It’s completely understandable that Bulimia.com, a website dedicated to providing information and support systems to those struggling with eating disorders, decided to transform covers of comic books depicting popular female — and male — characters and give our favorite heroes more realistic bodies (see the rest of the art on their site). Instead of figures with huge breasts, impossibly small waists and disproportioned thighs, they gave characters like DC Comics’ Wonder Woman and Marvel’s Storm “more practical bodies.”
However, in tackling this touchy subject, the artists at Bulimia.com went a bit too far in my opinion, and ended up making a mockery of the point they were trying to make.
I think it’s important to give people, especially young people, appropriate role models and realistic body models to aspire to. There are plenty of examples of such bodies out in the real world. So it’s odd, in the first place, to use superheroes as your altered body models. No one assumes that superheroes should be built like normal people… they are extra-ordinary people doing extra-ordinary
jobs whatever, and stylized/idealized drawings at any rate. So making Black Widow, for example, look like a doughy soccer-mom who rarely pulls herself out from behind the wheel of her mini-van is missing the mark by a pretty wide margin.
Let’s be clear, I don’t want to sound insensitive: I agree wholeheartedly that girls should not think they need to starve themselves to look “normal.” On the other hand, eating enough to give themselves diabetes and a heart attack at 50, like the body images many of the Bulimia drawings suggest, isn’t exactly an improvement.
And it’s not as if it’s impossible for women to have healthy bodies that look like they could be superheroes. Hollywood has managed to round up a few of them over the years, and Olivia Munn, Scarlett Johansson, Gal Gadot, Danai Gurira, Lucy Lawless, Jennifer Lawrence, Rila Fukushima and many others have shown off bodies that look good in those superhero outfits on the silver screen.
Better would be to choose as models real people with real and healthy bodies, physiques that normal people can see every day and realistically aspire to (with plenty of not-impossible exercise). These are supposed to be not just heroic, but healthy and athletic role models, after all. Here’s a partial list of the types of women (or men, for that matter) who have physiques that would be well-suited to superhero work and would make better lifestyle models:
- Police officers
- Emergency responders
- Tennis Players
- Stunt people
- Mountain climbers
(And coincidentally, it would be women like these who would be a lot more likely to run around as superheroes than Mrs. Soccer-mom.)
Armed with these body types to use as examples, I think the Bulimia.com artists could do a much better job with its “more practical bodies.”
So, fine, we don’t have to draw superheroines with silicone-filled porn-star breasts and photoshopped wasp-waists… but we can at least be honest about the kind of shape women and girls can realistically aspire to, and be real-life heroes.