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Thursday, January 05, 2006

On Objectifying and Comics

Okay, I wasn't sure what to post tonight but after visiting Ragnell's blog. I thought of something to say...

There is the text to a certain comic script with admittedly sexist overtones that has offended certain people.

But honestly the excerpt is, to me, more ridiculous than offensive.

First of all, consider the source. This is Frank Miller we're talking about. He wrote DKR, DKSA, Daredevil and Sin City. While I wouldn't go so far as to call him a misogynist, (I don't know him personally after all), I do think that he has a tendancy to portray the females in his comics in...shall we say a sensationalistic fashion.

So why are we shocked again to find out that he did it purposefully in the script? I read it and realize that Mr. Miller enjoys sexually provocative images of women. Um...okay? And he wanted to add them to the comic specifically. Well, um, haven't we all seen enough *ads* from Sin City to not be surprised? Really?

Also, look at the industry. There's been improvements, but this is still the industry in which Catwoman and Power Girl's breasts kept growing in every damn issue as an artists joke. This is tacky and tasteless yes, but it's common knowledge. In one of the comments in Ms. Hernandez's post, one insulted poster says that she/he thought that it was the artist who added in the T&A, and is offended that it was Miller himself.

Well why is it better that the artists do it than when the writers plan it? A comic is, in my opinion, an equal venture between Artist and Writer. And both bear responsibility for the ending product. And I don't see why the objectification is worse if the writer does it than the artists. Shouldn't it be equally offensive?

While things are better now than they used to be, and more women are writing and drawing comics, the industry is still predominantly male. And in modern times, sex sells. Of course there's going to be objectification. And I think it is possible to change this, but not by quitting the industry altogether. Sure female readers can boycott, but lets be realistic here. We're not the target audience. They seek to attract more female readers because they want more readers in general, but honestly? If we stopped buying today, most guys would still be buying. And they're the audience that the companies depend on.

What we do if we stop buying...we give the industry back to the men. And you think things will get better then?

I'm weird though. I'm not offended. I'm not surprised. Nor am I creeped out. I'm *amused*. You know why? Because apparently I've now a slight reputation in a small circle as one who appreciates Kyle Rayner in tattered clothing. And you know what? It's perfectly justified. I *do*. I ogle bare skin, I giggle at suggestive moments, I stare at Kyle's ass, at Dick's ass, even at Ted Kord's ass. I blush when shower scenes come up in Nightwing, and I wince in shame when they come up in Robin (Sheesh, I shouldn't appreciate the sight of a sixteen year old so. I'm *six* years older.)

I've said many times that I'm thrilled about Ion because Marz has a tendancy to strip Kyle. And if I did end up ever writing that Sand comic I talked about, I'd add moments where there'd be fewer clothing, and shower scenes, and other fun bits as well.

So am I any better than Miller or Lee or any of these men? Moreover, while I don't know many who've complained about this particular issue, I do know others who complain about the same general problem. And many of those women are ones that have cheered *with* me about suggestive aspects in the most current arc in Nightwing. (Most of which were written in Ms. Grayson's script, too).

And you know what? I think that's wrong. It's a double standard. Women can't attack men for something while doing the same damn thing. It's hypocritical. And more importantly, it makes us look bad. And it will be remembered when we've got a more important issue to fight. And there are, I think, far more important women's issues to tackle, and we won't be able to afford our stance weakened. The big fights are yet to come, don't waste our power on something like this.

Just my opinion.

Edited to add: I have decided to just outright remove my mistaken references, this was my fault for using a mistaken interpretation in order to jumpstart a discussion. I do think the discussion is valid, and that it's important to have. But I don't need to misrepresent anyone in my desire to have it. Please accept my apology.

16 Comments:

  • At January 05, 2006 3:17 AM, Blogger James Meeley said…

    This comment has been removed by the author.

     
  • At January 05, 2006 8:02 AM, Blogger Lea said…

    I didn't quit because of that one panel. I decided to quit before I saw it. I haven't even quit making comics, just making them for anyone other than myself.

    I can think of panels and books and attitudes far worse. It was just a handy example and the first one I saw on Tuesday morning.

    And, James, I had no idea what I said would blow up like this. What I wrote I wrote for myself, even though I chose to make it part of a public record. I'm disappointed that you characterize the people who chose to support it the way you did.

