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So much for Watchmen

Although I'm not a fan of graphic novels and I know zip about the story on this one, I was going to go see it because I try to see most genre films.

Well. Not now, I'm not. And I'm going to say why, so if you're a spoilerphobe don't read on. But then don't complain if you're upset about what you're not going to know about.

It's already pretty clear that violence against women is de rigeur in much genre fiction, especially in horror. And also, lately, in romantic comedies, although that's violence of a different kind. I don't like it, at all, but it's there and the only protest I can make about it is to not see those films. And I don't. But it appears that the Watchmen film, which is hotly anticipated, has taken this trope to a new and utterly repulsive low -- if the advanced screening review I read of it on the Aint it Cool website is accurate. And I have no reason to believe it's not.

Apparently this scene is in the comic, which is bad enough. But now it's been included in the film, and a lot more people are going to see the film than ever read the comic.

So how's this for violence against women? Why don't we have a pack of dogs devouring the body of a brutally murdered six year old girl? Hey, won't that make a great scene in the film?

You know, I thought the Japanese video game that gives men a chance to rape a woman in virtual reality was bad. (Think I'm making that up? Amazon just pulled the product.) But this -- this is depravity of a new order.

I despair. I really do.

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( 42 comments — Leave a comment )
nyssa_p
Feb. 25th, 2009 12:24 am (UTC)
UGH! Yes, I've read the news articles about that video game. Who the hell thought it was a good idea? *shudders*

Do these people think it's "edgy"? I can think of "edgy" and horror that won't make me throw up in disgust. Even if we know it happens in real life, I wouldn't want to watch it any more than I'd want to watch a documentary on puppy mills.
karenmiller
Feb. 25th, 2009 12:52 am (UTC)
It beggars belief, doesn't it? But then, in a world where we're told we must accept honour killings as part of a cultural heritage ... meh. Why am I surprised?
jamesgilmer
Feb. 25th, 2009 12:39 am (UTC)
The scene isn't in the comic. At all.

AiNC is famous for exaggerating reviews and things in movies.

What does happen is that the crime is hinted at, not even described, and it's the moment that one of the characters loses his hope in humanity.

The most you see is a doll with a smudge of blood on it that echos the smiley face button and several other similar repeats of that image.

Actually, the scene is used as the "heart of darkness" moment for two characters, and traumatizes both the person relating the story and the person being told the story.

The attack is never shown and never described. The most one sees is the doll and the character investigating the girl's abduction looking out the window to see a pair of snarling dogs barking and howling at him.

The reader is left to determine the implications of this.

It's the horror of not seeing that makes the scene work. Whomever told you that the scene was in comic is dead wrong, and since Snyder has stayed so true to source material, I'd imagine it plays the same way in the film.
karenmiller
Feb. 25th, 2009 12:51 am (UTC)
Well, if I've been misled by the review I'm happy to say so. But I still stand by my main issue with the implications of violence against women -- or little girls. It could've been a boy child who was killed, but it wasn't. And that's my problem. Over and over and over and over -- if you need a smart resourceful child, it's almost always a boy. If you want a victim, it's a girl. Over and over, this motif is repeated in popular entertainment. And I'm starting to get tired of it.

Even if it's only implied violence against this little girl, in the film, with the attack happening off screen -- if enough clues are given so the audience can draw that conclusion, the end result is the same. Let's off the female. The fact that the main characters involved are traumatised isn't the point. The point is that it's violence against a female that's being used to illustrate their humanity. It's another signal that a female's main function within the narrative is to be a victim.

I don't know. Maybe I'm just reaching saturation overload on this point. Everywhere I look these days it seems that women are getting screwed over. I don't want to get hysterical about it, I don't want to be a knee jerk type who sees a slight in every corner -- but sometimes it's hard to stay calm and rational.

I do take your point about AICN, but they are often right, as well as inaccurate. And this review came from an exterior source, since AICN is gagged along with other US reviewers.
jamesgilmer
Feb. 25th, 2009 01:00 am (UTC)
Saturation overload from a thirty year old comic book?

I take your point, I really do, but why is it better if it's a boy fed to dogs?

Also, considering that there's multiple storylines in the comic including one with the female hero refusing to act the girlfriend to what is effectively a god in that universe who learns to become her own person on her own. The narrative is many layered, and includes several strong female characters with storyarcs that lead showcase their strength.

One of the main concerns with WATCHMEN was that the character of Silk Spectre would be reduced to eye candy when in the comic her character was the very definition of a woman making her own way in regards to everything from her sexuality to her choice of career.

I don't want to make light of a sensitive topic, and this may just be the straw on the camel's back for you in terms of the amount of it in popular culture, but picking that one scene ignores the strength of other scenes dealing with strong female characters.

