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Monday, September 26, 2011

DCNU: Thoughts on Women in Comics

So apparently a lot of people are complaining about the way women are portrayed in the "New 52" comics from DC.  Specifically, over at The Mary Sue, Think Progress, and two over at Comics Alliance.  Also, a rather nicely done comic concerning the specific change in Starfire's character over at Shortpacked!

Now, one could make the argument that women simply need to calm down and just enjoy these things for what they are, comic books.  I would not be in that camp.  Things like this kind of annoy me cause it sends out a lot of different messages.  Now, I'm a dude.  The guy who writes Shortpacked, David Willis, is also a dude.  I can't speak to his reasons for disliking these changes, but I can speak to mine.  I'll warn you that some of the pictures might be considered NSFW, so heads up.

David Willis: Hitting the nail on the head, ladies and gentlemen.
See, I am one of those people that hate political correctness.  I think that by trying to white-wash our language and culture it does more harm then good.  But that is neither here nor there.  The thing we are talking about is comic books and what this means.

Here is my problem with making Starfire into the person they have made her into.  Comic Books are a business, and business are there to make money.  So if they change Starfire as a person into something completely different, ie emotionless sex doll, they do it because an artist came up with an idea and marketing said it would make money.

Why would it make money?  Because they felt that it appealed to their demographic audience.  Their main buyers would love it and be glad to pay hard earned money for it.  Now, I pay money for comics (occasionally when I feel it is worth it), which means I should be in that demographic.  So their marketing execs aren't idiots.  I'm sure they are figuring that males are still the higher percentage of purchasing power for comic books.

Still with me?  Okay, here is my problem.  Marketing execs are basically saying that this is the kind of woman I want.
Red Hood and the Outlaws #1

Now, I know that some of you are going to be itching to race to the comment section and cry out, "You are a liar and a hypocrite, sir!  You are saying you would turn down a girl like that if she offered to have sex with you?"  And I will now respond to that before you type it.

Of course I would have sex with her if she offered.  Not right now, being in a rather happy and long-term relationship, but assuming a scenario where I was single and she just randomly appeared and was all, "Hey, let's have casual, no-strings attached sex."  I'd be racing to the bedroom.

But the thing is that scenario predicates her seeking me out.  I never in a million years would go after a girl like that, mostly because she is like popcorn.  Nice at the moment, but ultimately not very fulfilling.  She may look nice but she clearly isn't bringing much to the table as far as conversation or intellect.  You may argue that she does!  That Starfire has all kinds of alien knowledge to bring and share with our culture.  You may argue that she has always dressed kind of skimpy in all her comic incarnations.

And I wouldn't argue too much with you on those points.  However, I would argue that both points are irrelevant.  Here is the thing.  As far as her previous costumes...well, they don't matter, universe has been rebooted.  So we can't use those as previous models or justifications for the fact her costume in this first issue is just as small a bikini as they can make without just going whole hog and making her completely nude.

The problem with the first point is that they don't show that in the issue.  Not at one point does she offer anything other then her body and her alien powers.  And this is issue number one.  This is the point where you are supposed to give me, as a new reader, all the info I need about the character.  Tell me why I should care or not care about a person in your story.  Tell me what they bring to the super-heroing table, so to speak.  And you know what you told me that Starfire brings?  T&A, sir...T&A.  She shows up three times to do three specific things.

One, to blow stuff up with her powers.

Two, to be ogled and leered at by the fan base.

Three, to be a foil for Jason and Roy to bounce sexual conquest jokes off of.

Which is pretty god-damn disappointing for a character that I genuinely liked before all this reboot crap.

And let's be realistic, even after my "fling" with Starfire, I would much rather hear this come out of her mouth:
then this:

 Or this:

Red Hood and the Outlaws #1

 Cause I like my women to kind of have some fidelity.  But if they aren't, at least let the reason be that they were raised on a planet with a concept of just loving everyone physically and emotionally cause it's awesome, then because...well, cause I want to and love doesn't enter into it.

Cause if love or emotions don't enter into it...then why are you doing it?  I mean, let's be honest.  It feels awesome and it a lot of fun.  But let her character approach it that way.  I'm not saying that it's gender correct or anything...but at least she doesn't sound like a Sex-bot 9000.  Seriously, she sounds like something that creepy guys with Real Dolls record and play while using said Real Doll.

Jason Todd literally says, "Turns out Tamaraneans don't see humans as much more than sights and smells.  And they have a terribly short attention span about all things earth."  Then why is she still here?  Why doesn't she just wander away after a little bit.  And if we are all just sights and smells...what the hell does that have to with anything.  First off...sight know...SEEING.  Seeing implies that unless she is completely mindless, she should have some sort of recognition ability.  Oh...but she has that "terribly short attention span about all things earth."   Even leaving that out, smell should at least clue her in that she isn't about to have sex with the same guy.  Unless Jason and Roy both buy and wear the same cologne...which would be kind of weird.  Or one of them is buying the same as the other so she'll get confused...but that logic kind of seems like rape, so I'm going to put it on a big neon sign on it that says WTF DC?

All this leads me to wonder, is it really that hard to write realistic women?  I will admit, of the various characters I've been writing about for the book I'm going to eventually try to main characters wife, Saerah Kandrick, is one of the hardest people for me to write about.  Mostly because I want her to be a smart and independent female character.  Sure I want her to not outshine Mantarok, but only really because he's my main character and she is supporting cast.

But I don't want to publish the thing and have women all over say, "God, another male writer who knows nothing about women."  Cause I try...I try to try, at least, and I don't want to write about a vacuous, brain-dead sex doll cause I really try to avoid them in real life as much as possible.  They annoy me more then anything else in a real conversation cause I'll say something, and since they can't use their bodies to figure it out they just laugh and say, "What does that mean?"

With all this, I'm going to be trying some more writing exercises featuring Saerah...cause damn it, I need to start getting better at writing her character at some point.  So hopefully soon you guys will start to get to know her better...and hopefully you'll like her as much as I do in my head.  I'll also be trying to work on other stuff not related to my fantasy stuff, but mainly it will focus on writing about strong, likable female characters.

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