Monday, October 3, 2011

that's really super, Supergirl

Do you ever look over at your collection of floppy discs and sigh, wondering what you can do with them? Are you not close enough to an ecological recycling center to just turn them in? Well, now there's hope. At least, for one disc at a time.

You can turn the best of the best floppies into USB drives. (In point of fact, he's even put up video how-to on YouTube. It's a little complicated, but a really fun rebuild.

So, first came a mention on the Gutters comic about the overt resexualization of Starfire. And I was confused, because, let's be honest here, I haven't had time to do more than follow the reboot mentions (though I have been assiduously following those). So I went looking. And a lot of things turned up, including Michele Lee's original 'open letter' to DC Comics, but the Comics Alliance article was the first one I stopped and really read thoroughly, over just skimmed for content and moved on.

It does pain me a bit to say this, but--after reading both Lee's and Laura Hudson's articles--I'm kind of on their side. Believe me, I am BEYOND tired of feminists ranting that female superheroes exist only for sexual gratification, because seriously, there are--and there have always been--tight outfits on either gender, throughout comic book history. But there is that issue of perception. The new DC reboot does seem to be saying that if you're a hero, you're a strong role model, and you don't need to do anything but be that strong role model.

But if you're a heroine...well, your main purpose seems to be posing. It's not about saving people, it's not about strong empowered women who serve and protect...No, really, it's about cheesecake poses, and that specifically arched back that pushes your breasts out to maximum advantage, and sleeping with everyone. For great justice?

Somehow I doubt.

Essentially, "hero" now seems to equal "strong empowered male" and "heroine" seems to equal "eye candy".

(from the media album)

I mean seriously, at that point you're wearing what amounts to a collar and a latex thong; just build your own dungeon and take clients, or go into lingerie modeling. Fighting crime in that kind of outfit just doesn't make sense.

(from the media album)

(But then, to be fair, putting Starfire in thigh-high boots as an interstellar teenager didn't make much sense, either.)

That costume makes me think, too. Mainly, of another comics heroine I used to follow rather religiously:

(from the media album; Vampirella in the Warren years)

This? Not exactly a good thing. Because let's be fair, in my town I was the only female who bought Vampirella as far as I could tell. Shocked the store owner for a solid year when I'd come in and grab the latest issue of OMNI, then tag on Vampirella, and Heavy Metal if I could afford it.

And, as much as I enjoyed Vampirella as a comic, it was pretty obvious she was cheesecake on parade. When she was threatened by some evil force; when she was sitting down; when she was simply taking a moment to relax and reflect.

(from the media album; Vampirella in chains...again)

Inside the comic it wasn't much better; but then, consider the character's origins. Forrest J. Ackerman wanted a vampire with go-go boots; that's pretty much what he designed, and that's pretty much what she was. Add in the bit where she's an alien fallen to Earth, and her work on the planet consisted of posing for photographs, modeling clothes, and being a showgirl magician's assistant, when she wasn't fighting her urges for blood or fighting Cthulhian horrors who forever waged war on a planetary scale. Even my favorite Vampi artist, Jose Gonzalez, drew her as a pin-up.

This wasn't a problem, per se; she was sensual, sexual, and it was one of those R-rated books that was okay with showing more skin, because her "Drakulonian fighting strap" (that still makes me giggle insanely) was so minimal to start with. And yeah, I admit, for both Vampirella and Heavy Metal I was trading on the perception that they were "just comic books" (even if magazine-sized ones) to get them at all; some stores would only sell Vampirella issues to adults. And they wouldn't have been wrong to do that in all stores, considering some of the issues.

But remember that "kind of agree with" stance I took in the beginning of this? Yeah. See, where my problem comes in is that all this exploded when a mother--one would assume, to be charitable, an elsewise responsible adult--gave a comic rated for teens and over to her seven-year-old.

Seven. I don't know about you, but when I think "teen", even if I'm thinking low-end teens, I'm thinking twelve, thirteen. NOT seven years old.

And okay, fine, her daughter really likes comic books and graphic novels, and is a huge fan of the Teen Titans, and Starfire is her favorite character. Starfire, in fact, as this child supposedly said to her mother, makes her "do good". (Which again, tells me she's thinking of comic books with fictional heroes as role models and not, oh, say, her parents. But I digress.)

What, in any of that, says "take a publication intended for a more comprehending audience and give it to a child to read"?

Because when this child thinks of Starfire? She's thinking of this:

Not this:

(from the media ablum)

And believe me, there's a big difference.


Fogwoman Gray said...

I did actually read that letter, and Ms. Lee specifically states that she did not let her daughter read the comic - she showed her some particular pictures to get her take on the character. She was clear that this was far too adult for a child of 7 :)
My intro to comics has been as an adult and via Sandman, so I am more an interested onlooker in all this.
I do feel that the more positive and realistically proportioned role models we can get out there for girls, the healthier body image they are going to have.
Between images of females as sex toys in comics, television shows that celebrate vanity and veniality, and fashion magazines and fashions that promote a horrifically thin physique for girls...sigh. I start to sound like an old nurse!

Emilly Orr said...

I may have to go back and read that again, then, because I got the definite impression that she let the child read the comic for her reaction, not showed her pictures only.

Still, the points you make are valid--emphasizing that the best way to make money is to be thin as a rail and never speak? Not our best option. Or the best way to get attention on television is to act out and scream at other women--also not a great option for forming minds.

Edward Pearse said...

Not being a comics nerd I asked a friend of mine who is to tell me her thoughts on the article. She says the whole thing about the "new" Starfire is a crock.

She tells me:
"The Starfire that the girl likes is from Teen Titans Go!
TTG is a cartoon aimed at kids.
Starfire in the cartoon is nothing like Starfire in the comics, pre or post relaunch.

"Starfire pre relaunch appeared naked, including in front of a young boy, slept with people without interest of a relationship, dressed scantily while performing super-powered acts, and was shown posing naked in water and drying herself next to a guy.
Post relaunch she appears in a bikini, including in front of a young boy, sleeps with people without interest of a relationship, dresses scantily while performing super-powered acts, and was shown posing in a bikini and drying herself next to a guy.
I've got scans to add if anyone needs me to prove these things (or just go read stuff before judging, and start with Titans #1 and Starfire's time with Animal Man in 52 to see the majority of things mentioned above)."

As I said, I don't read comics, but it would seem in this case that the mother is creating a false argument by comparing the cartoon series to the comic book.

While the ethics of female superheroes as cheesecake is a separate matter, the fact that "old" comic Starfire's behaviour and look pretty closely resembles "new" comic Starfire, means it's like parents complaining that Greys Anatomy is nothing like the Nurse Barbie stuff they let their kids play with.

Emilly Orr said...

While you have a point that Teen Titans' Starfire and Red Hood's Starfire don't share a lot of connective points, as far as I'm aware, she was polyamorous, not strictly polysexual. I got the definite impression from reading past books that, while she wasn't necessarily interested in long-term ties, she was interested in sharing love and affection with those around her.

In the new version? She can't even be bothered to remember names, and she seems bored that she's even being asked these questions. It reminds me of that moment in Year of the Comet where the female lead says to the male lead, "In the morning, you won't even remember my name."

His response? "I don't remember it now."

At least to me, it seems like a definite change from "sharing" because that's what her people do on Tamaran, to sleeping with everything that breathes because she's just that bored.