Saturday, October 29, 2011

Insignificant Versus Extraordinary

I've really enjoyed watching Buffy so far so I decided to find out more information about the show. "Writer Joss Whedon says that "Rhonda the Immortal Waitress" was really the first incarnation of the Buffy concept, just the idea of some woman who seems to be completely insignificant who turns out to be extraordinary". I really feel like this hits home. Buffy is just a normal high school girl who doesn't seem special, yet she is.

The show starts off making it clear that Buffy has a reputation of a trouble maker. The adults just assume that she is a typical teenage girl that makes bad decisions, but it's really because she fights vampires and saves the world numerous times. She seems so normal; she wants to be a cheerleader, to have friends and date, but she cannot because of the duties she has as her generations slayer. As a teenager that is a really large amount of responsibility to take on and although Buffy sometimes strays from the path she should take to do her job correctly, she normally is able to handle the responsibility like an adult with a lot of experience. Buffy is normal in that she has her best friends that she relies on no matter what and in that she sometimes makes rash decisions or mistakes, making her seem like someone "insignificant." When she gets into slaying mode and starts taking on the vampires threatening the world, she is absolutely extraordinary.

Kim Possible: A Cartoonized, Hi-Tech Buffy?

Another blast from the not-so-past: Kim Possible! Can I safely assume that most of us are at least somewhat familiar with this cartoon? If not, no big deal, just check out the opening theme above and you'll get the gist of the show.

I'll be honest--I don't remember this show too well. I caught episodes of it here and there (and enjoyed them), but I was no major addict. What struck me when I revisited Kim Possible, though, was how much she reminded me of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Similar to how Buffy would have a much easier time living a "normal teenage life" if she wasn't the Slayer, Kim would also have a lot less on her mind if she didn't have to worry about homework and her love life along with saving the world. More importantly, when Kim and Buffy are kicking butt, they know that they're good at kicking butt, and certainly don't mind throwing in a few extra snide remarks and fancy flips during their fights.

Even the opening themes are similar. They show our two heroines balancing a life of fighting evil and surviving in school, cheerleading, best friends, enemies, and of course, ugly villains. Even though Kim always shows up with perfectly styled hair and a crop top that exposes her lean tummy, Buffy never looks too shabby either! It's not just that they know they're strong, good-looking girls--they love being girls and won't miss the perks of being a girl for the world, figuratively.

Even though Kim Possible is targeted at a younger audience compared to Buffy, I think it's safe to assume that Buffy helped pave the way for a lot more "girl power"-centric shows. Without Buffy, the idea of a powerful heroine who's otherwise a typical girl in high school would definitely be much harder to imagine, and it's likely that many cartoons would not even bother making their female leads more than one-dimensional.

How else do you think Buffy has contributed to empowering women?

It Takes 4 to Make a Great Team

Despite bad animation, poor costumes and make-up I found Buffy The Vampire Slayer quite entertaining. I guess this was mostly because of the characters and their relationship with eachother. All of the dispute and cooperation among these high school kids made the whole thing interesting.
What mainly got my attention though was how Buffy found herself an actual team to fight against vampires soon after she started her new school. As Xander told Willow, the fact they faced vampires all together made them share a secret.
As I was thinking about Buffy's new team another team came to my mind: The Harry Potter Team. The similarities between certain roles of characters is very interesting. Buffy, similar to Harry, is a chosen one who had no say in whether he/she wanted to be that way. It's not hard to draw a connection between Hermione and Willow considering that they are both depicted as nerds, who seem to know things that other do not. Ron and Xander also have similar roles in that they seem to be more of the human side in their teams. They get angry, they make hasty and arbitrary decisions but they are still an important part of the team. Giles, I thought, had a similar role to the Dumbledore's role in Harry Potter as the older character acting as a mentor to the younger ones but not being directly involved in all of the things going on.
I'm sure if I go back and think a little deeper I might be able to find even more examples of teams of four with similar roles. The team of four with the chosen one, the smart one, the human (emotional) one and the mentor seems to be a guarentee winner as long as things around it are supported.

New "Buffy" without Whedon is not Buffy at all

Apparently there have been rumors of a new "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" movie. I use the word "new" because there already was a movie created about Buffy, even before the TV series began. I remember watching parts of the 1992 movie and just thinking that it was poorly made. This new movie, however, will not include "Buffy" creator Joss Whedon, which has outraged a lot of fans. Warner Bros has decided to produce this new movie and so far the reception has been much less than welcoming.

My question, though, is whether fans are outraged that Joss Whedon has no say in the film's production, or whether they are upset about the changes that will be made to Buffy and her story line? One of the producers has mentioned that Buffy will not be a high schooler anymore, but that "she'll be just as witty, tough, and sexy" as before. I feel like this might change everyone's perspective about her. When I began watching Buffy, I remember thinking that even though she is a slayer in high school, there is some innocence about her, which made me like her character even more. However, if this new movie has a grown up Buffy, I don't think that pathos will cross over.

I believe that almost any TV series or movie can be revamped. Whether it will be successful depends on how much the producers and the actors blow our expectations. I am glad that Warner Bros is producing a movie with a strong female lead, though. And I really hope that they do a good job because this might start more movie productions with strong superheroines as leads - an issue that I mentioned in a previous article. If Warner Bros succeeds, this movie could be almost revolutionary - just like the Buffy TV series. Here's the link to the article:

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Girl Power in Sailor Moon

I'm sure many of you are familiar with the old anime show, Sailor Moon. I know I for one watched it religiously as a kid. I hadn't really thought about Sailor Moon at all in relation to this class until I came across an essay online called "Young Females as Super Heroes: Superheroines in the Animated Sailor Moon," which explored the feminist ideas of Sailor Moon as it related to the third-wave concept of girl power. I didn't read the entire essay as it was rather lengthy, but what I did read of it presented some interesting ideas.

The idea of girl power in general is actually pretty odd when you think about it. As the essay's author, Victoria Newsom, describes it: "The paradox of girl power is that girl power focuses on empowering femininity, but restricts itself to patriarchal constructs of what it means to be feminine. The primary restrictions of girl power in patriarchy are the body type favored within the girl power construct, the style of representation, including clothing styles that are appropriate for girl power practitioners, and the constant stereotyping of hyperfeminity and youth. " Instead of expressing feminism by breaking away from feminine stereotypes, girl power embraces them.

