Saturday, August 12, 2006


Going over an old post I found...
On one level, it achieved precisely what the writer had intended. Plotwise, it worked perfectly. The intent was a Spider-man style origin, where the hero is off elsewhere while the loved one dies. Rather than have a random villain as the culprit, the writer also created a completely despicable evil -- he threw some interesting parts on behalf of the villain (the flowers he gave Alex with the death threat note, the note to Kyle that implied she'd cooked food for him, the comment about what a beautiful girl she was). The character herself was respectfully treated, an unpowered support cast-member allowed to put up quite a fight against a powered villain. The convention of placing the body in the refrigerator was pure logic. Where else would be put it while he waited an indefinite length of time for Kyle to return?
Would anyone consider that paragraph a justification for the convention of killing a girlfriend to further the hero's story?


  1. wait, is his argument that refrigerating your hero's dead girlfriend is more respectful than leaving her to spoil?

    holy wow.

  2. I don't know if it's a justification for the whole convention, just explaining what the writer may have been thinking and how that scene works. Maybe just a Devil's Advocate response why it's not sexist because it couldn't be any other way (the dangers of being a hero, a nastily mocking hiding place for a body) and it has "internal consistency." It feels like the kind of response I got coming out burnt from that whole Pantha/IC4 debacle (sorry, sorry for still harping on it...): the writer(s) may have their own motivation and intention for the scene that isn't (conciously, anyway) sexist to them or the audience. That's just how things "are."

    Although I do have a creeping worry that someone could work a justification out of it. They could say it's not sexist because, as this explains, it was done for a "purpose" and it couldn't have been written any other way to get across that particular intention (another thing argued in that Pantha thread). I guess it goes back to a comment about being sexist, but not malicious or conscious even...

    I'm still fuzzy from lack of sleep, so I don't know if I made any sense...

  3. What do you mean, "his" arguement... Read the post... that was Lisa's...

    I still don't know how I feel about it. I remember buying my first Green Lantern comics and being told that "all you need to know is that his girlfriend was killed and stuffed in a refrigerator because he became Green Lantern"...

  4. I think it justifies the events of that particular story, but not the convention as a whole.

    A lot of people treat the "sexism in comics" issue as though there are only two options: A.)Every flaw in a female character or bad thing that happens to a female character is a result of sexism, or B.)there is no sexism in comics anywhere.

    The truth, as usual, falls in the middle.

  5. As someone who reads them at an almost alarming rate, allow me to assure you:

    There is no sexism in comics.

  6. a general rule?


    You spoke to the strengths of that praticular tale. Yes, you justified some of the choices, but WiR was never about a single choice here or there, so much as it was about the trends.

    Until you justify the trend, I wouldn't call you a WiR-apologist (which I what I think you were asking).

    * - (and I hesitate to say this, as Gail says a lot of folks who think they get WiR, really don't BUT...)

  7. I would say that it's doesn't come across as a justification, inasmuch as there really isn't a justification for it. What I get out of what you wrote there was "it's not any worse than what you usually get," or maybe "it's not really uniquely bad enough to have lent its name to the phenomenon."

    I would say that the convention can't be justified (and I was about to go into a long explanation why, but it's going to be so long that I'll have to make it its own post). Anyway, what I got out of that post at Gin's was that the convention is always unjustified, whether it's well written and makes sense in the story or not. And I tend to agree, but as I said, I'll go into it at my place.

  8. Killing off the main protagonist's friend / relative / lover in order to advance his or her story is a pretty old cliche. And you never defend the use of a cliche, you defend its implementation: execution is what separates the lazy hacks from the good writers, the ones who know how to get to the heart of a cliche and figure out what makes it tick. Usually something becomes a cliche because, once upon a time, it was pretty powerful stuff; it's just that after a million reuses, it's lost its original power, like a page that's been photocopied over and over again.

    A good writer knows how to take a cliche, strip it down, and build it up again to make it effective: they know that a cliche can make a good foundation for a story, but is no substitute for telling it well.

    Where things get tricky is when a cliche is sexist, racist, etc., but it's used well: do you condemn the writer for busting out a worn-out cliche with troubling overtones; or do you compliment the writer for redeeming the cliche by making it work within the confines of the story? In superhero comics, the overwhelming majority of protagonists are male; which means that when a writer decides to use the "killing off the protagonist's lover" cliche, it's gonna be a female character who gets the axe.

    But here's the deal: while it may be the writer's fault for falling back on a cliche, it's not their fault the cliche is sexist (or racist or whatever) in the first place. It is not Ron Marz's fault that killing off the hero's girlfriend was an old saw looong before he put pen to paper; or that it has sexist overtones in comic books because it is so commonplace and the reverse is so rare. All he is responsible for is how he writes the story.

    In short, what you said isn't a justification of the convention, it's praise for how Ron Marz handled it. I think it's perfectly reasonable to say, "I'm really effin' tired of this particular cliche, but I have to admit, this writer did a pretty good job of using it in this story." You acknowledge the writer's skill, even while observing that he or she is using a common (and in this case sexist) cliche that annoys or upsets you.

  9. It worked for that story, is all I can say. I do think the loss of Alex happened a bit too soon, but that's neither here nor there.