For the last few years, Entertainment Weekly has moderated the “Women Who Kick Ass” panel at San Diego Comic Con. This annual event brings together several impressive women—usually those currently in the zeitgeist—to speak to the female experience in Hollywood, pop culture, and geekdom.
Though past panels had left fans somewhat underwhelmed, 2013’s group stunned and then invigorated congoers with their brutally frank discussions of the sexism they’d encountered in the industry. While nothing could eclipse that, this year’s panel still exposed several uncomfortable gender truths.
This year’s panel included Tatiana Maslany (Orphan Black; she was also present last year), Sarah Paulson (American Horror Story: Freak Show), Nicole Beharie (Sleepy Hollow), Katey Sagal (Futurama, Sons of Anarchy), Maisie Williams (Game of Thrones), and Natalie Dormer (GoT and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1). Toward the end of the panel, the ladies were asked which superhero or supervillain they’d like to play, and why.
Maisie Williams said she’d want to play Spider-Man because he’s “agile and… unsuspecting.”
“The psychology of [Batman] is so interesting” was Dormer’s reasoning for wanting to be the Dark Knight.
Maslany’s answer was delightfully specific and timely: “I’d love to play Raphael from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.”
Beharie picked the Incredible Hulk.
Sagal went recent—Caesar from Planet of the Apes.
Paulson chose Wolverine.
Notice how not a single one of them cited a female hero or villain. No one said Wonder Woman—though, honestly, that’d be a bit awkward to say, this weekend—Catwoman, Black Widow, Storm… Not that they’d be restricted to the classics, either—they could’ve suggested the recently-rebooted Ms. Marvel or the even more recent lady Thor!
In some ways, it’s inspiring that these women talk about male heroes as if there are no barriers to a woman taking on that mantle, as the recent Thor development has taught us. However, it seems more likely that their knee-jerk answers illustrate the profound lack of universally inspiring or realistic female heroes. It’s certainly food for thought.
Though the superhero conversation was the most striking part of the panel, here are other great highlights.
Grappling with and trying to transcend female stereotypes
- “Katniss Everdeen is as popular as she is because she’s an anomaly,” Dormer said. Though she had plenty of praise for her show’s own spunky heroine…
- “I watched Maisie Williams on season 1 of Game of Thrones and thought, ‘Wow, this show writes really quality women so well,’” Dormer said. “Male writers tend to write women as either the angel or the whore.”
- She added that “Game of Thrones shows you all the different ways you can wield power… physically, psychologically, sexually—and dragons.”
- Beharie was attracted to the role of Abbie in Sleepy Hollow because it wasn’t defined by a man. “There’s a certain strength I have now,” she added, “as being a lead on the show, that I didn’t have before.”
- Then you have Maslany, who plays several female clones and now, a transman as well: “It was a huge responsibility and a huge privilege to explore gender in that way.”
Kickass moments on-set
- Dormer: “I’ve been having a lot of fun running around with a semi-automatic weapon in The Hunger Games.”
- Sagal: “I particularly had fun whacking someone with a skateboard.”
- Maslany’s favorite empowering moment was “Alison’s intervention” (in season 1) when she “word vomits” all over her neighbors and friends.
Bonding moments among the panel
- Paulson, who will be playing conjoined twins on Freak Show, told Maslany, “I plan on picking your brain a lot.”
- How does Maslany get into the groove of playing the different clones? Music!
- Beharie and Paulson commiserated over Hollywood’s obsession with the size of women’s asses.
- Oh, and for the record: Paulson thinks her “old lady birdseed boobs” on AHS are awesome, thankyouverymuch.
- Sagal looks up to Hillary Clinton.
- Maslany’s role model is actually Leela from Futurama, aww.
The advice they wish they’d followed
- Sagal: “Live your life first, and the work and success will follow.”
- Paulson: “Honestly? Don’t panic.”