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Thread: Women in Comics and Women in Refrigerators

  1. #1
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    Default Women in Comics and Women in Refrigerators

    I'm surprised a thread of this nature hasn't been made yet, but maybe that's because it's an issue so dragged over lately and no one felt the need to do so. Either way, I volunteer!

    I've been doing some research for an article lately on the "Women in Refrigerators" idiom on female comic book characters that have been injured, killed, or depowered as a plot device within various superhero comic books, and seeks to analyze why these plot devices are used disproportionately on female characters pretty much exclusively because they are female characters. Think about every kidnapped girlfriend of a superhero. Think about ladies like Rachel Dawes and Mary Jane Watson and Barbara Gordon. How many examples can we come up with? Here's a list for you if you're coming up short.

    There has been a massive push just in the last couple of years encompassing equality for women to become more than just women in refrigerators within the realm of comics, but sadly, the bar just isn't being cut. Instead of actual equality within the realm of comic book storylines, we're getting crap like Thor and Robin roles turning into females to silence the fanbase on the matter, when the reality is that the material we're being given boils down to a token gesture. Female characters they are "creating" are essentially riding the coattails of their existing male character predecessors. Is there a reason we can't just have original female superheroes and sidekicks ushered into the spotlight instead of borrowing the success of male ones? Surely there's a little room in the spotlight!

    How many of the Avengers superheroes movies have been made now? Iron Man has three films, Thor has a third film coming out, and so does Captain America. Spider-Man had three movies released, and so did Batman. And then in a long line of one-upping competitive developing films lists revealed by both DC and Marvel, each list includes only a single female superhero film inbetween the massive sausagefest that encompasses the rest of the releases. What means is that between now and 2020, we can expect exactly two female superhero lead films and about eighteen male-centric ones. That is unacceptable. But if you're looking for an explanation on the matter, see what the Marvel president has to say about the lack of female lead films. Spoiler alert: He doesn't have a good excuse.

    Anyway, the tie I wanted to make between spotlight female superheroes and women in refrigerators is that there needs to be an exchange of the crappy existing ratio. Less women in refrigerators used a plot devices for male-centric superhero storylines and more strong women on the front page. Shoutout to Marvel for their Ms. Marvel revamp featuring Kamala Khan as a Pakistani-American girl who becomes a young Muslim Ms. Marvel and DC Comics revamping their Batgirl outfit to sport her function and skill instead of her body. These changes between the two major franchises are awesome, but I worry that they get overshadowed by the bulltrout that is currently Iron Man and Thor and Batman v. Superman.

    I can't be the only one fed up with the male-dominated industry.

  2. #2

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    Yeah, there's an obvious correlation here where nerd culture is evolving, and even a small war being fought for female representation in the video game industry. It's fair to expect other nerd culture avenues to welcome the same progressive outlook on their characters. I think this is why I liked X-Men and more fringe characters/groups/stories over things like Avengers, Superman, Batman, Spiderman, etc. where equality and diversity were better managed. I've mentioned it in other threads, but Gen13 was my favorite comic series growing up. It was very X-Men-esque. Probably fairly juvenile these days when looked back upon. But even though there was a little sexualization in the art style, the women in the group were generally a lot more capable and rational than the guys. Heck, they even offered up bisexuality/homosexuality in one of the characters pretty well (though it was kinda vague, which is probably even better, since it wasn't thrown in your face with a neon sign). I wish it could have evolved into something more substantial rather than just a side project for some of the people involved. There were only like 20 - 30 issues I was aware of before the entire thing was handed off to a whole new team who completely changed up the art and writing and it lost all of its steam before maturing into its potential non-juvenile grown-up comic

    I'm not a huge comic buff, but I have a hard time thinking of good mainstream comics with well done female representation. I mean Superman always has his power killed by kryptonite for plot convenience, but that's about it. There's still 10 million Princess Peaches in the Marvel/DC universes

    It honestly might explain why I eventually fell out of comics. There wasn't a lot of options growing up, just the paltry few the local bookstore managed to scrounge up. And none of those were evolving as I grew up. So they didn't really grow up with me. Kinda like how a lot of fans got burned out on Final Fantasy not growing up with them and moved on to other things. I learned to partake in graphic novels here and there, and some of the more adult-oriented manga that cropped up on my radar now and again. But as progressive as X-Men were, I didn't feel they grew up. They just kept chugging along. Nobody else really grew up either. Their most mature themes and representation were drug addictions or homosexuality. Rarely taking time out to examine real characterization, especially in women. Too busy thinking up new ways to wrap them in spandex I guess

    But my point of view is probably extremely naive and ignorant since I admit to not being able to follow the comic scene as much as I would have liked, and mostly giving up on it over time due to not finding enough things that suited my interests

    I will say Sandman had some interesting female characters



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    Maybe this is why I enjoyed x men as much as I did

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    As far as comics, things are changing for the better. Ms. Marvel and Captain Marvel are both kicking ass now, the new Thor is a woman (not to mention a woman rules over Asgard), the X-Mrn are generally pretty inclusive, though anyone with a healing factor will always suffer.

