Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Is sex appeal a requirement?


I have been trying to wrap my head around the subject of the provocativeness of female comic book characters. It’s a tricky subject. A lot of times it seems artists go out of their way to remind us that these super women are women. Their poses, their costumes, etc. seem like an attempt to keep the attention of teen boys and male fans in general. But as we know, the ranks the female nerds and geeks are becoming more prominent. It’s not like they were never there. I think the world is just becoming more aware that women and girls can be nerds too. But there is still a disconnect in what the comic publishers (and mass media in general) give us, and what the reality of readers are. Or maybe it’s just me.

In what I think is an example of what mass media deems as good business, and in a sense it was, sexuality again triumphs over good content. I’m not going to address exactly what happened at the VMAs. You should know by now even if you didn’t watch them. I didn’t. But let’s look at Miley Cyrus as a real world example of what I see in comics sometimes. When she grows up, somehow that means she has to flaunt her sexuality in what I can only assume is an attempt to look grown up. I know she is trying to shed the Hanna Montana image. She doesn't want to be typecast. I get it. But does she really have to take her cloths off (I know, she wasn't naked on stage) and be overtly sexual in her routine to prove that she is now an adult? Similarly, when a female character in comic books grows up, does she have to wear increasingly less cloths to be identified as a grown up character? Male characters go through redesigns too, but not in terms of their sex appeal. At least not that I have noticed. The problem is that weather it’s comics or it’s television, movies, internet, or whatever, we consumers still eat it up in mass quantities. It sells. So while media companies are responsible for their content, or lack there of, we are also responsible for giving them the impression that this is what we want.

Two years ago, during a panel at San Diego Comic-Con, a teen girl brought up the fact that she had trouble finding female cosplay ideas that were age appropriate. Maybe people out there don’t think this is that huge of a problem, but boys in their teens and not yet in their teens have a lot to work with when choosing a character to dress like. Try to argue that girls have a similar wide selection. If I had a daughter, I’d be disappointed in the choices she had. Even if I were a woman I’d be disappointed in the selection of female characters whose costumes don’t take their sex appeal into consideration.

Lets take another example. The former X-Men character Marrow is a brilliant creation. Or at least she was. Her extreme bone growing mutation was painful to her, graphic to see, and it added layers to a character who was a tortured and very skilled fighter. She was very much like a younger Wolverine in a sense. Then she got streamlined. She became "prettier" but no less ferocious and her mutation was still pretty obvious. Then she lost her powers and it seems got lost in the shuffle of characters in the X-Men universe. So why not bring her back? Well, even better, instead of a girl with bones growing out of her body, lets just make a younger, hotter, girl Wolverine? Okay, I don't know if this was the genesis of X-23. But it kinda seems like it. I haven't read all that much involving her character so I can't really judge, but I'd rather have Marrow back at full power.

Okay, so to bring my rambling argument to some form of point, I don’t think a woman, fictional or real, should have to use any kind of sex appeal as validation for how good or talented she is. I know, I know, in terms of our superheroes, we like them to look good. But a little logic in what they look like would be nice. I mean, if a male character is going into battle in full armor, his female teammate looks pretty ridiculous if her body has less coverage because she looks better that way.

I'd love to hear any feedback and opinions. But if you bother to comment, let's keep it civil.

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