Study proves female superheroes and sci-fi characters have a major impact

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Oct 8, 2018, 12:50 PM EDT

Time and time again, we say in: representation matters. And super representation super matters. 

That's what BBC America and the Women's Media Center set out to prove with their Superpowering Girls: Female Representation in the Sci-Fi/Superhero Genre study, the first in a series of studies conducted by the two organizations focused on the impact of representation on youth between the ages of 5-19.

The findings? Kids want to see heroes who look like them. It's something we already knew but means the world to have it confirmed by science. 

The study was an online survey conducted with 2,431 kids ages 10-19 as well as parents of 5-9-year-olds to answered on their children's behalf. Every demographic expressed a desire for female heroes in sci-fi and among superheroes, especially characters who are people of color. The study found that this kind of representation can impact kids' confidence and self-image, as well as influence their career choices. 

Another finding from the study — one that was unsurprising but still heartbreaking — is that teen girls are significantly less likely than teen boys to describe themselves as confident, brave, and heard. It's even more significant among girls of color. Additionally, a third of teens surveyed agreed that girls have fewer leadership opportunities than boys. 

“At this time of enormous, sweeping, social change, it’s important that television and film provide an abundance of roles and role models for diverse girls and young women," said Julie Burton, president of the Women's Media Center. "We know that representation matters, as evidenced by this report. Our research found that female sci-fi and superhero characters help bridge the confidence gap for girls, making them feel strong, brave, confident, inspired, positive, and motivated.”

Her sentiment was echoed by BBC America president Sarah Barnett. "If you can’t see her, you can’t be her. It’s time to expand what gets seen, and we hope this report will contribute to sparking change in the stories we see on screen. With greater representation of female heroes in the sci-fi and superhero genre, we can help superpower the next generation of women.”

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