“The Big Sexy Problem with Superheroines” in Comics is that Women Still Read Them

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Laura Hudson at Comics Alliance has written a very thoughtful and personal indictment of the way DC Comics depicts female superheroes. She holds one one particularly egregious example (shown below) to “explain why these scenes don’t support sexually liberated women; they undermine them.”

Her conclusions is one that I would agree with, and that many others would too. Hudson spills a great deal of ink trying understand why “DC Comics tells me a male hero looks like [a muscular fully-clothed guy], and what a female hero looks like [an airbrushed porn star]” But by phrasing the question that way, she fails to understand what is really going on.

Fan service, courtesy of DC Comics.

DC Comics is not telling you what a female superhero looks like. You, Ms. Hudson the avid comic book reader, tell DC what you want them to look like. You tell them with your money, and with your fanatic devotion. She admits that she’s been buying comics for 20 years. She confesses, “what got me into comics back in the day was being a 12-year-old girl who looked at strong, beautiful characters like Rogue and Jean Grey and Storm and wanted to be like them in large part because they were so sexy and confident.” You wanted sexy and confident, which you equated with the impossibly endowed female superheroes of 20 years ago. So that’s what DC continues to deliver. The airbrushing and color shading are more over-the-top now, but that is simply because Photoshop wasn’t around when you were 12. DC is giving her exactly what she wanted all those years. The reason these salacious images of women in comics are called “fan service” is because that’s what the fans are really paying to see. All that changed is that Laura Hudson grew out of it.

Good for her. It’s about time. The comic book medium is a ghetto. People like Laura Hudson, who can write several thousand words of insightful commentary, are wasting their time and talent on comic books. They’ve matured beyond the medium. Comic books are for adolescents. The medium doesn’t age with you, it continues to serve it’s target audience even as your age right out of it into the the Food Network demo. You’re supposed to leave it behind, like Sesame Street and Super Mario Brothers. Dear Laura Hudson: write fiction criticism or film criticism instead, because the comic book medium cannot stand up to your critical scrutiny. It is so completely Oedipal, so utterly pubescent, so completely reactionary and superficial, that the narrative falls apart under the slightest analysis. In that way, comic books are exactly like pornography. Pornographic films make money, they are part of the culture, but they can’t be subjected to film criticism the way Citizen Kane or Inception can. They operate on a libidinal level, below the threshold of higher conscious thought.

Both pornography and comic books are overwhelmingly read by men who want to objectify women as pliant and willing partial objects for them to exploit. If you made pornstars realistic, the men who watch pornography now wouldn’t watch it anymore. Comic book fans, like porn fans, don’t want realism. They want hyperrealism. If comic books represented women realistically and maturely, the medium would cease to exist; the audience that buys them now would not buy them anymore. The objectification of women in them is a necessary precondition for their existence, just like absurd muscular hypertrophy and a monstrous villain. Comic books exist for the sole purpose of showing jacked-up bodybuilder heroes, huge-breasted heroines, and panel after panel of muscle-flexing and teeth-gritting. People have been trying to give comics literary theory treatment for years. And what has it achieved?

Forget about changing comic books.

The question Laura Hudson should be asking herself is “Why didn’t I give these up ten years ago?” Because she, like most people in their 20′s and 30′s, are smarter than the medium ever wants to be. And this goes for men too. I understand it was cool in the 90′s and 2000s to read comic books written for 15 year olds well into your 30s. You millennials don’t appreciate how important it was for Gen-X to take everything previously thought of as “lowbrow art” and give it highbrow treatment. Comics books were made for just such a cultural inversion, because before the 1980s, no one ever considered taking them seriously.

But as fanboys rage over my elitism, consider this: the highbrow is highbrow too. Novels routinely tell complex stories. So do films. Television pulls it off occasionally. Even video games these days tell meaningful, grown-up stories. There are so many places in our culture to turn to for something of substance, there is no use in trying to pull the comic book industry out of the ghetto that it built for itself and that it enjoys inhabiting. You don’t have to carry the flag of comic-books-as-high-art simply because you chose to make that part of your teenage identity. Walk away. Set aside these childish things. Choose life.
 