Whether Moore chose the girl child for any significant reason when he wrote it 30 years ago...I don't know. Would it have been better for the movie had they changed it to a boy? I don't know. I think a six-year old fed to dogs is pretty horrific regardless of gender, but there's a very significant story reason for the crime in terms of the overall story, FWIW.
karenmiller
Feb. 25th, 2009 02:31 am (UTC)
Why is it better? Hmm. On the whole I'd rather not see any child fed to dogs ... but my impression is that choosing a female as a victim has become the default setting for too many storytellers, especially in this genre. On the whole, and I could be wrong, it seems to me that the comic book audience is skewed male. So it does concern me that we see yet another female victim offered up to that audience. As I commented elsewhere, if the point of the story is to show a final straw moment for a character, then perhaps a choice could've been made that wasn't loaded with extra meaning due to gender of the victim.

If this death is one incident layered amongst a range of positive female characters, then perhaps I have a skewed perspective -- which I'll happily unskew. Like I said, I don't want to be unbalanced or blinded by my own sexual politics biases and assumptions.

Like it or not, the vast majority of popular entertainment is created by men -- especially in genre. But even when not in genre, too often what we are shown is male dominated wish fulfillment fantasy. If I see one more plain, fat, ageing man whose significant other is a younger, hot, sexy, slender woman I am going to do violence to the tv. Where are the plain overweight women whose wonderful souls inspire a young, handsome, slender man to adore them?

This isn't Watchmen's fault, of course, but Watchmen is in the family of popular entertainments created by men, with -- from what I can see -- a largely male demographic in mind. And that informs choices. And it reinforces stereotypes. And that's what I'm kicking against.

Like I say. If I can confirm I'm not going to be traumatised by the film I'll go see it, and have more to say. But I"m wary.
jamesgilmer
Feb. 25th, 2009 05:22 am (UTC)
I'm actually wary of the film too, but mainly because it looks to be a very slick presentation of a very serious story.

You can't really understand WATCHMAN without understanding that it was the first real attempt at real world superheroes and showing them warts and all, and it's a grim and gritty book that inspired far too many imitators to the point that Alan Moore has expressed dismay at starting the "grim superhero" movement of the 80's and 90's.

In the context of the story, and because of the character's history that is spelled out from his childhood to his crime fighting days, there really is a reason it's a girl who is the victim in this particular crime.

Alan Moore has long been a creator who has kicked against the tropes of the genre, including the genre's treatment of women, and he's done so without falling into the trap of turning into a fetishist instead of a feminist. To explain that; I do believe there is a culture that claims to believe in "strong women", but their strong women are nerd ideals of what strong women should be, they're fetish objects instead of honestly strong women.

My sense of dread is that there's no way a movie can pack all the subtext and deconstruction of the superhero genre into a film, and that will lead to people viewing it from a surface layer without ever knowing the many, many themes and threads Moore wove through the story, including threads involving the female cast proving to be strong emotionally as well as physically and dealing with more real life issues, including their objectification as sex objects.

In the graphic novel, there's a lot of meta-commentary that I don't know how well will transfer to the film, but that isn't to dismiss your overall point about violence towards women in popular culture.

However, I don't think WATCHMEN, at least the comic book version and perhaps the movie, is a grievous offender in this regard.

At the moment I'm far more bothered by the icky subtext of Joss Whedon's new show DOLLHOUSE, and the promotional material that was highly sexualized, than Snyder's adaption of a 30 year old comic book.

That doesn't mean you should like WATCHMEN, or even the idea of a female child victim, but I really must stress that there's a LOT of lost context, and if that context is lost in the film then it will be a problem and I'll readily admit that.
karenmiller
Feb. 25th, 2009 05:45 am (UTC)
As I said, I'm not at all familiar with the foundation text. I absolutely accept your assertions about the subversion of genre/sexual tropes in the original graphic novel. My approach to the story is based purely in its filmic treatment, and any commentary I have will address the film, not the source material. Which I guess must be a very frustrating issue for fans of the source material who then look at the adaptation, because it's screwing with the matrix. I'm certainly leaning towards taking a deep breath and going to see the film so I'm not a complete and utter wanker who crits without first hand knowledge.

I haven't looked at Dollhouse yet. No time. But I will, even though the story doesn't tempt me, Dushku's presence doesn't fill me with confidence, and given the brouhaha of the show's genesis, I'm not feeling confident. I'm conflicted about Dr Horrible and the female death in that, for a lot of reasons, and commentary elsewhere I've read on Dollhouse has also made me go hmm. But again, I need to see it for myself.

My main concern is that gender politics can be such a tricky minefield to negotiate. As a woman you can reach a point of sensitization where it's possible to start seeing stuff that isn't there. And just because some stuff is there doesn't mean it's always there. And talking about it gets tough, because making men feel attacked and guilty and shamed for either not noticing, or not understanding its impact, or for making totally valid counterpoints about the problems men face, particularly in western society, turns the entire discussion into a shitfight that nobody is ever going to win. Somehow there has to be a place where we can stand as human beings and acknowledge *all* the problems that we, as human beings, face ... and find a way to solve them so that nobody feels left out or marginalised or ignored or devalued.

