Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Let's move this conversation here.

So, in my last post (which I figured was going to cause a fight, just not this kind of fight) I said that there was no conspiracy to kill off all old 80s and 90s comedy characters at DC, and some of the commenters thought that the way to refute that statement was to throw my own complaints about how women are treated by the company in my face.

Now, you'll have to pardon me if I misread the statements because my sarcasmometer is still in the shop.

It started here:
Well sure. But there is no conspiracy to treat female characters like shit. It just happens. DC still did a good job of pissing over Giffen's league. They appear to be trying to make up for it though, what with books like the new Booster Gold.
That irritated me:
Yeah, thing about that comparison is, whenever someone reacts saying "There's no conspiracy" we still get to point out that there's a huge system of societal sexism in place causing that to happen, and that people do things like that because of assumptions they were raised with. We also get to point out that this sort of crap is supporting a system of societal sexism that demoralizes people and shoves them into little boxes.

Giffen's league was funny, but DC killing off characters that were basically given to the guy because they were the second- and third-stringers the writers were free to turn evil, maim, or kill off is not the same thing as just about every company in comics falling back on the same shitty tropes, stereotypes and exploitation when it comes to an entire gender.
I should have chosen my words more carefully, because that left everything open for another commenter (yes, one of my regulars and not just some random anonymous person) to really piss me off with this statement:
Killing/maiming/turning evil of 2nd and 3rd tier characters is only a shitty trope if the characters are female?
My long answer (the one I posted):
Way to oversimplify my statement. You know there's a serious difference there.

Look at how Blue Beetle died and how Jade died. Who died having solved a crime and who was a "vessel" for her signifcant other's power?

Compare Phantom Lady's death scene to Black Condor's. Someone died quickly in mid-air and the other lingered with her clothes torn off and asked a miserable, scared "Why?" of a supervillain.

Stephanie Brown's to Jason Todd's. Who's costume went from loose-fitting to skin-tight? Who was drawn as if they were having an orgasm during their death? Who is now back to life?

Hell, even when they go bad, does Max Lord going evil and damned near managing to take over the world seem nearly as fucking pathetic as Jean Loring arranging for a friend's death to get her ex-husband back?

Tomar Re died during a battle in CoIE. Katma Tui died a few years later on the kitchen floor while her husband was at work, without ever getting to put up a fight.

The shittiness is not in the characters dying/going evil/being maimed, but the how and why and how it conforms to a shitty societal standard for what men are allowed to do and what women are allowed to do.

And guess what, even then its not a fucking conspiracy, but just a bunch of people who are used to thinking one way who need to learn to think another.

I'm not going to tell you what to like or hate, or what to complain about, but I am going to tell you that these things are not equal in any way shape or form. One is a hell of a lot worse than the other because of its real-life reflection.
My short answer:
Well, if no one gets to be hurt or in danger or have a moral crisis we really have no story. The problem is when it only happens in certain potentially cool ways for one gender and certain crappy ways for the other gender. Invisible Woman being mind-controlled and turned evil isn't shitty. Invisible Woman being mind-controlled and turned sexy-evil is.

Anyway, now I'm spoiling for a fight and I'd prefer to have it here and not in the comments of the other post which really had nothing to do with gender issues.



  1. I agree.

    This has been another thought provoking reply from Cullen Waters. You're life has been enriched by it, I know it.

    Honestly, though, you've seemed to cover all you bases. Not that that's going to stop the naysayers from snarking.

  2. I suppose this does help clarify some of the responses feminist bloggers tend to get.

    Some fans say, "The Giffen-era League is getting treated like crap!"

    They reason, "Because there's an internal conspiracy against my favorite characters!"

    Feminists say, "Female characters in comics are getting treated like crap!"

    They reason, "Because there are cultural assumptions about the role and depiction of women, both in fiction and in real life."

    And no matter how many times feminist bloggers clarify their position, the fans inclined to believe in internal conspiracies assume they must be proposing one against women in comics.

    (This probably owes as much to cultural assumptions about misogyny, racism, et al as it does to fan inclinations.)

  3. *claps*

    Well, put. You are a voice of reason, as always.


  4. I was merely noting that I understood there was not conspiracy. I used the example I did because both things frustrated me (though *certainly* not equally).

  5. BTW,

    And guess what, even then its not a fucking conspiracy, but just a bunch of people who are used to thinking one way who need to learn to think another.

