Before the recent advances in Hollywood due to the #metoo and #timesup movements, there were science fiction films that showed strong women. Characters like Ripley in Alien and Sarah Conner from the Terminator franchise showed women that were smart and capable without turning into damsels in distress at the sign of the first man who could help them. While women in sci-fi films of the past were often just eye candy, some films are so misogynistic that it is either painful or hilarious to watch them (often both).
In the 1950s, as the feminist movement gained traction, some films seemed intent in showing strong women that were only waiting for a man to come along and melt their cold hearts. Others showed that when women had power they became either crazy, violent, or both.
These movies all felt feminist to viewers when they were released but to the modern eye they really support the patriarchy of the times. Here are the most egregious examples.
I respect Tony Harris’ art — the fellow can move a pencil on paper in a way that is pleasing and Ex Machina: The First Hundred Days is among my favorite books — but when he tries to pivot from pictures to words, something gets lost in translation.
Today, on the Great Public Embarrassment Generator known as Facebook, Harris took to the soap box that we are all given in exchange for our personal information and he told the world, nay, the universe, what he thought about female cosplayers. Apparently he thinks you are all phony, so please pack up your bosoms and go home. (Okay, that wasn’t expressed, but it’s sorta close to that, isn’t it? Go ahead, read it, I’ll wait…)
Now, I don’t know what Harris thinks a real female comic book fan dresses like, and I really don’t care. His notions are either fiction or a fraction of the truth, because in my experience as a chubdorable male that frequents conventions, female comic fans don’t dress in one specific way or the other.
They are cosplayers, they are “sexy” cosplayers, they are tee shirt clad, and so on and so forth. There is diversity within their ranks and that is outstanding, undeniable, and irreversible.
Women, men, Klingons, and everyone else should feel comfortable to be themselves when they go to a con because that is one of the most beautiful things about cons — they are a sanctuary for a group of people who love similar things and they should be a free, safe place.
What threatens that? People with agendas and people who think that women are there to be preyed upon, though the portrayal of Comic-Cons as a lawless badland over-run with dick-in-hand thugs feels inaccurate.
With that said though, every costume is not an invitation and they aren’t declarations of whoreishness. They aren’t political statements either. Sometimes a Power Girl costume is just a Power Girl costume and sometimes that’s someone’s way of getting attention and that’s cool too. Really, whatever thrills you.
Honestly, I’m too busy looking for 1/2 price trades or sprinting from panel to panel to notice (because as a grown up, I have seen breasts and thus they have no power over me), but sex and sexiness and dressing in a sexy way should be embraced and allowed because hell yeah freedom and all that good stuff. And oh by the way, plenty of men dress in cosplay and plenty of them wear the form fitting costumes popularized by their favorite characters as well, but no one ever brings that up or the fact that men are sexualized in comics as well. Well, almost no one.
Here’s another thing that should be celebrated at cons: newbies. I’ve been a hardcore nerd for five years. Wanna see my nerd card? Frak you. I’ve spent days marathoning Buffy, BSG, Angel, Trek, Doctor Who, and I’m coming off a period of hurricane inspired technical isolation that I spent in the OCD hell of action figure re-posing and the nerdvana of thumbing through the contents of a long box of comics and trades on my own private Elba. I didn’t do that to gain favor with others, I did that because I love this shit and I love this shit because science fiction and fantasy are about inclusion.
Tony Harris’ remarks aren’t about inclusion (or reality, unless I’m just too mellow and toy-obsessed to notice the sexual Gettysburg that Mr. Harris spies) and that’s unfortunate because as someone who makes comics, you would think it would be in his best interests to try and bring people into this world, not push them out.
Alright, that’s really all I have to say about this, so in conclusion: I really don’t care if people want to dress up as Chewie or Cheetara and I just want everyone to relax, read a comic (even a Tony Harris one if you can excuse his remarks), and enjoy this amazing era in nerdiness without letting the rest of the bullshit seep in. Peace out.
The opinions expressed in the above article are those of the writer and not Nerdbastards.com. Also, did he just close out the article by saying “Peace out”?
A frequent critique both within geek culture and culture in general is that comic books foster unattainable ideas of the female form.
But isn’t everything in the comic book oeuvre, with the exception of the overarching themes & morals, unattainable? (Except for Jean Grey and the stuff she does. That’s totally possible, because I am she. Clearly.)
This is something I’ve touched upon previously in my Sucker Punch review – Everything about comic-type characters is extreme. They can move things with their mind, build sun destroying lasers, control the weather, defy gravity, maneuver the Batmobile around narrow NYC streets, etc…
I have never looked at an illustration of Wonder Woman’s hip to waist ratio and felt inadequate. She, like Barbie, would topple over if she were a real woman. Feeling inadequate in relation to her body shape is as ridiculous as feeling inadequate because she owns an invisible airplane.
Comic books are built on heightened realities. They are the world of superheros and the world is such fantasy that even non-super characters are overdrawn. And despite what nearly all other gender & culture writers say, these super-standards are not driven by misogyny.
Because most men do not have bulging biceps, thigh muscles that won’t quit and uh, bulging other things that even the most well-cut trousers can’t contain.
Even as an old man, Super-villain Magneto’s body is cut six-ways to Sunday. Artists treat male characters no differently than the female ones. Almost no one wears a costume that is conducive to fighting evil (or good, as the case may be). Both male and female superhero costumes show a lot of skin and even when covered little is left to the imagination.
Comic book illustrators are equal opportunity sexualizers and ignoring that fact takes away from the true message of superhero stories – which is that loyalty and bravery in the face of adversity matters more than taking the easy way out.
Or, you know, with great power comes great responsibility.
Hardly anyone in these universes looks human or wears what a normal person would wear to fight the good fight because they aren’t supposed to look normal. They are all overly sexed, overly physical, and overly brained. We can never attain those things and we aren’t meant to.
We are meant to identify with the underlying themes that exist in the challenges they face and the choices they make, not the way they look.
A documentary called Wonder Women! The Untold Story of American Superheroines will premiere at SXSW this year, and it’s all about girl power. In response to the fact that our society places significantly much more focus on the male superhero, this documentary explores the rise and development of the female superheroine. Powerful women in popular culture are more prominent than they were back in the day when Wonder Woman was pretty much it, and we can expect rates to keep increasing in the coming years. The documentary uses Wonder Woman as the jumping point for powerful women in comics and other media. It actually sounds pretty damn interesting, and I would definitely like to see this at some point.