Tuesday, July 12, 2011

La Mujer Murcielago (1968)

Mexico's luchadors, the masked wrestlers, are a well-known pop-culture export, to the extent that the most famous of them all, Santo, appears not only in his own series of 54 films but also as a character in Turkey's 3 Dev Adem (1973). Luchador films often position their heroes as fighting crime and encountering supernatural and superscience villainy which, combined with their physical ability, hidden identities and masks, places them at least on the borders of the superherhero genre, with some examples lying firmly within it. One such example is the 1968 La Mujer Murcielago, also known as Batwoman. Not only is that a direct translation of the title, and the character's name, but she also wears variations on the Adam West Batman costume as wrestling and adventuring gear, including a bikini version complete with mask, cape and mini-utility belt in which she makes her first entrance, by parachute, and continues wearing as she is briefed by a pathologist and, indeed, through most of her subsequent adventures, while wearing a full body suit for her professional wrestling engagements.

Maura Monti as La Mujer Murcielago is clearly intended to be the subject of the male gaze, while also being the star and representing a successful, skilled woman who is called upon by men to resolve a problem they cannot. She represents one of the many female superheroes found around the world; indeed, it seems that female superheroes are subjects of their own films or television productions much more outside the US and UK than they are within those countries, with Darna alone clocking up at least nineteen films and TV series, alongside characters such as Mega Mindy, Heroic Trio, Lady Black Cat, Shakira, Cutie Honey, and many others, although they are still outnumbered by the representations of male heroes.

Is this true, and if so, why? How do these representations reflect local as well as international conceptions of gender and genre? How do these conceptions shift over time?

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