Catwoman #1…not really sexy. Mostly creepy

I try not to let my nerdy fangirlishness cloud my judgement on the things that I read and see. It’s easy to get lost in entertainment, and it’s hard, sometimes to step back from the things that I love and criticize their problems.

This hasn’t been the case with most of DC’s new 52.

And it especially hasn’t been the case with yesterday’s release of Catwoman #1.

The lead-up reviews with writer Judd Winick mostly consisted of “She’s so sexy! This book! It’s so sexy! It’s naughty! And sexy! Did I mention sexy? Soooooo sexaaayyyy!”

I love Selina Kyle. I think she IS sexy. And I think she’s clever, and classy, and witty, and fierce, and funny. I love this character. Or…y’know, I did before the reboot.

The plot – the issue itself, is mostly alright. Cheesecake? Absolutely. Oh yeah. Lots of stuff about Russian mobsters and touching mostly on the fact that she is a thief with a past interspersed with a lot of boobs. Fine. I expected that. That’s whatever at this point. Eye roll worthy? Absolutely. But not shocking.

And then the last three pages hit, and I sort of forgot about the rest, because it’s kind of horrifying.

Essentially,  Selina throws herself at Batman, and he’s not really in the mood, so he pushes her back and says “no.”

And then she does it again, and he apparently gives in.

The narration:

“Every time he protests, and every time he gives in. He seems angry.”

Uhh…

Could that be because you are kind of forcing yourself on him? One might argue that the God Damn Batman doesn’t do anything he doesn’t actually want to do; that he could stop her if he wanted, but I guess that depends on who is writing the story, and what you take away from it.

Judd Winick’s idea of “sexy” is apparently poorly drawn Catwoman and Batman rutting on a floor, in pretty much full costume, after he’s told her no, but she thrusts herself on him anyway.

Cause…er..yeah. That’s not sexy to me, it’s creepy or problematic.

I’ve read quite a few reactions to it, of people who don’t see any problem with it, so maybe it is just me, but the entire last few pages just make me want to vomit a little, and I can’t quite understand the people who say that it was better than they were expecting it to be.

DC Women Kicking Ass has the panels up for your viewing, but be warned. It ain’t pretty.

Comments

  1. Lindsey says

    That art is seriously ugly. Also it seems to be the climax of the issue is that Catwoman can have sex with Batman and that is the point of her character. Ugh.

  2. DM says

    That picture combined with your summary of the last three pages is…disturbing. She’s still wearing pants, he’s all uninterested…some other commenter said it was like Selina drugged him and, well. I mean, yeah she’s usually the aggressor, but in a sexy confident way, not in a sad creepy way.

  3. Korva says

    Can’t people think of anything else to do with a female character than fucking her brains out? Ugh. And sexual assault being hyped as totally acceptable and normal isn’t new, but still sickening as shit. Doesn’t matter a whit who’s doing it. No means no. Always. Period.

  4. SunlessNick says

    Korva,

    Can’t people think of anything else to do with a female character than fucking her brains out?

    Wait till you see the mess they made with Starfire in Red Hood. (No seriously wait; you’ll be glad you went a good long healthy stretch before seeing it).

  5. Ebb says

    @SunlessNick and Leigh: I’m so disappointed by Starfire’s characterization. *smh*

    But yeah, not a good show there Winick. Not at all. Like your post here, Laura Hudson’s article tells it like it is :
    “This is not about these women wanting things; it’s about men wanting to see them do things, and that takes something that really should be empowering — the idea that women can own their sexuality — and transforms it into yet another male fantasy. It takes away the actual power of the women and turns their “sexual liberation” into just another way for dudes to get off. And that is at least ten times as gross as regular cheesecake, minimum.”

    Read More: http://www.comicsalliance.com/2011/09/22/starfire-catwoman-sex-superheroine/#ixzz1YjGQshv6

  6. says

    Between this article and the Laura Hudson link, I’m forming the impression that writers think if you completely liberate women to express their sexuality, they will behave in the worst ways men have always been allowed to (date raping, cheating, and being so jaded about sex you wonder if they’re really enjoying it). That characterization – when there’s no acknowledgement that it might be wrong, illegal, or even just unhealthy – is problematic with female characters for more or less the same reasons as it was problematic with male characters.

    But then it gets worse because, as with oversexed, rapey male characters, the characterization mainly exists to support visuals of LOTS AND LOTS OF BOOBIES.

