Marvel Body Mass Index Study Reveals Nearly 1/3 of Female Characters Are Underweight

In the world of comics art there are plenty of fans who take exception to the way most women are depicted artistically on the page. This is not difficult to understand: breasts are defying all forms of gravity, waist-to-hip ratios clock in at Barbie levels of discomfort, and everyone is usually fighting in heels.

The return argument is that the men in comics are depicted in an equally unrealistic capacity, though any good feminist will tell you that there’s a difference between female objectification and male power fantasies. But it goes well beyond that realm, too. In fact, it might just be plain unhealthy. Literally.

A study done by two university students took a set of random selected Marvel comics characters, equal numbers male and female, and put them to a BMI test. That’s the Body Mass Index scale and though it’s far from a perfect manner of detecting health, it is a helpful guideline for examining whether a person happens to be at a healthy weight.

The study also took into account that because most of these characters are superheroes, they should have a higher BMI, due to having more muscle backing up their punches. After analyzing a set of fifty characters, they came up with an interesting set of data that told a distressing story:

All female characters in the sampling were either under a healthy BMI or incredibly low on the healthy spectrum. The male characters showed a very wide range on the BMI scale, and not one of them was underweight.

Here are the data tables for closer examination:

Marvel BMI chart

Marvel BMI chart

Marvel BMI chart

The duo is first to admit that calculating BMI based on drawings rather than living people will certainly produce error, but their estimations are still very interesting. Never mind whose gaze these depictions are intended for, at the end of the day these characters are considered “idealized” forms of men and women. But the idealized men are allowed to be many shapes and sizes. The women have a much more narrow line to walk in order to be considered “ideal.”

For more information on the study, take a peek at all the data over on their webpage.

Emily Asher-Perrin is mostly just bemused by the fact that Steve Rodgers has so much muscle weight, he’d be considered obese. You can bug her on Twitter and read more of her work here and elsewhere.


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