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Superheroes In Spandex: Jill Lepore’s Cultural Critique Meets Marvel Writer’s Rebuttal

AForceLarge-674x1024Did Marvel get it right with A-Force, its latest contribution to the world of female superheroes? Not if you ask Jill Lepore, Harvard University history professor and author of last year’s well-reviewed The Secret History of Wonder Woman. In a recent op-ed for The New Yorker, Lepore called the Avenger-type squad “porn stars.”

“Maybe it’s not possible to create reasonable female comic-book superheroes, since their origins are so tangled up with magazines for men,” writes Lepore, who won a 2006 Anisfield-Wolf prize for New York Burning. “True, they’re not much more ridiculous than male superheroes. But they’re all ridiculous in the same way.”

G. Willow Wilson, one of the creators of A-Force, responded on her Tumblr: “I imagine Dr. Lepore and I want the same thing: better, more nuanced portrayals of women in pop culture. What I don’t understand is why someone in her position would, from her perch a thousand feet up in the ivory tower, take pot shots at those of us who are in the trenches, doing exactly that.”

Wilson is a writer for the best-selling comic Ms. Marvel, which features a Muslim teen with shape-shifting powers, and she objected to the porn-star characterization head-on: “None of them are in the sexually objectified contortions that have become standard issue in recent decades. They are, in other words, posed the way their male colleagues are typically posed. They are posed as heroes.”

Read Lepore’s original cultural criticism in full here and see Wilson’s entire rebuttal.


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