Some Musings On The Nature Of Chicks In Genre Fiction

LeiaThis post is the result of a series of conversations with several girl-geeks of my acquaintance, stemming originally with my curiosity concerning this emerging movement. Eventually my pondering of the subject evolved into a sort of running back and forth commentary on how women are (and have been) treated in a wide variety of dork-loved media, from comic books to pulp films. This has led me to a series of conclusions and observations on the subject, which for reasons of posterity I’ll throw into the mix here, in no particular order. I want to make it VERY clear here I’m not taking a side on this issue, nor am I advocating anything in particular. I’m just calling it like I see it, which is what I normally do.

  • I’ll freely admit it: There’s a LOT of misogyny in comic books. I mean a WHOLE lot. Like a ‘holy shit why is Mary Jane in a skintight leotard other than some artist was feeling lonely that day’ lot. It doesn’t take Hank McCoy to realize that, especially inMary Jane the mainstream superhero books, the part of females has been traditionally relegated to sexy but inconsequential sidekick, hard-nosed career woman who still needs saving by the hero, or slut villainess. Though to be fair, I’d have to guess (and this is only a guess) that the vast majority of comic book creators are in fact socially maladjusted males. I base this on the observation that the vast majority of comic book READERS are socially maladjusted males, and typically only someone who loves the art form would make the financially suicidal maneuver of attempting to make it their living. Since these individual’s attitudes toward women generally range in scope from laughable naivety (girls are dumb) to outright hostility (still mad that Ellie Jo wouldn’t go to the prom with them), it seems an obvious reason those attitudes are reflected in both the art and, sad to say, the writing in the mainstream books.
  • Having made the above point, there are three things to keep in mind. First, the ‘traditional’ view of women in the comic book story medium very likely traces its roots back to the traditional view of women in general society. This can be seen reflected in the nature of virtually every female comic book character conceived prior to about the late Silver Age, with the notable exception of the good Dr. Marston‘s original “girl-on-girl bondage action” treatment of Wonder Woman. Wonder Woman BondageNot entirely progressive in everyone’s eyes perhaps, but Princess Diana certainly wasn’t in the kitchen chilling anyones martini in time for them to get off work. Secondly, this is a reality that is CHANGING, like every other depiction of females in popular entertainment that I can think of. It just seems to be happening in mainstream comic books at a much slower rate, but so are a lot of progressions quite frankly, and analyzing THAT particular stagnation could fill a fucking book, let alone another blog entry. And finally, much as I hate to say it, the only permanent solution to this phenomenon is the one that’s going to take the longest. Namely, infiltrating the comic book industry at large with more females, readers and creators alike. Ladies, you want treatments of women in comic books that are insightful, respectful, interesting and realistic? Create some. Oh, and buy the ones that already are. I know, it’s a painfully slow process, but capitalism will overcome eventually when nothing else does.
  • Janet LeighHorror movies: Is it JUST that boys like to see boobies bounce when the cheerleader is running from the monster, or is there some insidious and subconscious violent tendency expressing itself on screen that always puts the hot girl under the machete (or the claw, or the butcher’s knife, or on the other end of some idiotic and overblown torture contraption featured in a series of highly overrated crap films the latest of which is being released right about now)? I’d say that answer depends on the film, but I do know this: A great number of horror films pander to a sort of suppressed medieval version of Christian judgment. If you think about it, the sinner is always the one slaughtered by the demon. Once… JUST ONCE, I’d like to see the promiscuous girl and the stoner come together to kill the fucking psychopath in the end. Did I miss that movie? Someone help me out here.
  • Final point before I shut up: The rise of the female action hero. MillaI include this here because it’s been a primarily genre-driven event. Quick quiz: Other than Foxy Brown, Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley, and Geena Davis in The Long Kiss Goodnight, name ONE female lead in an action movie prior to about the late 1990s. Seriously, take your time with it. Now, just for shits and giggles, think about the trend Tarantino started with the Kill Bill films. Suddenly Milla Jovovich can kick ass AND have her name appear over the title, and when unimaginative network executives look for an old TV series to revisit, they picked Bionic Woman over the traditionally more well-known Six Million Dollar Man. On a side note, I think they spend more than six million dollars training individual stealth fighter pilots now, and that’s WITHOUT cybernetic attachments or inflation adjustment. Don’t even ask what the plane itself costs. Your tax dollars at work.

And on THAT digressive bit of rambling, I’ll wrap this little collection of vaguely associated thoughts up with a bit of reflection on my own current story. For those of you who have read (or are planning to read) After, please don’t take my depiction of the solitary female character in issue one as my only observation on the nature of women. Or do, and write me a nasty letter, so that I may chuckle at it. Either way, you read the book. Now, if anyone needs me, I’ll be at home getting in touch with my feminine side.

Out for now…

– Rev

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7 Comments

  1. “Once… JUST ONCE, I’d like to see the promiscuous girl and the stoner come together to kill the fucking psychopath in the end.”

    YES THIS PLEASE.

    I’ve never wanted to write a horror movie before…

  2. Ah Rev. How I love to pick on you. http://www.tricksterchick.com

  3. Actually, the reason why David Eick and Co. had to pick “Bionic Woman” over The Six Million Dollar Man was because Mirimax owns the rights to “Cyborg” and its characters. That’s also the reason why Rudy Wells and Oscar Goldman (and Steve Austin) don’t appear anywhere near the new show.

  4. Good point about the slasher films being modern “morality plays,” and it *would* rock to have the casual sex-n-drugs kids be the ones to take down the monster and go off into the sunset together instead (the final scene could be them making out and lighting up over the defeated villain’s corpse…)

    I wonder how many fans would be upset to see the straight laced, good boys get offed, one by one, lovingly and slowly, while the” bad girl” and the “loser” won in the end?

  5. I, for one, happen to live with a woman who was mightily offended by Ruth’s treatment in your comic…and yet the offended woman could not provide a single valid reason for why she was. Granted, this same woman educated me at a young age to never take the initiative with men because they were supposed to be the ones doing all the work…but that was feminism in her mind. Gee. But seriously, folks…I’ve been in the entertainment industry for ages, and Christian “values” truly fight to dominate the treatment of women in comics/movies. Women are more readily acknowledged in their secondary role as cannon fodder…strong women have existed in comics and movies since before Alien and whatnot (however, more readily in foreign than American film…La Femme Nikita for one)…no one will admit to it, much like the video gamer geek boys who refuse to acknowledge I not only shot their GDF soldier in the face, but teabagged their dead body. Go figure.

    It’s a long, rough road…but as long as people perpetuate both sides of the equasion (women who allow the shoddy treatment, women who play the double standard, men who drool over the “make the bitch suffer” mentality, and men who stand by and allow victimization), this is gonna keep happening. I didn’t think Ruth was treated so badly, Lord knows the apocalypse would bring out the necessity and survival in all of us. There are a lot of people who just lie in wait to take shit out of context. I notice no one complained about the men being murdered and mutilated in the book. I suppose it’s okay to kill men? If we’re gonna call sexism and unfair treatment, call it on both sides.

    Lastly…because I gotta…”feminine side,” Rev?
    *snnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnrk* 😛

  6. I would so watch this movie y’all. Someone needs to get on that script.

  7. Surfed by via WFA.

    “Once… JUST ONCE, I’d like to see the promiscuous girl and the stoner come together to kill the fucking psychopath in the end.”

    And there is such a film! Severance: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0464196/

    Which pretty much does for slasher flicks what ‘Shaun of the Dead’ does for zombie movies. It sadly hit under the radar in the States, but it’s awesomely funny.


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