Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The Curse of Curves

I want to talk about a couple of things. Girls, actually. I'd like to talk about a couple of girls, of the fictional variety. To start with, let's look at this Black Widow issue, yeah?

I love the Avengers movies. Like, really love. I've always wanted to love comic book movies and always felt a little let down. Until the Avengers and the character specific movies that go along with the franchise. I've specifically always adored Hawkeye and Black Widow for being the sort of... for lack of a better term, Xanders of the group. They were normal humans going in with their experience and that was all. No superpowers, no crazy tech. Just their own squishy bodies and brains. That was some serious bravery on their part. I just wished that they could be as fleshed out as the rest of the team that got their own movies.

Age of Ultron does that. And now a bunch of people want to get kinda pissy about Black Widow because she shows some vulnerability and possible desire to be, well, a semi-normal girl.

The rest of this post assumes that you've seen Age of Ultron. If you haven't, the stuff I'm about to say may not make much sense, but still has spoilers. So, there's your warning.

Look, characters need character arcs to remain interesting. Up to this point, Black Widow has been a emotionally distant badass. And that was awesome. But if she kept doing just that one thing, she wouldn't be... anything. Just a two dimensional character in a sea of exceptionally complex characters, considering the size of the cast and the source material (until fairly recently, most comic book characters weren't very hard to figure out). 

The best, most dramatic place to take an aloof character is to the land of emotional attachment. And that's where she goes. I really don't understand why people are so upset about Black Widow's crush on Bruce. Is it because they wish it had been Hawkeye? Or Captain America?

So, here's the thing about Hawkeye. Yes, their relationship is great. But he's her savior. Her best friend. Her mentor. To turn that into something romantic undermines the relationship they already have. It sends a message that men and women cannot remain strictly platonic. That the only way to go when you're that emotionally connected to someone is to the bedroom. And I think that's pretty fucking awful. 

And Captain America, well, I was personally rooting for that. But it didn't happen. Maybe he's too clean and she feels dirty next to him. Maybe she's too gray and he doesn't know how to deal with that. Maybe they just don't have anything in common besides fighting bad guys. It would have been cute in an opposites attract sort of way, but the good Captain still seems to be pining for what he lost.

Bruce makes sense. He has to struggle with being a monster, with not feeling human, with past deeds that haunt him. The two of them have always had this connection. And before you get all up in arms about Black Widow crying about not being able to have kids, let's take a moment to remember that Banner brought it up first. And she simply said that she would have liked to have had the choice, not that she was ready to go trot off to Calcutta and start a family with him.

And she did what she always does-- which is exactly whatever the mission needs. She used Banner the way everyone else had. She sacrificed the possibility of being with him, of disappearing together, to save the world. Because that's what was necessary and she knew it.

One more thing. Why haven't I seen anyone get up in arms about Hawkeye and his family? HIS ENTIRE FAMILY WITH A WIFE AND TWO KIDS AND ONE MORE COMING? No one is claiming that his character got fucked. No one's saying he's gone soft. A quick Google search finds nothing but praise for what happens with him in this movie. Which, btw, I loved. I just think it's really unfair to hold Black Widow to some crazy standard that is clearly not set for any of the other characters. 

Which brings me to this other thing. It's a smaller thing, for sure. Nothing like the big storm that has been the fallout of Black Widow admitting to having feelings about something. It's just this:

I should start by saying that I have no idea who said this. I found it in my Facebook feed. But I have problems with it.

I love Harley. She's my favorite Batman character and has been for a long time. Full disclosure, I was always more into Marvel than DC (Not counting Vertigo), so I don't know a lot of the finer points of her history. But I did watch the cartoon. You know, the one that was on after school? The one where her character was first introduced. Before she was any of those things that Maplejustice mentioned, she was a doctor who broke the code of ethics to be with her insane patient. She didn't start out being super layered and complex. She started out fickle and capricious, literally walking out on her life because it wasn't fun anymore.

I can only imagine that the "Shooting Sex Toy" statement is aimed at how she looks. Her original costume was a skintight bodysuit. Her best friend was Poison Ivy. This character design seems perfectly in character. She's always been pretty and she's always seemed to know it. Can we dial back the slut shaming a bit? Part of being a strong woman, in my opinion, is wearing whatever the hell you want to wear because you like it.

Anyway, yes, she grew into something amazing, but the point is she grew into that. And her clothes don't have a damn thing to do with her worth as a character.

You can't just throw all of that information about all of the interesting, not-villainous things she's done  at the viewer immediately. How would you even? Like, how soon do you really want to know all of those things? That's a lot to even put into one movie, if she was the main character. Which she's not. I mean, we're looking at a cast bigger than The Avengers.

As an aside, where's the righteous indignation about Enchantress and Katana? I mean, there are two other girls in that picture. It's not just Harley.

So, anyway, I guess my problem here is that I feel like there's this weird definition of "strong female character". That to be a "strong female character", she has to literally be strong. She has to be masculine. She can't show weakness. She can't show vulnerability. And that's such crap. To me, a strong female character is a character that is written/acted strongly, one you remember, one that touched you, one that you could relate to (regardless of your gender), one that was complicated and interesting. All that and a girl too. Why do we expect things out of female characters that we'd never expect from their male counterparts? Just let them be who they are.


  1. Well said. I hadn't considered the bit where she shoved him off the ledge that way.

  2. I don't understand the kerfluffle over Banner/Black Widow either. It's just dumb. Some people just want to be offended.

    1. Right? I hate the whole culture of hating something just because it's popular.