Related posts:

  1. Lost in Film Translation: Mining Alt Comics for Costumes, not Meaning
  2. What if Male Superheroes Posed Like Female Superheroes?
  3. Black Women are Less Attractive (If Your Idea of Black Women Comes from TV)
  4. Nobel Prize winning author thinks women can’t write.
  5. Frats treat women like objects; women treat frats like objects

62 Responses to “The Big Sexy Problem with Superheroines” in Comics is that Women Still Read Them

  1. JohnJ says:

    I really disagree with this. The depictions are not what Laura Hudson told the comic book industry she wanted. The depictions are what the majority of comic book buyers told the industry they wanted. But that’s not the same thing at all.

    And even if demand shares the blame for what the industry is selling, that doesn’t absolve the sellers of their responsibility. Everyone understands that Johns are to blame for creating a market for prostitution, but we also understand that drug pushers are to blame for selling.

    • max says:

      Read the source material. She is clearly taking personal offense, and demanding that the industry change to suit her sensibilities. This is like going to a NASCAR race and complaining about the noise.

      Word counts from her article:

      Total words: 2787
      ” I “: 60
      “I’ve”: 2
      “I’m”: 8
      “My”: 7
      “Me”: 33

      • AnonymousAtLarge says:

        Because, clearly, the number of times a person says “I” is the barometer of their narcissism, right? And because everything is about narcissism, right?

        So often reading TLP/P.Objects feels like being a fly on the wall at one of Tyler Durden’s fight club meetings. Bunch of people looking for identity meaning and answers, oblivious to the fact they are mindless automatons in a cult.

        • AnonymousAtLarge says:

          Oh and of course, the element of subverting society, or wishing to do so, out of internal powerlessness and frustration.

          • operator says:

            For how much of yourself you’ve bared in comparison to how much others here drone on about themselves, that’s a very interesting insight. Chilly.

            Now, consider, that some may merely appreciate the ways in which human nature (foibles of cognition and semantics, failure to realize relative proportion, vulnerability to a narrative, etc) has already been subverted to make this “society” you refer to – does that mean that your insight is misplaced and that, perhaps, doing everything short of calling other people “tools” doesn’t bode well for one’s own tool-ishness?

    • Pastabagel says:

      Normally, I would agree, but she was a customer for 20 years. That counts as an endorsement of the product. If she and others like her really didn’t like the product, they would have taken their money elsewhere.

      Secondly, unlike prostitution and drug trafficking, DC Comics isn’t breaking the law. Their responsibility is to give the market what it wants, which they are doing.

      And note that all the arrests of prostitutes and the entire war on drug trafficking have not curbed either of those activities in any measurable way. You change something by focusing on the demand, because the suppliers, driven by profit, will follow the demand to maintain that profit.

      • AnonymousAtLarge says:

        Your “comic book fan” who supposedly wants this or thinks this is a bad stereotype; there are actually people who enjoy comics who do not think this way. IT would be like saying “black men just want to steal cars and sell drugs”. Um, does this person even exist, or did you just make him up, because “everyone knows” that’s how black men are?

        When I was a youngin’ I enjoyed comic books, particularly x-men. Like Laura I did not find Jean Grey or Rogue or Storm to be pliant porn stars or anything of the sort. They were interesting characters that you cared about. They had distinct personalities, backgrounds, goals, wishes, fears, weaknesses, much like the other x-men who were male characters. The x-men characters are relatively complex in personality, at least more so than most popular movie and book characters.

        The female x-men are sexy, but so are the male x-men. No one wants to see ugly ordinary people, and sex/beauty sells. There is not a sex imbalance in how sexually exaggerated and attractive are the characters (unlike in porn, where ron jeremy and others like him typify male “actors”, almost intentionally selected to be repugnant and physically disgusting as it makes the objectification of the female, who is often barely adult aged, that much more exciting to the male viewer). The difference between xmen and other comics is this: the x-men character may be sexy but first and foremost he or she has a personality and is a human being that you can relate to.

        Now I am not a RABID comic book nut or anything, but I think back to when I compulsively read them and enjoyed them and loved all the different characters and their personalities and backgrounds, and related to them… it strikes me as down right ignorant to say “comic fans think this” and “comic fans want this”, as if there was just one amorphous “comic fan” with a specific, base and crude set of interests.

  2. LC says:

    This is like a dissertation on how to completely dismiss something as being beneath you when you know essentially nothing about it. You’ve basically done the equivalent of dismissing film based on only having seen movies like Transformers as a kid.
    Rap isn’t music either, right?

  3. Somebody says:

    Wow, this post really missed the mark!

