As with the other sections of this document, we’re mainly concerned with Season 2/Volume 2 of Heroes. However, if you wish you bring up some elements of Season 1 that continue into or inform elements of S2/V2, that’s perfectly acceptable.

This section will deal with the concerns and criticisms we have with the way Heroes handles Gender (mainly as concerns the female characters). This includes both how women are portrayed or and their storylines/how they are handled. We’re particularly concerned with stereotypes and “Women in Refrigerator” moments.

Obviously you can’t completely separate plot and character and race and gender issues. But if you feel that an element is more gender-based than not, include your comments here.

How this works

In the comments, post whatever you have to say about the gender issues in Heroes that concern/anger you. You can touch on the issues Tim Kring mentioned in this EW interview, but put more emphasis on things he didn’t mention.

If you’ve come across a brilliant blog post that you feel encapsulates your exact feelings on a plot element, please provide a quote and a link back to the post itself.

We also encourage contributors to comment on each other’s offerings, clarifying and questioning the opinions offered. If you feel strongly about a comment or post, please tell us why.

Things to keep in mind when formulating your critique:

  • The more specific you are, the better.  Reference episodes/chapters, if you can/need to.
  • Provide explanations or links defining terms or concepts Kring and the other writers may not know about/fully grasp.
  • Mention areas where the show is doing something right in order to highlight ways they can fix what they’re doing wrong.


  1. Anyone may participate in this collaboration. The idea is to bring in the opinions and views of a diverse swath of Heroes fans.
  2. Your first comment will be moderated, but once it’s approved all subsequent comments should appear right away. To ensure this, please use the same email address each time. You don’t have to leave a real email address, but only the blog administrator can see it if you do.
  3. If you quote from another website or blog, please provide a link as reference. If the commentary you’re providing is your own, please indicate such. Provide a URL only if you don’t mind us linking back to it in the “Contributors” section. It will also help if people use names or handles they go by elsewhere on the web.
  4. The point of this document is to provide civil and constructive criticism of Heroes, not to bash Tim Kring, the writers, the actors, or NBC. Therefore, try to stay on topic and don’t resort to ad hominem attacks of fellow fans/collaborators or anyone involved with the show. Heated discussion is okay, disagreements may arise, just don’t be a jerk.
  5. As we will be discussing the touchy subjects of Race and Gender in some parts, it would help us all if commenters/collaborators familiarized themselves with the articles listed here. Particularly the “How to Suppress…” and “How not to be insane…” articles.
  6. Trolls and other people who cannot follow the rules will be moderated without warning and banned if the disagreeable behavior persists.
  7. Keep comments and contributions on topic.

19 Responses

  1. Claire, who was an active character in S1, spent much of S2 reactive to her boyfriend’s actions. Wes was apparently supposed to be romantic, but was in fact creepily manipulative — spying on her in her bedroom, forcing her to act against her better judgment in the pretended attack on the other cheerleader, and in general dominating her decisions.

    When we first saw the swordsmith’s daughter, she was heading off with the sword to attack White Beard. After that, she was nothing but a romantic interest. Why couldn’t she have taken some actions herself instead of being a trophy passed from Kensei to Hiro? Japanese legends include warrior women, the most famous being Tomoe Gozen — it’s certainly no more out of place to have the swordsmith’s daughter take an active role than to dump a white male with an Australian accent into Japan with nobody commenting.

  2. I’m really annoyed about Maya’s power first because it feels like a retread of the Niki/Jessica storyline (I can’t control my power! And it ends up destroying everything!) and second because show, could we please have ONE WOMAN who can actively control her powers?

    Claire regenerates automatically, Niki may have reintegrated enough to use her superstrength now, but for all of S1 we saw her out of control, and now Maya. As opposed to a greater variety with the male heroes: DL can choose when to morph, Nathan can choose when to fly outside of that first time, Hiro can choose when to stop time, Micah can choose to mess with machines, Sylar can choose to do pretty much everything, Peter seems to now be able to do pretty much anything, Matt can choose to read minds, Bob can choose to memory wipe or suppress powers, Linderman can choose to heal things, etc. etc. The one uncontrollable guy with powers was Ted, and even he had it under wraps enough to jump start cars after a few eps.

