Since Revena’s away at WisCon communing with other feminist geeks, I’ll be trying to fill her shoes with this column (with much help from the other regular Hathor authors) this week and next.
To start, despite the criticisms I’ve leveled recently against both of these shows, Jennifer L. Pozner at WIMN’s Voices reminds us that the end of Gilmore Girls and the cancellation of Veronica Mars leaves a very big hole in the representation of non-stereotypical female characters on television. She points out why Gilmore Girls in particular was so refreshing in the first place:
I’ll deeply miss your array of female characters who were all written to be smart, quirky, witty, competent, supportive of one another, fabulous, flawed and vulnerable in their own, unique ways, not carbon copies of one another, and totally unlike the depth-less parade of empty-headed hotties on teen-angst melodramas, put-upon but resigned sitcom moms, and perfectly coiffed, stark-featured, mini-skirted DAs on one after another procedural crime drama (not to mention the inane hot-tub and harem dwellers on reality TV)…I can’t remember another television show where such a rich array of female protagonists and supporting actresses were allowed to co-exist without being portrayed in competition with one another for the attention of male characters (hello, Ally McBeal), as stereotypical cliches (I’m talking to you, Everybody Loves Raymond’s Patricia Heaton and Doris Roberts), or as perpetually unhappy if they’re single (here’s looking at you, Carrie, Charlotte, Miranda and Samantha).
In comics news, several people have been writing about what’s wrong with the cover for Heroes for Hire, Issue #13, and taking to task anyone who can’t see the problem with it. Steven at The Roar of Comics sums it up by saying:
Those are our Heroes (for Hire) being threatened with rape on the cover.
The selling point of this comic is that you might see one of these busty women raped. By a tentacled beast. That’s just repulsive. … These aren’t La Blue Girl, who exists to be tentacle raped. These are supposedly superheroes, people who protect others from rape. To show them as potential victims, to make their (potential) rape a sales feature, denies them of their capability as heroes and their existence as developed characters, and makes them into sex toys, to be leered at.
If you want to persuade me that this cover isn’t sexist, because men are drawn in similar poses, then I’m up for the challenge. If you can find me a cover with up to three men, all drawn in passive poses, with demonstrable hardness of the nipples or penis, sad faces, and the female hero (for what little of her is seen) being active, you can tell me that this cover isn’t sexist because stuff happens to guys as well. Especially on the cover of T+ rate comics.
Just how many stereotypes did we pack into that description there? Brainy geeks – of course, they must be physicists – who cannot function well in real life. Sexy blond – of course, she has to be a blond – who knows nothing about science. Uber-bright dude from India who can only speak in scientific jargon. The title alone is such lame-ass fifth grade humor I could weep. Hah hah hah, “big bang”, get it? Big bang, like the theory, and like, you know, “bang” a chick? Get it? Nudge, nudge, wink wink, say no more! Know what I mean?
Even more interestingly, writer Bill Prady comes into the comment thread to defend his show, and our very own Mecha helps explain to him that no matter who he wrote the show for, the marketing campaign assures that the people who see it will be:
People who want to laugh at geeks, not with them. People who want to go, ‘See? Look at all them smart people, but they ain’t got no street smarts. They’re really so dumb, and eggheadlike.’ Zuska’s point about making ‘being a geek’ a substitute for ‘fat’ or ‘rude’ in the standard sitcom setup is also a valid one that is worth analyzing.
And many of us have appreciated Richie at Crimitism for his willingness to wade through YouTube comment threads and “men’s rights” literature to remind us why we still do all this pop culture critique even as people tell us that the world’s all equal now. He provides a long list of comments left in response to the trailer for the move Girls Rock! to which I cannot possibly do justice by only singling out a few. He did get an appreciative response from the co-director of the movie (sidenote: isn’t it great to see these bloggers getting attention from the people who are actually writing this stuff?), who said:
Funny thing is, the comments were evenly divided between “Girls can’t rock, only men can play the guitar, they shouldn’t try” and male panic comments like “Why do you need a special camp to separate girls out, they have the same opportunities as men now!” Amazing no-one realized the two canceled each other out. On our site, which is a group blog, we’ve got pretty tight restrictions on who can comment and stuff and so far so good. Anyway, I’m glad to see another place where this is being discussed.
While you’re over at Crimitism, be sure to check out Richie’s piece from a few weeks ago on “The Alphabet of Manliness”, a book that apparently makes heavy use of my own personal pet peeve of the week, a misrepresentation of itself as “satirical”:
Ah, yes, the ’satire’ element. See, The Alphabet of Manliess isn’t really a bunch of immature, phallocentric crap, it’s a satire of immature, phallocentric crap. Right, let’s run with that for now. Were this a subversive satire of masculinity, one could reasonably expect that the target of said satire would come off looking, you know, bad. Or stupid. Or incompetent. You might also expect the vitriol to be directed at masculinity-obsessed men, rather than the groups that masculinity-obsessed men are oppressing and treating like shit.
Surprise! It fails hard.
This week’s list has ended up pretty heavy on male feminists and feminist allies, and while we definitely appreciate their voices, I’ll try to find more of what the female geeks and pop-culture critics are writing about for next week’s edition.