Friday, May 27, 2011

Miss America

Marvel's remembered they have the Miss America name in their properties again, and they've released some preview art of the new title carrier. Naturally, we're all arguing about her clothing:

My own first reaction was "What the hell? Who the fuck designed this outfit?"

Because seriously, another superheroine who walks around with her belly exposed and those look like high heels. I cringed and raged, but now I've calmed down a bit. It's still a bare midriff, but the artist isn't the worst one ever. I hate that every superheroine is perfectly packaged to land as a sex bomb, and male writers expect us to find that empowering.

Of course, the more complex complaints are being overwhelmed by slutshaming and "that doesn't suit America" reactions that go beyond complaining about Marvel's artistic predictability to insulting women who actually dress like this.

This is a style that real women wear. It was popular when I grew up, and Cheryl Lynn and Joe both pointed out how true to life the outfit looks. That doesn't make it practical for crime-fighting, but it does mean that when you make a character judgement about this costume you're making a character judgement about real women so knock off the misogynistic trashtalk.

The other thing is, like Cheryl, I remember that style on women I wanted to be. I know, white girl from hillbilly country but I still took daytrips to NYC and had a TV in the 90s. It's sexy, outspoken, and unapologetic. The hair, the pants, the boots and the top were assumed to go with an attitude that was beautiful.

I think that's what the artist is trying to capture here.

I'm still unsettled, though. The artist interview didn't reassure me. I don't understand this emphasis on being able to "shake it like Shakira, but still kick your ass" over a substantial character hook, it sounds like empty marketing babble. And I'm deeply annoyed that Madelyne was last written as a "dead, out of touch racist" (I didn't read it, but I'm guessing they needed an old Golden Age hero to be a racist and had to use Miss America because all the Golden Age men are still alive) but at least someone's got the mantle and a later writer can do something that ties them both together.

I don't trust a male writer telling me she's a "new vision of American female empowerment" either. Show me.

I can't look at her yet without imagining her solo miniseries with covers by Greg Horn and shuddering.

Still, she is kind of intriguing. Marvel's reviving the Miss America name. A Hispanic woman (and Dragotta drops her name, Chavez, possibly America Chavez if I'm reading that interview right) wearing the flag, in this political climate. "Ego and indestructibility."

That last part would seem to take care of some of the impractical parts of her costume.

She reminds me of Power Girl. Modernized version of an older character, that pose, costume that the worst artists are going to go crazy with, already being judged based on that costume... "Ego and indestructibility."

And the mini also features Angel from New X-men.

Don't let me down, Casey.


  1. I'm still disappointed by the lack of respect for the former Miss America and Whizzer for that matter. Roy Thomas really treated them bad for being a "Golden Age Fan" and later writers still tarnish their memory. Sick of legacy characters. That's just me.

  2. I'm sorry, but I just can't get over the thong. I'm old enough to think that underwear shouldn't be visible.


  3. Does indestructibility cover one's genitals, do you think? Cos, as I couldn't help mentioning with my redesign, a villain pulling on that thong could give a pretty wicked intimacy burn, if you get my drift.

    Otherwise: yup - I agree.

  4. I also have to wonder how much of the criticism is being directed at the character because she's a person of color.

    I always side-eye reactions to characters like this a bit.

  5. You're right that avoiding the trap of slut shaming while criticizing sexual objectification is important, Ragnell. Criticizing the designer for how they designed the character (I still think that outfit would be better for like, clubbing or just going out to hang out than superhero stuff but that's just me) is often more productive than tearing down the character.

    .. But yeah, why do people keep drawing women standing with their hips cocked to the side?

  6. Queerjock if in case your comment was pointed at me. Maybe I'm looking into it, but what I mean is that I'm sick of the disrespect that they portray Madelyne Miss America as an out of touch racist because she was unmercifully killed off decades ago.

    That brings up a point on why this new Miss America even wants to take her legacy unless she feels she's taking back America from the racists or whatever.

    It puts a bad taste in my mouth either way like a "Walt Disney is anti-semitic, but we can't prove it, but take our word for it" statement. Miss America a symbol of Golden Age Nazi bashing and female empowerment as a racist doesn't feel true to me. That's just me though.

    1. Except the original was a racist and it makes sense.

    2. Why not? The original Miss America was an Aryan woman from the 40's. Her being racist is to be expected.

  7. Sorry Ragnell, I am not going to give her a chance. Took one look at her and thought "not giving her a chance". I know that I should wait and see. Not giving her a chance.

    No, I can't be shamed into giving her a chance. You know why? Because we have been giving stuff a chance for so long that I feel the pressure should be on the creators and not the audience.

    Someone should also look into taking the empowerment crutch from these people as well. Creators aren't using that word in good faith anymore. They know they can just shout out "Empowerment!" because they know that word will muddy the waters enough that they can get away and do this crap all over again.

    I just don't understand why creators feel the need to self sabotage themselves. It's like that person that wakes up bright and early because they have a big day ahead of them and then they fall off their porch and break something because they refuse to tie their shoes. They know they should, but they just don't want to.

  8. I have no problem with this costume whatsoever. Sure its impractical for fighting crime in, but so is Namors spedo costume, Hercules kilt & any number of other male costumes. Impracitcal costumes are part of the genre.

  9. It's not about slutshaming or not for me, Ragnell; it's about hyper-sexualizing young women. Miss America Chavez is a teenager, not an adult; however, she is clothed like an adult female, and she's drawn as a fully (bodily) developed female. Her costume is awesome for a really cool sexually aware impervious to everything super-heroine with AMAZING balance, but Miss America isn't impervious to everything. She has the powers of flight and super-strength, not invincibility.

    Additionally, the costume's impractical and unsafe for fighting. Those earrings would get ripped out, and the high heels are too high for balance. The belt would do more harm than good, and the pants just aren't good to fight in (camel toe?). It seems like "empowerment" here is an excuse to make a sex object of yet another teenage girl in comics.

    Additionally, (and I could be wrong about the decade in which Vengeance takes place) is she not supposed to be a modern teenager? I don't know about you, but I've never met a modern teenage girl who would touch that look. It's not current, and it's somewhat adult.

    Also, I'm super leery of the "shake it like Shakira" comment about a Latin American super-herione. It sounds a little bit like playing into the "Latin American people can dance and are sexy and exotic" stereotype, but I may be reading too much into it?

  10. Having read the mini, i gotta say i love the character nad i love that the new miss America is hispanic. Especially since the last Miss America was a racist.