Thursday, November 27, 2014

Feminism: The Argument From Pure Shit

There are lots of good reasons to engage in and discuss feminism in society, and lots of benefits to applying feminist theory to creative works. I'm going to ignore most of those reasons today and focus in on one of the less important ones: Without feminism, a lot of creative property is pure shit.

Let's take video games for a quick example. Despite the fact that video games are now more-or-less universally enjoyed by all segments of the population (especially after widening the definition of "video games" to things beyond FPS games on X-Box), and despite the fact that women are half the population all over the place and white people are only 80% of the US population, the vast majority of protagonists in video games are straight, white, 30-something males  who usually have brown hair and some sort of facial hair. Personality-wise, these schmucks are usually all the same as well: Batman-esque brooding and grit. Aside from the personality thing, this actually perfectly describes me, but I still get bored of seeing the same fucking character in every video game I see. Maybe you disagree that women are not in a position equal to men in American society. Fine, whatever. But I find it hard to believe that anybody who claims to love video games wouldn't want to improve on that by asking for a bit of variety in their characters every once in a while.

Like I said, that's a quick example, and honestly, low-hanging fruit. Everyone knows that video game protagonists are all the same, and hopefully we can all agree that it's boring as shit. How about comic book art though? This gets a little bit harder to see, but I recently read Spider-Woman #1 by Hopeless and Land, and it shows how shitty, sexist art can and will ruin a good book.

There are four things I should acknowledge before we dig in:
1) I like Dennis Hopeless's writing, and I've liked it for quite a while. You can take that however you want to mean it: either I was eager to like this book regardless of the contents and was therefore easier to please than most, or that I'm a Hopeless fanboy who gets upset when his work gets "ruined".

2) I'm still embarrassed that I read comics. One of the ways that I like to judge whether a comic is "good" or not is how ashamed I would be if one of my coworkers caught me reading it. If I can hold up a copy of Scott Pilgrim or Blankets or Pride of Baghdad without embarrassment -- and I can -- then I would qualify that as a "good" comic. You start throwing sophomoric bullshit on the page like women with impossibly sexy bodies in revealing clothing and I sure as fuck don't want my work colleagues seeing me with that.

3) Yes, suspension of disbelief is a real thing, even in comic books. If you're watching a movie and you get reminded that you're watching a movie, somebody somewhere fucked up. It's easy to break the suspension disbelief in film, and really, really hard to do so in comics. Their ridiculous nature makes it easy to believe just about anything, and that's a good thing. (I just read a story about a giant lion with a sword fighting superman and a group of sentient insects and I loved it. Only just this second did I realize how weird that is.) However, if I have to stop reading and ask "huh?" or more eloquently "huh what?" my experience is ruined. If you're the type of person who has a swimsuit model poster on your wall or a Victoria's Secret catalog under your bed, you might not stop and think about what you're looking at if it's sexy enough to distract you.

4) Spider-Woman #1 is not the worst example of sexist, shitty art in the world, nor is it even Greg Land's worst art (Examples below.) Land is somewhat restrained here, and having not gone full-retard, I have to give him credit for that. Good job, Land.

Alright, onto the art.

This strikes me as being one of the most needlessly sexy scenes. Take a look at this page and try to guess what the script said. Maybe something like "Spider-Woman kicks a guy off a bike and then steals it." What is up with the design of this bike where she has to lean allllll the way forward to use it? Who would make a bike like this? By the way, I didn't leave anything out here, the first appearance of this floating motorcycle and its driver is that picture of his foot and the bottom of the bike. Then he's kicked off (somehow. I don't fucking understand the motions involved there one bit.) and you see Spider-Woman with her ass as far out as it can go, in all its back-pain glory. Do you know why you never see the male driver? Because that would look even more fucking ridiculous than Spider-Woman doing it. Do you see what I mean about suspension of disbelief? Who can look at that and not think about how weird and unnecessary it is?

I don't understand this kick.

This scene was, I guess, designed to show off Cindy Moon's ass and legs, but I have no idea how this position can result in physically harming anyone. Can you? I guess she came from the left side of the panel, with her left leg held out and that...hurts people? I don't understand, Land.

Same problem here. If you're not familiar with this character (which is fine, she's brand new) let me quickly explain that she has the exact same powers as Spider-Man. That said, what is the pink shit emerging from her hands? Land drew her diving into this robot VAGINA FIRST LIKE A BADASS because I guess that's kinda hot, but then forget to include an actual attack here. She's either webbing up the robot's face, or pulling something out, or punched it so hard it turned to strawberry quik.

Credit given where credit is due. This issue features several important characters, but besides Cindy, they all wear masks. I'm not sure whose idea this was or if it was even intentional, but think about it: If everyone but one character is wearing a mask, to whom do you relate to the most? It's naturally going to Cindy, and that's great. She even keeps her scarf off her face unlike how she normally does for this comic, and that's cool. And, in defense of the writing here, her and Peter Parker have some sort of special bond that makes them want to constantly bone each other. (Because Comics!) The problem here is not with the dialogue, but that face. Who makes that face? Pornstars. Pornstars make that face.

Also, I feel like I should point out that the very Asian-American Cindy Moon never once looks Asian.

Again, you have a character without a mask, who can emote all the time, but you still managed to fuck up her facial expressions. Take a look at this small section of a picture and tell me what you think Cindy's feeling right now. What is she about to do? When I see this, I can't help but think she's looking longingly into someone's eyes, maybe even ready to kiss somebody with those pouty-ass lips of hers. Now look at the whole panel:

Oh, she's getting scolded. She is in the middle of getting yelled at, and I guess that turns her on? Whatever you're into, Cindy, but I think that doesn't make a lick of sense.

I call this picture TITS-A-HANGIN.

Seriously, who asks questions like that? With their elbows touching behind their back and leaning past a 45-degree angle forward? Why would you do that unless you wanted your boobies to flop around? Is this becoming clear yet? Greg Land sat at a desk, his own dick firmly in hand, and drew a young lady with super big boobies leaning forward because he likes that sort of thing, regardless of the fact that no human being would ever do that.

Alright, I think you guys get it by now. Does that face look like panic or surprise to you? Does that face look like something someone would ever do? I even tried this myself:

I mean, you get how dumb that looks, right? I don't have to explain it.

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