Wednesday, August 6, 2008

No Wonder They Call Them Fanboys

Comic-Con 2008 recently wrapped up and Litchik missed it once again. Part of the reason is simply financial: Comic-Con has grabbed the attention of Hollywood execs and stars, driving up popularity, cultural capital — and prices. Comic-Con has suddenly become one of the venues to attend, much like Cannes and Sundance. No longer the indie hangout of geeks and nerds who shared a common love of all things, um... geeky and nerdy, Comic-Con has become a slick, trendy, and highly-priced commodity.

But there is another part of Litchik that stops her from attending each year: Litchik, as the name implies, is a girl (and is reclaiming that word for women who are young at heart, but no one else can call her that unless they are girls as well). And the reason Comic-Con is filled with Fanboys becomes more and more clear as time goes on, which is sad since the 21st century was supposed to yield to a more equal playing field. Let's take a look at the evidence.

We have to start with Wonder Woman. Hailed by many as a feminist icon, Wonder Woman doesn't quite live up to the hype upon closer inspection. The image above is a relatively mild rendering of what WW often looks like today, but notice anything different from, say, Supes or the Bat? You know, the MALE heroes, one of whom is practically indestructible, both of them completely covered in full-length body suits and long, flowing capes as an extra layer? If they need that much protection, then why does WW get lingerie? And notice what her gold-plated "armor" happens to be protecting? Could this design be any more obvious?

Jodi Picoult, only the second female author to pen a Wonder Woman story, pointed out how ridiculous WW's crimefighting "outfit" was to the guys over at DC and asked if she could change the costume for the story. The response was a flat no. Another storyline has Wonder Woman breaking the golden rule of superheroes: she kills a villain to save Superman. Much like a "witch" in Salem during the 17th century, WW becomes an outcast, a figure of fear and loathing. Even Supes and the Bat question her motives! It's great that girls have someone they can relate to, but shouldn't we be getting a more complex picture of a female hero in the 21st century?

Or maybe it's simply that the fanboys just don't get it. Allegedly in response to female gamers clamoring for more female characters in games, Sony recently released a Playstation game called... Fat Princess. Ben Silverman, senior editor at Yahoo! Games, wrote the following description of the game: "The colorful Fat Princess is a capture-the-flag game with a twist: you can thwart capture attempts by locking the once-thin princess in a dungeon and stuffing her full of cake, thereby increasing her girth and making her harder for your enemies to haul back to home base."

Ok, guys, listen carefully: simply putting a female character in a game is not necessarily a feminist act. "Allowing" a princess to be fat is also not a feminist act. Having children keep a woman imprisoned in a dungeon while they virtually feed her to keep her from escaping is just
so wrong on a number of levels. And — what is the fascination with the cleavage? This is a children's game!

According to the lead art director for the game, the person most responsible for the look of Fat Princess is a female concept artist. How convenient. Also: So what? Two words: Stockholm Syndrome. Meanwhile, WB would really like to know: are there any fangirls out there? Are there any truly acceptable and equal women in comics, or games, or sci-fi shows? Or are we just going to keep putting this issue on the back burner until the 22nd century?

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