    We had Eden and Hana with controllable powers, but Eden’s dead and Hana is — electronic or morphed or something and in any case, they get almost no screen time. Molly can choose to find people, but again, she gets very little to actually do.

    Also, while many of the major male characters had to fight to control their powers at one point or the other (Peter, Matt, Nathan), they all get it under control within a few episodes and are using their powers actively now.

    Maya’s power may not look so bad individually, but given the show’s propensity to a) not have many female characters period, b) kill off a lot of female characters, and c) give female characters passive roles and powers, it’s part of a trend.

  3. Many, if not all, of the issues regarding female characters on Heroes can be traced to the fact that THERE AREN’T ENOUGH OF THEM. (And so, negative portrayals of women are compounded by the fact that there aren’t enough neutral or positive portrayals to counterbalance them. I have been gathering statistics for each episode of season 2, and the ratio of male characters to female characters is CONSISTENTLY 2:1 or less. This is counting all speaking roles, and also Bob the Haitian.

    I have stats for about half of Season 1, as well.

  4. I’ve heard a lot of people say that they finally kinda liked West this episode (Episode 9). Unfortunately – that’s not a good thing. West’s behavior from the very first episode of this season has been stalking and emotional abuse. He’s manipulated Claire by implicit threats of revealing her power in class. He’s wheedled her into “just one date” and then gone back on the promise. He forced her to prove her trust for him by jumping off a cliff. He showed up at her house, where she had specifically told him he couldn’t be, before she was even awake in the morning. He spied on her through her window. He forced her into a cruel and manipulative “prank” against another cheerleader. Etc. Two weeks ago, it seemed like the show was going to recognize this; Claire was starting to notice that things were wrong, and comment on them. But apparently, they now think they can fix their mistake by making West more “likeable”. No. They can’t. They set him up as an abusive character, and they can’t deny what he’s already done. Making him more “likeable” sends the message that they think abuse and stalking is acceptable and romantic, that as long as he just wants to “take care of Claire” it’s all okay. If they recognize that his behavior wasn’t acceptable, they have to deal with that by making the show recognize that it wasn’t acceptable.

  5. The Niki/Jessica thing was kinda irritating in Season 1 because of the ‘Niki needs to be saved from herself’ crap. But at least Jessica took charge of things. Jessica had goals – and Jessica even acknowledged in the finale that though she would kill DL, Nikki would not. She accepted her weakness and Nikki’s strength and, essentially, allowed the integration. That was growth. That was awesome.

    What is with this new Gia thing? If you are going to give Nikki yet another personality, why not one with a spine? Or control? Why a coke addicted sex fiend? You could have gone so many ways with the multiple personality aspect (maybe each identity has a different power), but instead you chose to infantalize one of the only regular female characters.

    And I concur with Meliel – West is a stalker. That is a very unhealthy and possibly dangerous relationship. Not something that should be glorified or romanticized on TV.

    Elle was awesome – at first. But why does evil = nymphomaniac? Yes, Kristin Bell is extremely hot, but she doesn’t need to be groping Peter to prove that.

  6. I have to agree with Meliel. I’ve always had a problem with how Claire’s father treated her, but it used to seem like the show did, as well. Now there’s a love interest who is treating her just like her father did: manipulating her and ignoring her thoughts and wants. Since she seems to be the one with the greatest power of all (she can literally save the world with her blood AND possibly live forever) why can’t she stand on her own for a while? Why can’t people be following her instead of Claire’s always being tucked into some man’s pocket (dad, real dad, peter, west)? I love this show so much, but if I had a teenage daughter I’m not sure how much I’d want her to watch it which just makes me sad

  7. The women of this show do not have meaningful, consistent relationships with each other. Their interactions are relatively few, and often mechanic. This creates the impression that women never interact with each other outside of the influence sphere of men, which is patently untrue.

    Claire’s relationship with her mothers, biological (Meredith) and adoptive (Sandra) is barely explored, nor does she have any female friends or acquaintances. Niki had a female friend appear briefly in season one, and disappear just as quickly; she has no mother that we know of. Monica interacts with Micah and with the men of the Company more than she does with her grandmother or her best friend. Maya interacts only with men. Simone never spoke to another woman for as long as she was on the show.

