Saturday, June 03, 2006

Shadowing the Batwoman

Okay, I've been following this since got home Sunday night, and I have something very important to say to all of you:

DC really isn't making a big deal out of Batwoman being a lesbian.

It's everyone else who is.

Yes, I elaborate.Take the original, two-page, twenty-six paragraph article (which you should register and actually read before going off about).

Here are the Batwoman mentions, quoted for your perusal.

The articles starts with discussing the history comics and what cross-section of society they represented.

Second Paragraph:

But this year will be a banner one for diversity in the $500 million comic book business. At DC Comics, an effort is under way to introduce heroes who are not cut from the usual straight white male supercloth. A mix of new concepts, dusted-off code names and existing characters, the new heroes include Blue Beetle, a Mexican teenager powered by a mystical scarab; Batwoman, a lesbian socialite by night and a crime fighter by later in the night; and the Great Ten, a government-sponsored Chinese team.
(Emphasis mine -- and yours)

Later on, she does get her own paragraph devoted to her -- just as Jaime the new Hispanic Blue Beetle gets his own paragraph

Another effort to link old and new characters centers on Kathy Kane, the gay Batwoman who will appear in costume for the first time in a July issue of "52." Batwoman was introduced in 1956, but she was one of several, often silly additions to the Bat family, including Ace the Bat-Hound (1955), Bat-Mite (1959) and Bat-Girl (1961). In her latest incarnation, Batwoman is a wealthy, buxom lipstick lesbian who has a history with Renee Montoya, an ex-police detective who has a starring role in "52."

Please note that buxom lipstick lesbian is not in quotations. That is because the article writer is an idiot, but not necessarily Batwoman's creator.

Now, to be fair, it was followed immediately by a paragraph on gays in Gotham:

Even so, it's something of a surprise that there are any gay characters hanging out in Gotham City. Last year DC issued a cease-and-desist letter to a New York art gallery for displaying watercolors by Mark Chamberlain that depicted Batman and Robin in intimate positions. "That's not what this is about," Mr. DiDio said. "We're basically showing a different cross section of the world."

And the article wrapped up with an attention-hound writer saying idiotic things.

It also features the infamous costume with the high heels (Damn you, Ross), which is sexist as shit but more of a general misogyny complaint than specifically being objectified for her sexuality.

Almost instantly -- due to the Bat- prefix, the controversy of homosexuality, and mundanes mixing Kathy Kane up with Barbara Gordon -- this was picked up by the Associated press and it makes the rounds through newspapers, message boards, blogs, and watercoolers throughout the world. The New Batwoman is going to be a Lesbian!!!

So, naturally, Dan Didio does an interview in response. Which, not surprisingly, was based on having reconcieved of the decades-dead and erased-from-reality character as a lesbian.

Which naturally caused a lot of DC-bashing because now, suddenly, Batwoman was a lesbian as "Selling point" rather than a smart and unusual way to bring her into the 52 action. You know, 52, the comic in which she debuts? The comic in which Renee Montoya, a lesbian, is a main character? The one where she's coming off of a broken relationship, has a history of being in the closet and have secret lovers, and has recently been going through a bout of promiscuity and anger-issues? Where an easy way to link someone to her plotline might be to have a previous romantic involvement come back on her?

Not so much as case of "Of course the only two lesbians in Gotham know each other!" (a blatantly untrue statement, as neither woman has connections to Holly Robinson, Catwoman II, that I've seen on a number of blogs) as a case of cop's ex-lover is a superhero. Which we've never seen in a heterosexual relationship before, right? (Flash and Julie, Shade and Hope)

But no, we can't treat this as cute romantic awkwardness like we would if it were say, Harvey Bullock being featured in 52 and Batwoman was brought in with romantic complications towards him. Or if Renee were not gay, and a male hero that had a romantic history with her was brought in to complicate the plot. No! Because they're lesbians, so DC is automatically using them to pander to fanboy desires and not to, say, appeal to the large number of gay readers they have.

Here's the thing, I read the interview with Didio. I read the original article. Despite myself, I was intrigued by the story. She sounds pretty cool and interesting, at least from the start. And Didio's "I didn't realize it would be this big as deal" thing may be a lie, but I'm leaning towards truth here. They have other gay characters, have had gay characters for years. Batwoman is a relatively minor character. They were asked to produce a list of diverse characters for a New York Times article on diversity in comics. They gave up their history with Milestone, a Hispanic teenager, and a lesbian socialite. It's not that they're considering gay people a sudden novelty right now. It's that the article was specifically about characters that are not white heterosexuals, like we traditionally see in superhero comic books.

