Feminism Is Comical

 

*WARNING: Spoilers will abound in this post, especially concerning DC and Marvel movies. You have been warned.*

Dalrock’s recent post “The real problem with the Ghostbuster’s Reboot” covered a wide array of feminism related topics. Among the areas covered were movies and comics, including the recent Suicide Squad movie. I had touched on that movie briefly in my post You Don’t Own Me. That particular post featured this class Cane Caldo gem:

It looks like a film about the government hiring a porn starlet and her prison groupies to kill a rapper.

Sadly, that was not what the film was about. Speaking of what films are “about”, that brings me to this post. I want to examine the role and impact on feminism in recent comic movies.

Now, I haven’t seen the new Ghostbusters movie (and hope to keep it that way). But from what others have indicated, it seems to be a Wave 2 Feminist work. This is quite different from the Wave 3 feminism I have seen in most comic movies. So lets cover them.

Suicide Squad

There are several characters to cover here: Harley Quin, Katana, Enchantress and Amanda Waller. Lets start with the crazy woman.

Harley Quin

Harley, as portrayed in the film, was the epitome of what Wave 3 Sex Positive Feminism is all about: Sexy, Strong, Smart. She uses her sex appeal as a weapon to get what she wants, and uses it to manipulate the men around her. She can hold her own in a fight. Oh, and did I mention funny too?

But here is the thing- that is a major shift from what her character was originally. In the beginning she was the poster child of DV- the Joker’s girlfriend whom he liked to abuse and hurt. Heck, the cartoon would show (sometimes off screen) her get struck by the Joker, and he once threw her out a window to her (intended) death.

If anything, she was a Wave 2 feminist icon at first- a sign of how evil and depraved men are.  How women cannot trust them and need to be in charge. But as people have pointed out, Wave 2 feminism doesn’t sell nearly as well as Wave 3. After all, Wave 3 women are empowered and hot, and who doesn’t like that?

So over time Harley Quin has changed as a character. Originally the battered GF of the Joker, she has becoming something else. Over time she became smarter (in the cunning variety). She was always smart (she was a shrink), but was easily manipulated. Now she is the one doing the manipulating.

Her sex appeal was upped, and she became more physically capable. In the movie the Joker couldn’t resist her, and it is implied that Batman could be swayed by her. Instead of becoming a punchline (hehe), she became an actual villain. Heck, she rose to be the “Queen of Crime.” Major promotion there.

Of course, that wasn’t quite right- she shouldn’t be a pure villain. No, just misunderstood . So now she is an anti-villian as much as anything, at least as portrayed in the comics. And the movie moved her along those lines too.

Also, in the movie she was said to be crazier than the Joker, and more fearless. Talk about “Girl Power” there. And of course, since she is hot, she can totally get away with crazy. There is a message there- women can be crazy if they want to. It is their female prerogative- especially if they are hot. And Margot Robbie really sold the role, too. Expect to see her in a solo film, or maybe DC Girl Power film, in the future.

Katana

Again, we have an attractive female who is quite physically proficient. Also, kind of sort of crazy in that she talks to the soul of her dead husband trapped in a sword. But it is all ok, because after all she is a kick-ass hot female.

Enchantress

This character has two kinds of hot going on- the crazed, kinky, fetish kind, and the sweet girl-next-door kind. Also, she is absurdly powerful. In fact, her power plays a significant part in the film’s plot.

Amanda Waller

Finally we come to the @&%#* herself. Now Waller is not exactly what one might call a “hot” character. Her character is known for being large and in-charge. And I mean that literally- she is normally portrayed as quite overweight. Naturally enough, she was not portrayed that way in the movie. Instead they had Viola Davis play her, and quite ably too. But again we see feminism slipping in. Since she isn’t really supposed to be hot, they didn’t or couldn’t pull that off. But they did manage to at least ensure she wasn’t ugly. Because for Wave 3 feminism, ugly is damned near a sin if it is assigned to a woman.