    I'm not going to tell you what to like or hate, or what to complain about, but I am going to tell you that these things are not equal in any way shape or form. One is a hell of a lot worse than the other because of its real-life reflection.

    I actually am in full agreement. fight to give. ;)

  6. While I’m not sure this theory is false, I’m not sure it stands up either. You’ve brought up some anecdotal instances of things appearing to be worse or less respectful/heroic for women and they are all true, but this seems slanted.

    Certainly, in the instance of Jade, we could point out that it is far more common for a woman to get her powers from a male hero than it is for a male character to get his powers from a female hero … in fact, I can’t think of any male heroes who got their power from another female hero, but I can think of several in reverse. I don’t know how Jade died, but being a vessel to another’s power doesn’t seem to be any kind of juxtaposition to solving a crime. And there have been plenty of guys who died while doing nothing significant. For instance, if we just looked at Avengers Disassembled, we’d see that Ant Man died while greeting a friend, the Vision was torn apart without taking any action to defend himself, the zombie Jack of Hearts just exploded himself to redeath, and Hawkeye died in a ridiculous folly where his own weapons were going to explode so he plunged himself into the invading – I believe the term was – papier-mâché alien invasion. Moreover, I can think of 3 male characters (Sun Boy, Jack of Hearts – the first time he blew himself up, and Vigilante II) who killed themselves out of despair, just giving up on life, not in some grand sacrifice, but I can’t think of any women who have. While Black Condor’s death was quick (and in midair; although, I don’t know why that matters), so where the deaths of many female characters (e.g. Yellow Jacket II, Donna Troy.) Personally, I didn’t see Phantom Lady’s question as miserable or scared, but I did notice that the Human Bomb’s costume was ripped and his death was as brutal a death as I’ve ever seen in comics. If that had happened to a woman, I’m sure someone would be saying it reflected misogyny on the part of someone.

    I’m not going to argue that Stephanie’s costume didn’t get tighter or that female costumes tend to be emphasize sexiness more than males, both are obviously true, but Jason’s costume did start out tight and revealing more skin. As for being brought back, yes, he was but so have several female characters like Wonder Woman, Magik, and Hellcat, while several male characters are still dead, e.g. Dr. Druid, Aztec, the Blue Beetle I & II.

    Jean Loring’s reason for going evil was pathetic, but Ultimate Hank Pym attaching his wife with stinging ants and bug spray was also a pretty pathetic evil turn, not to mention in that same series that Bruce Banner flipped out when his ex-wife went on a date and destroyed much of NYC, while the Ultimate Black Widow had a pretty convincing evil turn.


    I’m not saying you are wrong that females are treated worse, but I’m not sure the evidence is really convincing. I just think that if we look at comic characters, nearly 100% of them are going to have something horrible done to them, and the theory that there is something different between what happens between the genders is true on some grounds (e.g. costumes, how they get powers, if they have their own books) and fairly inconclusive on things like how they die or if they will come back to life.

  7. Excellent post.

    Also, I am now relieved (retroactively) that evil Hipollyta was not brought back as sexy-evil, because now I can completely see how that could have happened, and it would have sucked.

  8. Cullen -- Nothing ever seems to. I think that's why I'm gotten so cranky in the past 300 posts or so.

    Will -- *Nod* And its easier to assume someone's thinking along those lines than to actually read what they reason.

    *Throws a yellow-filled water balloon at Starman*

    Thom -- No sweat, these things happen.

    Ragtime -- See why I was so happy when that crossover started? Belligerence is something Diana's built to tone down. Its actually a standard WW plot to put her in the role of peacemaker here, especially when one or both sides is being manipulated. Sexy evil is another category altogether.

  9. Yeah it was an oversimplification and I regret that. But that "don't do that" response to Thom bugged me and so I posted something I knew would annoy you and push your buttons for that I apologize...

  10. LW -- No sweat, I liked the final reaction enough to repeat it above.

  11. I never believed there's a conspiracy to kill off a certain set of characters. It's just bad writing and short-sightedness, a conviction that all characters must be a certain way and endure certain pains to be taken "seriously" because SUPER-HEROES ARE SERIOUS, DAMN IT!

    The gender difference is significant, however, because it is reflective of a greater attitude toward women in general. And it exists in more than comics ...