    So, even when we’re the ones acting like a mix between James Bond and Ted Bundy, it’s still BOOBIES ON DISPLAY 4EVAH! Interesting how that works. Is there a sexual narrative available in all of fictiondom that doesn’t result in boobs boobs boobs? Oh, right: gay (male) porn. No wonder so many women are into it. ;)

  7. Ebb says

    Jennifer Kesler,
    Pretty much this.

    The thing is that Selina and Kori(Starfire) were already expressed their sexualities in non-negative ways(not that pre-DCnU days were that much kinder.) I understand that the writers are “trying” the build up the characters, but like I’ve said before, there is no need to put them at the bottom.

    There’s also been an argument saying that at least Selina has a character. Well, that does not make what happened at the end ok. That doesn’t mean showing panels where her breasts seem to be talking ok either.

  8. Red says

    Oh, dear LORD…

    This is… just… good grief!

    As I read this, something occurred to me; DC is basically saying that they are catering to guys fantasies, in that they have Catwoman throw herself at Bats in that way (uhhh…no) and to SOME extent, that’s fine and it’s clear line were crossed… again.

    But here’s the thing; most healthy strait guys, I’m sure, have the fantasy of having a gorgeous, sexy woman throwing herself at him. But how many of those same guys, after that fantasy is fulfilled, would want to commit themselves to such a woman who would so willingly throw themselves at them? How many of those same guys would have honest to-goodness RESPECT for a woman like that?

    My guess? Not many.

    It doesn’t matter if she’s your average Jane or a butt-kicking, martial arts expert who could pose for Victoria Secret easy. If a man can’t respect a woman who throws herself at him like Catwoman did at Bats, then how can, or why should people be expected to have respect for a character like Catwoman after doing something like this? Why should Batman have any respect for her at this point? Why should Starfire receive any respect at all after acting like the town whore?

    Does DC WANT these women characters to be respected in their own right? It doesn’t matter how ‘bad-ass’ they may present themselves as crime-fighters. What matters most is their personal relationships with the other characters, most notably the male characters. And if this is how it’s going to be, then what was the point of a reboot?

    Or is respect for the female characters really not important at all to DC? Because if not, they just shot themselves in the foot. They will end up losing more readers at this rate and they can’t afford to do that if they disrespect the characters? Because in disrespecting Catwoman in that way, they disrespect the male characters as well. Because it suggests that they don’t care about committed, lasting relationships and are only keeping their eyes open for the next piece of you-know-what they can screw. It makes them look selfish and narcissistic. And who can have respect or put faith in a man like that who’s supposed to be a superhero?

  9. says

    Red: Why should Batman have any respect for her at this point? Why should Starfire receive any respect at all after acting like the town whore?

    It’s not the sex that’s the problem, it’s the coercion. Catwoman and Starfire and any other woman should be able to have all the consensual sex they want without being called “town whores”.

  10. says

    Red: Why should Starfire receive any respect at all after acting like the town whore?

    Check the comment guidelines, Red. We don’t use gendered insults like “whore” except when we’re quoting. The idea you’re expressing here is also problematic (as Sylvia Sybil pointed out) because it paints sex as an activity that men take from women, and in that view women who have lots of sex are viewed as bad bargainers from whom you can take anything, haha, so who respects that?

    What bothers me is certainly not the casualness of Starfire’s sex life (going by Hudson’s article), but that I got no sense she was enjoying herself (from those panels). It’s like screwing everyone is one of her job duties, along with filling out triplicate paperwork, which is equally fun. Lie back and think of England, V2.0.

  11. Leigh says

    Sylvia Sybil,

    You’re right, it isn’t the sex that’s the problem. It’s the way that these characters seem to only be alive for that singular purpose in these books. The Climax of Catwoman is that she has sex with Batman. There is splash page after splash page devoted to showing you how super mega foxy awesome hot Starfire is, and dialogue devoted to telling you how she doesn’t feel any emotion toward the people around her, she just likes to fuck. It’s not okay.

    They are there to have sex with their male counterparts. Their personalities have been all but erased, and they have no agency, and no real reason to throw themselves into bed with these men. It adds nothing to the story, and nothing to their character. It is meant to titillate and entice in the way that pornography is.

    I can’t tell if it’s meant to pander to the lonely fanboy stereotype, or if the writers just thought “omg! so hot!” and decided it needed to be there.

    This new “edgy” DC Universe is turning very sour from stuff like this.

