Saturday, January 12, 2008

Responding to Cheryl Lynn

"Arrgh! I would have never seen this wack crap if not for you guys!"

Speaking only for my part, I would have let it go a little while and linked it in a normal WFA post but I needed a column and four people emailed me links. (Now I two days' worth of material spanning three blogs out of this. Go me!)

Anyway, answering your question:
Two, is this really a big deal? I've guess I've seen enough ridiculous beefcake pictorials of men dressed as pseudo-superheroes that seeing the gender flipped this time around doesn't bother me. Think this doesn't happen to Superman and Batman? You just haven't been visiting the right sites.
No, that's not it.

See, the big deal isn't that she's "dressed" as WW. The thing's in the article. I know, no one reads Playboy articles but Pink Raygun scanned it so we all saw it.

The writer is calling a reality-TV-Queen the "modern-day Lynda Carter" without listing a single heroic role or action. This is just more of the mixing of feminine symbols up. I mean, you said it yourself:
The material should be kept separate though. Wonder Woman can't be all things to all people in the same book, comic or magazine. And DC shouldn't be seen as sanctioning all things either. That's where the trouble starts. Keep your fetish material out of my adventure comic. It's not like chocolate and peanut butter. They don't taste good together.
By listing a bunch of reality TV shows and calling her the "modern-day Lynda Carter" because they painted her into a WW costume, they presented the adventure story as fetish material.

A heroic and strong symbol is considered the same thing as a sex symbol, not because strength and heroism is sexy but because her appearance is sexy. It's related to what's going on in comics, I think, where the heroines are considered to be sexy first and heroic second -- because the guys writing the comics are like the person who wrote the Playboy article. They can't see beyond the sexy. They don't realize that there's a heroic aspect to the appeal of the character.

Zhinxy may have the best analogy:
Wonder Woman porn is fine in my book. Maybe even more than fine, from time to time. But that write-up feels a bit like… taking pictures in the “naughty nun” vein and then claiming you’re celebrating virtue?
I figure sex culture is okay as long as it doesn't try to be higher than itself. If it was just a Wonder Woman spread with some talk about her being hot, that'd be one thing. And if it was a superheroine spread where she was fighting bad guys in various costumes and/or she was an actress who typically played asskickers, and the whole thing was about how sexy that was, that would also just be one thing. I could go about my existence not acknowledging what was on the cover of or inside any issue of Playboy.

But it's not. It's the muddling you mentioned. They aren't putting out porn and saying "Here is porn. It has a girl dressed as Wonder Woman in it." They're saying "Here is Wonder Woman. She is porn."

Instead of presenting our hero as fetish material as the comics sometimes often do, they went and presented their fetish material as our hero.

It's a fine difference, but it's there and I think reasoning and writing about it now will help pin down the problems when adventure comics and fetish material collide elsewhere.


  1. I think it's clear they're dismissively referring to Carter in association with an iconic Wonder Woman. And that's MY problem!

    I think Carter can sometimes get in the way of a good contemporary take on a character of superhuman presence and athleticism.

  2. Have you been following Devon's blog over at Seven Hells? He actually speaks highly of Lynda Carter and her portrayal of Wonder Woman as more than just a hot chick in a hooker costume. Dignity, elegance, competence, warmth, all that. I didn't see all that myself, but I was just hitting puberty when the show came out so I had other things on my mind.

    I'd still like to see Allison Stokke in a Wonder Woman movie, though as it works out Allison's real-life trials and tribulations mirror the Topic of the Day: should she be seen as a sex object first and an icon of strength and grace second, or vice versa? I'm in the "strength and grace" camp.

  3. Having dark hair, and slapping on some paint does NOT make you Lynda Carter. Anymore than having blonde hair and looking vacant makes you Supergirl. Paris Hilton...maybe, but not Supergirl.

  4. "Anymore than having blonde hair and looking vacant makes you Supergirl."

    Works for the comics.
    HEYOOOHHHHH~!!! ;-p

  5. Wow, you mean the commentary in Playboy wasn't feminist commentary? That's so shocking!

  6. Chupa, darling, don't come here and talk to me like I'm an idiot. I'm well aware of the audience for Playboy, and that Playboy is far from a feminist magazine.

    That doesn't make the problem not exist.

    And I'm sure it may absolutely shock you, since judging by your tired joke you clearly only comment on the internet to say something that is absolutely cutting edge, but some of us examine things beyond the surface even when we were not surprised by them.

  7. "By listing a bunch of reality TV shows and calling her the "modern-day Lynda Carter" because they painted her into a WW costume, they presented the adventure story as fetish material."

    I think that's why I'm having trouble getting too upset over this. Wonder Woman was, at least partially, fetish material from Issue 1. If it were a different female character, (who I hadn't just read four DC Showcases full of her getting tied up every three panels) I'd probably react differently.

  8. I'm seeing a lot of "Wonder Woman is border-line porn/fetish anyway, so why does it matter," and "It's Playboy, what do you expect." types of comments on this. But last time I checked Playboy Inc. doesn't own the rights to the WW character. Okay, fair use, whatever. Generally speaking, there has to be editorial context for there to be fair use - what we showed you on Pink Raygun is the entirety of Wonder Woman content in the issue.

    I know it's pure speculation, but I can't imagine DC/Warner allowing a Batman or Superman to appear nude (except for boots) with a body-painted costume, on a nationally distributed magazine.

  9. Whoa she's hot, i read something about scanned pages, but didn't see a link - i'd like to see more of this chick