    The reason that Laura Hudson finds comics offensive is because of narcissism. Your sexuality, confidence and sense of identity should come from within yourself. It should not be determined by comics. The whole notion that comics, movies, posters, ads, etc. act as “role models” can only be the product of a sick narcissistic society. Flesh and blood people are role models, these things are just entertainment.

    • Sfon says:

      “Your sexuality, confidence and sense of identity should come from within yourself.”
      Much of what is in there was absorbed from the outside.

      As for “just entertainment” and “can only be the product of a sick narcissistic society”, people have commonly seen meaning in fiction. “Superman’s honesty and selflessness are worthy of emulation” is not far from “don’t be dishonest and selfish like the boy who cried wolf”. It seems to me that what you said implies all societies are sickly narcissistic.

      That isn’t to take sides. I don’t know who is more correct, here. Your comments seem flawed, regardless.

      • Somebody says:

        Much of what is in there was absorbed displaced from the outside.

        • Sfon says:

          Brainwashing is an important part of being human. Much more of what we are than we care to admit comes from it. We even brainwash ourselves regularly. We believe what we say and become what we do. We tell lies and forget they are lies.

          There simply is not a whole person inside us, neither to begin with or even as an adult. Humans are clever social creatures designed to reflect their tribe. Our self-righteous moral positions come from brainwashing and personal reasons. We forget the real reasons, and declare ourselves logical judges with individuality.

        • Sfon says:

          That is not to say there is so reason for us to try to understand the world and believe in things. How can one hope to understand what they see if they do not even know what they are, what kind of eyes they are seeing through?

    • AnonymousAtLarge says:

      You can find something offensive without being a narcissist. If a media series I had grown up with and loved began to radically change direction and become disgusting, you bet I would blog about it and be upset. I don’t see how this means I am a narcissist with a weak ego.

      If TLP started saying that bipolar isn’t overdiagnosed, and that narcissism is useful and healthy and not at all a cultural problem, wouldn’t you be a bit annoyed that he was clearly selling out and regurgitating the party line? I mean, we all have the right to do what we want – comic books can start to suck a lot if they want to – but I also have the right to bitch and moan how great things like the xmen don’t really exist anymore for today’s poor kids.

  4. daniel says:

    It bothers me, as a man, that whenever I see a feminist critique of the portrayal of women in pop culture, it assumes that the portrayal of men is just a straight down the middle, realistic, not-at-all-contrived or exaggerated depiction of what (‘real’?) men are or would like to be.

    I’m squarely in the demographic for comic books, and yet seeing men who look like Batman or Green Lantern in her examples makes me completely disinterested in reading those stories. If put-off. Sure, I guess it would be awesome to be well-built, but that’s a bit ridiculous. And they wear tights. And the only role they are ever depicted in is as the super-strong, knight-in-shining-armer fighting cosmic battles.
    As you say, it’s so obviously directed at adolescent guys who want to flex their testosterone without having to get out of bed. And there’s nothing wrong with that. It is what it is.

    Where is the comic about the guy who actually enjoys his desk-job, has the body to show for it, and goes home to be supportive and caring to his wife and children, who he loves?
    Of course there isn’t one! No one would buy it. So I leave comic books, and watch Steve Carrell movies.

    I’m not offended by the fact that comic books are written for someone else. Why can’t Ms Hudson see it the same way?

    • vprime says:

      For some reason, Hudson expects this genre to cater to her. Maybe she finds superhero stories more fulfilling than real books? I honestly don’t know. I don’t read these things for the exact reason you’ve outlined. It’s unrealistic in an entirely uninteresting way.

    • AnonymousAtLarge says:

      Perhaps because you did not love comics the way Ms Hudson did.

      I have vivid memories of the excitement and immersion I felt, as a child, reading the xmen. I’m not a HUGE fan like she is, but if I was, yea, I would feel the same way.

      Do you have a favorite band? Movie series? Television show? It is very normal to be hurt and disappointed when they start producing crap. When you love something, it becomes a part of you a little bit, that doesn’t mean you are a pathological narcissist, it means you have human feelings and emotions and they are hurt/disappointed/let down when your favorite band produces mainstream forgettable garbage for $$$. Your previous life experience was touched by these media works; it feels a bit hurtful when subsequent works are so cheesy and vapid and thoughtless etc.

      It would be similar to the feeling of hurt and disappointment when betrayed by a friend, collegue, lover (although, proportionately less intense for obvious reasons).

      We are humans, we have emotions, and emotions get invested.

