Marvel has a chance to make a strong social statement when it comes to casting the live-action adaptation of the title character She-Hulk. They could easily CG the actor who ends up playing Jen Walters, the cousin of Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), but they should seriously consider casting a female bodybuilder as her alter-ego.
The difference between She-Hulk and the Hulk right away is that when Jen turns into She-Hulk, she still maintains her higher brain functions so she doesn’t just growl and rage like the Hulk originally did. As we found out in the comics and Avengers: Endgame, Banner found a way for him and the Hulk to co-exist as one to maintain Hulk’s form and strength with Banner’s intelligence, but it took time for him to figure it out.
Casting a female bodybuilder in the role would be the same approach that the 1978 Kenneth Johnson TV series with Bill Bixby playing David Bruce Banner and strongman Lou Ferrigno playing his counterpart.
While it’s true She-Hulk grows taller, wider and maintains her slender look, a social statement needs to be made given the issues of female body perception. Men tend to be accepted to be all shapes and sizes in media. Actors like Christian Bale are praised given their personality and dedication for a role. Bale’s been praised regardless if he had to lose an extreme amount of weight in The Machinist, bulked up for The Dark Knight, and praised for his performance for playing the rotund Dick Chaney in Vice. How many actresses get to do these kind of roles and given similar respect and praise?
If slender and muscular men can take up action roles, why does it only have to be just slender women who get to play these similar roles? The last muscular woman I can recall in any comic book-related project in the last decade I can recall was Olga Kurkulina, who played Mother Russia in Kick-Ass 2.
Women are largely competing in many of the same sports as men, yet in too many cases they aren’t taken as seriously, because many feel they don’t share the exact same physical attributes as men and as marketable. Despite all of this, women are still competing in strength-oriented sports like weightlifting, bodybuilding, strongwoman competitions, regardless of acceptance. You can find the She-Hulk star from those ranks.
Body perception issues affect both genders, but it tends to affect women in far greater numbers. In a study found in DoSomething.org, approximately 91% of women are unhappy with their bodies and resort to dieting to achieve their ideal body shape. Unfortunately, only 5% of women naturally possess the body type often portrayed by Americans in the media. We wouldn’t have as many social problems if men and women can accept the idea that a person like Olga Kurkulina can be afforded to have similar opportunities as a Dwayne Johnson or a Dave Bautista. Former MMA fighters of both genders are getting action roles so it’s not unrealistic beyond those like Ronda Rousey and Gina Carano to be put in the mainstream.
To truly be an equal society, we need to see ourselves every which way possible. To many, it’s a very hard pill to swallow, but that’s what media is for, to present whatever is possible. We need to find it within ourselves to accept who we are. It’s unrealistic to all share the same likes, but we all have a right to be happy how we are regardless of what the outside world thinks because most lack empathy never having lived your life. Those who truly care will support you because you are happy with who and what you are.
A role like She-Hulk can provide a positive image about a female bodybuilder. If people can accept her, then it’s one ripple of many that need to be made.