By Elixir95 73 Comments
In a recent blog, Thompson (2012) recently noted four categories that proved the "hyper-sexualisation of female characters and related issues" within the comic book medium. While she primarily focused upon the physical aspects of characters, here, the large portion of analysis will be focused on other areas omitted (combat sequences, inclusion in teams) from Thompson's blog. Patronisation however is not the main aim of this blog (as the connotations of that former statement may imply), but rather to support Thompson's claim that in the portrayal of women within comics, "No, it's not equal".
Comic book teams are largely formed of men; this is a matter of fact. Original incarnations of Marvel teams (from Avengers (Wasp) to the X-Men (then, Marvel Girl) to the Fantastic Four (then, the Invisible Girl) and true regarding their foes too (Brotherhood of Evil Mutants (Scarlet Witch)). While this has been less true during contemporary times (i.e. Runaways at one point consisting of four female (five if you count Old Lace) members and one male, and still contains more women then men; X-Men: Legacy currently revolves around three female characters and one male) it is still somewhat an underlying problem. This is in no way supported by the lack of female led on-going series within Marvel (having recently canceled X-23, although this seems to be re-appearing in March but I'm not sure if it's on-going or not) and few females in the creative department for DC (see Hudson 2011).
In an effort to subside complaints and address the issue, Marvel launched the "Women of Marvel" initiative in 2010; consisting of numerous variant covers with Marvel's premiere female heroines, a boom in publicity surrounding the women behind the ideas i.e. Laura Martin and Marjorie Liu and even a limited series. However, as a solution it was rather problematic: rather than solve the dilemma, it seemed to simply highlight it at best. Morgan Freeman once stated that "[He didn't] want a Black History Month. Black history is American history." Surely we could apply a similar mentality to Marvel's "answer": it is wrong to believe that this could be solved with an event akin to that. It was a temporary compromise to subdue a rowdy public, and now seems to have been forgotten/ignored. Of course, there is another school of thinking: we could compare the "Women of Marvel" to a catalyst; something to spurn us to examine the contributions of women characters and creators throughout comic book history. Comic book history isn't as comprehensive as other forms, and this would therefore be something of a difficult task.
This comic book misogyny seems to have been equally translated in to other forms of media. In a thorough analysis of the lead females of "X-Men: First Class" (2011), blogger comicbookGRRRL (2011) notes that each women had stripped down at one point during the film, despite the era within which it was set lacked comment on the feminist movement, the lack of lines given to and development of said characters and occasionally subject to demeaning tasks (citing "that [Emma Frost] ice scene". A similar thing could be said for the Black Widow's role in "Iron Man 2" (2010). Johansson was granted few lines, received little character development and was seemingly only included as to lead up to "The Avengers" (2012) and for the following fight scene:
I understand that the focus of the film was supposed to be on the titular character, but she felt like little more than a background character, added (dare I say it) to "sex things up". Being a bold accusation, I'd like to counter it by saying that personally, I had no problems with the role. I enjoyed the fighting, the one liners etc, but I can also understand the feminist critique. In contrast to the above fight scene, the one below from Joss Whedon's "Serenity" (2005) is somewhat less glamorous and may be subject to less criticism from our viewpoint:
Within the context of this film and the preceding show ("Firefly", 2002), the character of River Tam is largely advanced during this film. Fleshed out, as the film concludes she is accepted aboard the ship and is far more stable mentally than at the beginning (and personally, as one of the finer characters of the show). This may all be down to Whedon's feminist perspective, which is either epitomised or leaks through every piece of work he has worked on.
Does this mean that Whedon could be Marvel's saviour? Arguably, that could be the case; his tenure on "Astonishing X-Men" (2004) saw Kitty Pryde's return to prominence and development to the character of Emma Frost unseen since Morrison's run and his work on "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" is perhaps one of the foundations for the 90s generation feminism. The outcome will be seen this summer in how he handle's Marvel's "The Avengers" (2012), although I am slightly subjective when I say that I am more than optimistic.