Archives For feminism

charlie bradbury supernatural badass

Supernatural wouldn’t be the same if it weren’t for Charlie Bradbury. Not only is she one of the few fully-fledged characters, she facilitates emotional communication between the Winchester brothers, enabling them to reconcile their feminine-gendered traits. Arguably, Dean and Sam both exhibit femininity throughout the show, despite their cookie-cutter emulation of American blue-collar, heteronormative masculinity. However, in the first six seasons, the brothers only show outward emotion in certain contexts—a pattern that Charlie disrupts.

In the first six seasons, even though Dean regularly denounces things like yoga and chick-flick moments, Tanya Michaels compares Dean to a soccer mom, who sees himself as the protector, nurturer, and upbringer. Michaels says, “In Mary’s absence, can there be any doubt that Dean was the most nurturing influence in Sam’s early life?” (82). Even in Sam’s adulthood, Dean watches over him and would give his life to protect him. There’s no question that female-gendered qualities abound before Charlie enters the scene; however, they seem to only surface in specific contexts.

Through most of the show, Dean would rather keep his feelings to himself and pound a few beers (or a fifth of whiskey) before talking to Sam about his feelings. The exceptions to this rule usually involve a heart-to-heart in the Impala, what Melissa Bruce notes as “visual space that is typically masculine, yet the series uses it as a device through which to filter the more intensely emotional moments” (154). In other words, the Impala renders the feminine show of emotion as acceptably masculine. In the rare instances where the boys do express emotion outside of the Impala, Lorna Jowett notes: “Dean and Sam sit […] facing straight ahead. (Typically, the characters do not look at each other while expressing emotion)” (45). Meaning, in the first six seasons, the Winchester brothers express emotion in specific contexts to uphold their carefully-guarded masculine personae.

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big bang theory

Before I hurt everyone’s feelings, let me say that I see the charm of The Big Bang Theory. The show has all the right elements: geeky characters, empowered female scientists, and a running theme about the importance of friendship. I want to like this show so much, it pains me. I’ve kept up-to-date with it, and I’m left trying to figure out why. Maybe I’m waiting for it to get better, or maybe it satisfies the TV-equivalent craving of eating a McGriddle, or maybe I’m trying to connect with my fellow man. To be sure, the show is more interesting than other typical sitcoms, but it has so much lost potential. While the show seemingly celebrates all the things I love—comics, cosplay, smart characters, snarky best friends— it actually mercilessly ridicules them in a way that, for me, is the opposite of fun.

Instead of celebrating geekery, individuality, and being your own person, Big Bang Theory proves everyone’s 8th-grade assumptions about nerdiness. The smart characters may have found success, but they lack social currency. At the beginning of the show, most of the jokes centered on Leonard, Raj, and Howard awkwardly trying to score dates and Sheldon just being awkward. As the show progresses, the guys snag girlfriends (and Howard a wife), but the cruxes of most of the jokes are still the same: the guys aren’t “cool” and they are into “nerdy stuff.” Nerds are so weird and impossible to understand! *Cue laugh track.*

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gone girl poster

Gone Girl’s Amy Dunne is one of those rare characters who leaves your mouth agape with equal parts disgust and weird admiration. Despite her deep narcissism and psychopathy, you find yourself in awe of her guts and sharp brain. She’s a complicated and more interesting successor to flat female villains, such as the femme fatale, Bond Girl, and Evil Stepmother. Finally, women get a smart, albeit crazy, evil antagonist. But Amy Dunne is no Disney villain and she’s no Madwoman in the Attic, either. She can’t be categorized as the go-to female tropes because she fits another mold: she’s a psychopath, one who uses her gender but is not defined by it.

Many have reacted to the film Gone Girl with angry exclamations that Amy Dunne’s character is an anti-feminist trope of the Bitch Wife. In fact, The Guardian said, “Women, some seem to believe, are self-serving, venomous and deceitful but can get away with whatever they want. It’s this outlook that Amy’s adventures could foster.” Whoa. Slow down, there. This isn’t the wife in some Judd Apatow movie—this is a disturbed murderer. Personally, I think it’s a bit condescending to the audience—to both men and women—to say that people are going to hold up a clearly broken person as representative of an entire gender.