But the more they talk about being diverse, diverse they sound. (Get it, diverse, da verse, the worse.. *Ahem* Nevermind).

I see both sides condemning the character. The message boards and conservative misogynists are bringing their homophobia to the forefront, and then in response the gay-rights and feminist sites are calling her "Bat-bitch" (Yes, a gendered insult on a fucking feminist site. That pissed me off!!) and trashing her from the first sketch. The attention is good, the talking about it is good, and I know for sure a number of people'll pick it up without having intended to before. But honestly, the book's not out yet. Once it's out, we can see how she's handled. The high heels are a bad sign, yes, but the writing might yet be good. The character could be unique and interesting. The interplay with her ex-girlfriend could be fun. All we're guaranteed right now is a female hero who won't end up romance fodder for a male hero, which eliminates a pretty damned annoying convention right at the start.

And guess what, Newsarama asked Editor Stephen Wacker about her in their weekly after-52 Q&A session.
NRAMA: While she hasn't been in the series yet, the new Batwoman who will be debuting in 52 #11 was announced earlier this week, and she's literally been everywhere, with a lot of attention being paid to the fact that she's gay. We you in any way expecting the reaction she received? Has any writer "adopted" her, so to speak to give her voice and motivation, or is she a group project like the others?

SW: I wasn't surprised at all. I knew when the news was being released, so it's been a real countdown the last couple weeks. DC's publicity brigade of Stephanie Fierman, David Hyde, Alex Segura and Sierra Hahn, and many others, did a great job getting the word out and I hope people are interested in finding out more.

Look, you do anything with a Bat or an "S" on it and it makes a splash - see the Death of Superman hubub for an even bigger example of what these symbols mean to people outside comics. I also don't think it's too surprising that anything with the word "gay" attached makes news since it's a subject that really pushes people's buttons. Put the two together and suddenly I can't watch Anderson Cooper without a 36-inch image of Didio's face staring at me like some rogue DC Nation column come to life.
(This tells us the man's either smarter or more honest than his boss)
Creatively, the work is already done on the issue, so it was put together away from the spotlight. We're focusing on just trying to avoid the easy angles on the character and not make her story solely about being gay and, gee, how A) great or B) horrible it must be. Batwoman's appearances in 52 are decidedly not about the struggles of being a lesbian in today's crazy, mixed up world - that's my story!

Like most comics we do in the DCU, at its core, Kate's story is about someone putting their lives on the line for others and why they do it, it's about a offense...…

Anyway, no one's specifically adopted her yet, but in 52 her story does tie into Montoya's, so make of what you will.

Sounds to me like the lesbian angle is just a way to connect the dots to Montoya, a little romantic complication for the 52 storyline. Why, I'd almost go so far as to say they're treating Montoya and Kane's sexuality as normal, as opposed to an unusual circumstance.

So far, I only see two immediate and confirmed gripes -- impractical high heels and impractical long wild hair. (Oh, and that the guy who wrote the NYT article is obviously fetishizing lesbians.) Valid gripes. These may be specifically characterizing her as extremely vain and patriarchally influenced (which might be a nod towards her Pre-Crisis past life) -- personality traits which do not mean she won't still be a kickass complex character. But which would distinguish her from other female characters.

Although I have issues with trading a good-sounding name like Kathy Kane for the clumsy, blunt Kate Kane. Reeks of "women with cute names like Kathy aren't as intelligent or competent as women with serious names like Kate" which greatly annoys me.

Until I see more, I'm optimistic, at least willing to give her a shot. I'd like to see more women in prominent positions in the DCU, and knocking them down because they debut with high heels or in a romantic storyline doesn't help.

New Community Site

Speaking of Mary, the anticipated is up and running -- featuring an essay by Trina Robbins on Wonder Woman.

Weekly Women's Geek-Out #3

Diane Duane, writer of the Young wizards series, keeps Out of Ambit for when she wants "to talk about anything but writing." Mostly she links and quotes from around the net.

Comic Candy is a small, female friendly, female run (but not exclusively female) website with regularly updated news, a community forum, reviews, and pictures!

I'm not much of a gamer myself, but I have found my way to a few sites that mix Feminism and Gaming issues. New Game Plus, run by Ariel (Lake Desire of Shrub.Com) is just one of many, linking and commenting on pertinent posts and stories throughout the gaming blogosphere.

I just found Brainfreeze: Comic Love this morning. I've always looking for new viewpoints, and this may be the first time I've seen a mother reading comics along with her children -- and blogging about it. Check out her invaluable Parents Guide to Marvel Legends Figures before you buy.