Sailor Moon certainly exhibits this concept. She is a very unique superhero in that she is extremely stereotypical. She is the epitome of "girly" - a fourteen-year-old schoolgirl who "is almost completely preoccupied with boys, dating, avoiding homework, playing video games, and food." She is also notorious for being a crybaby. Yet, she remains a strong hero and role model, as do all the rest of the "Sailor Scouts." As Newsom puts it: "These characters strongly exhibit and remain tied to traditional concepts of femininity. These girls are each, expressively, female. They are able to fight in a capacity associated with male heroes without necessarily 'becoming'male. These young women illustrate that it is 'okay' to be a girl and to 'fight back.' The characters are perceived in the press and marketed as role models for young women."

Sailor Moon's character is very different from any other superheroine I've come across. Even in the newer comics we've been reading where the superheroines have been much more progressive, I have yet to see another who manages to be both extremely girly and a tough hero. She is quite a paradox: she takes the dichotomy of girly-girls vs. bad-ass superheroines and falls somewhere in between. According to the essay, "The characters all act as 'heroes' in a way similar to other female chara
cters; however, they are not masculinized and desexualized, as are the other female action and horror heroes. Instead, the characters are a combination of conflicting character types, such as victim and hero, established in the studies of action and horror."

Sailor Moon tells us, as well as the young girls she inspires (like the 8-year-old Rachel), that women don't have to be masculine in order to be strong. If they want to embrace their femininity, that's not a bad thing - even superheroes can be girly-girls.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Do LGBT characters attract less movie attention?

I was pretty intrigued class discussions about Batwoman and her sexuality and I also wondered why there weren't more lesbian superheroines before Batwoman. I found the aforementioned link and I was quite surprised about some of the things that I learned. Apparently the Comic Code Authority, which is like the Supreme Court for comic books I guess, banned any and all LGBT characters in comic books - which seems outrageous to me. So far, comic books have seemed to pave way, or at least help pave way, for certain rights and liberties. Which makes me so surprised to learn that the ban was only lifted in 1989. I know that our culture isn't as open to talk about this subject as other cultures, but I would not have expected the Comic Code Authority to actually have had a ban on LGBT characters. In fact, I think that it would make the story lines more interesting. One of the most notorious bisexual comic book characters is Mystique. Who would have known?! I have watched all the X-Men movies and I would have never thought of her character as bisexual. Some comments made on this article said that the producers of the X-Men movies should have made Mystique bisexual. I completely agree - I feel like it would make her more of a round character instead of the flat character that she appears to be now. Most of the X-Men movies have not paid as much attention to Mystique as they should have. I feel like her character is extremely downplayed. I am also wondering why the movies didn't portray her as bisexual. Did the writers think that it wouldn't have been as much of a box office hit if Mystique was bisexual? Could her sexuality have impacted the movie ratings that much that they had to change how she was written?

The True Strength of Batwoman

After finishing the end of Batwoman and learning how Alice commits suicide, I could totally sympathize for what Kate was feeling. Coming from a big family with a sister very close to my age, we would always tell people we were twins because they would always ask us anyway. We looked so similar and did almost everything together. My mom would dress us alike even. A bond like that is very difficult to forget or ignore. Because of this, imagining that anything would happen to her is very distressing. But then learning that she went evil, tried to kill me, then killed herself and that I had a part in it would be almost unbearable. I think adding that dimension to Kate is what really makes her s0 strong. Yes she is strong physically, as you can tell by the way she beats up the bad guys and keeps fighting though being stabbed in the heart. And yes she is strong in her beliefs of who she is, as you can tell by the way she won't pretend to be gay to continue to be in the army. But to be strong with that much emotional pain is what really stands out to me. She doesn't pretend that it doesn't affect her, but she also doesn't break down because of it. She keeps on fighting and it is that that truly makes her a super hero.

Superheroines on Screen

Personally, I love watching superhero movies, especially with women superheroes. This article on, however, claims that there should be less superheroine movies because women do not enjoy watching them. It says that men watch superhero movies and women watch romance movies and there is nothing anyone can do to change that. It also says that men only watch superheroine movies because of the sexy main character.

I strongly disagree with many of the ideas in this article. The author is viewing the whole situation in the wrong way. Women do like to watch superheroine movies when the main character is a strong, independent female. If a movie is about a stereotypical female who needs help from a stronger male character then women probably do not want to watch it. At the same time, many women enjoy regular superhero movies with male main characters. I feel as though women feel more comfortable breaking stereotypes and watching superhero movies then men do by watching romance movies. I think more superheroine movies should be made with not only sexy female characters but strong, confident female characters so that both men and women really enjoy watching them.

Issues with Nikita

Although I liked the movie over all, I had a difficult time connecting to Nikita's character. I couldn't seem to get a grasp on her or really understand her. I couldn't tell if she knew if the government agency she was working for was bad or not, or how she felt about the people she worked with, or how much she knew about her role in the over all mission of her division. Because of this, I also couldn't understand some of her reactions to things. For example, when she was crying as she stop the woman from her bathroom window in Venice. Was that because she didn't want to murder? Or because of what her boyfriend was saying from the door? Or because of some other reason all together?

Another issue I had was the ending. Because it is a movie, I wanted Nikita to finally stand up to the government agency or do something heroic. When she just ran away, although it probably was the most logical and safe choice for those around her, I felt a little let down- unsatisfied. Maybe this feeling stemmed from the fact that I have seen a few episodes of the new Nikita on the CW where she is trying to take down the agency. Either way, I felt like the ending was lacking a bit of pow!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Nature vs. Nurture: Superheroine Edition

We've talked about how most (if not all) superheroes and superheroines were created for a reason, whether social or political, so it is expected that that their actions and behavior bleed certain ideas and principles. Does the environment play a role at all, then? Does the definition of a "heroine" change depending on the environment that they're placed in, or are all heroines inherently connected by some super-traits?

Let's compare the modern Batwoman and Disney's Mulan. Upon first glance, they're completely different. One's a red-headed lesbian from Gotham City, and one's a woman warrior from ancient China. Batwoman is cool and sardonic. Mulan is more or less a Disney princess. Batwoman wants revenge, while Mulan is driven by filial piety and honor.