      No, sorry kids, it’s not pathological narcissism.

      Sometimes I think people on TLP and partial objects brandish about the “narcissism” explanation just to cover up the fact they are barely human and don’t feel things, which is beyond ironic.

      • daniel says:

        AaA, I said nothing about narcissism. I suppose, if you want to label it, I’m speaking about awareness; self-awareness, and awareness of what things are for, what they’re about. If lacking both is the same as narcissism, then I suppose you’re right.

        As for your explanation: I do hear what you’re saying, but it’s just so wrong.
        There is a lot of music that I adored when I was a certain age, that I no longer do. For example, the first cd I ever bought was Avril Lavigne’s first album. I loved it. Now, it’s still catchy, but the lyrical content and the style don’t appeal to me at all. It sounds like it’s written for young teenagers. Young teenage girls specifically. That doesn’t offend me, it just is what it is. (I still think the album is a great one, judged as itself. I just don’t enjoy it).

        More recently, there is music that I love, adore even, by a band that some might say have “sold out”. They did a song for a movie, and that got them a lot of flak from their fans! But it’s silly. (For one thing, the fact that they need to pay the bills, and the fact that they apply their tastes and talents to something for money doesn’t make them any less of an artist. Not every artist can or should be van Gogh). Just because you FEEL like you ‘own’ a part of something, doesn’t mean you do. No artist or business has any obligation to serve your particular tastes. That’s what capitalism is for!

        It’s like when your friends get married, or when someone breaks up with you. It’s just immature to not realise that sometimes, things move past each other. Either you grow out of something, or it grows out of you.
        Comics is a great example! They have FOREVER been crafted to satisfy certain tastes, and they do that very well. Some of them raise doing that to the level of art. But that’s what they are. Once your tastes are different, it’s time to accept that you’ve grown out of them, and not expect everything to keep up with you.

        I agree that emotions get invested. Believe me, contrary to your assumptions, I’m rather too good at emotional investment. The point is that a mature response to a bad investment, or to an investment that has matured and run its course, is to divest. Not to blame everything else for not moulding itself around you.

        As for your closing comment: Why do you keep coming back here? Serious question. You speak about “people on TLP and Partial Objects” (with no qualifier like ‘some’) as if it were an ‘out’ group. And yet you have an account. It ddoesn’t compute. I don’t think I understand the psychodynamics of narcissism well enough to diagnose it. If I didn’t gain insight here, I wouldn’t come back.

        Apologies for the length of this comment. And thanks for reading this far :)

        • operator says:

          If I didn’t gain insight here, I wouldn’t come back.

          Come for the insight
          "No one appreciates me!"
          Stay for the fist fight

          • daniel says:

            That looks like a song reference. It’s even familiar. But I can’t place it.
            Or did you just ‘compose’ it?
            And, to be honest, I’m not totally sure what you mean it.

          • operator says:

            The second line would read better as “my opinion” instead of “me”, but then it wouldn’t have been haiku.

            If it doesn’t make sense just now, stick around – isn’t too hard to see who’s challenging all comers and chalking up imaginary victories. (… and if this is your first comment, you HAVE to fight!)

  5. Guy Fox says:

    Poor Pastabagel! He touches a nerve and gets gangflamed by the PO’s comicon artistes!

    Pastabagel, your advice to a grown woman to leave the comic books in her past is on the money, if a little paternalistic.

    As for my fellow commenters: Gents, when your significant others demand that you give Stephanie Meyer’s oeuvre its due (and if you’re reading comic books, I’d wager a non-trivial sum on what’s lying on the missus’s nightstand), you better not snigger, whine or complain. Grin and bear it, lads, for you’ve asked for it.

  6. vprime says:

    I find myself agreeing with you twice in a row. I’m beginning to get concerned.

    Seriously, I am sharing this article because it seems like everyone who complains that comics, tv and other popular media give them shallow characters and trite stories seems to forget that there’s this stuff out there (mostly for old people, and priggish nerds who still read whole books rather than just pick out phrases to have tattooed on themselves) called literature that’s been working pretty hard at delivering just those things that you claim to want.

    TL;DR, though. If they really want people to read that stuff they need to add some zombies or make Becky Sharp a vampire hunter. I guess that’s what Gen X gets for insisting Batman is seriously serious you guys!

    • Guy Fox says:

      Everybody repeat after Alone, “If you’re watching it, it’s for you”.

