Saturday, December 04, 2010

On Hatred

A few days ago on Tumblr, Sharon Carter fans and Sharonhaters came head to head over a post on the increasingly poorly named "Comic Secrets" tumblr. Seems someone felt that Sharonhaters were falling prey to sexism, but didn't felt comfortable calling them on it and naturally they did an anonymous posting that pissed a large number of them off. Even though Tumblr has gone to great length to make it nearly impossible to have a conversation, a post claiming that Sharon Carter "gives men a reason to be sexist" and that, based on examples solely from Ed Brubaker's Captain America run, the character is inherently worthless has led to an intense fight via reblogs (across a second post, too). I'm particularly fond of how she cites Sharon's advice to kill Bucky as her being a "bitch", but claims she hates her because has no agency whatsoever.

Despite it being a glaringly irrational argument based on a single writer, it nevertheless reminded me of my recent Crystal irritation, my old Donna Troy hate, my old Jade hate, and my history of calling for the deaths of Spoiler (which ended up sucking), Jade (which also ended up sucking), and Cassie Sandsmark (which would probably end up sucking so I've stopped wishing she'd die). The entire affair has me thinking about the nature of character hate, especially in a genre like superhero comics where the storytelling is serialized across portrayals by different writers and artists. When is it really hating the character for something in their core concept and not simply being angry about the role in the story or the writer's individual view of the character? And how often is it simply based on another character? How much of a role do demographics like gender, race, sexuality, ethnicity/nationality and religion play? You can't divorce it completely, and many of us are harder on the ones with demographics in common with us. What about exposure? A character you're indifferent to can soon become hateful if you see it way too often. There's a number of characters I can't stand because they dated other characters I like, and a significant portion of the books I read were dedicated to a character I had zero interest in. Too much time of that and a lack of interest turned into disgust and misery whenever the character appeared.

I can't speak for anyone else, but I know that every character I read gets measured against a number of traits and values I try to cultivate in myself. (Yes, villains have these too. They just don't have a moral compass.) I find myself taking little interest in characters without those traits, and that turns to hate if I read too much of that character. There's a few character traits I despise in myself and other human beings, and I'll take a strong dislike to anyone fictional who displays them. It's simply things I don't want to read about. Sexism plays a role here. I know of some traits (such as Daddy issues) and storylines that are more palatable with a male character than with a female character to me.

But then we get into the problem of what's a character trait and what's just the writer. This is especially problematic because what's just the writer can soon become a character trait if taken on by the next writer, and the writer after that and so on. See Crystal's infidelity: the first could simply have been an accidental falling for Pietro, the second they tried to explain away as mind control, but by that point writers had gotten too attached to her and Pietro in some sort of love triangle so then there was the Black Knight infatuation, and Johnny Storm was played up again, and the next thing you know the fucking Sentry's been retconned into her past (this does make me pity her more than I hate her, though). I'd say anything transferable between writers can be argued as a character trait, with the clincher being three or more writers with no mind control/imposter plot or a majority of the character's recent appearances.

Fortunately, character traits can change and the right growth plot can turn a hated character into a tolerated or even beloved character (though I think it's safe to bet you won't see a post on this blog entitled "How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb Queen" anytime soon).

A trait that's in the core concept is tough to change, though. You can't suddenly decide that Huntress isn't a temperamental Italian woman with mob ties without making her into a completely different person, so if your problem is that Huntress is an ethnic stereotype than probably nothing is going to change your mind. There's a number of characters I can trace my hatred back to things that are inherent to their characters, and that's just the way it is. In such a case, though, I can usually tell I'm not going to like them from the description and it's not a reflection on any writer other than the one who created the dreadful waste of panel space.

Still, there's a place for reasonable dislike and hatred that takes the gender of the character into account without focusing that hatred on the femaleness of the character alone, and without extending it to real live women. You may hate a character because you object to sexism that's become inextricably entwined with them in stories, but when you throw gendered slurs at the character when ranting about them, you problem may be more rooted in sexism itself than objection to sexism. I'm not above saying "Emma's a bitch", but anyone offended by the vocabulary certainly has a point that I'm letting misogynistic attitudes creep into my rhetoric.