Or did I just turn into Pollyanna when I wasn't looking?
aranhe
Feb. 25th, 2009 01:21 am (UTC)
Not directly relevant to your rant about violence against women, but about women in movies in general, or maybe even movies in general, comes this rant from the Guardian today:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/feb/25/american-cinema-trash

karenmiller
Feb. 25th, 2009 02:16 am (UTC)
There's a convergence in the blogosphere. A few people have been talking about the treatment of women in film over the last 10 years. It ain't a pretty picture. Thanks for the link.
rynogeny
Mar. 10th, 2009 08:01 pm (UTC)
Interesting article. Notice anything conspicuously missing from her list of top films of this decade?
karenmiller
Mar. 12th, 2009 06:43 am (UTC)
Yeah! Hello! Did you notice those films??????? Badly researched. Grrr. *g*
oneminutemonkey
Feb. 25th, 2009 01:35 am (UTC)
Like some others have said, this is a scene which was written decades ago, and it's a very definite turning point in the personal story of one of the main characters. It's the point where he goes from being one sort of person with a certain outlook on life, to the person he is in the present-day.

Horrifying, yes. Extremely so. That's the point. It's meant to show humanity at its worst, and justify why this character is as he is. It's his breaking point, the defining moment of his career, marking the transition from... well, past to future. I suspect Moore and Gibbons went that way to push our buttons just like they were pushing his buttons. It was one of those inconvievably horrible, dark things that could happen, and in doing so, it shines a light upon everything this would-be hero is doing.

Yes, I'm being rather nonspecific. Another turning point, or so the character claims, is the Kitty Genovese incident, a real-life tragedy which also demonstrates humanity's darker instincts.

As far as violence against women goes... well, I promise you, this is an equal opportunity story. People are shot, stabbed, bludgeoned, torn apart on a molecular level, raped, mugged, or go insane. Men -and- women, all as part of the story, putting a rather 'real world' spin on what it means to be a vigilante hero... Watchmen did it before just about anyone else.

There may be lots of reasons not to see this movie, and maybe that's your trigger point, and I won't tell you you're wrong. But I think you might be missing out on a great story overall.
karenmiller
Feb. 25th, 2009 02:15 am (UTC)
I do realise I'm standing on dicey ground, condemning something without having seen it. And it may well be that I'll ease back on that position and see the film so I can pass an informed opinion. Probably I should. But there are some films I will not look at because I've been warned of content ahead of time, and knowing the way my brain works I know that I cannot afford to download those images. Because once I've seen something I can't ever erase it and trust me, there's stuff I desperately wish I had never seen. Instant reply is no fun.

And truly, I am concerned I might miss out on a great story. I guess it's a case of -- take any story in isolation, where there's a component of violence against the feminine/female to make some kind of grand story point, and I could accept it. But after a while, when it's done over and over and over, it starts feeling to me that choosing the female to be the object of violence becomes a different thing altogether. That the female becomes a default object lesson/talking point in the grander, more important male story.

Don't get me wrong. I love male stories, I love male characters. But if you stand back and take the long view, women are less well serviced in genre fiction than men. Now maybe it's unfair of me to single out Watchmen -- but given the impact the film is likely to have, I think it needs to be addressed. I appreciate it's not original, but based on source material, and I appreciate that to change that source material is problematic. In fact, I would never say do that.

I accept that killing the little girl was done to provide a breaking point for adult characters. But what it also says to me is that there's also an element of reinforcing a certain stereotype -- that part of the outrage is specifically because a female is violated, and that violates some kind of code that says the female is to be protected because she can't protect herself. Surely the point should be that innocence should be protected -- and that point could be made with the murder of a boy. The iconography in place reinforces a sexual stereotype first.

Does that make sense?
oneminutemonkey
Feb. 25th, 2009 02:30 am (UTC)
It makes plenty of sense... but speaking as a male, I have to get quietly grumpy everytime someone suggests that women are inviolate, and hey, let's kill another guy instead. I feel like we're getting mixed signals here: women want to be treated like strong, independent, self-sufficient beings, and they want role models that actualize that. And at the same time, there's a huge outcry - almost disproportionate, it seems - anytime it's a female who gets victimized in popular culture. It seems to me as though people are almost -blind- to how men are treated. In Watchmen, for instance, the story pretty much starts with a murder, of a man. Luckily, the plot has a whole lot more men than it does women, so it can afford to sacrifice one at the start... and a few more along the way. But if the story had killed off one of the few -women- at the beginning... well, just imagine how people would react then.

Rather than argue about whether or not the victim in this scene should be male or female, we should be equally horrified at the fact that it's happening to a child in the first place.

