ED2015 Columns ED2015 Comedy

Elf Lyons: What superheroes taught me about sexiness

By | Published on Tuesday 4 August 2015

Elf Lyons

As she takes to the Edinburgh stage with her show ‘Being Barbarella’ this month, Elf Lyons considers superheroes and sexuality, and balancing trying to be sexy with trying to be funny on stage.

Superheroes have taught me many lessons about life: all villains prefer to be lit in shadow; if you put an animal species in front of your name you are infinitely cooler even if you in no way resemble the creature in question*; and if you can use sex to pause time in order to rob banks to raise money for your local library, then it is totally your responsibility to do so.**

Furthermore, superheroes have answered many questions about the enigmatic issue of sexiness. As a teen I thought ‘sexy’ was: grinding, rara skirts, La Senza flammable neon knickers and Russell Brand. But if you ask me what sexy is now, I’ll list off: swordsmanship, telepathy, morph suits, a calm understanding of the space time continuum, a good sense of humour and confidence***.

That final point is the killer one. Confidence is the sexiest thing about a superhero. When have you ever read about or seen a shy superhero? True, they may be nervous people when not fighting crime, but as soon as the world needs saving, they adopt the most confident personas in all the universe. Similar in some respects, I suppose, to comedians off and on the stage. Switch on the confidence, and you’re transformed into an untouchable entity with a job to do.

This is why my show is about Barbarella, a French comic about the sex-based adventures of Earth’s number one Astravonagatrix. Barbarella is overlooked as an proper ‘superhero’ but I believe her confidence with her body, her sexuality and herself, is empowering and worthy of attention.

For example, in one adventure Barbarella states: “I am a cauldron of fire and lust”. Which is a very evocative way of saying “I suffer mood swings depending on where I am in the month”. In another adventure she exclaims “I will give myself body and soul to the first person who quenches my thirst. And that’s a promise”. Which is a far quicker way of getting attention from bar staff when asking for a glass of tap water. She’s confident with her words, she’s unique and because of that, she is sexy.

On stage I am physical (imagine a giraffe on rollarblades). I never wish to disguise my femininity, but I need to be practical in what I wear. And over the years superheroes have taught me a lot about how to be comfortable, confident and sexy all at once: capes are inconvenient, corsets are too restrictive, lycra may look great but it has the habit of sweating, masks are a real faff, and body-paint melts quickly under heavy lighting and is distracting for audiences.

For this reason, I am inspired by the modern Ms Marvel approach – tailored, feminine, breathable fabric – which allows me to get the most out of my daddy-long-legs shape on stage, without making me feel like I’m disguising the person I am. It’s empowering and practical. My sexy armour.

Superheroes have taught me there is no such thing as normal. You have to embrace and embody your weirdness and commit to doing what you do, the best way you can. On stage I never worry about being sexy. It’s not the priority, the jokes are. Because if I am funny and confident on stage, then simply, in my opinion, I am hot stuff.

In my show, I want to talk about Sharks. Why? Because I love sharks. There is no other reason than that. I. Bloody. Love. Sharks. That confidence and love of sharks is sexy in itself – for I am Shark Girl!

As long as you are intrinsically kind and awesome, it doesn’t matter how you look – people will be able to see your inner coolness – as evidenced by Groot and Rocket Raccoon in ‘Guardians Of The Galaxy’. I may love sexy ripped warrior men in lycra who can teleport and mindread, and adore the curves of a gorgeous supervillian with a smouldering voice, but I am turned on more by the personality and wit of a confident, emancipated individual.

** OK, niche reference to the Image comic book ‘Sex Criminals’
*** This makes me arguably quite picky on Tinder.

‘Elf Lyons: Being Barbarella’ was performed as part of PBH’s Free Fringe at Edinburgh Festival 2015.

LINKS: theelflyons.com