How about Wonder Woman and Promethea? Both of the superheroines end up in America despite coming from somewhere else (Paradise Island and Egypt/the Immateria, respectively). Wonder Woman is simultaneously the Amazon Warrior and the All-American superheroine, while Promethea is not only a goddess, but also the essence of the imagination. One believes in loyalty, mercy, and forgiveness, while the other wields "the cup of compassion, the sword of reason, the pentacle of worldly knowledge, and the wand of will."

The list of differences can go on and on, but in the end, the traits described are all embellishments that give each heroine personality and help them "fit" into their environment, whether dark, grungy, traditional, or mystical. Ultimately, I don't think that these characteristics define our beloved heroines half as much as their strong will and the ability to keep fighting on no matter what happens to them. Most people have seen, experienced, or can relate to some form of violence, tragedy, or trauma, but the qualities that separate the normal individuals from the "super" individuals are those that lead to overcoming the mentioned obstacles, such as courage, determination, and most importantly, something to fight for.

The Adventures of Alice in Gotham City

After the comments I read I understand that many people think that Batwoman is a more original female heroine character compared to the others we have read about. I do agree with this. I also think that the villain in the story is very original as well, even though it is a reference to an already written book but there is something strange about her as well.
Alice, in the story, comes as the new leader of the religion of crime but she isn't exactly leading the villains as Mystique was trying to lead the, ironicly named, "Brotherhood" of Evil Mutants. Not only does she not lead but she also, in my opinion, hurts the team. Even the people around her who are supposed to follow her lead are often surprised by her decisions and actions.
She actually reminds me of the Adolf Hitler character in the movie "Der Untergang" (Downfall). She keeps making these decisions which are not understood by even the closest people around her. The same goes for Hitler in the movie, and in the movie after a certain point people secretly stop obeying his orders and this makes him even more furious.
Although it is a political issue I would rather not go into, probably many people would consider Hitler insane. As I read Batoman Elegy I was able to sense the same type of insanity in Alice. I also don't find it shocking that they both commit suicide.

Spotted - Superman and WW Hookin' Up

Amidst the golden foliage, two lovers lock in a passionate embrace, dwelling in their ardent love for one another. Wonder Woman's eyes are closed as she puts her arm around Superman's broad neck, lustfully gripping the back of his head. With a fervid expression, Superman inches closer and closer to Wonder Woman's face, clenching her arm and pulling her closer to his body by her waist. Their lips are inches away from one another, and as they get closer they....

According to (evidently a reliable source solely judging by its name,) Superman and Wonder Woman are supposedly getting together. Do you understand what this means?! We have found our hottest couple of 2011! This is like Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley getting together back in the day. It's like finding Madonna in Michael Jackson's bed and realizing the queen and king of pop have hooked up (although much more sexually appealing.) It is the next best thing after William and Kate!

Wonder Woman and Superman are the quintessential superheroes. They are what every super hero aspires to be, what everyone who is anyone thinks of when thinking of comics. The comic book universe as we know it has influenced everyone to believe that Lois Lane and Superman were destined for each other. On the other side of the spectrum, Wonderwoman had no such counterpart, initially pining over Captain Trevor in the original run but then riding solo in
the Circle, dominating evil without a clearly expressed love interest. Can you imagine these two powerful forces joining as one? The news of their possible hook-up has turned the world of comics upside down.

All the
People magazine raving aside, I can't help but ask myself if such a relationship will work.
Will it tie the two superheroes down? For the relationship to function normally it has to, for wouldn't two incredibly strong and influential figures clash if they were to remain as they are when together? In order for the two to work, they'd both have to mellow down a little bit, allocating some of their "saving-the-world time" and dedicating it to one another. I can only imagine what a fight between the two would look like. Not only would golden lassos be whipped but also wars would be waged, and fans would lose sleep. How could one ever choose a side?
Looking through a gender and sexual focused lens, do you think filling the role as Superman's girlfriend influence Wonder Woman to start filling female stereotypes? Would a relationship distract Wonder Woman from saving the world or would it benefit her as a character, for it would make her less removed from readers and consequently more relatable?

Whether their hook-up will occur or not, we all have to painstakingly wait until the issues come out, and the plot reveals itself. My giddy excitement at the prospect of the two being together is overwhelming; however, I can also see how such a relationship will bring about problems. Regardless of what happens, this hypothetical couple would definitely be a force to reckon with.

Halloween and its Lack of Female Superheroine Costumes

When I went home for fall break, I visited my cousin who was really excited to show me her halloween costume. Her mom said, "Of course she wanted to be a ninja and not a princess" like that was a bad thing. Girls are being taught from young ages to dress up like princesses or similar girly things instead of dressing up like superheroines. I looked up girls costumes online and kept finding similar costumes. For example, on the first page of this website there are 32 costumes, and only two of them are female superheroines. There are a large amount of different princess costumes, a bunch of witch costumes, and an assortment of other costumes, but only two female superheroine costumes. We want girls to be strong, but on halloween, most of the options available involve them dressing up as princesses. While I was more of the princess type myself for Halloween, it's upsetting that there aren't more options for girls who don't want to be princesses but want to be someone with super powers who saves the world. Isn't that what super heroes are supposed to be? Role models for young children to look up to? Then why are there so few female superheroine costumes for children?

Forget Popularity

I found this website listing the top ten women comic characters, and why they make the list.
I was rather surprised to find that I didn't recognize the first few names on the list, and further surprised that I only recognized two or three of the names on the entire list. However, that was only at first glance. Granted, this is only one person's assertion of who the top ten women comic book characters are, what I realized after reading the reasoning behind them, is that popularity does not make someone the best. The "Geek Girls Network" had interesting and valid reasoning for why they valued these characters. Some qualities that listed were personality, independence, and power. I'm sure this list would vary site to site, depending on who the readers and writers are, however this is clearly coming from a female source, so I found it interested to see who public women supported and why.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Female "Clones" of Superheroes

It seems like a substantial amount of superheroines are just feminized versions of superheroes. I found it kind of insulting that so many female heroes were just spin-off's of successful male heroes. I saw it as comic book writers think that superheroines need a jump-start on popularity that plays off of a male counterpart. Not that I am totally adverse to all female counterparts to superheroes. Batwoman, for example, is obviously a play-off of Batman, but her character stands on it's own. She has a personality and sense of morality that is refreshingly unrelated to Batman. However, after looking at the article "The 9 Least Necessary Female Versions of Male Superheroes", I was really upset (and pretty creeped out) to see that over half of the superheroines on the list were literally the original male character with boobs.

