Karen Healey‘s at it again, this time teaming up with Terry D. Johnson, a scientist from the University of California to calculate the BMI of superheroes using stats from Marvel’s website, and compare them by gender. The full study is here.
Karen’s conclusions are here, and they are what you’d expect from just observing the artwork:
In most cases, the female BMI stats bear little resemblance to the women as depicted in the art. Unless she’s made of helium, a woman of Ms Marvel’s height with her (lavishly illustrated) breasts, hips and thighs does not weigh 124 pounds, and is not depicted with that weight. But the stats, like the art, point to that overpowering criterion for the representation of women in Marvel comics: Women have to be sexy.
And by Western standards sexy includes being tall and slim. In this case, sexy has been translated into absurd numbers for height and weight. Clearly, very little thought has gone into this, but the lack of thought is indicative both of the common cultural perception of what “attractive” weight is for a woman and the utter lack of realism in that perception.
Marvel men, let us note, do not escape the patriarchal realism-skew. Men, you understand, have to be strong. Captain America, canonically at the peak of human physical perfection, has a BMI of 28.31, which in real life, even for an athlete, would make his physician frown suggestively. Want to lay bets on the chances of any Marvel woman whose mutations don’t alter her body mass having a BMI anywhere close to this? Psylocke’s BMI is the most realistic of our sample – at 21.66.