    The panel was NOT my last straw. Those are Kalinara words, not mine.

    Finally, if you think I haven't been picking myself up and carrying on over and over again, you don't know shit about me.

     
  • At January 05, 2006 9:53 AM, Blogger Lea Hernandez said…

    Kalinara, I hope you amend your comments about "I don't understand why [the Miller/Lee panel] is the last straw.", beause that is now being repeated as something I said, and it most certainly is not.

    I NEVER said it was the last straw, YOU did. As I've said elsewhere, it was a handy example of one of MANY things about comics I'm just sick of, and why I decided I'd only write and draw my own from now on.

    Believe me, it was not even close to the last straw. There was no one last straw.

    Perhap you, and everyone else reading this, could go to my LJ and actually READ IT, instead of extraploating from what other bloggers have said about what I said.

     
  • At January 05, 2006 10:44 AM, Blogger Kiva said…

    But if something like that is enough to make her "give up", I'd have to question how much she wanted to "be in it" in the first place.

    Wow, that's the most ignorant comment I've seen on this entire subject.

    You're too embarrassed to admit that you have no idea who Lea Hernandez is, aren't you?

    Because someone with even the SLIGHTEST inkling of what her comics career has been like wouldn't EVER think to claim that she didn't want enough.

     
  • At January 05, 2006 11:35 AM, Blogger Melchior del DariĆ©n said…

    kalinara,

    Two points:

    (1) This is not actually about Miller; it's really about how the industry (and the wider culture) chooses to treat and depict its women.

    (2) sinspired left a comment over at Ragnell's The Written World that I endorse wholeheartedly. Here's the excerpt relevant to what were discussing here:

    The point is, WHEREEVER this type of artistic treatment of women is not counterbalanced by the same artistic treatment of men, it's a symptom of people still thinking of women as being little more than the collection of stereotypes depicted. (I'm a great proponent of equal objectification, myself.)

     
  • At January 05, 2006 2:40 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    I'd like to apologize to Ms. Hernandez for misunderstanding her comments. Thank you for coming yourself to post, I'll also update my entry accordingly and post an apology on your live journal as well. I stand by other opinions expressed in this entry, but I realize that to use unintentional misinformation is bad form. Please understand that it was not an intentional misreprentation. I have actually read your posts, but accidental misinterpretations happen. That's why I initially edited to link to Melchior's post. I felt it was rude to link to yours more than once.

    melchior: This is true and you're right. It is about the professional treatment of women...which I believe is a serious issue. However, personally I believe that the objectification aspect is still an angle worth talking about.

    james: Thank you for the support on the issue of objectification.

    kiva: Thank you for reading and commenting, but please don't use my blog to attack other commenters.

     
  • At January 05, 2006 4:40 PM, Blogger Centurion said…

    Not to beat a dead horse, but that type of portrayal of women is sort of a hallmark of Frank Miller. He's not a bad writer for they type of writing he does, though he is a bit centered in his own little gritty genre.

    His other stuff outside DC and Marvel carries the same look and dress for women, such as his Robocop work.

    I don't hate the guy for what he does, but I do sort of wonder how he became famous for it...

     
  • At January 05, 2006 8:41 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    centurion: heh, this is true I think...

    james: I wasn't sure whether to post this as I've already "replied" to your reply and I'm not completely sure how to articulate what I mean to say. But my original reply was short for a reason...and I should say why:

    To be honest, I felt weird reading your reply. I guess...it felt like I'd just been patted on the head and told I'm "one of the good ones". And I don't know what to make about that.

    See I don't disagree with much of your reply with regards to objectification. I meant and still mean everything I posted.

    But there's a part of me that suddenly feels like it understands what "sellout" means...and it feels like I've just been called out as one.

    It was this part: I just wanted to say that I'm glad there's some women out there who have the good grace to take stuff like that in stride and give it back when the mood calls for it. Things would be a lot better if more people (men and women) did that.

    I feel bad about reacting so to something obviously intended as a compliment...but it didn't really feel like one. I feel patronized, patted on the head, and like I've been used to insult every other woman who doesn't agree with us. And that...feels wrong.