I'm sure by now most of you know about Monkey Crack Mary and her project. She also writes fanfic and journals her feminist beliefs. And in addition to all that work, she still managed to scoop Newsarama. I think it's about time I put her on the blogroll.

Not going on the blogroll, but still of interest is the Georgia State University survey: Daughters of the Revolution: Females Born in the ’70’s & Early ’80’s, Writing, and the Digital Revolution. For American women born between 1970 and 1985.

(Oh, and by the way, I was Virginia Woolf in the What Feminist Icon Are You? quiz. You can judge for yourselves how accurate that seems.)

And you can find last week's list here.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Surreal Larsen

Erik Larsen's latest column... Through the Regenderizer!!

(Here's the real one, in case you are drunk or sleep deprived and easily confused)

Beautiful, Wonderful News

Mary was telling the truth.

Manhunter Lives!!

Asian/Asian-American Characters in Comics

Oh, and one last thing -- While I've been doing my little amateur experiment, Jenn at Reappropriate has been compiling a database called The Outsiders: Asian/Asian-American Characters in Comics. Check it out!

(She has pictures!)

Edit: Related article at Great Curve.

I'm afraid of my comment threads...

That's why I'm babbling tonight.

Anyway, Melchior's got a post up about the Wonder Woman article in this month's Wizard magazine.

He highlights some good points, but neglects to mention what, for me, was the most promising statement of the article (oh, don't be surprised I read it -- it's Wonder Woman, for Hera's sake!) -- the statement made at the end.

This could be spoilerish, I suppose.

Please, please tell me he means going back to the fun-loving Golden Age Princess.

He makes references early on to how her origin story sounds like a fairy tale, which is also beautifully true and part of her appeal.

Is it June 7th yet?

Ten Advantages to Being a Buxom Lipstick Lesbian in the DC Universe

(Under the category of "Signs you're enjoying a concept way too much" I bring you something truly offensive)

10 -- Green Lantern's High Lover-to-Lesbian Turnover Rate
9 -- Always invited to Harley Quinn's slumber parties, no matter what side of the law you operate on
8 -- Not in danger of Green Lantern Curse, as that Doctor Lady rarely leaves Oa
7 -- Bruce says Wonder Woman likes the Batsuit
6 -- Completely immune to inexplicable charms of Green Arrow
5 -- Can always count on a date with a cop or two
4 -- Lady Shiva is easily confused in this area
3 -- Wonder Woman's Mother due for resurrection, pretty sure she swings both ways
2 -- The New Catwoman is currently seeing someone, but Major Force is in town next week
1 -- Themiscyra


"Kate" Kane?

Kate Kane? Just what the hell is wrong with Kathy? What do you have against a name like Kathy, Didio?

Please, Kate Kane. Two monosyllabic names. Please! Everybody knows when you have direct alliteration (CL is not alliterative with K, though) you have at least one of the names be two syllables. That's just how it's done. Lois Lane, anyone?

Kate Kane. It sounds hideous. No one would allow themselves to be called such an ugly name. Particularly a socialite so obsessed with her appearance that she ensures her long flowing hair shows despite the mask and wears high-heels to boot muggers. Please! Like such a woman would be Kate Kane.

Now maybe, maybe if she had a name like Spencer -- two syllables, not alliterative -- she might go by Kate. But with Kane?

Kate Kane?

That's a mere one letter difference. It may as well rhyme!

Do yourselves, and her, a favor, and go back to Kathy. Kathy Kane. It rolls off the tongue.

I know it sounds similar to Candy Cane, and that's probably why you got rid of it, but that's part of what makes it work. It sounds natural. It's memorable. It's a classic-sounding name.

That's a name that'll stick with readers.

And Kathy is a fine, underrepresented name in comics. The Kates have Manhunter. The Kitties have Shadowcat. But what about the Kathies? They had Batwoman before, and now they don't. Because you had to take her away Didio. You had to go and name her Kate.


It's a serious name. That's why you did it. You wanted a serious character.

Please, I read your interview. She's a high society lesbian socialite who's in the closet about her sexuality and her superheroics. She's dying for something light and cute. She wears high heels, lipstick, and a perfect coif to a street fight. She's made for a name that ends with -y.

Do yourselves a favor and don't take this character too seriously. The situation described in this interview is prime comedic material. Can you imagine the secret identity shenanigans with not only a double-, but a triple-life set up?

And her character design. She's light and girly. She's in black and red but that's a pink person if I ever saw one. You should break your lesbian stereotype. Go for femme as femme can be, but still have her kick butt. Make her vain, and pretty, and still ready to kick ass and resist evil with the best of the Bat-clan. Go Buffy Summers. Have her complain about breaking nails and messing up her hair after she's got the bad guy down. Say things like "But when you said I wore too much rouge, you went too far!" before she opens her can of Bat-Whup-Ass on somebody.