    As for the movies, honestly, I have a hard time seeing the lack of female super heroes getting their own movies as being due to discrimination. At least not within the movie industry itself. Fact is when you make movies based on universes which have had 60+ years of not treating women that well. The reality is that in that time they've done a pretty poor job setting up female heroes to stand on their own. Many simply aren't that well known and the rest still aren't as popular as any of the male characters getting movies. And sadly movies cost a couple hundred million to make these days. It's a troutty reason to be sure, but I honestly think the only reason Marvel can go out on a limb with a Captain Marvel movie is because of the popularity of their movie universe. DC can do the same with Wonder Woman only because she's one of the DC trinity and probably the best known female super hero. These people are running a business and they aren't going to drop millions unless it's a relatively sure thing.

    That said I do think things are changing and will change pretty rapidly. Black Widow may not have been in the title, but Winter Soldier was almost as much a movie starring her as Captain America. We've got some very strong female leads in the Marvel cinematic universe, and luckily none of them are actually dead or depowered yet (and Black Widow is made more badass by having no powers and hanging with super soldiers and gods), we're getting two major female hero movies in the coming years, which is also good since they have to plan these things years in advance, and we're getting a Supergirl TV series. That last one is cool, though I'm not sure how they'll handle the Superman question.

    Anyway, have things been bad before? Yes. Are they still kind of bad? Yeah. Are they improving quickly? Definitely.

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    Everything that Vivi22 said.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Vivi22 View Post
    As far as comics, things are changing for the better. Ms. Marvel and Captain Marvel are both kicking ass now, the new Thor is a woman (not to mention a woman rules over Asgard), the X-Mrn are generally pretty inclusive, though anyone with a healing factor will always suffer.

    As for the movies, honestly, I have a hard time seeing the lack of female super heroes getting their own movies as being due to discrimination. At least not within the movie industry itself. Fact is when you make movies based on universes which have had 60+ years of not treating women that well. The reality is that in that time they've done a pretty poor job setting up female heroes to stand on their own. Many simply aren't that well known and the rest still aren't as popular as any of the male characters getting movies. And sadly movies cost a couple hundred million to make these days. It's a troutty reason to be sure, but I honestly think the only reason Marvel can go out on a limb with a Captain Marvel movie is because of the popularity of their movie universe. DC can do the same with Wonder Woman only because she's one of the DC trinity and probably the best known female super hero. These people are running a business and they aren't going to drop millions unless it's a relatively sure thing.

    That said I do think things are changing and will change pretty rapidly. Black Widow may not have been in the title, but Winter Soldier was almost as much a movie starring her as Captain America. We've got some very strong female leads in the Marvel cinematic universe, and luckily none of them are actually dead or depowered yet (and Black Widow is made more badass by having no powers and hanging with super soldiers and gods), we're getting two major female hero movies in the coming years, which is also good since they have to plan these things years in advance, and we're getting a Supergirl TV series. That last one is cool, though I'm not sure how they'll handle the Superman question.

    Anyway, have things been bad before? Yes. Are they still kind of bad? Yeah. Are they improving quickly? Definitely.
    The thing is that everything you just laid out reinforces that it is due to discrimination. The male characters are thrust into the spotlight because they are male. Black Widow is just as popular as the rest of The Avengers and has tons of screen time within the realm of the latest Marvelverse films, so why do Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America all have three movies with a string of past Hulk movies to stand on and she has none?

    You're right, Black Widow is badass. She's all over Captain America's story and involved with Iron Man's story, and obviously a key member in The Avengers. And we can go ahead and stretch this to Hawkeye and complain that he's not signed on for his own films, either, but the fact is that his role compared to Natasha's is so far down the line that he just doesn't have enough screen time yet to cut it for his own film. She does. But instead of capitalizing on the success and popularity that Black Widow has, we are instead fed with upcoming releases featuring crappy, (comparatively) obscure superheroes like Ant-man and Shazam.

    You're right that these people are running a business and that they aren't going to drop millions unless it's a relatively sure thing. Black Widow should be considered a sure thing in the prime slot for the waging superhero films going on right now. So it does not make sense to me that she has been passed over for crap like that. These people are taking even larger bets putting Ant-Man and Shazam on the screen than they would for a Black Widow film, so why aren't we getting one?