Now, before you accuse me of thinking myself inherently better than someone else... 5 years ago, I wrote this post. It's another thing that has me thinking about character hate. This may seem like an inappropriate subject for the holiday season, but the celebration of Yule is the expectation of dawn after a long darkness and I'm in one of those religions dedicated to personal exploration, so I can't think of a better way to spend December than wading through the depths of my hatred of female characters feeling blindly for the root cause. I believe I'll look into some individual cases in my upcoming posts. Feel free to join me.

Friday, December 03, 2010

We may need to be proactive with this guy.

Via Mizzelle, we have some intriguing news in the DC management area. Seems they've put a new person in charge of developing their franchises. Given how badly they've been doing with Wonder Woman, this could only be a good thing. Right?

I'm sure it is. Let's meet the new guy:
In his new role, Desai will develop and implement the individual franchise plans for Batman, Superman, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, The Flash, MAD Magazine, Vertigo titles, and other DC properties. This will include driving wider cross-promotional support across all Time Warner divisions.

Amit Desai joined Warner Bros. in 2004. Most recently, he was responsible for Warner Home Video’s non-theatrical family and animation business. During his tenure with Warner Home Video, Desai helped grow non-theatrical family & animation revenue +45% and secured #1 studio market share position for first time in business history. Among his accomplishments, Desai is credited with the launch of new franchises such as DC Universe – a series of animated original movies inspired by DC Comics graphic novels.

Wait.. He's an animated feature exec. Didn't we recently hear something about animated execs? Let me check my archives... Ah, here it is:
We had originally planned to do sequels for Wonder Woman [but] sales started out extremely slow and then over time were eventually able to catch up to probably Justice League Frontier. The execs decided because it wasn’t able to sell quickly right away, where as Justice League was, that there wouldn’t be any more female super hero films right now. We were developing and hoping to get started on a Batgirl film based on Year One, but because of Wonder Woman’s slow sales start, that won’t be happening now.


Does anyone have his contact info?

Thursday, December 02, 2010 Membership Drive

The old Board of Directors at were a driven, organized, and (rare among comic fans) practical bunch that managed to convince the suits at DC Comics that a third-string sidekick girlfriend of Robin should be returned from grave and given her own solo series. Pretty fucking impressive on it's face, and they had considerably wider goals. Alas (as with my own projects) life gets in the way and you don't always have a successor available who can hit the ground running when you need to move onto a higher priority. As a result, the site's columns have been silent (I understand the forums are still active, though) and we haven't yet seen a major followup to Project: Girl Wonder. But that could change: is pleased to announce that it is holding elections for the Board of Directors for its governing body, Gworg.

Gworg is an incorporated non-profit feminist organization dedicated to fostering an attentive, empowered comics fan community, to encouraging respect and high-quality character depiction, and to assisting the professional development of women working in the field of comics. Anyone who supports these aims is eligible to become a member, and all members are able to vote, stand for office, and nominate others to the Board.

Becoming a Director is an excellent opportunity to support and direct the progress of! Moreover, since Gworg is a registered non-profit organization, this also makes a great entry of volunteer work on your resume.

This is how it works:

1) To become an official member of Gworg, you must purchase a voting membership good for one year. There is a nominal fee of five dollars, which is waived for volunteers (bloggers, cartoonists, forums moderators, etc). All members are eligible to vote in elections, and to nominate themselves or others for Board positions.

2) If you want to be a Board Director, nominate yourself! You can also nominate others – don’t worry about approaching them to see if they’re interested or if they’re members, because we’ll do that.

3) We’ll make sure all nominees want to run for election and are eligible to do so.

We will be accepting new members and Board nominations from Tuesday, November 30th through Tuesday, December 21st. Elections will be announced on Tuesday, December 28th. Members will then have until Tuesday, January 4th to vote for this year’s Gworg Board of Directors.

Just a few years ago was the most effective female-focused comics charity around, and with the right people on the board it could be again. If you have interest in superheroes, a progressive outlook, enough drive to confront a resistant industry about its ingrained attitudes towards women and spare time, I advise you to look into this. (Even if you're not into Batfandom, because heaven knows things like this need variety.)