    Anyway, I'm not saying this to attack you or provoke anything, I just think that the real problem in our culture is silence. We have the responsibility to talk about what bothers us or we might as well never speak at all. So I'm speaking.

    -Melissa Krause (Kalinara)

     
  • At January 05, 2006 8:50 PM, Blogger James Meeley said…

    This comment has been removed by the author.

     
  • At January 05, 2006 8:56 PM, Blogger James Meeley said…

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

     
  • At January 05, 2006 8:59 PM, Blogger James Meeley said…

    This comment has been removed by the author.

     
  • At January 05, 2006 9:06 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    James: Thank you for responding and understanding my feelings. It means a lot to me that you took the time to write this last message.

    Thank you.

     
  • At January 08, 2006 2:02 AM, Anonymous Kris Newton said…

    When it comes to the kind of cheesecake that's found in comics, I wonder whether "objectification" is really the right word. To me, objectification implies dehumanizing treatment, a portrayal of a human being as an object rather than a person. The reality is that a human being can be both a person and an object of desire; most attractive people are. In your own entries on Kyle Rayner, kalinara, you comment both on his physical attributes and his personality. That doesn't strike me as sexist or "objectifying" in the least. Three-dimensional characters can have nice butts too!

    In a visual medium like a comic book, it's often possible to parenthetically showcase a character's physical assets without interrupting the story, and I don't object to that. When a writer or an artist neglects storytelling to linger on someone's panties, I find it offensive on a number of levels, but otherwise I don't see the problem with portraying a sexy character as being sexy.

    I think the problem with the portrayal of women in comics is not what's being written and depicted, but what's absent. Though it's certainly gotten better, the number of female characters who are sexy young personality-challenged asskickers is still (pardon the pun) disproportionate. In other words, I feel that characters like Power Girl and Phantom Lady are portrayed just as they should be; the problem is that they are overrepresented and other, less sexually-focused characters are underrepresented.

     
  • At January 08, 2006 2:39 AM, Blogger kalinara said…

    Kris: Thank you for commenting. You've definitely got a point about objectification not perhaps being the best word.

    And you're right, the portrayals are often uneven. Me, I often attribute that to the stupid virgin/whore dynamic thing that we see all the time. Where young, innocents are sexualized in wardrobe/design but are miraculously "pure and innocent".

    When I think of the sexualized female characters that work for me: Dinah, Barbara, Helena, PG, Starfire, for example, none of them ever utter "That was my first kiss!" in a scandalized voice. (don't get me wrong, I don't think a person's clothes should be any sort of excuse for rape or sexual assault or anything like that)...but I've always hated the pre-Federline Britney Spears-esque model of "I'm going to gyrate suggestively, barely naked, but of course I'd never do *that* before marriage."

    I don't want every female character to be sexually experienced...but in the T&A characters, that sort of forced naivety just makes them seem weak. Where I'd like to think that the characters dress like that as their own choice to embrace their sexualities. It makes them seem stronger.

     
  • At January 08, 2006 7:25 AM, Blogger kalinara said…

    And it occurs to me I trailed off before talking about the second part of what you said.

    I would like to see more of the non-objectified girls: Courtney and Cassie for example (who I wish were not wearing midriff bearing costumes, but that's an earlier rant :-))

    I'd like to see a wider range of female characters too. For example, there are no real older women heroes. Even Dinah has been made younger. This perplexes me a little. But too old is probably not as "attractive"...which is a damn shame. But I think more female heroes with a bigger variety would go a long way to helping our problem...

     
  • At May 07, 2007 2:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I think we are covering a variety of similar topics but each with it's own space. Women are portrayed in an idealized, exagerated manner? yes, because the artist likes it that way? indeed, that is wrong? "yes" why? because female artists haven't done the same? or because women don't get also their share of "T&A"? no. Because people shouldn't be portrayed that way regardless of genre, but then again sex sells...Something different is that they have inferior personalities, character development, that's different. But as one poster said if women stop buying comics, the industry won't crash, guys will continue. So it's more of a "let's everybody get what they like" not just men. I personally would like to see superheroines portrayed with powerful personlities, and I don't mean loud-mouths, but rather personalities that you admire, that you wish existed because of their deph....let's remember that self-confidence is one of the sexiest traits women can have (sometimes even more powerful than a cleavage)

    - Bruce Wayne

     

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