Have her check her reflection in a store window when she sees Wonder Woman.

Please, resist the temptation to make a statement and go serious with this. Don't go for the lesson. You always seem to go for the lesson, can't you just have fun? I mean, stay serious enoguh to keep her a reasonable hero, but a little lighthearted fun never hurt anybody. Even in Gotham. and she is a holdover from the Silver Age, after all.

Don't let Rucka keep her for too long (even though we know he made her). He likes lesbians, and seems to greatly enjoy writing them, yes, but he is short on sense of humor.

Under no circumstances allow Judd Winick near her. Tell him if he wants another GLAAD award he'll just have to cross the rubicon with Grace and Anissa.

She was rumored to go to Gail first. She'd fit in in Birds of Prey, I'm sure. She can make innuendo towards poor clueless Zinda.

Marc Andreyko's free now that Manhunter's on the chopping block. Give her to Marc, he'll take care of her.

Hey, you just lured Allan Heinberg over from Marvel. Try him.

If not, get Dan Slott. They just cancelled one of his books, maybe he's willing to try a different boss for a while.

Just.. please... Someone who can do this right.

Someone who can have fun and still respect her.

Someone who will call her "Kathy."

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Sir! Step Away From the Pulpit!

For this, my 250th post, I have chosen one of my favorite targets. Someone recently interviewed by the "New York Times:

When I get gripes for my need to force my social agenda into comics, I always ask: which social agenda are you complaining about? Is it the gay people? Or the black people or the Asian people?

Why does he remind me of the guy at work who, when I mentioned reading a bad review of Crash, told me the reviewer must have been racist?

Wherein I will probably piss a few people off...

Anyway, even I must admit, this is a skilled answer. This is the answer Judd Winick uses to shame criticism of his writing skill away. It's like saying "How dare you not like my stories, you racist! You homophobe! Your wish for escapism is a really a wish for a white Christian heterosexual only society!" It makes us feel bad and keep buying. It's meant to give him attention. He takes your question, and answers it with a question. He steels himself as the Great Defender of Diversity, and as such doesn't need to entertain the option that he's not a good enough writer to deserve all those GLAAD awards on his wall.

I may be presuming too much, but it certainly doesn't mean what it says. Because Judd Winick does indeed write with a social agenda. He wrote Green Lantern with a social agenda. He's claiming, in the above quote, to simply being inclusive, but there's a difference between a social agenda and being inclusive. Bringing in diverse characters just to have a more diverse cast, and a different range of plot opportunities is being inclusive. Bringing in diverse characters so that you can use them to draw attention to specific unpleasant realities of our society, and attempt to teach tolerance in this manner, is a social agenda.

Holly in Catwoman, Damon and Todd in Manhunter. Josiah and Rupert in the Power Company. The writers using these characters are being inclusive. There are there, they are part of the story, they have not been used to teach anyone a lesson. They are all homosexual, but it's not something that is brought up in every appearance (except for Todd, who counts as a "Significant Other" character at the moment -- his relationship to Damon is his tie to the cast). They are not brought in specifically to point out that they are gay. Their sexual orientations have an effect on their individual plotlines, but as supporting characters their individual plotlines do not overcome the main plot of the book (Batwoman will be different in this aspect). They are not singled out of hurt specifically because they are different from the main characters or the characters in other books. They are individuals, not stand-ins for the entirety of the LGBT community. They are not simply mouthpieces for their creator's views on social injustice.

Terry Berg in Green Lantern. The writer who introduced this character had a social agenda. He was introduced and once outed, he regularly appeared to discuss the difficulties of being a teenaged gay person and teach us about how difficult it is for some kids to be in the closet. Whenever he shows up, the conversations revolves around him and his difference. A few months after his introduction and outing, he is beaten to a bloody pulp to show us the Evils of Prejudice. He's the victim of a Hate Crime, because he's the only character in the book who could be the victim of that particular crime. Once that happens, his plotline completely overtakes the main character's storyline, and is the catalyst for the main character uncharacteristically leaving the planet. This character was brought in specifically to teach the readers a lesson. Terry Berg was not a character in his own right. Terry was a stand-in for all members of his minority. He speaks generically, and so speaks for all gay teens on the planet. He was a throwawa character. A plot device. He was a voice through which the Great and Enlightened Winick could speak and educate us, the poor masses.

Now, there's nothing wrong with stories that teach a lesson. Parables and such. Some of the best stories are ones that teach.