Don't get me wrong: I am in no way whatsoever condoning the mistreatment or vicimization of women, any more than I am that of men. I just wish that people seemed to care as much about what happens to men as they do about women.
karenmiller
Feb. 25th, 2009 02:52 am (UTC)
And I think you have an absolutely valid point there. In many cases, in real life, the pain or existence of male victims is ignored, dismissed or significantly downplayed. I get very tired, for eg, of seeing single dads consistently being portrayed as selfish deadbeats who don't give a crap about their kids. That is not true. There are good fathers and bad fathers, and the good fathers are significantly under represented. What's also tragically true is that there is a disproportionate weighting given to the value of motherhood over fatherhood in most cultures. And that leads to grave injustices. This is where, for my money, feminism has taken a drastically bad turn. I believe a healthy child requires the input of both male and female parenting. I deplore the dismissal of the male as nothing but a sperm donor and wallet, with no other useful function. Deplore it. And the women who push that wheelbarrow have my utter contempt. Likewise the dismissal of trauma to male victims of sexual violence. The gender of the victim is irrelevant. Anyone subjected to sexual violence, or sexual behavior that is unsolicited, is equally damaged. The nudge nudge wink wink attitude towards boys who've been violated by older women, for eg, is disgusting. Makes my blood boil.

It's not that women are inviolate. At least, it isn't for me. It's the fact that so often, in fiction, women are chosen as the default victim. In real life, unless we have a serious case of underreporting going on, women are by far more often the victims of violent and/or sexual crimes at the hands of men. And that by enshrining that in popular entertainment, we're feeding into some kind of self-perpetuating loop. If it's soaked into our subconscious, via entertainment, that women are victims, do we not run the risk of encouraging men in real life to view them as such? Does it not become a chicken and egg scenario?

What I hope isn't happening is that there's another default setting that's unconsciously setting up another paradigm -- that men somehow deserve the violence meted out to them because they are so often the instigators of violence. Or that somehow they're better able to protect themselves, so if they are a victim it's somehow their fault for not being manly enough -- in the same way that women are blamed when they're raped because they incited a strange man's lust, just by being female.

I think, from my perspective, that it's not about not caring about male victims. I do. But women are still laboring under a truly hideous legacy of social repression. And just when we think we're coming out of the woods, we're clobbered again. On balance, women have consistently been more victimised than men, across the board. Down the centuries. There was never a debate amongst learned theologians where the question if women were even human beings was seriously discussed. That's the female legacy in society. And now, in the 21st century, when presumably we should have move past that kind of shit, we haven't so much. Because women are still consistently oppressed. And in western culture, one of the markers of that oppression is by the portrayal of us in popular culture as perennial victims. Women are disproportianately victimised, marginalised and trivialised.

I don't think this should be an either/or situation. But on balance, historically, taken as a group at large, women have been more harshly done by. And at some point it has to stop.
ruford42
Feb. 25th, 2009 04:17 am (UTC)
Given the number of women who've reached measurable success in business and politics, I don't really see how the legacy of social repression is still a present barrier.

I think what we continue to see in both the world around us and therefore in literary works is a continued violence against those weaker than oneself. Even with the recent success of multiple women, there's still the fact that the average human female is smaller than the average male. I'm disappointed that this idea is generally represented as an abhorrence at the idea of violence against women or children. Maybe it's just harder to get an emotional reaction if you screamed "Violence without just cause is wrong!" It's a personal pet peeve of mine how these phrases and thoughts are so prevalent in society -- Not because I support the violence, but the phrasing seems to imply that it would be justifiable if the target happened to be male and within a given age range.

Though on a note of departing irony -- I recently set aside Empress halfway through the volume as the culture of violence and Hekat's reactions to it -- along with the character's near constant reference to herself in the third person -- have made a few other stories at least, temporarily, more palatable...
karenmiller
Feb. 25th, 2009 04:53 am (UTC)
In small sections of western society I would agree that women have made definite strides. You only have to look at shows like Mad Men and Life on Mars - or back to shows like Emergency, currently releasing on dvd -- to see the social change that have occurred over the last few decades. But across a broader spectrum of human society, the good news is not so much. The violent oppression of women continues unabated. In western culture, it happens a lot behind closed doors because while technically it's no longer socially acceptable, in reality for many men it is and always will be a legitimate course of action. Take a snapshot of western governments across the board and, for the most part, you're still looking at a distinct gender imbalance in both leadership and minsterial/cabinet positions. Women are in the fact the majority gender, but are significantly under-represented in both politics and larger scale business life. I believe more small businesses are started by women -- partly because of barriers in larger corporate life. Please note that I'm not blanket- condemning men for this state of affairs. I think there's plenty of culpability to go round.

As I've said elsewhere, I don't support the use of violence against men over women within an entertainment context. Violence happens. Both men and women are victims of it. And if our fiction is to have meaning, the effects of violence on an individual and a community should be truthfully examined. What concerns me is a stereotypical portrayal of woman as victim, woman as object of rescuing, woman as objectified catalyst for man's heroic journey. I think we need to find a way past that.