These characters were deemed unnecessary because either
1) they're literally the same as the original superhero or
2) they just play "wife" to the original.

Basing a superheroine off of these two things will inevitably make for a very weak character. If these characters were more complex and unique from their male counterparts, I believe that they would be a lot more successful. However, it's become an expectation for a female version of a female to be more of a supplementary "girlfriend" character, which is why I believe, for the most part, unique superheroines without a male "origin" make for more legitimate characters in the comic book world (when compared to stereotypical female 'clone' heroines).
Side note: Why would a superhero want to marry an exact female clone of themselves? The idea is both narcissistic and really gross.

Thursday, October 20, 2011


Batwoman is probably my new favorite superheroine that we've discussed in this class. I love that she can be super bad-ass while still having her feminine side (though she is fairly gender-fluid) and all the while remains a 3-dimensional character with real human relationships. She does make a statement in how different she is from the typical superhero - she's a lesbian for one thing, somewhat gender-fluid, as I stated before, and even Jewish (if you look closely at the bottom panel 15 pages into issue 2, you can see a menorah and a pair of shabbat candles behind Kate's father). But this is not her entire purpose - just part of her character. In an interview with DC Executive Editor Dan DiDio, he said: "When we introduced Batwoman we wanted to make the readers very aware of the fact she was gay, but more importantly that she was a strong superhero in her own right. The stories and the characters always come first." says DiDio. "We don’t make decisions like, ‘Let’s tackle racism or homophobia in the next issue of Superman.’ Gay and lesbian heroes — and villains — are a part of the DC Universe, and their stories are just as interesting as the straight ones." ( I must say, I'm very proud of DC for this statement. It really shows how far they've come in the comic book world.

I also love to see what great reactions this graphic novel has gotten from the public. As I read in an article titled "'Batwoman Elegy': Boobs aren't the only female superpower" by Heather Hogan, ('t-the-only-female-superpower) “A guy my age came into the comic shop and asked for Elegy as I was signing my name onto the wait list. I asked him what he liked about Batwoman and he said, ‘I like a hero that can do more than shove her t--s in my face, you know? Boobs aren’t a superpower.’” This is once again refreshing - to see male comic book readers happy about the developments of Batwoman. I definitely agree with this guy.

As we discussed Nikita in class, I noticed that we focused a lot on how some people were disappointed in Nikita. One of the possibilities that we decided could have been the reason for this was that Nikita showed a lot of (sad) emotion, which made her appear weak. We also said that it is only women who show emotion in movies—however, in 300, one of the most important scenes is when one of the warriors sees his son killed in battle. His strong, emotionless, and fierce shell breaks down and he bursts into tears while falling to the ground. I thought this was important because in this scene we view the soldier as passionate and we sympathize with him, while in Nikita some felt disappointed in her breaking down and showing her emotion. Do you think that the difference in opinions could be because one is a man and the other a woman? Or do you think that sad emotions portrayed are viewed differently because they occur in different circumstances? I personally feel that this discrepancy is because of peoples’ views on gender. (this scene shows him fighting soldiers, gets cut off before crying scene, sorry!)

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Charlie's Angels vs. Nikita

When I was watching "La Femme Nikita," I thought of "Charlie's Angels" (the more recent version with Cameron Diaz, etc.). I found the story lines pretty similar: a girl gets transformed into a government assassin, lives a double life, is put to a situation where she has to deceive her lover, and faces a dilemma between an ordinary life and a life as an assassin. However, the main difference between "Nikita" and "Charlie's Angels" is that the movies unfold the similar plot in very different moods.

"Nikita" sheds a more sentimental and serious light on Nikita's life; the movie focuses on delivering the process of emotional and psychological change in the main character. Instead of portraying the "hot" assassin with exaggerated fighting skills, the movie focuses on portraying the progress of the main character as a human being. The movie starts with a drug-addict teen who has a very little regard for life and is reckless; then the movie portrays the teen compromising with what is given to her as an only option of life--that is being an assassin--and her emotional vulnerability. The scene where she is watching a movie in her room (full of graffitis on the wall) well-represents her emotions: loneliness, for she is alone in the process of becoming an assassin, as well as helplessness. It also creates or intensifies this barrier around herself when she undertakes her final test at the restaurant. She clearly feels attached to Bob (who is like a father figure and a lover to her); she gets excited and hopeful when he takes her to a fancy restaurant for "dinner" and becomes radiant at the idea that maybe Bob thinks of her as more than an assassin-trainee. However, he lets her down completely, and this leads her to shut herself down completely and give him the "last kiss." She changes with a newfound love, however, and, with this introduction of new emotion, she becomes more stressed out than ever as she tries to balance her life as an assassin and as an ordinary woman in love. The movie does include some of the missions she goes on; however, instead of showing us how complicated the missions are (with savvy weapons, intelligent enemies, etc.) or how "hot" Nikita still can be while being on a vigorous mission, the movie captures Nikita crying--for all of the missions she goes on in the movie.

"Charlie's Angels," on the other hand, unfolds the story with more comical and commercial approaches. The Angels do go through some emotional cycles about having to balance their double lives evenly; however, the movie focuses very little on that part of their lives. Instead, the movie mostly captures scenes where the Angels are showing off their sexual appeals while being on missions. The scene where they disguise themselves as strippers at some Irish bar/club to get what they want is one of the many examples. They use their sexualities and physical superbness as a very natural part of their missions, and even though the movie briefly portrays and does imply the existence of dilemmas that the girls go through (having to deceive their families and lovers to keep them away from the risks of getting harmed, etc.), the most of the attention is on the superficiality that the Angels represent: beauty, sex, and effervescence.