Here's the thing, though. There has to be a story involved, not just a bunch of people bemoaning the state of today's world. There have to be characters there, not caricatures. The story can't just be written, it has to be written with skill and understanding. Winick has written both Green Lantern and Green Arrow, both characters with a history social agenda. In the seventies, Denny O'Neill penned some ground-breaking and downright courageous stories with morals about environmentalism, racial equality, corruption and greed. He even took a shot (and sadly, missed) at writing Feminism. Taking this legacy to heart, Winick has used his pen to draw attention to gay rights, racial diversity, and HIV. He has also sadly missed at writing Feminism, but not to worry, he's missed with all the others too. You see, Judd Winick has nowhere near the subtle preaching touch of Denny O'Neill.

I'm not kidding.

I was talking to the old manager at my LCS about the "Brother's Keeper" storyline, and naturally, it turned into a Judd Winick trash-talking-fest. He was hung up on a single scene. A scene with Alan Scott in a gay bar. Thankfully, this scene escapes my mind. Anyway, apparently Alan was perfectly comfortable. At a gay bar.

Alan Scott.

At a gay bar.

This sounded off to me too.

I can see Wildcat, Dian Belmont, Wonder Woman, or Black Canary at a gay bar. Totally comfortable, dancing, having a great time. They were the cool people.

But Alan Scott or Jay Garrick? The straight-laced, buttoned all-the-way-to-the-top, Mr White America poster boys for the Greatest Generation?

Oh, come on!

And throughout Green Lantern, I noticed a pattern. Everyone, except for Terry's father (who came off poorly and said mean things to Kyle) and the guys who beat him up, were all perfectly alright with being gay.

Hey, no problem, right? I mean, nobody's giving Holly or Damon grief, right?

Well, here's the thing: A) Alan Scott. That's a lot of lost comedic potential there. He couldn't at least have made him a bit stuffy (Andreyko has him calling Damon "Todd's friend" over in Manhunter, which sounds much better) and B) This is, no matter what Winick claims, a social agenda story. He's teaching. He's preaching. If he wasn't, Terry's orientation would be a background thing, never the point of a major plot. There's a reason he brought gay-bashing into this, and it was to affect the reader's attitudes.

And in order to do that effectively, you must first respect, going in, that Other People Have Different Attitudes. I don't mean knowing this. I mean respecting this. You have to understand that people are raised with prejudices, prejudices are difficult to overcome, and ignorance, preconcieved notions based on superficial qualities like sexual orientation, race, and gender do not automatically make somebody Evil. It only makes them wrong about this.

So, you can actually have a superhero who might, due to the society he was raised in, feel uncomfortable in an unfamiliar setting -- like a gay bar. It's all right, it doesn't make him evil, it just means he needs to learn. You might even get a tension-breaking joke or two out at his expense.

And, since this is a social agenda story, you're writing this to teach a lesson. It might help if the people you want to teach can see themselves in the story.

That's where Green Lantern/Green Arrow worked in the Seventies. The two main characters were a hypocrite and a racist. A blatant hypocrite and blatant racist. But they were good guys at heart, and open to learning. As the series moved forward, they changed and grew, they learned. Sometimes the lesson took, sometimes it didn't. But through Hal, the reader didn't get defensive. The hero of the story had the same attitudes to overcome. He clearly wasn't a bad person. The story wasn't about telling him he was a bad person, the story was about becoming a better person. Most stories ended with some small progress made, if only some personal understanding gleaned from the experience. And there was beautiful, beautiful art (depicting a pair of beautiful, beautiful men).

But Green Lantern: Brother's Keeper had nothing to that effect. The closest we had was a grieving, guilt-ridden father who tried to cast blame all over the place and came off as a pathetic broken man trapped by his prejudices. The Hero in that story, solely acting as the writer's voice, treats him to a stern lecture and shakes his head. No one learns anything, because everyone worth anything already knew. The bad guys don't learn anything, they just get beat up. The father doesn't learn anything, he just gets shamed to silence. The good guys don't learn anything, they just feel sad and disgusted with humanity. The reader doesn't learn anything. The reader either already knew, or gets defensive and closes herself to the moral. There is nothing of value to take from the story, because the valuable lesson isn't offered to anyone who needs it.

And the writer gets an award.

And has the nerve, when the value of the story is questioned, to fling the accusation of 'Homophobe!' back at the critic. To shame the critic into silence.

When it wasn't the critic who created a gay character specifically to represent his minority, so that he could be violently beaten and used to teach a lesson that will not be recieved by anyone who hasn't already learned it.

