Sunday, April 19, 2009

Backwards In High Heels

To all those who argue that it is perfectly plausible for kick-ass superheroines (or women in similar professions that require stealth, athleticism, martial arts prowess or basic coordination, such as sexy-ninja-assassins!) to be wearing high heels during work hours: I give you the prison break scene from Watchmen.

Next to the opening montage set to “The Times, They Are a-Changin’”, this is my favourite part of the film – seeing Silk Spectre II carve her way through rioting convicts to bust Rorsharch out of prison with Nite Owl II. This sexed-up film translation of Silk Spectre II calmly and efficiently roundhouse kicks, dodges, spins, punches and karate chops these hardened felons and doesn’t even seem to break her stride. Finally she's in action!

Awesome (if a little stiff), isn’t she? About as close to a real life Black Canary as we can get. And look, Silk Spectre II wears spiked fetish boots and garters and no pants and can still kick considerable choreographed arse!


Where did her stiletto heels go during the actual kicking-people-in-the-head bits?


The high heels are gone! Inexplicably replaced with sensible FLAT heels during the stunts! Fascinating. Certainly seems to suggest that even basic stilted martial arts choreography is hard to perform while wearing sexy spiky heels, doesn’t it? Stiletto heels - specifically designed to place the wearer off balance - would seem to impede one's ability to perform spinning kicking combinations, no?

See, this is my basic rule when it comes to superhero costumes (particularly martial artist type superheroes):

Excluding garishness / colours / capes / symbols / animal motifs / throwbacks-to-superhero-parents etc., would the costume function properly if you wanted to go jogging?

If you answered no to this question, than I daresay it is a very stupid costume indeed. Who the living hell goes jogging in heels?

I don’t get why the costume department didn’t just design Silk Spectre’s costume with flat boots in the first place and keep it at that. Is it so important for the character to be in stilettos, even if it clashes with continuity once she actually performs fight sequences in flats?

There are more female vigilantes/crime fighters/superheroes who appear to sacrifice basic comfort and balance for sexy sexiness than you can poke a stick at. Many, many more. And as Malin Akerman up there demonstrates, not even months of training and working out can counteract the devastating effects ridiculous high heels have upon one's ability to be completely and utterly kickass.


Further references for stupid non-functional superheroine costumes:

Rose/Thorn: A split-personality-disordered streetfighter who is quite cool but seems to think basic protection from the elements – let alone protection from bullets/knives/blunt weapons/bare hands – is completely unnecessary. Also wears thigh-high stiletto boots and proudly displays her g-banger throughout an entire issue of Birds of Prey, curtesy of Ed Benes.

Would you wear that to a MMA match?

Rachel Summers: Sure, Marvel Girl is a telepath/telekinetic who can harness the Phoenix Force, hence she doesn’t rely solely on her physical prowess, but that is no excuse to be wearing a miniskirt the size of an elastic band. I presume she needs to walk, run or sit down at some stage.

Nice knickers, Starchilde.

Black Canary looks great in heels – but stabbing factor aside, this martial arts master needs footwear that will aid her in her quest to put some serious whammy on thugs and the like, not clip-cloppy balance-disrupters of doom.

Yeah, she might make it look easy but that shit gets old fast in high heels. Not to mention it could be permanently crippling. S'why Dinah's ditched them for stompy army-style boots.

I'm not too keen on Elektra’s peekaboo red loincloth either, but that’s for another day. At least she wasn’t tottering around in high heels, though.


  1. Thing is, stunts can go wrong.

    I would imagine in these situations, a stuntman might object to losing an eye from a 'kicked in the face' stunt.

    In terms of credibility, If I were to get permanently damaged and have my entire career flushed away, I'd rather have a story like "Yeah I was driving a flaming truck of an aeroplane in to the grand canyon, and the parashutes didnt open" rather than "Director made a girl wear high heels when she hoofed me in the face."

    Also, I would point out that the actress is neither super powered, nor super trained in combat, so the comparison isn't really terribly fair, but my real problem with point was the 'blinded stuntman' thing.

  2. Maybe Mickey, although I could debate the fact that many non-powered heroes (and heroes whose powers are not physical at all) still wear crippling, pointy-toed stilleto heels. But aside from that, the thing is...

    Superheroes are, in many ways, supercharged powerhouse athletes, right? They (for the most part) train religiously, push their bodies to the limit, design specialised equipment and costumes for their work. They want the edge in every situation. However awesome you are, you can always push things just that LITTLE BIT more.

    Look at cycling athletes; specially shaped helmets to reduce wind resistance, bicycles designed to be extra thin, lightweight, and positioned to push the body into a more compact, low position to reduce wind resistance. Male cyclists shave their legs because the leg hairs add a tiny, TINY bit of wind resistance. That microscopic pinch off the end of a second they get is IMPORTANT.

    Wearing heels of any appreciable size, whether pointy or wide for balance, is not a tiny impedence, but a significant one. Pointy toed shoes also deform the foot, further impeding balance. This is a significant loss of advantage. What athlete, superpowered or not, would willingly sacrifice such a large amount of the edge they have over the enemy, for the sake of... well, nothing, since there isn't any perceivable advantage to wearing heels that I can see.

  3. Maybe Silk Spectre had something akin to the Batman Skate-Boots from 'Batman and Robin'? Click your heels to get the heels to retract for sexy walks toward the camera... click again to make them retract so you have flats for combat.

    I admit that this is a royally silly idea but it would explain a lot of most superheroines had this kind of gadget.

  4. That's a good point Mickey; stunt safety was something I didn't go into.

    I am certainly not demanding actresses portraying female superheroes wear high heels at all times, so rest assured I'm not arguing with your belief that stuntmen should be horrifically injured in more manly-type ways in order to preserve credibility. I used to want to be a stuntwoman myself incidentally, so I'd much rather they DON'T get injured at all, but it is dangerous.

    And yes, I was waiting for someone to point out that Malin is (alas!) not actually a superhero and would not be considered a martial artist (although she was required to train heavily for the role). For the sake of this article I'm leaving aside superpowered heroines and concentrating on the 'super trained in combat' women (my favourite kinda gal)...

    Fact is, although high heels are not impossible to move in (Ballroom/Latin dancers do amazing things in high heels, and I can run in them!) I sincerely doubt serious martial artists would compromise something so simple as balance/coordination by wearing them as part of their crime-fighting costume. No athlete, however skilled, would do so, as Bunny says. When reading comics, you can let stiletto heels slide a little, but it gets even less credible in live-action film.

    I was saying, why have the high heels in the first place? They are not necessary to the Silk Spectre's costume, impede functionality and can be dangerous to the actress (broken ankles?) and stuntmen (as you pointed out). Flat boots are functional, believable and less likely to blind stuntmen. Is it so important that Malin looks sexy first, is a superhero second?

  5. looking2dastars, that crossed my mind too! I'm very short, so I need you to hook me up with a pair of those. Feeling short? Heels on! Blisters? Heels off!

  6. Where do actresses and heroines get those wonderful stiletto boots that go flat during action shots, and back to stiletto when finished?