Although "Nikita" had an unsatisfactory ending (ends w/ Bob saying "We will miss her."), I do really appreciate what this movie did with a rather stereotypical hot female assassin storyline. Instead of emphasizing her sexual appeals as "Charlie's Angels" did, "Nikita" was interesting to watch in a way that the movie portrayed as a sentimental character.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


WHEN my friend and comic aficionado gave me the first issue of Empowered I thought it was a sick joke. Within the first ten pages Empowered, the titular heroine, was kidnapped, sapped of her powers, bound and gagged, all while wearing a skin-tight body suit that had been less that tastefully ripped to sheds. I asked me "friend" why he bought me this "comic" he simply told me to read on. And so I plowed through clishe after clishe, fan service after fan service until one day I was just delirious enough on lack of sleep to see the true meaning of Empowered. Little had I noticed that Elissa Megan Powers (Empowered's civilian name) had grown into a full fledged superheroine. With each passing battle no matter how battered she got, no matter how many times the powers of her super suit failed her (and believe me the shoddily crafted supersuit is a plot point in itself) she kept trying. Her affiliates, the Superhomeys, would relentlessly tease her on account of her uselessness, but where others would storm off in angry huffs, Empowered would stays true to her desires; to protect civilians. Empowered is so much more than a tasteless parody (although based on the art alone one could argue this), it is a commentary on all of the societal pressures, expectations, stereotypes and fears that are heaped on women. The tightness and fragility of her supersuit leaves her almost naked, and vulnerable, but she presses on. The fact that she is a bit of a ditz makes others call her stupid, but she presses on. The fact that she has never once been praised by her team keeps her pressing on. Although a few of the latter volumes got a bit to sexually graphic for my tastes, *cough* I still have respect for the author clever enough to empathize with women while reminding them that when society says you can't, keep pressing on.

Here's a preview of the first volume (not for the faint of heart)

I couldn't find a preview of a later volumes for character development comparisons but if you take my word for it, there is a lot.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Nikita (CW)

After watching Nikita and seeing a somewhat disappointing end, I was actually excited to see that there currently is a "new" version of Nikita airing on the CW, with Maggie Q. and Shane West headlining. Interestingly enough, this spin off has Nikita want revenge on the CIA organization that ruined her life. While the original French film Nikita had the super heroine simply run away from her life at its end, this one sees Nikita coming back and fully fighting the baddies. The trailer for this Nikita looks pretty badass: Yet while watching, I could not help but notice that she was dressed very sexy and revealing for most of it. Even the music in the trailer was very pop-ish at one point.

In the promotional poster above, Nikita is depicted in a very sexual way. The headline even reads "looks do kill." Is this new Nikita over sexualized? Do these modern-day assassin super heroines all need to be sexy to be deadly and powerful?

I've personally not seen this show, so if anyone has, I would love to hear what you all think about it. Do you all believe this new version of Nikita is stronger and better than the old version?

Wuxia Superheroines

I thought it would be interesting since we are starting to analyze depictions of super heroines in films and dramas to introduce a new type of super heroine that exists - a wuxia super heroine. Wuxia refers to a broad genre of Chinese fiction that deals with the world of martial arts. It is probably most properly known to the American audience through the film "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon." The world of wuxia takes place in the olden times, so the clothing that these women wear are very traditional and conservative. Furthermore, women in these wuxia films wield weapons and show amazing fighting skills. It is definitely refreshing to see how powerful these wuxia super heroines are, in completely non-sexy attire. Here is a clip from the movie "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" showing two super heroines dueling it out:

Despite how badass and invincible these super heroines are in the wuxia genre, men do ultimately rank above them, and are often shown to easily defeat these women. In a follow-up to the scene above, the super heroine Jen duels another martial arts master, this time a man, who easily outmaneuvers her:

Hence, even in these wuxia films where the super heroines are portrayed as strong, skillful masters of martial arts, there are still men who overpower them very easily. Hence, this goes to show that even different cultures and genres tend to portray super heroines as "weaker" than male super heroes. Be it the French film Nikita, American comic books or even the Chinese wuxia genre, super heroines are often still portrayed as weaker than men.

The Immateria and Real Life

I really enjoyed the concept of the Immateria in Promethea. It reminded me of the Oversoul by Ralph Waldo Emerson.
The oversoul is about one universal soul that all people share and draw thoughts and knowledge from. The immateria, like the oversoul, is thought and imagination. It is a place that always exists and is transforming in our heads. Our minds contribute to and are our realities. After all, things that we physically experience are only our perceptions of what is going on around us. I think it was best said by Dumbledore in Harry Potter 7. “Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?" - JK Rowling.
How do we access the immateria? Well, in I <3 Huckabees (the movie), Bernard suggests that Albert break the world down into little pieces. He shows Albert a white sheet and points to one area and tells him that it is NYC. He points to another place, that is Paris, another is Albert himself. The point he was trying to make was that everything is connected. Everyone is connected because every piece of matter is connected to everything else. When Albert finally has the moment when he can see clearly, the images that he physically sees break into little squares and move freely through space. Similar to when Promethea moves into the Immateria, reality morphs into a communal space that all matter can occupy.
There are so many books and films about what is real. I could go on and on, but I'll end it now. I just thought that Promethea answers this question again in a really interesting way.

Real Life Superheroes

I found an article about the rise in real life superheroes.
A lot of us have seen Kick-Ass, so the concept isn't all that new. However, people seem to be taking it more seriously. Some "superheroes" have been arrested for their conduct, but some people are suggesting that rather than punishment, these "heroes" should have to abide by some sort of code. It seems like the police even appreciate this people, they just don't want them to take it too far. Could we potentially live in a world where "superheroes" exist?

Saturday, October 15, 2011

An interview about the history of superheroines

Comic book historian Mike Madrid was interviewed by Collectors Weekly about his experiences with superheroines and comic books. He makes some interesting commentaries about a lot of things that we have talked about in class - like the beginning of Wonder Woman and Promethea. I found it interesting that most superheroines represented a political movement in their time frame. For example, Wonder Woman was created to show women how to be powerful in the 1940s. Supergirl came around in the 1950's and she was created to girls how to be good daughters that obeyed parents. He also talks about how the 1970's comics started appealing to younger and older readers. There were a lot of sexual innuendos that the older readers would understand, but the younger readers wouldn't even pay attention to. This reminds me of Disney movies, after we watch them now that we are older, we pick up a lot more sexual connotations than we ever thought. Storm first appeared in the mid 70's in the X-men comics. This was a bit after the Civil Rights Movement. She is portrayed as a dignified woman with self-confidence and lots of potential. It seems as though comic books paved way for acceptance, or at least helped. I think that this is a very interesting article to read, especially to get a quick grasp on superheroine history and why each superheroine was significant to her decade. There is so much information about so many superheroines, it's slightly overwhelming. He covers the difference between Batgirl and Batwoman, and how Batman respected Batgirl more than Batwoman. He also talks about Supergirl, Birds of Prey, Vampirella, and so many other superheroines. It's definitely worth checking out.