And as far as Empress is concerned, well, no harm no foul. I knew it was a tough sell when I wrote it.
raven_lace
Feb. 25th, 2009 11:42 am (UTC)
*offers freshly baked cookies to all who felt the heat from this debate*
karenmiller
Mar. 10th, 2009 03:07 am (UTC)
Thanks! But for me, I wasn't feeling scorched. I'm happy to have any and all of my positions challenged, vigorously. Just because I think something is true doesn't mean I haven't made a mistake.
raven_lace
Mar. 10th, 2009 09:18 am (UTC)
I understand, but it was certainly an interesting reading everyones feelings on this very tender topic.
I myself, i'm not sure abut it. I agreee that women do get the arse end deal of things with always being the victim.
But 2 good friends of mine love Watchmen and think its the best thing since sliced bread. Needless to day they are boy men. Is it a case of a book written by men for men?
I currently have a copy of Watchmen waiting to be read...i just feel like i have to pluck up enough courage after hearing everything i have about it :S
karenmiller
Mar. 12th, 2009 06:56 am (UTC)
That's a good point. It could just be that women aren't the intended audience ... but then, if men are the intended audience, and the push is for women to be treated like this, what's that message? And shouldn't it be questioned?
raven_lace
Mar. 12th, 2009 09:31 am (UTC)
i promise i will make this my last comment section as it is getting more and more harder to find.
But the other day in one of the UK papers they had published the results of a survey, it came out in that that one in seven believe it ok to hit women if they are wearing sexy clothing.

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/crime/article5875108.ece

I think you might find this artical interesting.

I've been on the wrong side of a lot of my brothers punches when i was grow up. I knew what he was doing was only in jest, but it resulted in alot of pain and brusing. i can't begin to think how much worse it would be if it was not in jest.

It is not right and it should not be glorified!
karenmiller
Mar. 12th, 2009 09:34 am (UTC)
Yeah. I saw that. Much, much, much fail. Sigh.
ruford42
Feb. 25th, 2009 02:39 pm (UTC)
AHh, I'm the typical American in that unless I'm directly interacting with someone from another country, or even another county, I'm pretty much unaware of what's happening over there. Though I'm a little torn on the notion of small business versus large corporations as the majority of business people I've encountered whether in the western world or in the east have been in small business so I don't feel that's really an accurate arena to judge how repressed any gender is -- simply because the business model might not translate to large deployments in and of itself regardless of the gender of it's founders and operators...

Though, sidetracking back to Empress...The first few pages contained some of the most graphic violence against women I've encountered in the genre. With your obvious strong feelings on the subject matter -- what was it like emotionally for you to tell the story? I should note I still plan to return to the books as I purchased the trilogy at the same time after loving the Kingmaker, Kingbreaker duology...But this discussion has left
me curious how that story even came about.
karenmiller
Mar. 10th, 2009 03:06 am (UTC)
Sorry. Not ignoring you, just recovering from post book brain mush.

I've got corporate and small business experience. Sexism is everywhere. I think a lot of women opt out of corporate culture to start their own business because they can't achieve autonomy any other way.

Re Empress -- well, it was a tough book to write for many reasons. Putting myself in that emotional headspace, of exploring that level of violence against women, that was uncomfortable. But that level of violence and helplessness is a daily way of life for thousands of women in the world today, so I felt it was important to try and be as brutally honest about that reality as I could. As a women I am incredibly privileged, compared to women suffering in some parts of the world. I feel I owe it to them to not whitewash their realities.
rynogeny
Feb. 25th, 2009 06:50 pm (UTC)
I've been hearing about Watchmen, but beyond being aware it was based on a graphic novel, I've been pretty clueless about it.

But here's the thing. Last week, the Chicago Tribune ran this article about local teens' response to the Chris Brown/Rihanna domestic violence situation:

http://tinyurl.com/bxblbm

The upshot is the title of the article: "Many teens blame Rihanna, say dating violence normal"

Presumably, there are plenty of teens who weren't interviewed and are appalled by domestic violence. I can only hope so, at least.

(I'm only barely aware of who the celebrities are in question, btw.)

But the gist of the article, that so many teens can simply assume the woman was to blame, or that a woman being beaten up is no big deal, horrifies me.

And yet, why wouldn't they think that, when that's what they see?

I suppose the guy who adapted Watchmen believed it important to leave the scene in the film, in the sense of being faithful to the original. But that only drives the question back to the author of the original graphic novel, which has no doubt contributed its part to teens' belief that violence against women is the norm.

It's a sad and scary world we live in, and appears to be getting worse.
karenmiller
Mar. 10th, 2009 02:58 am (UTC)
And now she's gone back to him, so what does that say?????

A plague on the bloody lot of them.
rynogeny
Mar. 10th, 2009 08:31 pm (UTC)
"so what does that say?????"

It says that she's a typical victim, if the statistics are to be believed, but in this case, the victims won't be just her: all the girls who've seen the photos of her after the attack and then see that she's gone back to him will think, 'oh, it really is okay, then.' Oprah commented on it, warning Rihanna that he'll do it again. I've not heard whether Rihanna responded or not.