The Joker

I cannot leave this movie without covering the Joker. His character was quite different from The Dark Knight version. Frankly, I wasn’t impressed. Although from what I have heard they left much of his stuff on the cutting room floor. So perhaps the character would have been better with superior editing.

All the same, this Joker was very different from the normal way Joker is portrayed. How so? Simple- he actually loves Harley. Traditionally the Joker never loved Harley. She was a just a tool to him- one that he would use and abuse at whim. He never tried to rescue her unless there was something in it for him. However, the new Joker actually goes into an active hostile zone to rescue her. He risks his own life for her. Even more, there is nothing in it for him.

Not really a fan of that. Frankly, it weakens the Joker as a character. Now he has a redeeming quality, when his character is not supposed to have any redeeming qualities. A “soft” Joker just doesn’t have quite the right edge.

And that ends that movie.

Man of Steel

This movie was all about Lois Lane. And oh boy, where to begin. Lois Lane begins as a confident, powerful and respected/feared reporter who is herself fearless. No real character flaws that I could find anywhere. She, more than anyone, drives the plot in the movie. Now, I like Amy Adams as an actress, but she was a poor fit for Lois. Too old, wrong hair and wrong… flair.

Here is the thing- for the most part she was perfectly capable of taking care of herself. Only when Superman screws up does he have to rescue her. The thing is, I would argue that Lois, as originally envisioned, might have been a subtle swipe at earlier editions of feminism. If you look at the earlier works, she constantly got herself in trouble. And it was Superman who always got her out of trouble.  The confident, fearless and competent reporter Lois Lane only existed because Superman allowed her to exist as such. Without him she would have been dead many times over.

Here is a link to some of the old cartoons:

Watching through them it is pretty clear to me that Superman/Clarke Kent the force behind reporter Lois Lane. To me, that seems to be a subtle attack on Feminism. Namely, that women can only be strong and empowered if men enable that. Of course, I encourage my readers to offer their thoughts.

Batman v Superman

The same general pattern with Lois in this movie. But in addition we get Wonder Woman. If anyone is the stereotype of the strong, empowered and sexy woman, it is her. She basically runs circles around Batman/Bruce Wayne using her smarts. Then she does the same with her martial prowess. Basically, she leaves him in the dust.

Despite having only a small part in the movie, she played a significant role in the advertising- both before and after release.  Why? Because what she represents – Smart, Strong, Sexy- sells.

Marvel

Finally, we come to the Marvel movies. There have actually been a fair number of complaints against Marvel for their lack of strong female characters. Certainly, for the most part, they haven’t let women steal the show like DC has. Of course, that will change over time. Captain Marvel will provide their counterpart to Wonder Woman. And expect other female characters to start to provide that same, much desired mojo.

Mind you, they do have some that fit the profile.

Black Widow certainly does. Very capable, quite smart, and of course lots and lots of sex appeal. I mean black leather, right? All the same, she doesn’t have her own movie, and probably won’t. But they did get her into a number of other movies instead.

Ironman 3 saw the rise of a strong Pepper Potts. She basically got superpowers towards the end of the film and in a way that pushed hot in an almost literal fashion. Her character was already smart, and she ended up running roughshod over the male antagonist. All the same, she hasn’t shown up lately.

Conclusion

This post has run on long enough. Time to wrap things up.

Marvel has done much better than DC for a number of reasons. One of them, I believe, is because they for the most part haven’t let female characters push male characters out of the limelight. I suspect they will take a hit at the box  office if this starts to change. Not necessarily immediately, but over time the audience will react. While Wave 3 feminism sells better than Wave 2, that doesn’t mean that audiences want to be overloaded with it. Certainly not at the expense of emasculating male comic heroes. [Which I suppose I will cover in my next comic related post.]

Studios are in something of a tough spot. On the one hand, they need to stick to the narrative or face a backlash. On the other hand, they risk losing money if they cater to feminist demands too much. It will be interesting to see how they handle these conflicting demands. My money is that Marvel will pull it off, while DC won’t.

Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

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12 Comments

Filed under Feminism, Sexual Strategies, Uncategorized

12 responses to “Feminism Is Comical

  1. Pingback: Feminism Is Comical – Manosphere.org

  2. Just some off-the-cuff comments, starting with…

    …this classic Cane Caldo gem:

    It looks like a film about the government hiring a porn starlet and her prison groupies to kill a rapper.

    I would pay cash money to see Cane’s version of Suicide Squad.

    There are several characters to cover here: Harley Quin, Katana, Enchantress and Amanda Waller. Lets start with the crazy woman.

    When you list Harley Quinn, Enchantress, an Amanda Waller, and then say “let’s start with the crazy woman,” you really need to be more specific.

    Harley Quinn – If anything, she was a Wave 2 feminist icon at first- a sign of how evil and depraved men are.

    I never saw anything feminist about the original version of Harley. I was living in borderline-ghetto neighborhoods back then, and saw couples like that all the time. I wish I was kidding. I thought HQ was just reflecting that reality.

    Katana – Again, we have an attractive female who is quite physically proficient. Also, kind of sort of crazy in that she talks to the soul of her dead husband trapped in a sword.

    Katana isn’t crazy. In the comics, the soul of her dead husband really was trapped in the sword.

    she is normally portrayed as quite overweight. Naturally enough, she was not portrayed that way in the movie.

    I would like to think that the studio didn’t want to saddle an actress with ongoing extreme obesity just for the sake of a movie role (in the comics, she wasn’t called “The Wall” just for her unyielding attitude). That’s what I would like to think.

    The Joker

    Does Marilyn Manson know his guitar player chewed through the cage?

    http://cps-static.rovicorp.com/3/JPG_400/MI0001/439/MI0001439854.jpg?partner=allrovi.com

    I would argue that Lois, as originally envisioned, might have been a subtle swipe at earlier editions of feminism. If you look at the earlier works, she constantly got herself in trouble. And it was Superman who always got her out of trouble.

    In the 60’s, Lois couldn’t walk down the street without getting herself into some dangerous situation. And I mean that literally. It got so bad that Superman up and spanked her for it a few times (he did, look it up).*

    Batman vs. Superman

    Lois was just about the only character with about half a brain cell in that train wreck of a movie. Ok, maybe Alfred too.

    Seriously, Superman is standing in front of Congress when suddenly it blows up and kills everyone there. Supes just stands there with a look on his face like “Oh no, I just super-farted! I’ll never get invited to the right cocktail parties now.”

    Studios are in something of a tough spot. On the one hand, they need to stick to the narrative or face a backlash. On the other hand, they risk losing money if they cater to feminist demands too much. It will be interesting to see how they handle these conflicting demands. My money is that Marvel will pull it off, while DC won’t.

    Walking that fine line between conflicting demands is down at about #8 down on the list of Things That Are Horribly Horribly Wrong With DC Movies. The Flash costume in Suicide Squad ranks at least three steps higher. They got 99 problems, of which catering to feminists is only one.

    Did I just quote Jay-Z? Well, it’s late and it was a hell of a stressful day….

    * Okay, it may have been a Superman robot that did the deed. Supes had real work to do.

  3. Novaseeker

    The Joker character also wasn’t funny. They played up the mental illness part of it too much, in my view, at the expense of humor. There really wasn’t much humor at all from Joker, which is really off the mark. I assume they did this in order to make Harley and Joker “have something in common” which is obvious, but it made the Joker character flat. In any case, clearly the entire movie revolved around Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn. You can see that in the marketing as well. That is the enduring icon of the film, and it’s straight up W3 feminism, no question.

    Marvel makes better films. Something about the DC films often feels flat or forced or something, whereas the Marvel ones seem more like movie versions of comics. Not sure why that is.

  4. Michael Kozaki

    My thoughts? Why participate in a dying culture’s media? Who takes it seriously anymore? These movies are DOA for all but the proles.

    There are good movies that dabble in feminism. This isn’t one of them. It’s a lost cause.

  5. Marvel’s films are better than DC’s because Marvel has done a better job of crafting a “universe” in which all of their characters reside. Marvel has also done a much better job of using the original source material as a basis for the films, including staying mostly faithful to character backstories (with the exception of Hulk and Spiderman) and using story lines lifted directly from the comics.