This sort of story is pointless. By polarizing the characters, by turning the issue to a set black and white issue, you polarize the audience. You divide people instead of unite them.

These issues should be black and white. There should be no tolerance for intolerance, but let's face it, as much as we like to label people, people are not black and white. In order to teach, the story much reach the proper audience. The proper audience is varied, and beautiful, and painted by a variety of attitudes that they've picked up throughout their rich lives. Prejudice is present, and it's rarely overcome. It's more often overwhelmed by shame and hidden. It needs to be brought into the open, acknowledged and replaced with real knowledge. It's a complicated process, and if you do it wrong, the prejudice is just buried in denial and shame. People are complex, the situation is complex, and that takes care to handle.

I was told, before I bought the collections, that Green Lantern/Green Arrow was heavy-handed. It wasn't. There was a lot of preaching, a lot of preaching, but the mouthpiece's hypocrisy and humanity was clear to see when it was relevant. He was sometimes right, he was sometimes wrong. There were two sides to every story, with the heroes regularly squaring off against each other, but neither side was overwhelmed with malice. The introduction of John Stewart (which was both inclusive and a social agenda story -- introducing more black characters to the DC stable and telling a story about tolerance at once -- whew!). The basic plot was Black Man and White Man have to learn to deal with each other. The story was black and white, but with shades of gray. There was a good cop and a bad cop. There was an evil racist politician, spewing hideous hatred at the masses, and wallowing in corruption. There were two heroes who disagreed. Both were heroes, one was undeniably racist (though he hoped he'd learned not to be), the other was his student and forced to deal with him. The good cop stayed the bad cop's hand. The student showed the teacher he was up to the task when he proved that the politician was evil. The heroes agreed at the end. Some small progress was made and people's attitudes and involuntary reactions, even those that were in the wrong, were respected as not the extent of their character. The characters got to learn and grow.

If your characters don't learn and grow with your readers, odds are your readers aren't learning or growing. Which makes a teaching story, a preaching story, pointless. Anyone who doesn't see themself in the story will get up and leave. Anyone who can see the story is pointless, and that they already know the moral, and that they won't be entertained, will get up and leave. All that you are left with is people who know the moral, but can't tell the story has no point. They feel they've witnessed a great lesson, and don't understand why no one new learned it. They congregate, and share the great lesson with each other, and wonder why others haven't learned it.

Basically, you're left preaching to the choir.

In which case, you should just close your hymnal and sit back down.

Or better yet, tell something fun and light, that's inclusive without needing to impart the lesson. Take a page from Gail Simone, Marc Andreyko, or Ed Brubaker. Throw a cute samesex couple in the story and get on with the plot!

And don't have anyone beat up just because they're different anymore.

Too Long For a Comment

My response to all the comments on my previous post here (which was actually started here):

Thank you for participating, I mean it.

For my reasons, Kali's pretty much got it right. I'm trying to get a feel for just how pervasive stereotypes are when it comes to Asian characters. We've got two main ones -- martial artist and brainy type. As a holdover from the 40s, we have our pulp type villains and our cultural powers. And then we have the nationalists, which are a problem with any foreign characters. Since looking at the list I discovered a proliferation of crime bosses (Yakuza mainly) and newscaster girlfriends. Sometime in the near future I plan to organize it into a good list by stereotype.

As for the culturally specific powers, well, I noticed when we don't have a martial artist or a scientist, we usually got some sort of wierd Asian mysticism, like the psychic dragon. I mean, seriously, when we have a character with Irish ancestry do they always automatically get ties to the faeries? With Italian ancestry are they instantly tied to the Mafia Ancient Roman Pantheon?

I don't think removing stereotypes in their powers and occupation are cutting out all ties to their heritage, personally. Stereotypes can get mixed up with heritage, but really it's the trappings of heritage. Jobs and powers based on their ancestral culture? Why? Why not simply show heritage through family life?

I mean, take the new Blue Beetle. He's Hispanic, a student. He's got mystical powers and a legacy that have nothing to do with Mexico or Spain. He doesn't have a stereotypical Hispanic job. Does that mean that being Hispanic has no effect on his character?

Or hell, take Tsunami (off the list for lack of research, I've only seen her in Young All-Stars #1) -- most of her history revolves around having witnessed her family being gathered up for Internment Camps during World War II. Take about being affected by your heritage! And that has nothing to do with her powers (which I think may be coutned as stereotypical after all) or her job (which I am unaware of) and everything to do with being Japanese-American.

I don't see how say, an Asian football player who has trouble with math and superstrength powers would be divorced from his heritage. This stuff is superficial. The actual character shows through in his civilian life and how he handles trouble. His heritage will show particularly through his family, where he was raised, and how he regards his family and hometown.