    • ThomasR says:

      “it seems like everyone who complains that comics, tv and other popular media give them shallow characters and trite stories seems to forget that there’s this stuff out there (mostly for old people, and priggish nerds who still read whole books rather than just pick out phrases to have tattooed on themselves) called literature that’s been working pretty hard at delivering just those things that you claim to want.”

      This nearly made me cry from laughing…and then it nearly made me cry because of what it says about society today.

    • Fifi says:

      Perhaps a bit of Pride & Prejudice & Zombies is what you’re looking for, vprime? It’s Jane Austen with zombies. It’s being made into a movie so I suspect it’ll get the OP treatment once it’s mutated into a movie from its current novel form ;-)

  7. NotBrandX says:

    Pasta, I don’t know why all this bitterness toward a perfectly useful medium is tacked onto an otherwise excellent analysis of one person’s (common) gripe about a (very large) subset of the stories told presented in that medium.

    • ThomasR says:

      I didn’t really see any bitterness in PB’s analysis. It seemed spot on to me. If you dislike something, don’t read it! That’s why I don’t tell people that if it weren’t for the vampires (and poor writing), I would have liked Twilight.

  8. geerussell says:

    “Hudson spills a great deal of ink trying understand why “DC Comics tells me a male hero looks like [a muscular fully-clothed guy], and what a female hero looks like [an airbrushed porn star]” But by phrasing the question that way, she fails to understand what is really going on.”

    What’s really going on is Laura Hudson likes comics and also would like to see them improved. The failure in understanding here is that you as an adult can’t understand why another adult would express a preference you don’t share. Reading comics would make you feel childish therefore no adults should do it. The reality of the adult comic audience be damned, it’s sesame street because I say it is.

    Narcissist much?

    • daniel says:

      It’s not that “comics would make [Pastabagel] feel childish”, it’s that people who don’t enjoy them experience them as based around adolescent fantasies. For that they are. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying that, just know that that’s what you enjoy. You can’t ask the medium to cater for a new target market when it is so perfectly suited for the one it has.

      You might as well say I *love* Judd Apatow movies, but I wish they didn’t glorify irresponsibility, commitment-phobia, loveless sex, and puerile humour.

  9. imoenleslati says:

    “The medium doesn’t age with you, it continues to serve its target audience even as you age right out of it.”
    I grew up on the X-Men. A few years ago, I put the title down permanently and walked away. I had been losing interest ever since Zero Tolerance. The New X-Men piqued my interest for a bit, but there was still something missing.
    It was Charles.
    Then he was back, but powerless. I should have seen the writing on the wall then. I remember clearly the panels where Cyclops looks Professor Charles Xavier dead in the eye and tells him “the dream is dead.” I walked away, because I still believe in the dream, grew up with it, will never let it go. It took until now that I realize that the next generation doesn’t believe in it. The dreams of our generation have gotten them nowhere, so now it’s time for Scott to take the mantle, time for us to hand over control to the people that the X-Men is marketed towards now.

  10. RotJ says:

    “The medium doesn’t age with you, it continues to serve it’s target audience even as your age right out of it into the the Food Network demo. ”

    I’d have to agree with NotBrandX and geerussell, and categorize PastaBagel’s opinion on comics as fogeyish. Just to be clear, this is coming from someone who has no interest in any of the comics Laura Hudson likes to write about. If you’re going to confuse the dominant subset of a medium in sales and media coverage with the entirety of the medium, why recommend books and movies? I mean all that’s available in those mediums are James Patterson, John Grisham, Twilight, Transformers, and more comic book movies right?

    There are plenty of comics aimed at adults that try to tell complex literary stories. Hudson’s problem is that she wants the juvenile fantasy superhero comics she read in her youth to grow up with her, instead of moving on to different comics. It’s like complaining that the Nickelodeon channel she watched as a kid no longer caters to her adult tastes, when she should be watching HBO, Showtime, or the Food Network.

    Even if she was fixated on superhero comics, there are alternatives like Astro City or Top Ten that wouldn’t offend her so much, but no, she specifically wants the mainstream DC and Marvel character comics to change.

    Now that I think about it after reading her article again, the advice to move on to novels, films, or highbrow comics is missing the point, because Citizen Kane doesn’t offer the kinds of “escapist fantasies” Hudson reads her lowbrow comics for. She doesn’t want her superhero stories to grow up and have complex stories; she just wants the objectification of women to end while everything else stays the same. So… I dunno. I guess publicly complaining about it is the best she can do.

