- Posted by Johanna on November 21, 2006 at 12:04 pm
- Category: Meta
I don’t want to beat the subject into the ground — either you accept the sexism in superhero comics, in which case you don’t need further convincing, or you don’t, and I’ve found from experience that those folks can rationalize away most anything — but I did have a further thought spun off from some of the many thoughtful comments left at that previous post.
The question came up, why didn’t people fixated on superheroes learn right behavior from the heroes they read about? How can someone who claims to value the fight for justice be so pigheaded in their behavior towards others?
My answer is that they’ve learned the wrong lesson. Superheroes involve someone going out on their own to fix problems because of unique abilities. Although it’s been tamed over the years and coopted by stabs at quasi-formal agreements with the police and legal system, a hero’s vigilantism is a key part of the character. THEY know what’s right and will make it happen, regardless of what’s allayed against them.
I think these toxic sexists think they’re emulating their heroes, only what they’re emulating is a kind of egoism. They know the right way to do things, and they’re going to stick to it no matter what tries to dissuade them, because that’s what Batman would do. When superheroes provide a way to kids to emulate confidence, that’s a good thing; but a lack of willingness to consider other viewpoints as potentially valid is dangerous. (Explains a lot about the way Batman is currently portrayed, though, doesn’t it?)
The hero they’re really most like is Parallax, whose story was such wasted potential. Superhero comics are overdue for a deep, thoughtful portrayal of what happens when someone used to operating on their own picks the wrong side, or even a side that’s unpopular.
If you go beyond “he’s fighting Superman, so of course he’s automatically wrong”, this is an area with a ton of fruitful potential to explore. For instance, how would an anti-abortion superhero behave, or a pro-choice one? Why doesn’t anyone write about superheroes taking on corrupt Congressmen?
Ideally, these kinds of stories would explore some of the most divisive issues our culture faces and create some meaningful, powerful tales. But the corporations would be too afraid to do anything like this, because the franchises must be protected.