    Other female characters are largely love interests.

    Many characters, both male and female, have visible fathers but not visible mothers. This is especially true in abuse scenarios: Matt’s abandoning father, Niki’s abusive father. It is also true for neutral family situations, such as Nakamura Kaito and Charles Deveaux.

    People have mothers. Women, especially, have complex and meaningful relationships with their mothers, that are frequently an enormous influence on their lives. This should be reflected in the lives of the four female protagonists of the show.

  8. Re: mothers —

    Niki repeatedly abandons and terrifies Micah. Sandra Bennett is so loopy in season one that Claire might as well not have had a mother. Nichelle Nichols’ character barely flashes by in the background. The only real mother figure is Angela.

    I seriously disliked that Angela Petrelli’s power as revealed in the last episode of season one consisted of manipulating others’ minds. It came across to me as stereotypical of the ‘controlling mother’.

    In season two, Angela is revealed as a cold, spiteful adulteress. Even when taking the rap for murder, she does it for an ulterior motive. She’s been more and more beaten down, and now mentally raped by Parkman. Where is this storyline going? It’s almost as if the only real mother in the show (she was there the whole of Nathan and Peter’s lives and seems a competent parent) must be destroyed.

  9. Having Matt Parkman force her to tell him the truth is really the only true comeuppance Angela Petrelli has ever faced, as far as I can tell. She even confessed to murder for her own reasons (to conceal the reality of the situation from the cops and to gain some protection while in custody). If she’s been “beaten down” let’s remember she was complicit in trying to destroy NYC and kill millions for her own agenda. But she’s still alive. Linderman–a man–_died_ for _his_crimes.

    So I don’t think Mama Petrelli fits this theory. On the other hand, I can’t argue with anything else. I was hoping that, having finally integrated her two personalities, Niki would emerge as a strong and capable hero. But no, they just pushed the reset button and turned her into a victim. Again.

  10. The thing that bothers me most about Heroes in terms of gender is that none of the women have true agency. Either they have mighty power that corrupts or damages them, or they are merely pawns in the white men’s game. Infuriatingly, sometimes they’re both.

    Over and over again, we’ve been introduced to female characters who have power and can’t control it: there’s Niki, whose super-strength is directly related to her multiple personality disorder (a perfect metaphor for a person out of control: wild and erratic behavior and memory gaps); Maya, who unintentionally kills whenever she gets upset — seemingly all the time — and who needs a man to rein her in; Elle, a sociopath; and Angela Petrelli, who seems to be just plain evil.

    The only alternative offered for powerful women on the show is to become an object to be rescued or neutralized by men. Save the cheerleader, who needs no saving because she’s indestructible! While you’re at it, wipe her mother’s memory. Institutionalize Niki, then inject her with a fatal virus. Meanwhile, Maya’s manipulated by Sylar, Peter hooks up with and abandons Caitlin, Hiro keeps Yaeko (who we were meant to believe had some skill with a sword herself) out of danger, and Elle and Claire, arguably the most powerful women on the show, are reduced to objects to be bound and traded by Bob and Noah. I’m not even going to bring up creepy stalker West.

    So far, the only female character I’m thrilled with is Monica, and now that Bob knows what she can do, I have a bad feeling about her storyline, too.

  11. I wrote about a lot of this on The Hathor Legacy.

    A lot of what I say there has also been said here, but to add to the noise, here is where I wrote about a lot of what’s been frustrating me and here is where I pointed out that Monica has (up to the point I’ve seen) been the only thing good in gender terms.

  12. I completely agree with Lea’s comment about women on the show not having relationships with each other. It’s particularly disappointing given how incredible the show has been in it’s portrayal of complex relationships between men. In my opinion, the most compelling and interesting relationships on the show (and one the reasons I enjoy the show so much), are between Hiro/Ando, Peter/Nathan, Sylar/Mohinder, Matt/Mohinder. And yet I can’t even come up with one equivalent relationship between women.

