Pretty, Fizzy Paradise

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Thursday, February 02, 2006

It's all Relative, the Bitch as Literary Decoy

Okay, so I just read Rann-Thanagar War. So there might be a major spoiler or two in this essay. I'm going to try to avoid saying it directly, but it'll likely be pretty easy to guess.

So um, if you're spoiler-phobic, don't read.

Anyway, I just read RTW and I came out of it with one thought. And it's not the thought you're probably expecting (if you've read it too). My single thought was: When the hell did Donna Troy turn into such a raving bitch?

Okay, I'll be blunt here. I'm not a fan of Donna Troy. I don't really dislike her, she's just a non-entity to me. And I never quite got over her freakout about Kyle painting the naked model, because the boy's a damn artist. And anyone could see how chaste that scene actually was. But that scene aside, Donna's always been relatively sweet and inoffensive in her relationship with Kyle. And when they split, they were both relatively amicable. It had a lot to do with circumstances outside their control, her identity confusion and loss of ex-husband and child contributed to it. They made it clear since that they still cared a great deal for each other.

Let's contrast that with Jade, shall we? I've already posted criticisms of her so I won't again. But let's consider this for a moment, she goes back to Earth, stays there, is unhappy with their relationship (though he does make a special effort to keep in touch via Lianna) and cheats on him. She doesn't even have the sense to use that nice message thingy he sent her to tell him it's over. Instead he comes home to find another guy there, wants answers from her and gets slapped for his trouble.

So honestly, if anything, I would have expected their roles to be reversed. Donna's always been nicer than Jade. Jade's got more of a history of bitchiness. So why is Jade suddenly the sweet supportive one and Donna the uber-bitch?

Well, considering the ending to the comic, it's probably pretty obvious what vested interest Mr. Gibbons and company have in making Jade seem like the better woman.

You know, I've seen this tactic before. This propping up of one woman by turning another into a raging bitch. Anyone who's read romance novels and/or watched a Soap Opera has.

You see, romance novel heroines are rather infamously poorly portrayed. While there are always a few exceptions, the majority are weepy little twits that somehow manage to hold onto their virginity until their late twenties (Which by itself isn't that bad, but considering how idiocally these girls tend to fall into bed with their always very atractive "love at first sight" guy because he breathed on them, well...then it gets a little less likely). They're supposedly professional but never portrayed at actually being good at their jobs, their companies are always on the brink of ruin, while they gossip about their lovelifes to co workers and occasionally end up prostituting themselves to the boss, who just so happens to fall in love with the hapless heroines and rescue them from the squallor born from their own damn incompetence.

These women are idealized-purity embodied. Even when involved in needlessly complicated revenge schemes, espionage or some other such nonsense, they're always honest, forthright and in over their heads. If they're thieves, whores or sold to husbands, it's always for the sake of someone else...a martyred sacrifice. And of course if they're whores, they meet their true love on that very first night and he claims her from then on.

Honestly, most of these women are terrible characters. They're stupid, vapid, incompetent and unrealistic. And all the female romance novel readers I know admit this. They're intelligent women, but this is pretty much all the companies publish. They do admit though, that it starts to get decidedly implausible though, that manly idealized fantasy-men like the hero would seriously go after a twit like that.

And do the romance novelists resolve this quandary by creating well-realized and developed female characters that readers can actually cheer for on their own right rather than as cypherized audience representatives? Every romance novel reader I talk to says that it sounds like a grand idea. But do they do it? Of course not

Instead, 99% of the time, they introduce a foil. This woman is an insane caricature type stuffed full of every "negative" cliche in the book. She's promiscuous and always attempting to seduce the hero, she's manipulative and bitchy, tormenting the poor heroine in secret, she's deceitful and cold and money grubbing... Because she has to be the negative foil for the heroine, next to this woman the heroine becomes as gold as her idiotic locks of hair.

