Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A Plea to the Nerd Population of Planet Internet

Another day another internet-spawned, DC related controversy. What has raised the hackles of the angry masses this time? Apparently an issue of Catwoman and an issue of a terrible little comic called Red Hood & the Outlaws. Both books have been taken to task over their portrayal of women. Most seem to agree that the books are objectifying it's heroines and some are going so far as to claim it's another example of DC misogyny.

I'll quickly lay my cards on the table and state that Red Hood & the Outlaws is a bad book. Its poorly written, and if not for the art would probably go down as one of the worst I've read in years. The misogyny that fanboys and fangirls are pointing toward comes in the form of one of the main characters' (Starfire) promiscuous nature and panel after panel displaying her in various, absurd poses while wearing next-to-nothing. It's exaggerated to the point of parody and does nothing to help the poor characterization, lame dialogue, and dull plotting of the book.

However, the poses, and attitude of Starfire (which is, already, a ridiculous sentence that really displays the irony of how "serious" this argument has become) are pretty much in keeping with the way the character has been portrayed for at least the last 8 or so years. For further proof of this refer to 52 wherein she ran around literally naked half the book. Starfire is just one of those characters who has been locked into this sort of fanboy-pandering characterization. It's nothing new. I don't condone it, and being a stodgy old man I don't really approve of it, but it's nothing new.

The same holds true for Catwoman. Honestly, I can't quite figure out why people are targeting this book in the first place. Catwoman has always been a sultry character who slinks around in tight leather and has a relationship with Batman. It's silly to even begin to act like this book has shown the character in some sort of unspeakable display of misogyny. It hasn't. The art, the poses, and the characterization (I'm using that word a lot) of Selina as shown in this book are perfectly in line with the 90's Chuck Dixon series, and her recent appearances in Batman Inc. I'd even go so far as to say her appearance in that book was even more cheesecake than what is seen of her here.

So why is everyone up in arms?

As near as I can tell, nerds just want a cause. Something to rant against. This was evident earlier this year when DC was first hit with the "misogyny" label over their supposed lock-out of women creators. People rushed to slam DC for their "blatant sexism" ignoring facts such as that there are generally very few women superhero comics creators. Look across the market ladies and gents, there is a very small group of female superhero comics creators. This isn't to say there aren't women writing and drawing comics. Indeed some of my favorite creators are ladies. Maybe DC didn't do enough to hire women, maybe it did. To this day I find it very hard to believe that DC went out of it's way to lock women out of the creative process. It makes little to no sense.

None the less, that was the fanboy cry. Blog posts were written, site coverage was given, heck Dan Didio and Jim Lee issued a statement declaring their commitment to diversity.
The funniest thing about this whole outcry was that everyone was more than happy to rant and rave about the problem but no one was able to offer a solution. Did the nerds writing blog posts offer up suggestions for ways to integrate more women into the mainstream superhero market? Nah, that would interfere with the time spent "borrowing" other writers arguments against DC and claiming them as their own. Or it would have cut into the time spent spouting off meaningless data read on twitter. I'm looking at you, guy-who-asked-Dan Didio-about-the-percentage-of-women-creative-at-Comic Con.

It's easy to whine, rant, and moan about perceived problems but actually takes thought and original ideas to come up with solutions.

So now we're onto the Starfire/Catwoman controversy. DC-gate. I'm not sure who first pointed out the Starfire one but whoever went after Catwoman needs to read more than one comic staring the character before attacking the book and DC in general. The amount of articles now written about this single issue of a comic that portrays the title character perfectly in keeping with prior continuity is one of the most blatant examples of the hive-mind that is internet comics fandom I've ever seen.

I spent some time last night reading an article on Comics Alliance about this subject written by their leader, Laura Hudson. It's a well-written piece about the misrepresentation of female characters in the DC relaunch. Of course it ignores strong female characters like Batgirl, Wonder Woman and the Birds of Prey but hey, she's on her soapbox and she can write well and expresses some valid points. If you read the comments section of said article though it's a different story. Essentially you have 1000+ comments echoing (occasionally word-for-word) what Laura said or exclaiming how right she is in her views. Those poor few who post to voice their disagreement are met with derision, or, of course, accusations of being misogynists, pigs, inbred hillbillies, or uneducated dolts.

I didn't read a single comment that offered a valid point that would have bolstered Laura's post. Heck, to be honest most of the people who posted to argue AGAINST her weren't really making any valid points. It's instead a maelstrom of uninformed opinion, blatant plagiarism, or name calling.

Listen, I'm not on the side of displaying women in a misogynist manner or objectifying anyone. Heck, I'm sort of a prude when it comes to this stuff. But come on, nerds (of which I am one) try and come up with some original thoughts. Inform yourselves. Don't quote meaningless numbers that you read on twitter. Don't shout misogyny as soon as you hear someone else do it. For the love of all that's holy... LEAVE THE HIVE. It's okay to have opinions contrary to those held by your favorite comics news site. It's okay to disagree with that one guy you follow on twitter. It's okay to actually make some statements that aren't regurgitated from an article or blog post you just read.

I'm not taking the creative teams side on their portrayal of Starfire but I am asking you why you're so dead set against or for them. Do you even know?

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