I just have two things to say, at the risk of opening old wounds:

1) When you do join, choose your officers carefully. The old Board were the founders, so they were engaged. But there's another female-focused comics industry charity that once did a great deal of work but found itself slipping into inactivity. This charity attempted to infuse itself with new life by electing for their President a popular blogger with a prize peacock personality rather than a dedication to the goals of the organization. It did not work out well. Take my advice and pick yourselves some down-to-earth people who aren't into self-promotion for your leadership.

2) If you get a position but later find that your professional, student or personal life is reaching a point that you can't fulfill that duty, don't be ashamed to step down and let someone with more time take care of things. Both Kalinara and I hesitated on that with When Fangirls Attack and we had several months without a post, nearly killing our venture. We finally faced facts and passed it on, letting it survive a few more years. The projects themselves are more important than any discomfort that results from having to give them onto another person.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010


There are so many beautiful things about JLA #6-7 (the introduction of Zauriel, numerous pithy ways to say the world is at stake, and an unrelenting stream of awesome Wonder Woman moments to name a few) but I had until recently overlooked the introduction of Mangatron. Mangatron is a giant robot. He sits on the bottom of the ocean. This is all he does. I am not normally impressed by giant robots, but I love him.

I suspect if we could ever figure out exactly why, we'd be able to mass produce comics to my taste.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Can you be prettier when you cry?

What the fuck, filmmakers?
Actually, it was the lack of acting she hated. "I remember when I was dying in Silver Surfer...The director was like, 'It looks too real. It looks too painful. Can you be prettier when you cry? Cry pretty, Jessica.' He was like 'Don't do that thin with your face. Just make it flat. We can CGI the tears in.'" And I'm like, But there's no connection to a human being. And then it all got me thinking: Am I not good enough? Are my instincts and my emotions not good enough? Do people hate them so much that they don't want me to be a person? Am I not allowed to be a person in my work?
--Jessica Alba in Elle

So, I found this little nugget buried in my feeds, linked from Comic Alliance, through Moviefone, to and I can't help but notice not one of these websites commented on the importance of this quote. Moviefone acknowledged that it was a valid complaint, but was too busy making jokes at her expense.

And you know what, sure, Jessica Alba has never displayed a lot of acting talent. She's easy to take potshots at. But she is telling us exactly where that Fantastic Four sequel went wrong, and where Catwoman and Elektra and other incredibly shitty takes on superheroines went wrong. This is where supporting characters like Lois Lane in Superman Returns went wrong too. From the start, from the very point where they decide "Let's cast that girl based on her appearance--then make sure to change her hair and eye color", and the writing when they don't give them worthwhile parts, and the directing where they say "We need your pain to be attractive so just be flat because that's prettier" -- They don't treat female characters like people. The makers of these films aren't considering those the parts of people. Even when they DO hire an oscar winner, they don't write for her or direct her like they're writing for or directing a person. They're writing for and directing pinups. They think all they need someone who looks hot on the poster and a computer can do the rest. Then when it doesn't work, they say women don't work. After they made it not work.

When you figure all the lead woman in your film can be is window dressing, and you don't pick the best actress (and instead chose the sexpot who's natural looks you're going to cover with appearance and alter with CGI anyway), and you don't write a strong part for her (because you didn't pick a good actress who can carry it, or you'd rather write the men, or you don't feel comfortable with a heroic woman), and you don't encourage the actress to give her best in the role (because strong emotions aren't pretty, because you didn't pick a good actress to begin with so why bother), and you go as far to as to cut down on the humanity of a moment in order to make it more sexually palatable, then your movie sucks. This is why your movies suck, Hollywood. Not because your lead is female, not because your actress sucks (that's actually your fault because you morons hired the sucky actress and are actively trying to make her suck more), but because you've decided your lead isn't a human being. It's not female action heroes who suck, Hollywood, it's you.


(And by the way, if you comment anything to the effect of "Jessica Alba is just a bad actress trying to excuse her bad acting" that makes you an idiot who missed what I'm mad about. And an asshole too.)