    It’s a shame Spiderman has been rebooted three times now, played by three different actors, and his origins and powers tinkered with three times now.

  6. You’re being too kind to the original Harley, and a little unfair to the show as well. In the comic Harley’s origin story is given (the episode based on it cut it out, but for time reasons; they took place in the same universe) we learn that Harley isn’t actually that smart – the only reason she was able to become a shrink is because she slept with the professor.

    [DG: Never read the comic on her origin, but that does take some oomph from her.]

    To claim it was promoting wave 2 feminism isn’t fair. The issue wasn’t that ALL men were bad. It’s that the Joker was a complete psychopath. Batman was the main character; he certainly wasn’t bad. We never get a “Never trust men” message, at least not in that story.

    The best that you can say about Harley is that she was capable of occasional flashes of brilliance, mostly by leveraging surprise on her side, and people underestimating her; she gets Batman into a death trap in the aforementioned comic by telling him she’s surrendering and getting his guard down, but she also gives up the Joker’s location earlier in the comic because she came up with a weak clue for Batman.

    Your criticism of the movie Joker is dead on, BTW.

  7. A Visitor

    I smiled at the spoilers warning since I usually don’t watch them. All I have to say is that the genre has become so liberal and social justice warrior infested, that there was a comic after bin Laden was killed. Depicted a boy laying on his bed with a poster of superman in the trash and a poster of the Navy SEALs where Superman had been.

  8. @ NSR

    Good insight, but then this is your area of expertise.

    Walking that fine line between conflicting demands is down at about #8 down on the list of Things That Are Horribly Horribly Wrong With DC Movies. The Flash costume in Suicide Squad ranks at least three steps higher. They got 99 problems, of which catering to feminists is only one.

    In case it wasn’t clear, I was being real tongue-in-cheek here. An unserious, serious post, if you will.

    The Joker character also wasn’t funny. They played up the mental illness part of it too much, in my view, at the expense of humor. There really wasn’t much humor at all from Joker, which is really off the mark. I assume they did this in order to make Harley and Joker “have something in common” which is obvious, but it made the Joker character flat.

    The humor might have ended up on the cutting floor, but you are right. No humor, which is why I didn’t like this Joker very much.

    @ Michael

    Wasn’t being very serious with this post.

    @ Malcom

    To claim it was promoting wave 2 feminism isn’t fair. The issue wasn’t that ALL men were bad. It’s that the Joker was a complete psychopath. Batman was the main character; he certainly wasn’t bad. We never get a “Never trust men” message, at least not in that story.

    I probably was reading too much into it. And perhaps parroting was a better word choice than promoting. Just like there are better words than “icon.” But in my defense, not exactly a super-serious post.

    @ Visitor

    Really? Well, shouldn’t be surprised.

  9. Donal,

    Your main point was a good one, and it’s not as if the DCAU never engaged in any feminism. But I actually think Harley is one of the most un-feminist cartoon characters of the 90’s. Not necessarily anti-feminist, but you certainly can’t say she represents grrrrrrrl power.

  10. Michael Kozaki

    Donal, I get it now. Appropriate for a Comic post, too.

    Malcolm, the original actually sounds interesting! One of the saddest things is feminism? It has eliminated interesting female characters from our stories. The best characters, male or female, are always flawed in some way no matter how heroic (Batman, Wolverine, Spiderman, or even a Scarlett O’Hara). Otherwise, where’s the story? The original Harley actually sounds attractive in the same way. The new one? DULL. Just like the new Star Wars.

  11. DJ

    Quinn’s origin story is actually the cartoon she was first introduced as a character on Batman: The Animated Series. The comic where she sleeps with her Prof. to graduate came later and is in fact based on the cartoon. As an addendum that comic was written during a time when many of the female DC characters had there origins changed to include rape and/or prostitution. So its debatable whether its cannon or not.

  12. Pingback: The Necessity Of A Secret Identity | Donal Graeme

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