Terrifica – Real Life Superhero
In a city such as New York there are always dangers. Taxi drivers, muggers and icy pavements in the winter, to name a few. Then there’s the night – the clientele of bars, clubs and parties all over the city taking risks, gambling with their lives. And more often than not the innocent victims are women. Women who may have had a little too much tipple, or are being led up the garden path by the ‘alpha’ male in the crowd. And who is there to protect those women from these dangers? Superheroes like Spider-Man or Batman? The Amazon goddess herself, Wonder Woman? No, these are purely characters of comic books and imagination. However, there is a real hero out there, and yes she does wear a cape and sport a mask!
I protect the single girl living in the big city.
That mysterious woman in scarlet costume, red knee-high leather boots and swirling cape? That’s Terrifica! Together with a blonde wig, golden mask and matching Valkyrie1 bra, she is every part the superhero, providing help where it’s needed (and sometimes not).
Devoid of any real superpowers – no superspeed, superstrength, X-ray vision or amazing mutant abilities, all she has is her ‘utility belt’ – a bumbag2 containing pepper spray for emergencies, a mobile phone, lipstick, camera, notebook, Terrifica fortune cards, condoms and ‘energy pills’ (Smarties chocolates). And with no superhuman abilities to protect her from harm, Terrifica does take chances. She has often been abused by both women and men when offering her own style of ‘freedom-fighting’, but mostly she is berated by bartenders trying to ply their wares.
First coming to prominence in 1995, Terrifica took her self-proclaimed mission of protecting single women to the bars and nightclubs of the Brooklyn area of New York, in particular 7th Avenue, seeking out women she felt were being taken advantage of by male ‘predators’. She would speak to potential victims, offering advice over a ‘Shirley Temple’3, and either handing over condoms or her trademark fortune cards, which gave tips on how to deal with unwanted sexual advances or a ‘break up‘ peaceably. One ‘rescuee’, 24-year-old painter Lauren, reported:
She asked if we were going to hook up tonight… offered us a condom and said that if I was going to be tricked into having sex, at least it should be safe.
Terrifica soon became a common and often welcome sight, in some cases purely for the gimmick and ridicule, at many ‘frat’ parties4 and Wall Street clubs in Brooklyn during the late 1990s and early 2000s.
I had a couple of run-ins with men that really shocked me, left me feeling confused and really hurt.
Mild-mannered Sarah5 works for a computer consulting company in the city. Little is known of her childhood and past, as she ensures her true identity remains a secret, so as she can live a ‘normal’ life. Sarah’s superhero side came into being when, after moving from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to New York City, her then boyfriend broke off their relationship. Upset and alone in the big city, she continued to make the best of things and eventually met another man while out clubbing.
However, the course of true love does not run smooth and in a short space of time her new boyfriend also ended their relationship. It was this event that spurred 30-something Sarah into action, deciding that no other single woman should suffer as she had. ‘Terrifica’ was born – a heroine that would protect other potential ‘Sarahs’ from the possibility of emotional or physical harm caused by ill-advised or drunken decisions.
We have crossed paths from time to time.
Terrifica’s arch-nemesis, Fantastico, is a partygoer who likes to dress in velvet and considers himself a bit of a ladies’ man. Terrifica has thwarted his attempts of ‘getting to know women a little better’ many a time. An intriguing character – unemployed, but with a penchant for the finer things in life, Fantastico is convinced that Terrifica is not a superhero, but merely a ‘miserable, lonely woman who does not want anyone else to be happy’. It is not just her enemies that have labelled her a ‘crazy broad’ however, with club-owners, partygoers, new-age feminists and even the New York Police Department frowning upon her vigilante actions.
It’s dangerous work that I must do alone.
Despite her critics, many women have benefited from Terrifica’s intervention. The heroine once planned to set up a telephone hotline to help women when they needed relationship advice, but she also concocted an equivalent of the Bat-Signal – the ‘Terrific-Signal’, which would shine a huge ‘T’ over the skyline of New York in order that she could race to where she was needed – but unfortunately, these ideas never came to fruition.
Even though Terrifica wanted to carry on her mission – as long as there were still women getting drunk, going home with men they barely knew and then wondering why the phone would not ring the next day – it appears as if she has hung up her bumbag and folded away her cape – for now…
Terrifica’s lasting message to the young single women of New York?
Don’t get drunk in bars.
1 A Valkyrie is a Norse legend, a female warrior with golden armour.
2 Otherwise known as a ‘fannypack’ in the United States.
3 Non-alcoholic drink.
4 Parties held by American College Fraternities, in which college boys get drunk with college girls and all sorts of chaos ensues.
5 Her full name is kept secret to maintain her anonymity.