I'm going for American Comics rather than Manga, because I'm looking specifically stereotypes that white people have for Asians.

Anyway, so far I have Ishido Maad (whom I had shamefully neglected even though I read Young Justice) and Angela Cheung to add to the non-stereotyped list, and Jubilee to remove. I like Karma as an addition too, but, as Kalinara pointed out -- it's like naming someone with Celtic ancestry Wicca. I can't find out enough about Celsius.

That leaves me with The Quiz, Angela Cheung, Grace Choi, Ishido Maad, and Nico Minoru so far.

It's got to be better than this.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Oh, dear.

Here it is the last day of Asian-American Heritage Month and I still don't have Jenn's present prepared. Sidetracked, once again.

Nevertheless, I do have some progress.

I went through the character list I requested and tried to eliminate all of the martial artists, "Oriental pulp villain" stereotypes, Yakuza bosses, scientists, and culturally specific/nationalist characters mentioned (Like anyone who's Japan's national hero or has a power like, I don't know, controlling a psychic dragon).

Not counting the characters I'd never heard of and haven't had a chance to research yet, I was left with Jubilee, Grace Choi, Nico Minoru, and three newcasters.


Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Feeling of Accomplishment

As I type this, this post is the number one result on Google for Judd Winick Captain Marvel.

Monday Misogyny

I've been arguing all night with this guy, and I've given up trying to get him to see reason. Here's his response to my point on posing.

Just as you'll find many males within comic art(and elsewhere), standing unrealistically straight, with a barrel chest thrust foreward. In both cases its fictional work presenting an almost unrealistic example of super powered beings(both male & female)as the perfect physical specimen.

Why no argument with the fact that most comics dont present heroes as the average man or women, but rather a heavily conditioned version of both sexes? Where are the heroes with love-handles, beer bellies and not so perfect orb like breasts?
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If anyone here feels I'm giving him too hard a time, let them speak now in clear terms with examples, or forever hold their peace.

Monday, May 29, 2006

X-Men 3, Post 1

My plans fell through a little bit, but I still had a full weekend. I bought a hat; went to a wild party and danced on my sprained ankle; learned to clumsily curtsy with a hurt ankle; got to judge a male beauty contest based on knees (Sadly, I didn't get pictures or mooned this year); I heard a version of the "Devil Went Down to Georgia" based on the old folktale Tamlin; filled my new camera's internal memory with pictures of the backs of kilts (I'd share, but it's still in my friend's car); got my picture taken with a cute actor, an Owl and a Hawk; and I still made it back in time to see the movie I'd wanted.

X-Men: The Last Stand Spoilers

Spoilers Here
I'd never considered myself a Cyclops fan. He was always just there. Scott Summers, default leader. By being there, he was the guy in charge. He occasionally got to angst externally, very rarely about himself, but Scott was so beautifully repressed that he was perfect for the background solid, strong, silent character. It always took another character to bounce his emotions off of, and he was used to highlight their plot. He was a foil for one of the other characters. when he angsted, it was because of a plot involving Jean, or his brother Alex, or Wolverine. The emotional plot would be carried by someone else, Scott was there to enhance it by adding tension or understanding as the situation demanded. Scott was always the take-charge type. I could take or leave Scott. He never seemed extraneous when he was there, he never seem needed when he wasn't. I was neutral to the character.

Until I saw this movie.

This movie effortlessly showed me just how much I loved the uptight, restrained, perpetual-stick-up-his-butt, macho holding back his feelings, cowboy wannabe Scott Summers.

I am, now and forever, a Scott Summers rabid fan. I love him, and always will.

And you should all be impressed with this movie's ability to show how necessary and unique the underappreciated leader of the X-Men is. We should all be rabid Scott-fans come the end of this movie, because the way in which they chose to foster the Scott-love was clever and unique.

They chose to foster Scott-love by virtue of his absence.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, for the very first time in Fourteen years of X-posure to the cartoon, the movies, and the comic book, I saw a plot where Scott Summers should be present, but wasn't.