    Hell, they even took time in the last episode to do some macho male/male bonding between HRG and West over protecting Claire…

    I just wish they would spend as much time exploring male/female relationships (both platonic and romantic) and female/female relationships.

  13. Though I agree that Monica is the most promising female character on the show – a bright, ambitious, stable young woman with an active power that she can control and takes genuine pleasure in – the use the show has put her to, thus far, has been dispiriting. Monica inexplicably lets Mohinder whisk her off to New York with what must have been some very vague explanations, given that it’s only once she’s been there for several hours that he even tells where in the city she is. She lets him poke and prod her, basically performing for him, and then sits around waiting for him to give her leave to go. And then she lets him inject her with an unknown substance. I’m sorry, but the correct response to ‘just one injection and then you can leave’ is always ‘I believe I’ll leave right now,’ and Monica can add that if Mohinder has a problem with her leaving he should think about all the martial arts films she’s been watching.

    That this doesn’t happen, that Monica passively allows herself to be moved around like a pawn is because that’s precisely what she is. Her purpose, thus far, has been to act as a plot device in Mohinder’s story, and having played that role she seems to have been shunted off to the side.

  14. Monica is a strong step in the right direction, and needs more screentime. For Nikki, making her independently powered and freed from immediate role of mother/wife is a good start, plus having her interact with other plotlines. The biggest problem last year was that Nikki was mostly irrelevant to the broader story, off in her own world that wasn’t that interesting.

    There are some serious concerns on gender, largely relating to the under-use of women. I don’t think it’s as sweeping as is often said, with blanket statements of bias that don’t account for all the women and variety, or the fact that a high death rate is endemic to the men as well.

    That said, there is one serious deficiency: good non-powered females. In this show people without superpowers are often just as important, and it’s here women are not shown well. There have been poor males, but also the likes of Noah Bennett, Mohinder, Zach and Ando. Who do we have on the female end? Jackie, Debbie, Janice, Heidi, Hope, Swordsmith Daughter. Brats, adulterers, passive cripples who can vanish from Nathan’s storyline for ten episodes without explanation. Perhaps the only good non-special female was Audrey, and she’s been MIA pretty much since Godsend.

    To make the show better, introduce some effective, competent, appealing, active, emotionally stable ‘mundane’ women. Where’s our female equivalent to HRG? Or even Ando? Of the people we’ve seen, developing Kimiko, Sandra and Audrey more would be a good start.

  15. I wrote a post on the Twelve and how their powers are represented, as there’s a trend with white male members of the Twelve having clearly defined powers while the other members of the Twelve have either ambiguously defined powers or powers that haven’t been established. I am posting this to both the race and gender section as it applies equally to each.

  16. I would love to write a brilliant comment about representation of LGBT characters on Heroes…but there’s not much to say, is there?

  17. I also think the Monica is an immensely promising character, but I fear they may be grooming her for death. I sincerely hope this doesn’t happen, because I like her so much. If Monica is killed off as a device to give Micah motivation on his heroic journey (just as poor, pointless Caitlin is essentially killed off to benefit Peter’s development, just as Charlie is killed off for Hiro’s benefit in Season 1), then this show really is succumbing to Women in Refrigerator syndrome.

    The female characters need to have their own development and motivations. They should not be mere instruments of the development of the show’s male characters.

  18. That this doesn’t happen, that Monica passively allows herself to be moved around like a pawn is because that’s precisely what she is. Her purpose, thus far, has been to act as a plot device in Mohinder’s story, and having played that role she seems to have been shunted off to the side.

    This was not improved in last night’s ep, in which she became a pawn in Micah’s story. I don’t know why someone who has trained in martial arts wouldn’t be able to take on four men who wouldn’t be expecting an attack. (A man in Monica’s position — in every sense of the word — would have dropped on the men, wiped them out and left them as a pretty present for the cops.)

    Claire started to show some backbone at the end of the ep — let’s see if she keeps it up.

  19. I was going to write up something, but I realize that abw and WNG already said everything I wanted to say. The treatment of women on this show has been frustrating beyond belief for all the reasons they state. PLEASE, producers, think things over more and give females some active and conscious roles to play.

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