Women Never Winning

After reading an article on the internet, I came to realize that it doesn't matter how classy or how slutty a superheroine is because somehow she will still be turned into a sex icon. This article lists the "10 Superhot Superhero Girlfriends." Number 7 is Jean Grey who, as we concluded in class, was one of the more conservative superheroines we studied. Apparently, however, her hot attributes are her tight clothing and catching on fire "which has gotta be a lot of fun."

It is frustrating that even after being a more properly dressed superhero, Jean Grey still has to be talked about in this way. Instead of her being represented as a powerful woman, she is said to "always remember everything, which can be a plus for the absent-minded superhero." This is not what Jean Grey is all about. Her powers are not to aid men but to help the world. It is a shame that this article views her in such a bad way.

Thoughts on Nikita

As a forewarning, if you haven't watched La Femme Nikita yet and don't want to be spoiled...don't read this post. Yet.

I had pretty high hopes for this movie, but I was sadly disappointed. Nikita started out as a super tough and fearless (albeit somewhat unstable) character, but I felt that she became less and less of a powerful woman as the movie went on, despite her training and "refinement." I also felt that her strong presence in the movie diminished as it went on--her most impressive actions were probably the shootings in the opening scene of the movie. After she became more ladylike in appearance and behavior through her training, she seemed to become a lot more fearful. Whether it was because she started to care about her life or fell in love, the supposedly new and improved Nikita was not nearly as "cool" as the Nikita we were first introduced to.

I appreciated the fact that Nikita clearly had a lot of strength and skill, but I was upset that there weren't many scenes in the movie that actually showed off her abilities. The latter half of the movie seemed to have an equal amount of romance and action scenes, if not more romance. The "action" wasn't quite action either--she screamed, she delivered tea as a disguised maid, and she broke down into hysterics around the Cleaner. I wasn't even angry at her running away at the end--I was just confused. She couldn't decide whether or not to give up love or fight back for love, so she ran away? Alright, movie.

Overall, Nikita wasn't the heroine that I wanted her to be. She had much potential, but as she was developed more and more into a so-called "femme fatale," she lost the witty, rebellious, "I don't give a shit" spark that defined her in the beginning of the film, and therefore became less of a powerful heroine to me.

Fun Sexy Times with DC Relaunch

The New 52 relaunch by DC was a big gamble--the company risked losing longtime fans--but fortunately for DC and the sluggish comic book industry, it received quite a positive response and was met with great success in terms of sales. So the big question was it done, and what was changed (or rather, sacrificed) in the process?

This article titled "Truth, justice, and plenty of violence" that I recently read from the Boston Globe sums up the variety of responses the comics have been receiving and focuses in on how the comics seem to be "aimed at a more mature readership than ever" with their darker and more risqué content. Cases in point: Starfire and Catwoman, also covered in a previous blog post.

Quoted from the article, DC Comics copublishers Jim Lee and Dan Didio said in a statement, "We needed to energize our existing fan base, reconnect with lapsed readers, and introduce our storytelling to people who know our characters from films and TV but have never read a comic book.’’ In other words, in order to get sales up again, beloved superheroes (and superheroines to an even greater extent) were given a "modern" makeover, complete with more sex appeal, violent tendencies, and shinier spandex. This wouldn't be a big deal if the "sexy" makeovers didn't work, but they have proved to be effective at attracting attention over and over again, whether in the music industry, film industry, or comic book industry. But think about it--doesn't the whole "increasingly risqué content" idea feed into itself, forming a racier and racier cycle? After all, as each new generation comes and goes, society as a whole seems to grow more used to the culture of violence and sex, and therefore different industries and the media know what to turn to to get more attention.

Knowing that comic books were once geared toward children, is this a goodbye to the childhood heroes and heroines with "clean" and golden reputations?

La Femme Nikita

Like many other German (Except for Fatih Akin movies because he is the BEST!) and French movies I watched La Femme Nikita was slow pace. Even though it is an action movie I find that not everything moves very quickly in the movie.
As I was watching the movie I always had this expectation that there is something big which the viewer does not get to understand. As I kept on watching I was trying to pay attention to details to be able catch what the missing part was. I did try very hard but was unsuccessful. So, I thought that in the end of the movie I would understand what that was; however it never happened. Nikita simply ran away from a life as an assasin, which I don't understand was given to her in the first place because it never required anything extremely special. All her tasks were about 5-10 minutes and she never did anything outstanding that would require the French government to make her go through years of very tough training. The only thing she did do that needs background was maybe to put together all of the pieces of the gun in the hotel room.
The movie in general was enjoying to watch and Nikita is definitely a tough female character, who in the movie is reflected as "uncontrolled power" similar to the bad side of Jean Gray, The Dark Phoenix, but I never really understood the purpose of the organization and the things that they made her do. So I understood what she was doing but not why and this just leaves me with a big question mark in my head.
I might be missing something and if I am please let me know.

