Women in Comics
As a kid in the ’90s, there was one thing on my mind – action! I loved watching the ’90s Batman, X-Men, and Spider-Man cartoons. I gathered myself around the television daily to witness the sheer brilliance these cartoons possessed.
On this site, you may have read my views on how Body Images are seen in comics, or how poorly Women are Portrayed in comics. It wasn’t until I sat down and watched DC/Warner Bros. newest animated film, Superman/Batman Apocalypse, did my mind erupt with anger.
I am well-aware the movie is based off of a comic book run by Jeph Loeb & Michael Turner. I am also quite aware that the animation in the film is very similar to that in the comic. What I am shocked over is how blatantly awful the film was for younger viewers. From the camera angles chosen, to how much “bounce” particular breasts were given, it was completely over-the-top and wrong.
Taking the Cake
Now to be fair, looking back at the X-Men cartoon in the ’90s, Rogue wasn’t really a conservative girl, nor was Wolverine a regular looking guy with being shirtless in plenty of episodes. However subtle those instances may have been, Superman/Batman Apocalypse took the cake.
I will also mention that Superman/Batman Apocalypse is rated PG-13. However, if you have a kid in a video store and you see a Superman cartoon movie for them to watch, the last thing you check for is the rating. It’s a cartoon movie from a beloved world icon – what could go wrong.
Yet, if this is only for teenagers to watch, what kind of message is it giving them?
The basis of the movie is that Supergirl, or Kara, came to Earth and is trying to fit in with society and find herself a home. Without really going into the story, there’s a montage where Supergirl takes women back to the Stone Age.
“What is like to be a girl in the city?” Kara asks Superman.
Cue montage of Supergirl getting her nails done, shopping for clothes, and being the stereotypical “rich girl” while good ‘ol handsome-boy Clark Kent pays the bills. Ah, being a girl is sweet, isn’t it? That is, as long as you have a strong, rich man to pay for everything.
Ah, Kara Zor-El. Welcome to Earth. Learn our archaic ways.
For those familiar with the story, you will also know that Kara gets kidnapped by Darkseid to become the leader of his army. Superman and Batman get Wonder Woman and Big Barda to help out with the rescue. Of course, when they ask Barda to help, she just took a shower. How inconvenient for the viewers.
And once the team travels to Apocalypse to save Kara, Wonder Woman and Barda get caught up fighting the Furies. Thanks to some particular camera angles, we can see why the Furies want to fight them. They’re jealous of Diana’s “attributes.”
Luckily, Superman knows where Darkseid has hid Kara, so he’s goes in to save the day – only to find out that Kara is now mind controlled by Darkseid. AND! She’s changed wardrobes too, ’cause, y’know. Less clothing makes you more evil.
So you can probably see some of my conundrums with this film. Of course, there’s tons more to show. The movie is riddled with women being hyper-sexualized beyond belief.
I am aware that this isn’t the first movie or comic book to do so. If you looked at my previous entries I linked at the beginning of this blog, you’ll notice that I’m ragging on Marvel very hard for what they’ve done before.
And while, sure, the movie art matches how the comic was drawn, by no means did it need to be done this way. By no means do the particular camera angles chosen NEED to be there.
Taking Women Back 50 Years
I’ve shown you the physical proof of what the movie provided. What stuck to me is the lasting effect it would leave upon others.
Arguably, comics are directed towards young boys. Obviously, showing women the way they are in this movie would definitely drive those sales. What is wrong is the movie takes one limp forward and multiple steps backwards.
For sure, Kara learns a lesson in this film about finding herself. But at what cost?
If I were a young boy watching this movie, I’d be excited for the action, and even more blown away by how attractive all of the women are. Kara is just being a young girl, barely old enough to be allowed to watch the movie she is starring in. Men on the other hand are the strong and mighty. Although women can fight, they’re not nearly as cool as Superman or Batman. All they like to do is shop or get kidnapped and wait for men to rescue them. Your typical hero story.
Wonder Woman may be considered an exception as she “owns” an Amazon Army. However, the army loses a battle and Superman is left to save the day.
Now if I were a young girl watching this movie, I would notice that shopping is a lot of fun. I would love to look as good as Kara in those clothes and it would be even better if I didn’t have to pay! Wonder Woman has her own place, but cannot defend it unless Superman is there. Then the Furies fight Barda and Wonder Woman, I would be bombarded by breasts, hips and lack of clothing. By the end of the film, I would be happy that Supergirl found her way, but still be left to feel empty. There would be no reason for me to re-watch that movie and the images shown would be imprinted in my psyche forever.
In fact, the movie insults the strength of the already-strong female characters as men save the day.
I know that comics can never really change. They will always be marketed towards boys, and that’s just how it is. But what can change is a mindset on how women should be portrayed.
Comic panels do not need to have massive breasts on every female character, nor does a movie need to shift camera angles to show particular features to its characters.
If you’re looking to impress boys, you do not have to do it by taking women back years of progress. But by doing so, you’re preventing a female audience from even caring, while still damaging them in the process.
It’s not a double-edged sword unless you make it to be one.
Keep on Space Truckin’.