In the meantime, I read an article this morning referring to a study in the UK (I think -- I now can't find the article) that indicated 1 in 7 think it's okay for men to hit women.

I really, really don't get why people see no connection between what people repeatedly see -- either in films/TV or in the lives of celebrities -- and what they come think is normal.
karenmiller
Mar. 12th, 2009 06:41 am (UTC)
1 in 5. Even more depressing.

And yes, they call it desensitisation for a reason.
rynogeny
Mar. 12th, 2009 05:32 pm (UTC)
Was it 1 in 5? I'd seen the article, then couldn't find it again when I went to look for it. But that's horrific. I fear for us all, I really do.
corglacier7
Feb. 28th, 2009 03:41 pm (UTC)
I'm up in the air regarding "Watchmen", but hearing about that scene troubles me. Comic book movies on the whole, though, stay close to the source material, and that's written for a young male audience: principally male heroes, etc.

I think the last comic movie I saw with some strong females was "X-Men 2", and the first "X-Men" before that. We won't even talk about "X-Men 3" which was terrible to start, and whose contribution to the role of women was the psychotically out-of-control Jean Grey/Phoenix (this is what happens when women aren't nice and controlled and demure!), Storm (whose main function as new team leader is to lust after Wolverine) and Rogue (giving up her powers mainly so her boyfriend can touch her because she's afraid she's losing him to another girl...it always struck me as a rather clumsy parallel to a teenaged girl losing her virginity to a boy just in hopes of keeping him, no matter the scene where Rogue rather feebly tells Wolverine she's doing it for her.)

Last year's offerings..."Iron Man" was a fun romp, and Pepper had some spirit, but in the end, she served the traditional domestic servant/secretary/damsel in distress role.

"The Dark Knight" had some hope in that Rachel Dawes is a strong woman, a DA in a corrupt city willing to fight back, but of course, she's killed in order to break Harvey Dent and/or Batman. I guess I console myself somewhat that she was a woman unwilling to compromise her morals and principles just to throw herself romantically at the hero's feet, but it's sort of cold comfort.

And at the end, where Gordon's wife and his two children are held captive, it's the son who gets all of Gordon and Two-Face's attention. I suppose having a boy in danger is something of a novelty, but having it directly said that Gordon loves his son more than his daughter, or his wife...jeez. The girl might as well not even exist, whereas the boy gets some important lines--she doesn't even get the merit of a name in the credits besides "Gordon's Daughter". And, if it's following canon, that was Barbara Gordon there...who will grow up to be Batgirl and later Oracle, while James Jr. pretty much just drops out of the scene entirely.

I can still enjoy those movies on the whole, but it bothers me that the imbalance is so readily present.
karenmiller
Mar. 10th, 2009 02:44 am (UTC)
Sorry not to get back to you sooner. End of book brain slush struck.

Having now seen Watchmen, bleah, Just bleah and bleah and wtf???? And yuk. Really, really loathed it. The treatment of women in this film is beyond repulsive to me. It's ... just .. off the chart yuk.

I loved the first 2 X Men films. The 3rd failed for me on many levels, includin what you've said.

With regards to both Iron Man and Batman-- those are male stories. I have no problem with back seat female characters in those films because they are male character journeys. And in both cases, I felt the women had strong presences. Especially in IM, Pepper was proactive, and she wasn't a sex slut object, and she did important stuff and was leading men in some cases. But she wasn't the focus - and her point wasn't to illuminate Tony. SHe didn't suffer in order to create him. She saved him. She did spy stuff. I didn't mind her at all. And while yes, Rachel died, I still felt she had a life beyond Batman. She walked away from him. She wasn't a puppet or a sex slave.

But oh yes, oh yes, oh yes -- the invisibility of Gordon's daughter? Now that did squick me big time, That offended the hell out of me. That was unforgiveable.
corglacier7
Mar. 10th, 2009 02:59 am (UTC)
Hey, no problem; I honestly (and with some chagrin) admit that I can do weeks without answering messages if I'm hard in the middle of field work.

Watchmen...sigh.

I agree on Iron Man and Batman in that I found them less bothersome than X3 (and in part that's probably because they were much higher quality films to begin...) but for the same reason you stated. As ordinary humans I don't expect quite as much out of them, and they did show individuality and spirit with what they were given.

I did appreciate that Pepper saved the day in her own way with the Mark I chestpiece, and her covert turn at Stark Industries. I also really liked that Iron Man ended with indications that while she's attracted to him on some level, she isn't willing to give herself over completely to the demands and trials of being "the hero's girlfriend". The same way as I said, and you agreed, that we both respected Rachel Dawes choosing Harvey rather than slobbering over Bruce, and that she fought and stood up in her own way. Neither of them, although they may have been in distress, stand as damsels who really need to be "saved".

But Pepper and Rachel are clearly intended as supporting cast to the hero, and ordinary human beings. Contrast that to being held up as heroic "equals" to the boys as Phoenix, Storm, Rogue, and even Silk Spectre are supposed to be, and falling miserably short in X3 and Watchmen.

