rooked. The sexism in our popular culture is lower key these days; mutated, so to speak. Nobody really notices now, except our young daughters and sons.

Diane Wagner covers county government for the Daily Herald. She can be reached at (770) 957-9161 or dwagner@henryherald.com.