    • mwigdahl says:

      I totally agree that Astro City, Top Ten, Marvels, Kingdom Come, etc. are superhero comics that work hard at being mature and telling fulfilling, human stories.

      If Ms. Hudson won’t search out the quality artists in her medium of choice, she’s in for a long spell of frustration.

    • daniel says:

      “She doesn’t want her superhero stories to grow up and have complex stories; she just wants the objectification of women to end while everything else stays the same.”

      Absolutely right on the money! THIS, I think, is the real point that’s got hidden under a lot of arguing about the inherent value of the art form.

      And perhaps its mean-spirited of me, but I can’t help thinking that maybe she is blind to the objectification and exaggeration of males and masculinity because this view actually appeals to her. Either because she’d like (or she expects) men to be superheroes, or because
      it suits her to see all men as seeing themselves like that.

  11. theeffervis says:

    “Novels routinely tell complex stories. So do films. Television pulls it off occasionally. Even video games these days tell meaningful, grown-up stories. There are so many places in our culture to turn to for something of substance, there is no use in trying to pull the comic book industry out of the ghetto that it built for itself and that it enjoys inhabiting. You don’t have to carry the flag of comic-books-as-high-art simply because you chose to make that part of your teenage identity.”

    This doesn’t make sense to me. PastaBagel’s argument against comics can be made against any art form. Because Britney Spears exists, all music is now trash? Because they made Transformers 2, the medium of film should now be abandoned? Should I toss out my TV because the made a show called Real Housewives?
    There are wonderful comics. Dave Mckean’s Cages and David Mazzucchelli’s Asterios Polyp to name a couple off the top of my head. They don’t involve superheros, and they aren’t a monthly series by Marvel or DC, but sometimes to find the good stuff you have to look off the beaten path. Turn off the top forty radio station and do some investigating, you’ll find some neat stuff out there, in all genres.

    • vprime says:

      “This doesn’t make sense to me. PastaBagel’s argument against comics can be made against any art form. Because Britney Spears exists, all music is now trash?”

      No, I think it’s more like “stop complaining because Britney isn’t Maria Callas.” If you want quality, it can be found, but you may have to expand your tastes to grown-up food.

      Don’t get me wrong, I love The Sandman but I couldn’t base my reading diet solely upon it. I make sure to read widely in both fiction and nonfiction. The examples you give of artful comics actually bolster PB’s characterization of superhero comics. Those books stand out because they actually aren’t the norm in the comics genre.

      • Pastabagel says:

        Also, as I’ve said elsewhere in the comments, I’m talking about superhero comic books, not something like Asterios Poly or similar one-off long-form graphic novels (most of which I have read).

        But I could literally read all of the counter-examples of high-art comics that people have name-checked in these comments in a few afternoons. That’s not much to show for a medium that extends back to the 1940′s. You don’t see a problem with that?

  12. AnonymousAtLarge says:

    Logical error being made:

    Just because media is aimed at children and adolescents does not mean it is worthless.

    There are many media works which are primarily aimed at children, which people of all ages can appreciate.
    People may grow out of comics, but that doesn’t mean (all) comics are worthless and vapid. It just means that reading comic books is typically something that appeals to younger people, probably the main reason why is that young people have bigger imaginations because they don’t go to a place for 8 hrs a day and press the same button over and over again with no other learning or novelty being shown to them. That sort of thing kills your spirit and your imagination and a side effect of that is you lose interest in things like comic books.

    People grow out of comics, but not for good reasons (“maturity”) but for bad reasons (rigid, old people thinking, lack of novelty and openness).

    • mwigdahl says:

      This is just as rigid and stereotypical as Pastabagel’s opinion that the medium of comics is inherently puerile. People grow out of lots of different things for lots of different reasons — good and bad. And sometimes “growing out” of something is simply losing interest in it.

  13. Dirk Anger says:

    Granted, the article talks about superhero comics, but it’s bugging me.
    You know there are comics for adults, that generally aren’t about superheroes, right?

    Somebody needs to read Maus, amongst many other books

  14. zozo says:

    And if you walked out, I hate to break it to you, but you’re closed-minded. And that’s what this post is about. It’s not a review of the film (that’s coming later). Rather, this is a review of the rather large class of people who walked out of it.

    Translation:
    If you don’t like what Pastabagel likes, you’re closed-minded.
    If you like what Pastabagel doesn’t like, you’re childish.