You see, it's lazy writing really. A hallmark of a lazy, bored writer who can't be bothered to introduce depth to her idiotic creation. It's also an indicator of the intolerability of your heroine. Those rare strong female heroes in romance novel do not tend to have the bitch rival. Because they don't need a negative contrast, they look fine on their own. However, the weaker your heroine is, the more monstrous the rival becomes.

So what does that have to do with R-T-W?

Well, it's not just limited to romance novels.

See, I don't blame Mr. Gibbons for this really, well, I do for the execution not the idea. I don't doubt this is editorially mandated, and he's really really good on Recharge. But he got stuck with an impossible quandary. Considering how the issue ends, I can see why he wanted a more positive portrayal of Jade.

But he didn't actually present her that way. He presented the easier option, he turned her rival into a bitch, because any other means of redeeming her would be impossible in a single issue.

But think about it for a moment...has Power Girl ever needed a bitch for a rival to look good? Kory and Barbara have both been in love with Dick Grayson for years, but I've never either need to be turned into a bitch so that one could undeniably emerge on top. That's because Dynasty aside, most adult women, even when one man is involved, aren't going to make with the screaming and fisticuffs. Kory and Barbara both have their good qualities. And their not so good qualities. And they can "compete" in a sense on equal footing. They can shine in their contrasts without events being weighted either for or against them.

See, the thing is, I think if RTW were written a little better, it could have been fantastic. Could have focused more on Jade as a character, her memories, her life. Showed things through her eyes and let the audience experience her regret and sorrow as well as the thrill of being a part of this grand plan to save the universe. I'm a sucker for POV stuff like that, (Countdown made me cry long before the gunshot), and it would have made the tragedy more meaningful.

Instead they just went with Donna-as-bitch. *sigh* Bravo.

(Oh well, as long as Recharge/GL:C is good, I'll probably forgive you anyway, Mr. Gibbons.)

And I liked the mask better when it looked green. :-) The stars look stupid.


  • At February 02, 2006 10:02 AM, Blogger Marionette said…

    I never really liked Donna since she stopped being Wonder Woman as a teenager.

  • At February 02, 2006 10:53 AM, Blogger Ken S. said…

    Hmmm... interesting point, especially Re: Jade bieng suddenly nice. OTOH, DOnna struck me as the same Donna as always. Granted, I didn't read Darkstars or GL when she was in it, but she's always been willing to rag on a man who's being wishy-washy (which Kyle was).

  • At February 02, 2006 5:12 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    marionette: yeah, they kinda dropped the ball with her, I think. She had the potential to be cool, but they had her all wrapped up in complexities that made no sense. (They should have just quickly, in WW, wrote an adventure with a time-traveling Diana...BOOM! Donna gets her inspiration, no need for crazy backstory. I mean, they did it later with Hippolyta, but too late to help Donna.)

    ken s.: Donna's hot tempered sometimes, yeah. But she's usually not *that* bitchy. She'd have told him to focus, but there she was a lot harsher than she usually is, IMO. Besides, they've dated, she knows how he can be and how to manage him without being uber-bitch.

  • At February 02, 2006 7:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I can't say I've liked how Donna's been written since she became a warleader...She seems to be stressing hard.

    I DID like how Jade was written by Gibbons up until the wierd retcon last words. The banter between her and Kyle seemed very old school and sweet, the way they used to be. I remember when Jade was the one criticizing Donna's behavior toward Kyle.

    I'm withholding judgement on everything else, except to say that I HATE Kyle's new costume. He looks like he forgot to wash his face after a quickie with Troia.


  • At February 02, 2006 11:31 PM, Blogger RedheadFangirl said…

    Pinky swear we will never become bitch-rivals.

  • At February 03, 2006 12:05 AM, Blogger kalinara said…

    kris: I didn't mind Jade's change in behavior so much except that it was so sudden. Very conveniently in time for...what happens at the end. (i'm trying to avoid spoiling folks for a few days).

    It seemed forced.

    redlib: Hmm, I dunno, it depends on what daringly madcap and utterly idiotic adventures we're on at the time, and the cliched alpha-male cowboy/highlander/regency lord we're trying to woo at the time. :-P


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