Superheroines and Hollywood

I was looking into information about superheroine movies, and I came across the article "The Time is Right for the (Right) Female Superhero." In the article, the author discusses how the reason female superhero movies in the past haven't been successful was because they were bad movies, not because the lead was a female superhero. I think that makes sense. People aren't going to be opposed to a movie just because the lead is a woman, but if they hear the movie is horrible, they are not going to go see it. When this article was written in 2010, 24 superhero movies had been in theaters in the last five years. I don't understand why Hollywood is so against the idea of putting female superhero movies in theaters. All they need to do is find a strong actress, a good scriptwriter, and a good director, and that would fix the problems they have had with past superheroine movies.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Sally Jupiter of Watchmen

Sally Jupiter of Watchmen is definitely a sexualized female character. She is so sexualized to the point where her clothing and attitude is provocative, which triggers her fellow crimefighter, The Comedian, try to rape her thinking that she wants it too but she is just playing not to. She is a different woman though. She doesn't make a big deal out of this. She is able to go on as if nothing happens. We later also find out that The Comedian is the father of Sally's daughter which makes it more interesting, because it means that there is another time where Sally willingly has sex with The Comedian.
Sally is considered to be a "whore" by Rorsach, who I think is a very good depiction of a vigilante because he is so dark, pesimistic, serious and very conservative in his ideas. I don't know whether "whore" is the correct word to describe her actions but she is definitely a woman who like seeing that others are turned on by her actions. You can get a sense of this even in the attempt at rape scene. Another example is when she finds out there there are porn magazines of herself. Now, as an older woman, who finds out people turned her into a porn star she feels honored.
For those of you, who either watcehd or read the book, what I would like to know what you think about Sally.

Depiction of Heroes

  Over the last couple of weeks we have been discussing how in comic books female characters are sexualized to make it more interesting for the male reader. I believe that the male character is also sexualized and it would be interesting to the female reader, who wants to be interested.
These depictions of Batman or Superman are simple examples. Just look at how nicely shaped they are. Batman has pumped up biceps with a nice upper body (chest muscles, six pack) and very powerful lower body. Superman has incredibly broad shoulders , visible biceps, triceps, shoulder muscles. His wings are what are amazing though. His lower body seems even more powerful than Batman's. There's even a black area on his read underwear!
It is true that female characters are sexualized in comics. They definitely draw the reader's attention to specific parts but I think that for a female that is interested, male heroes also have very interesting parts. I think both genders of superheroes have to be depicted like that, because they are super, more than human. (Of course, there are examples when are not too)

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Faux Action Girl

As writers try their darndest to pander to every marketable facet of society, women included, TV shows become inundated with shallow one dimensional characters. For example a writer may sketch out a strong yet beautiful and sassy character, give her awesome powers, but forget to include her in any major fights. This trope is all too common in any medium be it television, literature, or film. In Bleach, one of my favorite (but less so every episode) amines, there are about five girls that I can name off the top of my head that are stated, in series to be extremely powerful, but have yet to participate in a decisive battle to date (two have never been seen fighting at all). Are we supposed to accept this as good enough? Is it alright to just give lip service to the concept of strong female superheroes while the men get all the real action? I say nay! Below is a list of abominations that not only do not further the feminist agenda, but contribute to its not being taken seriously.

William Moulton Marston would weep.

Lesbians are People Too

Xena the Warrior Princess was one of the few female driven, action TV shows that addressed the issue of homosexuality, specifically lesbianism in a more in depth manner than a "very special episode" dedicated to tolerance and character building that is never mentioned in any subsequent episode. No, in fact the lesbian subtext in Xena is so overt that no one was surprised when a few of their adventures culminated in a kiss. Throughout their adventures Xena and her sidekick Gabrielle won the admiration of millions in such a way that gave even the most staunch heteronormist butterflies. As followers of the series may know Xena originally took place in a fantastic Hellenistic world with Greek gods, warring tribes and amazons, very similar to another pseudo Hellenistic crime fighting amazon named Wonder Woman. The main differences between the two are 1. The avoidance of homosexual issues in Wonder Woman, and 2. The relationship between Xena and Gabrille vs Wonder Woman and Etta Candy. In the beginning of the Xena series, Gabrielle is a naive farm girl and fan girl but soon grows into a warrior princess in her own right. Etta Candy on the other hand starts of as a relatively unimportant comic relief character and, although she gains some character depth in newer interpretations of Wonder Woman, never quite matches her in importance. In her universe, Wonder Woman has no equal, no partner in crime that the audience can really bond with through each adventure. In Xena, Gabrielle becomes a sort of audience surrogate, starting off the series ignorant and progresses with us to the final stage of warrior. It is this deeply seeded connection, that we watch grow throughout the years that makes the relationship between Xena and Gabrielle possible. It wasn't just a throwaway couple never to be seen again. It was an embodiment of the audience's admiration of Xena. In Wonder Woman, the closest we get to this dynamic is Steve Trevor whose damsel is distress shtick becomes stale after a few adventures. If looked at this way, it is easy to see why lesbianism may not have been addressed in Wonder Woman. There simply was no tasteful way to do it.

Where have the good heroines gone?

SOME might say I'm too young to complain about the degeneration of childrens' TV seeing as not five years ago I was a child, watching TV. But as I was reminiscing with a friend about the 90s I remembered a show unlike any other superhero action drama. A show that incorporated strong female leads, both with and without powers. That show was The Power Puff Girls. Blossom, Bubbles, and Buttercup are three artificially created girls made of sugar, spice, and everything nice with a kick of mystery chemical X that grants them super strength, speed and flight. And while the other female characters such as secretary to the mayor Sara Bellum or kindergarten teacher Ms. Keane possess stereotypically female jobs, Sara Bellum spends half her time cleaning up the Mayor's shenanigans, and the other half running the town. Ms. Keane (often randomly) displays knowledge of advanced physics, the theory of relativity, and quantum mechanics. But no good superhero or heroine is complete without a gaggle of nemeses, and one such nemesis is called Him. Clearly a bland name version of the devil, Him is extremely feminine, with high-heeled boots, a falsetto voice, and pink fur trimmed coat. This is an interesting subversion of a common tactic some women use to get ahead in business. Mimicking the opposite, more successful, gender. Business women of the 80s used shoulder pads to achieve a more masculine look, and Him wears effeminate clothing, subtly emulating his rivals, the Power Puff Girls, but also the more successful women of Townsville, Ms. Bellum and Ms. Keane. I remember watching the show as a girl and feeling like I too could fly and fight crime, which was a bit difficult from the second floor of an apartment in a crime free neighborhood. The Power Puff Girls represented a time in television where girls weren't afraid to kick bottom and didn't have to look sexy while doing it. Did I mention they are kindergartners?

Women in Refrigerators

Last night, while I was searching around for interesting articles and such to post about, I came across a very interesting website.  It is called "Women in Refrigerators."  It's basically a website that lists female characters from comic books that have been killed, injured, or depowered as a plot device.  The writers of the site try to understand and analyze why female characters are targeted this way in comic books.

