Conspiracies & other nonsense…

I am going to throw my two cents (three quaters?) in with Ragnell in a little debate is having with some commentators over at the Written World.

I agree with her, there is no conspiracy to kill off Giffen era JLA characters or for female characters to be so woefully mistreatedBut there are systematic factors that led to both. Let’s start with the fates of Blue Beetle, Max Lord and their ilk. Dan Didio, as pleasing as the image may be, does not sit in his office plotting to rape the childhood/adolescence of Giffen era League fans. Instead he looks at his reader demographics; many comics readers today are either children of the mid-to-late 80s (the era of the original Crisis and the Giffen League) or of the early-to-mid 90s (the era of Emerald Twilight and such). Thus when Didio and his writers are shaping their brand new, better than ever cross-over they tend to use (and abuse) characters that these demographics care about. Hence Blue Beetle gets a bullet in his head and Kyle Rayner turns evil.

Modern DC readers care about these characters because they grew up with them and thus will read comics which feature stories about them. But since many of the characters of this era are second or third string characters they are the ones who can be abused and killed off.

This is not a conscious conspiracy in the sense of the second shooter in the grassy knoll. Instead demographic and economic factors led to Blue Beetle, Max Lord, and the Dignbys being placed on the chopping block.

Now the reason why female characters are so often abused is because superhero comic book writers, artists, and readers all share similar values and expectations when it comes to storytelling techniques. This is not always conscious but instead the byproduct of the sub-culture. It is undeniable that superhero comics have a history of sexism and this history has an influence on the values of creators and readers today. What is acceptable and what is unacceptable for certain kinds of characters is often decided by these unconscious values.

This baggage leads to certain outcomes for certain characters. While all characters, male and female, are placed in danger in a superhero story for it to be a superhero story certain ‘dangers’ and their consequences are gendered male or female.

Following up on Rangell’s example, all superhero characters are at one point or the other “turned evil” but only female characters are turned evil and sexy (and lose their sense of what is tasteful). Under the influence of Red Kryptonite Superman may be a dick and but he certainly doesn’t suddenly become sex-king. But Sue Storm as Malice?  Hmm.

Again this is often not a conscious choice by creators and fans. Most think this simply part of the genre (or worse a natural part of the differences between men and women). It is certainly not conscious conspiracy where Frank Cho, Greg Land, and Frank Miller get together and plot which sexist ploy they are going to inflict upon the female characters they work on.

Instead systematic cultural factors lead to the mistreatment of female characters.

All of the factors noted above can be changed. By refusing to buy books that are the product of them or criticizing works that are produced by them readers can attempt to change the systematic factors that lead to such terrible results.

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