You'd probably appreciate that for demonstrating sexual equality in a team-based setting, Sam Carter from SG-1 holds a high place in my esteem. She needed to be rescued sometimes, but heck, all of them did. And I always felt like she was a necessary and integral part of the group, rather than just being an afterthought "chick who has unresolved romantic tension with the leader".

Looking forward to both "Prodigal Mage" and "Witches Inc", BTW!
karenmiller
Mar. 10th, 2009 04:15 am (UTC)
Field work?

Yeah. I have to go back and look at X3 again to work out exactly why I didn't care for it.

Although yes, I do take your point re the difference between ordinary and superhero. I loved Rogue in the first film. I loved the dynamic between her and Wolverine.

It's almost reached the point where I'd rather not have women characters at all than see them mangled and perpetuating the status quo stereotypes. How depressing!

And thanks! The upcoming book thang ... yeeeesh! *g*
corglacier7
Mar. 10th, 2009 01:10 pm (UTC)
Oceanography grad student, specifically fish. Even thought it's winter here it's actually my field season as my research species comes inshore in winter.

X3, in addition to the aforementioned, ticks me off because it feels like a gloppy mess of too much action and not enough actual plot. There are very few character moments or the like, which were a hallmark of the first two. It's mainly just stuff blowing up, people getting killed, and characters acting largely like cardboard cutouts.

I thought the Wolverine/Rogue dynamic was one of the best things about X-Men.

I'm not sure if the "Don't do it if you can't make it not suck" mentality is a better option overall than "Half a loaf is better than none"...you're right, it's depressing.
karenmiller
Mar. 12th, 2009 06:54 am (UTC)
Cool! What a neat career choice!

And for the other comments -- yes, yes, yessity yes. *g*
corglacier7
Mar. 12th, 2009 02:44 pm (UTC)
Thinking more on "Watchmen" here. I do admit I think the opening credits are pretty brilliantly done: 40 minutes of alternate history depicted in 5.5 minutes, and "The Times They Are A-Changin'" was perfect music (and I don't just say that because I'm a Dylan fan.) That apparently was one of the director's few original inputs--it wasn't in the source material--and I might have liked to see him step away some more if that indicates the quality he can think up.

The kidnapped girl (vs kidnapped boy) didn't bother me quite as much as I thought, probably because we didn't get any exploitative shots of a crying little girl in a pretty pink dress huddled in a dark corner with a menacing man towering over her, butcher knife in hand. The crime itself still bothered me deeply, though...don't get me wrong about that!

Now to the Minutemen/Watchmen themselves.

Silhouette: sigh. A slutty vamp and homosexual to boot. Clearly she has to die. (Never mind that apparently in the book, Captain Metropolis and Hooded Justice are gay lovers...the lesbian gets kicked out and murdered.)

Silk Spectre I: Oh, where do I begin? She's the stereotypical battered wife who will take any abuse from her man and then feel terrible because she didn't make his favorite meatloaf for dinner. She is nearly raped by a fellow team member, blames herself for provoking him by wearing a skimpy outfit, willingly sleeps with him later(!), possibly traps another man into marriage to save face (not sure of the pregnancy vs marriage timing), makes excuses for the Comedian ever after and is clearly still in love with him to some extent, and considers all of that the "glory days". Wow. I realize "Watchmen: was written in the '80's, which was also the heyday of the Harlequin bodice-rip-and-rape romance, but really.

Silk Spectre II: On reflection, Laurie is actually a somewhat promising character, though even that can't make up for the sheer nauseating walking Stockholm Syndrome that is her mother. Still, consider the following. She's groomed by Mommy to be a superhero and relive the days of glory, right down to a similar outfit. At about sixteen or seventeen she falls for Dr. Manhattan, who, being older and all-powerful, strikes me as being an extreme "Daddy figure" choice. It appears by the time the movie opens some fifteen years later, she's still in that little girl phase as he's been her only relationship.

So. In the course of the movie, she realizes she's unhappy with a distant man who doesn't care about her and that she's unhappy basically doing nothing but being the "pet"/trophy wife to keep Dr. Manhattan happy. She ends the relationship. When she finds another boyfriend, it's not another distant Daddy intellectual, nor a brutal raging alpha male like her father, but a somewhat geeky nice guy who cares about her and treats her with respect. And she consciously rejects her mother's path, certainly as a woman. As a superhero, it wouldn't entirely surprise me that if she and Nite Owl keep it up she might develop her own persona and put Silk Spectre to rest.

So I find Silk Spectre II to actually be a somewhat promising character. But Silk Spectre I, and to some extent Silhouette, leave a very bad taste in my mouth that probably outweighs it.
corglacier7
Mar. 10th, 2009 03:18 am (UTC)
Although on the subject of Carter (to go off on a tangent), I admit that one of the very first epis annoyed me a little bit. I forget the name ("Emancipation"?), but I'm sure you know the one: the Mongolian/"Shavadai" tribe.

