Sunday, June 04, 2006

Lesbian wears cape: news at 11

The Blogosphere seems to have gone mad this week with speculation about the new Batwoman. Even the ones that aren't second guessing a story they aren't going to get to read for more than a month are bemoaning the impracticality of costume details like long hair and high heels. Apparently the cape is okay because although it is equally impractical, lots of male characters have them too.

Me, I think I'll wait until there's an actual comic to read. Personally I can't see what all the fuss is about and I'm kinda sad that that I live in a world where it is such a big deal.


Ragnell said...

I'll worry about capes equally when I see them attempt to explain high heels as a weapon or useful armor that outweighs the impracticality, like they've tried several times with Batman's cape. In the meantime, there's a number of well-known problems with heels, and we very rarely see men with long sexy hair flowing out of their mask.

Marionette said...

Superhero costumes are all inherently impractical. It's a fantasy aspect of a fantasy genre. All the men are handsome and all the women are beautiful even though they are constantly getting in fights. They are all physically fit to an unreal level and wear costumes that would only work in real life if they were sprayed on, and yet we are expected to believe these often have the toughness of high strength kevlar. Start picking apart any aspect of superhero culture for being impractical and the whole thing comes to pieces.

High heels are to me one of the lesser impractical elements, since they are used in other popular media and habitually worn by models even when dressed in beachwear. Even when they are barefoot they can often be seen standing on tiptoes to achieve the same effect.

The hair is positively tame compared to 99% of manga women. And about 50% of the men.

It doesn't make it right, but I see little point in singling out these minor aspects of a costume that is generally heading in the right direction. Compared with the fetish gear that has passed for female superhero costumes in the last decade, having her fully covered from the neck down is a nice change.

Anonymous said...

Nightwing had the long ponytail of doom during his mini-series run (and by long, I mean about 2 feet). I kept praying that someone would use it against him.

I do like most of the costume, though (as long as it's black, and not the weird blue-black effect). Maybe the high-heels are made of wood and she's going to be a vampire slayer?

Marionette said...

And have they really tried to make out there is a practical use for Batman's cape? Even post-Invincibles?

Batman wears a cape because it makes him look cool. Everyone knows that. We suspend our knowledge that it's a stupid thing for him to wear because of it's high cool factor. No technobabble reason is ever going to stick because deep down we know that the real reason is its coolness.

I have no problem with fantasy characters using the "cool" defense for any number of impracticalities. The reason Wolverine's yellow costume fails is not because it is impractical but because it does not look cool.

High heels I'm not so sure about. They are pretty pointless and have a low coolness factor. But I don't pay a lot of attention to my heroes' feet so I find it hard to care one way or another. I do not feel demeaned because a comic character has impractical footwear or unlikely hair.

Ragnell said...

Most of us who have problems with Batwoman in high heels also hate to see the actresses and models in them. High Heels are a Feminist Issue because of their impracticality and long-term damaging effects, not to mention the symbolism involved in the fact that you make a woman a less effective runner and fight in order to make her more of a decoration, and the fact that Men Do Not Wear Them.

And neither do female cops or soldiers (except in Class-As are special banquets and ceremonies, which always pissed me off when they made it mandatory in formation) as they do their day to day jobs.

They exist SOLELY for the pleasure of the observer, and are overwhelming in female fashion.

Capes just don't compete, simple because they're an equal matter. Just as many women are in capes as men are.

So I change my prior statement. When I see Male Superheroes in High Heels, then I will shut up about Female Superheroes in High Heels.

Ragnell said...

And yeah, during the 90s he was using the bottom part of his cape as a weapon. *Rolls eyes*

Yet over in Harley Quinn it comes down on a female character's head.

Marionette said...

Yes, in real life high heels make women less effective and inherently unstable. But in the superhero fantasy world the unstable molecules of the atom thin spray on kevlar the boots are made of is so supportive that this problem is cancelled out.

I cannot ever recall having seen a female superhero restricted in any way by wearing high heels. It's a stylistic device that has no power because it has no substance.

And I'm willing to bet 90% of guys wouldn't even notice the difference if these women were drawn with lower heels.

It's not the shoes they are looking at.

Ragnell said...

I suppose you could make the same claim about all the feminist concerns in comic books.

"It's just a fantasy, it doesn't happen in real life."

"The characters are hampered by their huge breasts and poor posture."

"It doesn't matter that she was killed off to cause the male hero angst, because behind the panels she has her own thoughts and feelings about this matter that we're just not seeing."

I guess it's pointless to argue about any of it, then.

Marionette said...

Yes, why care about anything? What's the point of it all anyway since we'll all ultimately die and the universe will eventually run down?

I'm sorry, Ragnell. We'll just have to agree to differ on this point. I don't care about the height of a woman's shoes in a superhero comic; you do. We choose which battles to fight and this is not mine. If you think this damages my feminist credentials then I'll just have to live with that as best I can. I hope you can find it in your heart (which is clearly so much bigger than mine) to forgive my weakness. There are plenty of things I care passionately about (including the other topics to which you refer) but heels on superheroes is not one of them.

I'll try not to let my lack of heel empathy prevent me from caring about other concerns.

Ragnell said...