  12. M.C. says

    Wasn’t Starfire the female lead in the animated kids show “Teen Titans”?
    I can only imagine what a girl must think, who’s into the show and then picks up this comic book…

    You’re right, it isn’t the sex that’s the problem. It’s the way that these characters seem to only be alive for that singular purpose in these books.

    Exactly. Take the canadian tv show “Lost Girl” for example: the heroine, Bo, is a very active bi-sexual woman, but her sexuality does in no way define or diminish her role as supernatural crime-fighter. Plus she has many non-sexual relationships with men and women as friends, allies, enemies,…

  13. Jennifer says

    ugh, I was horrified. She spends most of the issue half dressed for no reason, she looks like a cocaine addict, and the sex scene was just bizarre. They took one of the greatest pairings in the comic book universe and made them icky and dirty. I *love* batman/catwoman hook ups. They’re hot and it’s been a long time coming. But this was just….*shudder*.

    And on the Starfire note: I got used to the fact that she was scantily dressed and liked it that way. Her sexuality was hers. But to take away her memories and suggest that she is quite *literally* just a sex object is beyond horrifying.

  14. says

    Leigh: You’re right, it isn’t the sex that’s the problem. It’s the way that these characters seem to only be alive for that singular purpose in these books.

    Good point. I haven’t read any of these comics, so I’m going off the discussion here, but that is a very good point.

  15. Red says

    Jennifer Kesler,

    That is NOT the message I was trying to convey. I have NO issue with them having sex and enjoying it and even women who have lots of sex. What I’m saying is that the way it’s portrayed NEGATIVELY, in that a woman who throws herself at a man like Catwoman did and a woman who acts like Starfire is that it’s suggested she doesn’t value herself and the ‘only way’ she can feel ‘validation’ or feel good about herself is to throw herself at a man for sex.

    I have no problem with Catwoman and Batman having sex and both of them having a good time. I DO have a problem with the approach and how it was done. I am AGREEING with you, I’m just looking at it from another aspect as to how that character might be viewed as one who has no self-respect or sense of self. It ties into the old stereotypes of women, who are typically considered ‘damsels in distress’ or the ‘super-sexy female partner’ who throw themselves into the heroes arms and tells them they want to have their babies, etc. It’s now dredged up again into THIS drek.

    Seriously, there needs to be a formal letter of protest written out to DC and telling them if they aren’t going to clean up, fans will be clearing out. And should this continue, that is EXACTLY what is going to happen for turning once-beloved titles into ‘Junior Porn’.

  16. Red says

    Sylvia Sybil,

    I have no real issue with the sex. I DO have issue with how they were portrayed and how they got it and how they may think and feel about themselves when they seek it out and get it and how the men involved may think and feel about them in the process and how they would be viewed by others. I like delving into a person’s psyche and asking ‘What’s their motivation? Why would they act that way and how do they feel afterwards?’ I didn’t convey that message clearly enough. Sometimes I just speak and forget to explain myself.

    To clarify my position; Catwoman and Starfire should be able to have sex with whomever they wish and whenever they wish. The way they were written, however, makes them look not only like they were written only for the purpose of sex, but that they place no real value on themselves.

  17. Red says

    Jennifer Kesler,

    Thank you. Glad I was able to.

    Thing is, from what I’ve seen, women who have a healthy view of their sexuality and are secure in it generally don’t need or seek ‘validation’ by pushing themselves onto men in the way Catwoman and Starfire did in these two issues. That’s the other underlying message here; that these two female characters, who were at one time so awesome and BAD-ASS, who never did anything they didn’t want to do and enjoyed their relationships with other men … should rely solely on sex to feel any validation as people and characters. And that women, otherwise, cannot be expected to be validated WITHOUT throwing themselves at men expecting sex. Because the only worth women are to men is sex, even if they’re superheroes OR supervillains and can kick ass as well as the boys. The message DC is sending? ‘If you’re a woman, super hot and sexy and NOT throwing yourself at a guy, then there’s something wrong with you and are not worthy of attention or validation.’

    And while that may not have been stated outright, that was certainly the message that was being conveyed, along with everything else.

  18. SunlessNick says

    Leigh,

    They are there to have sex with their male counterparts. Their personalities have been all but erased, and they have no agency

    Explicitly in the case of Starfire. The memory thing means that she’s biologically incapable of any long-term relationship that’s not about sex.