As a kid, I always felt bad for poor Hera, the goddess of marriage, trapped in that farce of a union with Zeus. She needed a divorce and a new man, but as that wasn't possible, and it wasn't possible to control Zeus' behavior (she tried once), she tried the best possible course of action -- making an affair with Zeus more trouble than it was worth. For that, she was always demonized and vilified and just plain trashed. Women like Athena and Artemis, who could never imagine themselves in that situation, and even some of Zeus's affairs (like Hermes' mother Maia), regularly looked down on her and did their best to help out the criminal in the relationship, the out of control and unfaithful husband. People shook their heads at her and told "Shrewish wife" jokes about her. Rather than be the symbol of united love she shopuld have been, Hera is remembered as uncontrolled jealousy (Even though she showed no jealousy towards the earlier two wives -- Themis and Metis -- or towards her own sister Demeter who had a daughter with Zeus) and a symbol of the supposed prison of marriage (which is still present when you see people making "Are you sure you wanna suffer like the rest of us?" jokes about it to gay right's advocates). And people say Zeus is the one who was cursed! Ha!

When I was a little older, I got into Arthurian romance. I never liked Guinevere and Lancelot. Here was a love triangle, and there was the non-marriage being touted as the purer emotion. The better love! The "if only things were different" matter. And so, for breaking promises, jeopardizing the kingdom, giving into their own desires rather than loyalty to society, the two are glorified as the ideal example of courtly love. Admittedly, I did feel sorry for Guinevere, before I actually read the story and saw her kick Morgan's lover out of court for the same damned thing. Hypocritical and worthless. Guinevere embodied the worst stereotypes of femininity, and was surrounded by considerably more positive female characters (including Arthur's unfairly villified sisters), and yet she remains the most notable female in the Cycle. Why? Because she was bartered for beauty, deified for it, and she attracts the attention of a particularly good bruiser. And she's still generally portrayed as a positive character! Which again, makes a mockery of marriage.

At least, though, with Lance and Gwen we had a small bit of redemptive guilt, unlike with Tristan and Isolde, who both needed to die. Badly. They were outright shameless and didn't feel the least bit bad about it. Bastards.

But to the side was X-Men. I was always fond of the Jean-Scott-Logan triangle. Why? Because there, in an idealized modern setting without all of the societal quantifiers that can make a marriage unequal or a trap, the right couple got married. Yes, there was an animal attraction to Logan, but it was always properly resisted, and for the right reasons. Not for a sense of duty or a need to keep a contract together. No, Jean resisted her attraction to Logan because she actually loved Scott Summers, and he loved him. The two belonged together. They were paired since Uncanny X-Men #1. It's part of why I didn't mind Emma Frost macking around Scott when Morrison was writing New X-Men. Because it was assured that the stronger relationship was between Scott and Jean and once Scott got his head clear enough, he'd be back to Jean's side, just as she always was when she split off with Logan. In Age of Apocalypse the two were so drawn to each other that even though Scott was on the villain's side and Jean was with Logan, they ended up making a break for it together. It didn't matter that Jean was dead/absent and Scott had tried to replace her, or that Scott was dead/absent and Jean tried to replace him, or that they were in a wacky alternate timeline, the bond always won out in the end. These two people were meant for each other, and neither Logan's animal magnetism nor Emma's mental meddling could ever seriously mess that up.

So, why, in this travesty of a movie, did Scott Summers die by his wife's hands to be replaced by Logan as the one who talks her back from the brink of destroying the world?

That's quite a slap in the face. X-Men goes from a clever idealized parallel to an actual Arthurian story. Lancelot wins again, the loyal knights who respect marriage, women's choices, and don't sleep in other people's tents (when they're occupied) are beaten into the ground, Arthur is shown as an ineffective king prone to rages of jealousy and easy manipulation, Guinevere the damnable is glorified for weakness while Morgan the Wise is vilified for strength.

Meanwhile, on the other side, they try to replace Scott as Leader with Storm -- only to have him actually be replaced, once again, with Wolverine who ends up making all the command decisions while Storm looks lovely in her silvery cape and new haircut. (If the rumor that Scott got cut because Halle Berry demanded to be the central character is true, then she got totally snowed in that deal.)

And even though Scott's only face value is in reference to the Great Wolverine as a sparring partner, they can't even leave him with that dignity. Instead, they manufacture tension between Wolverine and Beast, and resolve it with little of the emotional involvement or joyful banter they had during the first flick.

Hugh Jackman is a beautiful-looking man, but dammit, I'm sick of seeing Wolverine carry the X-Men franchise to the detriment of the many rich and varied personalities and relationships found in the comic books.

And that's just the Beginning of the Problems with this Movie.

(Oh, and while I hate having to say this, I'm just going to jump the gun here because you never know -- if someone links to this post in a misguided attempt to support an anti-gay marriage argument, they are a moron, as this is about fidelity and trust and not politics. Thank you.)

(And the same goes for trying to support anti-divorce or "Feminists killed marriage" or any other idiotic arguments. I mean it, marriage is a sacred bond and not to be twisted into legal slavery by puritans who put their noses into other people's business.)