Friday, September 23, 2011

[September 23rd] Super Blowup Dolls to the rescue

As you know I've been keeping close tabs on The New 52 DCU reboot. This week DC writers have introduced readers to the brand new liberated sexy ladies. The examples are Catwoman and the new Starfire in Red Hood and The Outlaws. Laura Hudson discusses the issues with DCU's take on women with provocative characters at Comics Alliance:

But the problem isn't Star Sapphire. Or Catwoman. Or Starfire. Or Dr. Light raping Sue Dibny on the Justice League satellite or that stupid rape backstory Kevin Smith gave Black Cat or the time Green Lantern's girlfriend got murdered and stuffed in a refrigerator. The problem is all of it together, and how it becomes so pervasive both narratively and visually that each of these things stops existing as an individual instance to be analyzed in a vacuum and becomes a pattern of behavior whose net effect is totally repellent to me. As an anomaly, maybe Starfire could be funny, the way the big-breasted, over-sexed Fritz (who even got her own porno comic, Birdland, which is pretty good if you're into that) is often funny in Love and Rockets, mostly because the series is already packed full of incredibly diverse, fully-realized female characters. But as the 5,000th example of a superhero comic presenting female sexuality in tone-deaf ways, it's just depressing.


And the problem is that when I look at these women, I would very much like to see confident ladies who enjoy sex and are having a fun sexy time. But what I see instead are women who give me the same impression as creepy dead-eyed porn stars mechanically mouthing "oh yeah, I want it." And that feeling of coerced sexual enthusiasm is the creepiest, saddest, most unerotic thing I can imagine. And if I were able to have a boner, seeing something like that would make me lose it every time.

I've had issues with both titles, more with Red Hood rather than Catwoman. Laura nails down all that made me cringe and not connect with the titles completely. I think that the issue with the end panel in Catwoman, where Selina is riding Wayne, is that the sexual release acts as Selina's go to method for dealing with bad days and depression. Yes, Selina is down and the way Batman consoles her is with a Bat-gadget that only he can provide. This is not to say that I didn't find the panel erotic or tasteful. Batman and Catwoman are wonderful together and I expected Selina to get Bat's pants down, but the timing is off.

Instead of seduce him, she clings to his anatomy like some people cling to food, sappy music or movies [or whatever you do when you feel sad] and the panel in this case takes away from her power rather than empower the character. Selina's just one of those girls with a complex or low self-esteem issues that need to have sex to feel better. That's not the case, but to me it looks like it is.

Starfire is the worst example of how sexually objectified women are in comics [at this point I can even say that the Star Saphires are better presented]. First, I don't have a background with her as a character other than the Teen Titans animated series, where Starfire appeared as the goofy and kind hearted and sweetest girl ever. Tamaran, in the animation, praised love and emotions. I believe the animation used these cardinal principals from the comics.

In the New 52, Starfire can not even remember her teammates, because to her every human looks the same and therefore is not worthy to remember. While this character trait promotes racism [white people and Asians, anyone?] the biggest issue is the absence of love in sex for her as a Tamaranian. Never about love. It's physical and basic. What happened to the love? To veneration of emotions? Forget about pleasure, the stilted and casual deliverance of the line "Just that love has nothing to do with it" combined with the catalog posing in previous panels, is just wrong. Starfire is not a woman, she's a husk. A super powered blowup doll.

I'm saddened to see sex brought low-brow. I don't mind seeing sex. Yes, superhero stories are not by definition sexual as action and violence dominate themes. When I do see sex in comics I'd like to see my heroines as avatars of sex and not the cheap, imitations, the superpower blowup dolls you can contort into pale resemblance of sexuality and sensuality.