  7. #7

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    I wonder if there's a history lesson in there somewhere. Maybe the Tomb Raider movies didn't do as well as we might presume. Maybe Aeon Flux and Ultraviolet didn't do very well. Maybe they think (like some people in the video game industry) that fans are just not as interested in female protagonists as they are in fulfilling male power fantasy. (Beyond Good and Evil and Remember Me were huge gambits and didn't completely pay off)

    It's wrong, because those movies could have been done a LOT better than they were, and we'll never know how well they could have been received. But it's possible stuff like that is swaying them in regards to Wonder Woman and Black Widow :/



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    Quote Originally Posted by Vyk View Post
    I wonder if there's a history lesson in there somewhere. Maybe the Tomb Raider movies didn't do as well as we might presume. Maybe Aeon Flux and Ultraviolet didn't do very well. Maybe they think (like some people in the video game industry) that fans are just not as interested in female protagonists as they are in fulfilling male power fantasy.
    I don't know about them, but the Supergirl, Catwoman, and Elektra movies were complete and utter trout, so if anything caused that reaction it's most likely them, but those movies would have sucked regardless of the gender of the main character.

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    Those are actually probably better (or worse) examples that still further the argument. But again, I think it's more a problem with Hollywood not knowing how to write and direct a good female protagonist... At least in a superhero setting. We've yet to see a GOOD one, that bombs, which could justify the idea (if that really is what they're afraid of). It still wouldn't surprise me if they got the message we don't want female super heroes rather than we just don't want badly written super heroes



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    If you read the link I posted initially about the excuse of Marvel's president as to why they are developing so few female lead movies, he tried to give some bulltrout stats about female leads in the past attributing their reasoning for why they aren't doing more female lead films in the near future.

    When a film with a male lead does terribly, nothing about his gender comes into play. When a film with a female lead does terribly, the companies rationalize that they have to put the brakes on developing any more female lead films because they will invariably also do poorly at the box office simply because the lead is a female. That is basically the logic that President Marvel is arguing.

  11. #11

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    Whoops. Sorry, I should have read the links. I just presumed they were links to things like TV Tropes to better explain the phrase Women in Refrigerators. Didn't mean to ignore relevant information :3

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    I didn't want to click it because I knew his reasoning would bum me out.

    I was right.

  13. #13

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    Oh wait, that link. I guess it didn't register since the spoiler was obvious. I have no excuse for not clicking that one though



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    Let's just say I think a lot is riding on Wonder Woman and I wish they would drum up publicity for that film a little more. I think the X-Men does it best for equality although they still have male leads more often than not in the likes of Xavier, Magneto and Wolverine. Mystique and Jean have played prominent roles in the past, though. I would love to see more of the female-centric storylines. I think they have the actresses to make it work.

    In the end, though, they do have to turn a profit and for some reason - good or not - people aren't massing towards the female heroes just yet. I don't know why. But I hope it changes and that they really take off. Personally, I would love to see more Phoenix storyline, more Rogue storyline. I love Rogue as much as I love any dude from X-Men, she's awesome. Imagine telling the story of how she got her powers from Ms. Marvel! That would be one badass storyline and it would also feature Mystique, too. It's very female dominant but at the same time it's a really bloody good story. I think it could be a massive success.

    I wonder if nostalgia has a lot to do with it. The Tomb Raider movies seemed to do better than the superheroine films. In decades past it was mostly dudes who read comics, right? And that was during times when equality was even less of a thing. Perhaps because of this, the nostalgia factor isn't driving as many people to see the films. Meanwhile Lara Croft is a more recent nostalgia-thing, in a time where females were becoming dominant, and people did go to see the films enough to make three of them. I wonder if we're dealing with a generation / nostalgia thing because of that. Female heroes can work, but anyone who thinks they were The Big Deal back in the 60's/70's may not be so right, let alone the 80's or even possibly the 90's.

    But yeah, it'd be cool if they were better. Personally I haven't seen the Catwoman or Elektra films. Catwoman was a bomb at the box office and I never bothered because of that. Elektra I had never even really heard of to any major degree. I hope to see V for Vendetta soon, though, because I still haven't clocked that up and I keep getting told it's really good. Would've watched it on Guy Fawkes but we were at someone else's place.

    EDIT: As for Women in Refridgerators - I wasn't even aware that was a thing. I know it's a thing that happens to heroes in general, but I wasn't aware it happens to one gender more than the other. I mean, Kryptonite means it happens to Superman nearly every other movie, and almost all heroes get some kind of weakness thrust upon them because that's how heroes are made into heroes sometimes. I don't generally care for Superman-like characters though, too much power if you ask me. I like overpowered baddies and weakened heroes that overcome the odds. Unless they're really witty and charismatic, in which case, I don't care either way because funniness. We need more genuinely witty superheroines.
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    I dunno, X-Men is still X-Men.

    Catwoman was a teeerrrriiible movie but it didn't have to be. I never saw Elektra, but look at our TV heroines like Xena, Buffy, and Dark Angel. They were adored by fans. There's a market for the female superhero movie but it's just not going to happen.

    It pissed me off that Spiderman 2 Spoilerthey made Gwen Stacy so bloody awesome in Spiderman and then killed her to motivate Peter.


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