    On the subject of respect, though, I do look at the Catwoman/Batman scene and wonder why I should respect either one. Not because of sex in itself, but because they’re a criminal and a vigilante who – as far I can tell – don’t know anything about each other and no reason to assume this wouldn’t end with handcuffs or a knife between the ribs. It’s ludicrous from the perspective of what they’re supposed to be doing and good at.

  19. Korva says

    This new “edgy” DC Universe is turning very sour from stuff like this.

    Oh, is that the/one purpose of the reboot? In that case, hands up everyone who is surprised by the pornification. Someone? Anyone? Can I hear crickets chirping?

    “Edgy”, along with “dark” and “mature”, has been a keyword for “pubescent orgy of sex and brutality, preferably at the same time” for quite some time in my book.

  20. Red says

    Korva,

    Honestly, I’m not all that surprised. I guess people were just holding out hope. Maybe now they’re saying, ‘Oh, it’ll get better in a few issues! Just wait!’

    ‘Just wait’? We’ve been waiting for YEARS. If it’s not going to improve NOW, it’s not going to improve AT ALL.

  21. Dani says

    Sylvia Sybil,

    Yep, that about sums it up. I was actually thinking about starting to read more superhero-oriented comics (I’ve been a manga fan for years and the American comics I read aren’t about anything in the superhero universe), but I’m going to have to think (and research) long and hard about what I’m going to invest my time and money in.

  22. says

    Sylvia Sybil,

    That is AWESOME. And very painful. But I love how it points out that DC just isn’t doing the math properly, because we’re always being told, “Now, now, children, it’s not OUR fault we have to make our fiction racist, sexist, ableist, hateful shit – the audience boycotts us until our children starve if we don’t!” And yet, there are so many examples of successful non-sexist action movies with female leads – which are “just flukes.”

    It’s an unfalsifiable argument: if you make media featuring someone other than white dudes and it flops, it’s BECAUSE it didn’t have white dudes (even though lots and lots of stories featuring white dudes also flop – that, apparently, is irrelevant or something). And if you make media featuring someone other than white dudes and it succeeds, well, that was just a fluke. Heads they win, tails we lose.

  23. Red says

    Sylvia Sybil,

    WIN. I LOVED the ‘Teen Titans’ animated series (Yes, I am an adult who loves cartoons.)

    Also illustrates the point nicely (forgive the pun!) Starfire in the show was a cheerful, friendly, outgoing girl, though retained her warrior nature and spirit. She only let it loose when she needed it; the rest of the time, she was doing things like going to the mall (like most teens do), making weird Tamaranean food like pudding of sadness (which Beast Boy described as ‘cream of toenails’), and all in all, having a blast with her friends when she wasn’t out kicking bad guy butt. And when she did, watch out!

    BTW; commenter ‘Kam Bates’ at the Comics Alliance article makes a great post. For your reading.

    ‘Boy there are a lot of crazy rants down there in these comments. Ok, if you think men and women in comics are written with the same set of stylizations and exaggerations, you are entitled to that opinion. If you think that Catwoman and Starfire are speaking with authentic female voices, you are entitled to that opinion. Hell, if you think Roy Harper’s board shorts are as equally sexual as Starfire’s bikini top, you are entitled to that opinion.

    But here are a couple points where there is data to back it up:

    – The comic book market is shrinking.

    – The superhero movie market is at an all time high.

    – DC has states that a big reason for DCnU is to get more readers.

    – Women represent over 70% of the fiction reading market.

    – Less women read comics, percentage wise, than consume superhero content in other mediums (Smallville, Teen Titans). Also less, percentage wise, than the number that consume other forms of word and picture media like Anime.

    I know from experience that many women feel comics are not written for them. So when a woman who loves comics writes about what is making her feel alienated from the medium, MAYBE JUST LISTEN. It doesn’t matter if you agree, what matters is that a LOT of women feel the same way. The comic book industry would greatly benefit from their numbers.’

    Read More: http://www.comicsalliance.com/2011/09/22/starfire-catwoman-sex-superheroine/#ixzz1Z7vypOCD

    I also note that there are quite a few great comments from men agreeing with Laura; one of them pointing out that in a way it’s actually condescending to men as it expects them to be buying it just for the sake of all the cheesecake. Comments from posters Chris Long, Orklad, Grant Johnson, Daniel Landerman and Kyle Rybski are very heartening to read. :)

  24. Patrick McGraw says

    Plus there’s the fact that their attempts to appeal to 18-34-year-old straight men have alienated plenty of people in that demographic, like myself. I’m going to go rewatch my DCAU DVDs.

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