It's not the not caring that gets me, it's the complete dismissal of those who do. To the point it wasn't even worth a comment on my own blog.

Marionette said...

I didn't comment on your blog because it really just seemed like a side issue that I didn't want to make a big deal out of it (and that worked so well).

I only included a reference to it here in the first place as an example of one of the things that was sidelining what to me was the main issue. Ten years ago if this same character had appeared in X-Men she would have been wearing a costume that wasn't just uncomfortable but physically impossible to remain decent in and the important thing to me would still have been about her characterisation and not about what she was wearing.

It was not intended as a specific dig at you - you weren't the only one who brought it up. If I read Recharge will you forgive me?

Ragnell said...

Ha ha ha.

Okay, I overreacted a bit, but it did help clarify my thoughts on high heels. (And we are talking high heels vs capes over there in the comments).

There's a lot of people who are condeming her based on high heels (and I threw the long hair in there because it's pretty impractical too), and I hate high heels myself, so I mentioned it as a concession in my own essay.

Anonymous said...

It's not so much that Batwoman's recognizable as that Batman is, and she's obviously connected.

Anonymous said...

The main reason why the blogs are focusing so much on Batwoman is because it was everywhere in the mass media for awhile. We may think we don't care what the 'mainstream' thinks of comic books, but we do. So when something comic-related gets this much mainstream attention everyone gets a little more worked up over it...we know it gives 'normal' people a window into our little club.

If you think this character represents something good about super-hero comics (it's comics being inclusive), you're a little more passionate about it than you would be otherwise, because you know your friends/family might notice the story and maybe have a little more respect for your hobby.

If you think this character represents somthing bad about super-hero comics (she has heels, therefore it's sexist!), you're a little more passionate about it than you would be otherwise, because your friends/family might see the news and be a little more dismissive of your pastime.

With everyone's passions stirred, the blogosphere becomes even less conducive to reasonable discussion. If this had been anounced on, say, newsarama, most people probably would have commented "this sounds interesting, but I'll wait and see how she's used in a comic" or "I'm pessimistic about this, but we'll see". It would be a part of blogdom, but wouldn't dominate it like it has (at least until she actually appears in a story).

This was announced in the NY times, mentioned on CNN, and made it to the BBC website. That takes the normal arguments to a whole new level.

Ashtur said...

I'm frankly not that worried about it at the moment. I thing that annoys me is that it really feels like it's being done for the shock value, more than anything else. That said, I'm perfectly willing to wait for the book, and hold final judgement until that point.

I have low tolerance for people pulling things like this out simply to prove how tolerent/edgy they are, when there's no real reason to do so. So, for me, much of it comes down to that question. Is this a necessary part of the character? Or is it something to try to dredge up attention/sales? Only time will tell.

Anonymous said...

I have low tolerance for people pulling things like this out simply to prove how tolerent/edgy they are, when there's no real reason to do so.

Oh, I totally agree. I mean, introducing a character who's not heterosexual is just so gratuitous! What's next - black people in comics?

Ashtur said...

You missed my point a bit. What I'm getting at is when something is done in a certain way, where the primary purpose is to create a stir that's really tangential to the character.

For instance. A couple of years ago on Law and Order, they did another of their "get rid of Jack McCoy's Assistant" shuffles (the one played by Elizabeth Rohm). They set up the entire episode that she was identifying too closely with the defendents, wasn't zealous enough in prosecution and the like. It was one of those things that you may, or may not agree with, but it was a fairly typical DA's office sort of thing. However, when she's informed she was fired, her question was, "is this because I'm a lesbian?"

The thing is, that there had been absolutely no "setup" for that before that to my knowledge. No plotline where her dating life in any way shape or form was mentioned. Also, that was her last appearance on the show.

What was the purpose of "outing" the character that way? It had no clear storytelling purpose at all. I could only conclude it was a cheap play for controversey.

Now, on the other hand, if they'd made it a running plotline, where people in the office were questioning her sexuality, (or if she were out, her fitness for the job), then it would be a logical extention of the subplot.

So, all I'm saying here is that I want to wait and see how it plays out. I'm hoping that they do something far more worthwhile than "lets say she's a lesbian so we can get the droolingfanboys to read!"

Marionette said...

Sounds like you missed the point on that Law and Order episode. Not having seen it I can only go on your description but it sounds like someone was fired for a perfectly good reason who then assumes that an aspect of her life which nobody knows about was the real cause.

That's a hard story to get right, but is equally as relevent as someone in difficulties because of their personal situation, whatever that might be.

When someone has something they feel defensive about (especially when there is a real likelyhood of them being attacked for it) can easily dump a lot of problems into that bucket that shouldn't be there.

The reason the girl doesn't like you may not be because you are a lesbian and she is afraid you'll come on to her, it's simply that you are a bitch.

And back on topic, there has been nothing from DC so far to suggest that they have any prurient motivation for this move. It's all been in the exaggerated reporting by some newspapers. Which, if you look closely and read the words rather than just looking at the pictures, was exactly the point of my article.

Chance said...

The cape is for floating down air currents to safely land on the pavement after jumping off a roof. Duh! Very straightforward. High heels? Now that's just absurd.