I recognize that as it's very early--first half dozen epis, I think--two things are true: a.) the writing is a bit less polished and b.) the characters are still new and unknown enough to both writers and audience that they need to be drawn in broad strokes.

Still, for some reason that one annoyed me a bit: perhaps it was the sense I got that, "Oh, we have a strong woman character, we ought to have her react the plight of less fortunate women she meets in her travels..."

And of course her reaction is very straightforward: outrage. Not that I blame her, mind, because those conditions were Godawful. But it feels more like she's playing the stereotypical bit part of the "offended female team member" than giving us insights into Sam Carter, just like Daniel gets the stereotypical anthropologist's "We need to respect local customs". (Jack's "Nobody kidnaps a member of MY team" is probably the truest reaction, and I did like that I never got the sense that her being female had any effect on his reaction.)

I recognize that eventually, given the historical frequency of authoritarian patriarchal society on Earth that SG-1 would have run into that situation eventually and had to deal with it, but I'd honestly have preferred that run-in to be later, when the reactions would be more nuanced and genuine. As was it just seemed kind of like a hackneyed "Carter shows off her grrrrrlpower" thing.
karenmiller
Mar. 10th, 2009 04:09 am (UTC)
Tee hee. See, much as I find Emancipation a problematical ep (though I welcome it, if for no other reason than it's one of the rare eps written by a woman -- don't get me started on the misogyny of the production team) there are elements to it I really love.

I love the reaction of the guys to Sam looking like a girl -- because she does play the game and downplay her sexuality, with good reason. That's a very guy thing, and I like that she's girl enough to be in a small way affected by being seen as a woman. I don't think it' s evil for a women to like being seen as a woman. The evil comes in when she's treated an inferior being for being a woman.

This ep has one of my all time favourite Daniel and Jack exchanges, ever -- How come you always leap to the worse case scenario? I practice. That just makes me laugh and laugh. It encapsulates the totality of their respective life experiences to that point so perfectly.

And I really, really love the moment between Daniel and the head of the tribe, when he's saying how he's looked on oddly by his people and Daniel says because you love your wife? And the look they share -- it's two men acknowledging that yeah, they love their wives and isn't it great?

Jack's response is more to the fact that Sam's going to be raped. And his, There is no way in hell, is just note perfect to me. But an interesting -- and not necessarily in a good way -- contast to um, Broca Divide, in which a woman is about to raped and Daniel's shrugging it off as a cultural thing, followed up by Daniel all slobbery over a woman and there's a lot of attaboy going on. That's pretty damned distasteful.

I think SG is problematical on the sexism front, but on balance, I loved Sam as a character. And unlike some folk, I never saw her and Jack as a problem, sexual politics wise. If I had a problem it was with the fact that Jack always had to be the big strong manly man and he was always comforting her and never vice versa. I know there was a power imbalance in the relationship but even so ...

Although I loved the dig about that, in The Light, where she comes out and says all the yes sirring, no sirring is crap, it's an act, she's playing the game. She doesn't actually believe it.
corglacier7
Mar. 10th, 2009 01:21 pm (UTC)
Oh, don't get me wrong, I did like some elements of "Emancipation". The Daniel/Jack exchange you cite is a definite highlight, and Daniel and the chief talking about love. And as an idea, I did like Carter getting a chance to speak up for other women; I just think that as a "girlpower!" moment it was kind of heavy-handed and clumsy in execution.

Oh, "Broca Divide"! I really wanted to punch Daniel in the nose with his academic drone of "But that's how mating took place in early human history...conquest by the strongest males." (Not verbatim, but that's the gist.) Because rape is of course kosher when it's done by primitive peoples. And then, yes, he follows it up by acting like a randy twit. The idea of atavism as a disease was interesting, but the execution of how stereotypes were reinforced and even encouraged was cringeworthy.

With Jack and Sam, some part of me always imagines some off-camera moments where she takes the lead *g*. But you're right, aside from a few instances like "Cold Lazarus", we rarely see him as open or vulnerable. He's the quintessential man's man. I suppose the fact of him being the superior officer only augments it, and as her field commander and being responsible for her life and well-being, he probably doesn't feel he has the luxury of showing a lot of emotional vulnerability and leading her to possibly second-guess his commands. I'd honestly be interested to see the dynamic between them now that they're apparently together but no longer directly working together.

karenmiller
Mar. 12th, 2009 06:53 am (UTC)
Yeah, as always, it comes down to execution. And you're right, this was a clumsy 'message' ep.

Pretty much the all male production team was made of much fail -- and has continued to be made of fail -- in its treatment of women in the show in both incarnations.

Except there were some private moments where he didn't have to be the manly man, and they made him the manly man. And that irritated me. The one time where he was the manly man that I really did like was in -- arrghh -- ep title eludes me. Sam vs the Super Soldier, and he sat with her afterwards because she'd survived but it had been a tough few days.

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