Intrigued, I decided to keep exploring the site, and I found out that it was created by none other than GAIL SIMONE!!! (Clearly, this excites me a lot.)  What a funny coincidence!  I found an interesting website that relates to our class... and it's written by an author we focused on in class!

Beyond this coincidence, the website is actually very entertaining.  On the "Character List" page, it says:

Not every woman in comics has been killed, raped, depowered, crippled, turned evil, maimed, tortured, contracted a disease or had other life-derailing tragedies befall her, but given the following list (originally compiled by Gail, with later additions and changes), it's hard to think up exceptions.
It goes on to list an entire myriad of female comic book characters with what happened to them next to the name.  For example:
Buf from X-Man (crippled)  
Candy Southern (dead) 
Captain Marvel II/Photon (depowered, ceded code name to a male hero) 
Carol Ferris/Star Sapphire (turned into a villain by the Zamarons, possessed by the Predator) 
Celsius (insane, dead, called delusional liar) 
Christine Helvin of Troublemakers (victim of date rape, discovered she could never have children because she was no longer human)
There is also a page on the site called "Respondent List" which features responses to the website from comic book creators.  Most of them actually make great arguments and points about women featured in comic books.  There is also a page of "Reactions" by various comic book authors, all worth a glance.

Why is it that female characters are perpetually killed/injured/depowered in comic books?  Does this make it more entertaining, or is it now just something that has become part of the formula for writing a good comic book?

You should all click here to visit the website.  It's fun to browse, very interesting to think about, and we get a glimpse of some of Gail Simone's work before "The Circle!"

Monday, October 10, 2011

"What Women Want In Sexy Depictions of Guys in Pop Culture"

I stumbled across a very interesting article, called "What Women Want In Sexy Depictions of Guys in Pop Culture" by a culture blogger from

The article starts off by featuring a funny picture that depicts male superheroes as though they were posed like Wonder Woman (left). The author then cites a study done by Rolling Stone that says that images of both men and women have become more sexualized over the years, but the number of sexualized images of women has increased faster. Alyssa Rosenberg, the author, mentions this "because while I think reducing women to their sexuality is a problem, we've also got something of an equal opportunity problem here." She goes on to say that female superhero's costumes are ridiculous, and the ridiculousness is further proven by the images of men wearing the same costumes - all things we've discussed before.

However, then Rosenberg's article takes an interesting turn. Instead of arguing that there are too many sexualized images of women out there, Rosenberg argues that there are too few sexualized images of men. She closes her article with, "I don't want to live in a world where we remove all images of women that are desirable. I just want more of other kinds of images, and equal opportunity for women who like to sigh over dudes to have images to sigh over."

Rosenberg's article, while very funny, makes an interesting point. Is it now a question of fairness, rather than a question of exploitation? Since the number of popular sexualized images in pop culture has gone up for both genders, can it still be considered sexism to sexualize women if men are being sexualized as well? Personally, I think there are definitely some situations where it can be considered sexism and exploitation if a woman is portrayed in a certain way. There is definitely a fine line. However, I don't think "sexy" images should be removed from our culture entirely.

I'd love to hear what you guys think!

There Are No Good Superheros for Women

When reading the Sun a few weeks ago, I learned of a new CBS program entitled "Unforgettable" about a woman who has a genetic defect that causes her to remember everything. She uses the skill as an FBI agent investigating homicide cases since her talent makes her more apt to pick up on the little clues that most normal people would miss. When watching an episode of this new show over the weekend, I was amused by one of the scenes in the episode starting at 37 minutes, 20 seconds (
The woman is trying to coax the little boy, who witnessed his parent's murder, into revealing the murder suspect by explaining that he can catch the villain and be a superhero. She begins this conversation by saying she found it troubling that "there were never any good superheroes for women." She goes on to say that "Wonder Woman is boring." The context of the situation must be considered when analyzing this conversation, however I thought that was an interesting message to convey to a 7 year old boy. It's instilling in a young male that women do not hold as strong a place as men. The woman explains that she had to always create her own superheroes since she did not have any existing ones to look up to. While I think over time this problem has evolved, it is unfortunate that many girls do not feel they have the same endless options of people to look up to as some males. That said, a little imagination is never a bad thing.

(I highly recommend this show).

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Tomb Raider

Since we're going to be playing tomb raider for class, I decided to do some research because I know nothing about the game. The website description of the game is "Tomb Raider explores the intense and gritty origin story of Lara Croft and her ascent from a frightened young woman to a hardened survivor. Armed only with raw instincts and the ability to push beyond the limits of human endurance, Lara must fight to unravel the dark history of a forgotten island to escape its relentless hold." Lara Croft's only power is to go beyond the normal human endurance. That would only be slightly helpful on an adventure where you need to fight people. In the trailer, her outfit doesn't seem too revealing. She is wearing pants and a tank top, and doesn't seem to be depicted unrealistically. Two of the older versions of the tomb raider game were adapted into successful movies, so they obviously attracted a lot of attention. I'm not sure which version of the game we will be playing for class, so if it isn't the most recent version that is shown on the website then it will be interesting to compare what Lara Croft in the version we're playing looks like versus Lara Croft in the new version.

Man or Woman?

Today while I was reading a magazine, I came across an article about Chaz Bono being engaged. For those who do not know Chaz Bono, he was the daughter of Sonny and Cher. Yes, he was their daughter. Some years ago, Chastity Bono underwent a sex change operation to become "Chaz" Bono. Today he is engaged to a woman, Jennifer Elia.

This article reminded me much of Bill’s situation in Promethea. The only difference is that Jennifer knows that Chaz used to be a woman while Bill’s lover did not know that Bill was a man. Not only does Jennifer know that Chaz was a woman but almost everyone in the world knows since he is a celebrity. She seems to accept him for who he is while Bill’s lover shot Bill when he found out his real gender. This raises the question: Is Chaz still a woman even if he does not look or act like one? Many people would say yes and many women would not even consider dating him. However, he found one woman who is perfectly comfortable with him. The answer to my question is different according to the person you ask. Bill’s lover would probably say that Bill is really a man while Jennifer would say that no, Chaz is no longer a woman. There really is not a correct answer because there are so many factors to take into account and it can be a very complicated situation.