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mako pacific rim

People are angry about Pacific Rim. Maybe “angry” is too strong of a word, but there’s definitely a fair amount of disappointment going around. At the risk of sounding block-headed and completely naïve, I was shocked (yes, jaw-droppingly so) when I read the Internet rants, disapproving of the way women were portrayed in the film. Usually my feminist radar is fine-tuned and rearing to go off at the slightest hint of dehumanizing or anti-feminist tropes. Even my favorite films will usually trigger my radar enough for a laundry list of gripes. So why didn’t my radar alert me when I saw Pacific Rim?

The film takes place in the not-too-distant future, where the world has banded together to fight giant monsters (kaiju) with giant robots (jaegers). Each jaeger must be piloted by a team of two, and in order to successfully control the man-made wonder, the pilots essentially meld their minds to act as a single unit, letting the other pilot peek into all their thoughts and memories. It’s pretty intense, to say the least. Our two main characters are Raleigh Becket, famed kaiju killer, and Mako Mori, novice but enthusiastic pilot, whose adoptive father has only just recently and reluctantly encouraged her to take the jaeger helm with Raleigh.

In this high-concept, action-packed film, the biggest complaint from my fellow feminists is that there’s a lack of female characters and lines. One of the main characters is a woman (Mako) and there’s a nameless Russian woman who pilots another jaeger, but that’s not to say that these complaints aren’t well-founded. It’s easy to see that the film definitely fails the Bechdel Test. “Only three lines are spoken by a woman in the entire first half-hour of Pacific Rim,” says an article from Vulture. An article from Kulture Keeper adds, “The only two actresses… barely register as characters. They’re more like plot-objects in the shape of female bodies.” Ouch. The women in this film are products of a writer and director who brought us full-fledged and interesting female heroes in films such as Pan’s Labyrinth and The Devil’s Backbone, so there must be more going on here.

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It bothers me when people say, “Where are the strong women in comics?” On the one hand, I get it. They’re referring to the long and torrid history of women in superhero comics, wherein dames have generally either played fatales, girlfriends, or women in refrigerators. The male heroes (is that redundant in this context?) come and go as they please—hell, they even die and come back from the dead—while the female heroes (yes, I decided I’m  against the word ‘heroine’) have a history of weaknesses and inane feminine fancy.

offensive wonderwoman comic

I’m sure we’ve all rolled our eyes at an old Wonder Woman comic until we thought our eyeballs would pop out of our heads–if this hasn’t happened to you, you need to practice your eye-rolling. I mean, how does Wonder Woman always end up tied to a chair or otherwise subjected to bondage in every story?

Yes, comic books don’t have the best track record when it comes to women, but when people complain about women in comics, they’re usually referring to superhero comics, which generally have messed up gender stereotypes for everyone to enjoy. Comic book pages may be slightly more offensive for women, but let’s be real: comics showcase rampant stereotypes and a flattening of characters all around, genders be damned.

superman

The women may not be fleshed out, but the men rarely are, either. Superhero comics usually focus on cosmic plots rather than character development, and there’s a place for that– some superhero fights are pretty fun and epic.

Even though some superhero comics have gotten better with character development, there’s a beautiful world outside of superhero comics that show all kinds of characters, both male and female, coping with various crises. And what do you know? There’s character development and fully functioning adults from both genders. Since I’m specifically focusing on dispelling the myth that comics don’t have any strong female characters, here are some of my favorite women in comics.

Alana in Saga.

alana

Saga has some of the best writing in comics, period. All the characters are interesting, fully developed, and downright likable. Alana is one of the few women that I’ve read in fiction—not just comics—who actually sounds like a real, living, breathing, thinking woman. She’s smart, strong, and snarky, and she’d do anything for her child or her husband, which doesn’t make her any less powerful. She’s a balanced, whole individual.

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Feminism and Avengers

Ashley Walton —  May 16, 2012 — 1 Comment

I’ve now seen Avengers a couple of times, but I hadn’t written a post because I didn’t know what I could say that hadn’t already been said. It was awesome, everything I hoped it would be. Whedon stood tall and rose to all my expectations. The arrangement of strong characters was well-balanced and well-written, each contributing a unique personality to the whole. Roger Ebert is an idiot. Moviefone is sexist. The end.

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