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Coming soon — well, eventually? — to a movie theater near you is Faith Herbert, the first major plus-size superhero. According to Deadline, Sony Entertainment is officially producing a live-action adaptation of the Valiant Comics character.
That means she won’t be fighting alongside Thor, Captain America, or Wonder Woman in the Marvel or DC universes — Valiant is only beginning to flesh out its film strategy, and Faith’s story is just one of a full slate of movies planned. She’s part of a team of psiots, or heroes with telekinetic and psychic powers, and can also fly, create force fields, and levitate objects.
Powers aside, Faith is blonde, bubbly, and a total sci-fi nerd who’s obsessed with Doctor Who. She’s also deeply idealistic — in the current iteration of her comic books which came out in 2016 (though she’s been around since 1992), she has a secret identity as a blogger for an entertainment website but dreams of reporting important stories like Lois Lane. There was even a book released before the election in which she meets Hillary Clinton that caused a small controversy when some booksellers refused to display the cover.
And then there’s the fact that she’s fat. So far, the closest we’ve come to a major female superhero being plus-size is, somehow, Incredibles 2’s Elastigirl, whom a chorus of tweeters praised for being lowkey thick. (She also had an exaggeratedly tiny waist.)
In live-action films, studios nearly always cast very thin actresses to play female superheroes, while male actors often spend months increasing their arm and leg circumferences for similar roles. This isn’t exactly a coincidence: More than one academic has likened traditional depictions of female superheroes to porn stars.
Which is why even as the genre has made steps in increasing its racial diversity, a plus-size superhero comes as such a surprise. As noted by the Atlantic, her 2016 update also did away with the fat jokes that surrounded her presence in earlier comic books, which likely isn’t unrelated to the fact that it’s the first time the series has been written by a woman, Orphan Black’s Jody Houser.
In an interview with People in 2015, Houser said of Faith’s size that “it’s definitely not something that she has a problem with. She’s very comfortable with herself. I’m not going to ignore her size, but I don’t want it to be a big issue or a big plot line with her, and I think it would be out of character to make it that.”
The live-action film will also be penned by a woman, Maria Melnik of American Gods, reflecting the increasing diversity in the superhero genre on both sides of the camera.
“I’ve been hearing from women who are in their 20s and 30s and 40s who have been reading comics for decades who have never seen a woman on the cover of a comic that looks like them,” Houser added. “And I think that makes people feel like they’re welcome in comics, and that this medium is for them, when, maybe they’ve always loved comics but they haven’t felt welcome before is a huge thing.”
By now, major studios are taking note of the people they’ve otherwise historically ignored. Though Marvel Studios has produced just a single female-led film in its 25-year history (2005’s Elektra starring Jennifer Garner, which is not part of the current Marvel Cinematic Universe), that’ll change when Captain Marvel comes out next year, with Brie Larson playing the titular role.
And just last month, Marvel president Kevin Feige confirmed that a film centered around Kamala Khan, a Pakistani-American teen from New Jersey whose alter ego is Ms Marvel, is “in the works,” while Sony Pictures is officially producing a movie adaptation of Silk, a Korean-American classmate of Peter Parker’s who is also bitten by a radioactive spider.
This shouldn’t be all that surprising — superhero films that don’t star white men have proven to be box office successes, with the most obvious and important example being February’s Black Panther. Its premiere smashed superhero box office records, became one of the biggest opening weekends of all time, and by April had grossed more than Iron Man, Thor, and the first Captain America combined.
And while the vast world of comic books have long had incredible diversity — queer characters like Tank Girl, deaf characters like Echo, characters written and illustrated by women of color like Niobe — a vast number of superheroes on the big screen are either hulking white men or hyper-thin white women.
Now that we’re starting to see some change in that direction, then comes the fun part: Who should play Faith? The correct answer is, obviously, Aidy Bryant — she’s young, bubbly, and, honestly, “Lil Baby Aidy” is already a superhero in my book.
But Kether Donohue (who is only fat in the sense that she was referred to as “Fat Lindsay” on You’re the Worst) would also be hilarious in the role, as would Orange Is the New Black’s Danielle Brooks. There’s also the star of last year’s Patti Cake$, Danielle MacDonald, who already has the long blonde hair of a 2018 Faith Herbert. The last question is whether the film adaptation will do her justice — but I, for one, have faith.