Saturday, February 13, 2010

In which Jayne dusts off her soapbox

It's been awhile since I last posted here, so let's see if I remember how to do this.

Instead of doing any of the eight million things I should do today (grade undergrad responses, work on my thesis so the thought of it doesn't make me go in to the fetal position), I surfed the Internets because that's how my procrastinating ass rolls. In surfing I came across Why discriminate if it doesn't profit? It's an article addressing the question about why Hollywood and the television industry are dead set against making movies/shows for or by women.

The writer, Jennifer Kessler, takes a couple of detours in getting to the point (she discusses curly hair and salons in an analogy that doesn't quiet gel), but her answer boils down to ego:

"Even greed is fueled by the ego – it’s the ego that wants more than enough so it feels safe or better than its neighbors. It’s the ego that wants to feel important, unique, successful. Eliminating entire clumps of humanity from the 'race' your ego thinks it’s in is a quick way to get rid of competition."

This is, of course, a compelling theory (used in the non-scientific sense of the word), but one that doesn't cover it entirely. As the resident feminist of the blog, I feel obligated to point out that the movie and tv industries are still steeped in (and yes, I refuse to apologize for using this term) patriarchy. Executives, directors, writers, and so on are overwhelmingly men, and thus the mindset is that it is men who are the prime consumers of movies and television.

This is, of course, complete bullshit, but it's a powerful, ego feeding theory that allows these same executives and directors and writers to justify their often sexist offerings(oh god, just look at how actresses are objectified in comparison to actors). Why should they bother giving well-rounded, heroic and amazing female characters and women-centric storylines when "women don't watch movies/tv"?

Kessler then has this paragraph, that I really want to discuss:

"That laziness factors into TV and film because in the case of TV advertisers don’t seem to want to know that women are worth pitching products to because it would mean learning something new (look at the shortcuts they take when pressed: “make it pink, mention shoes”), like what types of ads women respond to. In the case of movies, it would mean… well, nothing. Honestly, you write women pretty much like you write men. But they think it would mean learning something new, and to be fair, for many of them it would mean learning to write credible voices belonging to a group of people they associate with little more than high school rejection, being told to clean up their room, divorce and child support checks. It would also, for many of them, mean noticing someone who has never before existed to their eyes: women who don’t fit the “hot chick” profile. Women who, like so many of our favorite male movie icons, are more fascinating than modelesque, who are sexy because they’re made of awesome, instead of just looking awesome."


And I think this reasoning, among other things, is the reason why comics, while making little, tiny, slow baby steps to acknowledging female readers, are still pretty much trapped in this GIRLS DON'T READ COMICS LALALA I CAN'T HEAR YOU mindset.

Girls read comics, especially when those comics feature strong female characters. Hell, when Stephanie Brown was the new Robin the sales of Batman increased. Manhunter was critically acclaimed and widely popular comic that features an kick-ass female protagonist. Ditto for Catwoman. Not to mention the long and successful run of Birds of Prey.

And yet every single one of those titles were cancelled. Yes, perhaps, the sales were low, but look at how much manpower was put behind the effort to market them compared to other titles; not a whole hell of a lot. And, yes, some of them, like Catwoman, suffered from having to include retarded storylines to tie in to the latest big event, but I think these titles and comics in general suffer from what Kessler said above.

Women in comics are "awesome to look at" and not just plain awesome. As an industry, comics has a hard time realizing that strong female characters doesn't just mean they have giant breasts and are sexy danger.

Look at Marvel's Lady Bullseye. She is awesome to look at. And the sad thing is that Marvel tried to make her strong, in that "strong" to them means "is motivated from past sexual assault and needed a man to inspire her and also happens to give tits and ass and is sexy, sexy danger."

Lady Bullseye is a strong female character as filtered through the male gaze, which means she is sexy danger and not a strong character at all. Sadly, comics are still firmly entrenched in the male gaze. Hell, even the attempts comics made to appeal to female readers are insulting and offensive.

And, since we're on the topic, both movies, television, and comics are finally recognizing LGBT characters, although the visibility on them still remains frustratingly low. Hell, how about getting some diversity up in comics? With DC's cancellation of Blue Beetle, comics are awfully white.

If Kessler is right that this is about the ego then it's time to set that aside, especially in this shitty economic times, and realize that women and LGBT and minorities are just as valuable consumers as white, straight men. Get your heads out of your asses and recognize it's not all about the dangly bits between your legs.


Darcy said...

WTF! they cancelled Blue Beetle!?

That was a really well written entertaining book and now I must go eat my feelings in the form of an oversized bowl of Froot Loops because clearly there is no Justice and all of the Heroes are dead.

Danicus said...

what about Apollo and Midnighter in The Authority? theyre both men and in love.
Victor Mancha in RUnaways is hispanic, Nico Minoru is japanese ANd a girl.... there's plenty of diversity. There just doesnt appear to be because the Headlining characters all happen to be white men. But i contend that just happens to be due to seventy years of exposure making them the most famous. I mean honestly. The most recognized symbol in the entire WORLD is Superman's "S" shield. kinda puts white guys in the forefront with publicity like that.
Of course, he might be the biggest minority of all, being the last Kryptonian.