    • operator says:

      … but don’t forget to factor in the power law of blogging: scale invariance of total blog audience attention necessitates increased controversy to maintain a growing audience base.

      The manufacture of controversy sometimes requires a certain degree of intellectual dishonesty (e.g. Bill O’Reilly, Michael Moore, et al) but the results are undeniable – you won’t see much talk about uncontroversial opinions or facts (insofar as theories extrapolated from such are not controversial).

    • Pastabagel says:

      Translation:
      If you don’t like what Pastabagel likes, you’re closed-minded.
      If you like what Pastabagel doesn’t like, you’re childish.

      Let me explain something to you, o ye who have no ability to judge. If you start reading Jane Austen and slam the book shut after page 40 and declare it stupid, that actually means that you are stupid. That is not my opinion, that is the definition of a stupid person.

      If you do the same thing to a book by Nora Roberts, you aren’t stupid.

      The problem you are having is analogous to not being able to distinguish Jane Austen from Nora Roberts without the benefit of centuries of hindsight.

      And yes, I’ve read Maus, and Watchmen, and The Invisibles, etc. To the extent they are exceptions to the rule (which is arguable), they are also exceptions that prove the rule.

      • zozo says:

        For a deconstructionist you’ve got some pretty rigid classicist valuations. That’s cool. Sort of a post-post-modern neo-absolutism. Boo atheists. Boo comic books. Yay Jane Austen and Terrence Malick. Disagree? You’re stupid–by definition.

      • Dirk Anger says:

        So, most comics are crap, entertainment, or both, and thought-provoking works are the exception, sure. But I still fail to see how that’s not also true of films, websites, magazines, video games, TV shows, or even books. Sure, traditionally people who didn’t want to think didn’t buy books, and people who did want to didn’t read comics or watch TV, but that’s hardly the case anymore.

      • Fifi says:

        “If you start reading Jane Austen and slam the book shut after page 40 and declare it stupid, that actually means that you are stupid. That is not my opinion, that is the definition of a stupid person.”

        Nah, it’s your opinion Pastabagel and the fact that you can’t discern this is (and get all offensive to be defensive) means that you’re not offering up much more than your opinions. It’s become pretty clear that you want to be/position yourself as a cultural critic with special insights into contemporary culture but you keep revealing that you are woefully ill equipped to live up to the image you’re trying to construct (the getting all pissy when commenters don’t support this image you’re seemingly trying to construct doesn’t help your cause). The question is, do you really want to engage in real cultural criticism and dialogue or do you just want people to believe you’re special and buy into an image that you’re increasingly contradicting with your actions?

        • operator says:

          It’s an uphill battle when you’re shooting for the critically-minded demographic and, really, would anything be enough to ascend to the rank of deconstructionist auteur? (there’s a movie that isn’t making back its production cost – sorry, Mr. Lynch)

          If PB’s shooting for big bucks perhaps it’d be best to set the sights a little lower and blow away the demo that likes feeling smarter after brief encounters with big words (comprehension optional, it’s all in the context) – otherwise, here’s to hoping the labor of love/ego/whatever continues to amuse and seed discussion beyond weather/sports/celebrity gossip.

        • Pastabagel says:

          Fifi-

          You are missing the point, and thereby making mine. You can’t dismiss Jane Austen as crap because the novels she wrote define for us today what a novel is. Much of what passes for cultural criticism today amounts to interesting observations about cultural mechanics with no willingness to render a judgment about something being good or valuable or important or not. The result of that is someone who spent decades reading comic books only to discover she can’t relate to them. She literally could not see the forest for the trees.

          I’m making a very concerted deliberate opinion to judge, to rank things. There no point to the exercise otherwise. You ask peple to distinguish between art and great art and invariably people defer to the only inarguable quantitative metric they can find-”it stands the test of time.” Then how in the world can anyone discuss what art from today will have stood the test of time 100 years from now?

  15. MikeFromCanada says:

    I don’t see how a drawing of a fictional character can upset anyone. It’s not real, and like all forms of art, if you don’t like it, walk away.

  16. wishswudhavwings says:

    “In that way, comic books are exactly like pornography. Pornographic films make money, they are part of the culture, but they can’t be subjected to film criticism the way Citizen Kane or Inception can. They operate on a libidinal level, below the threshold of higher conscious thought.”

    Once again, your choice of movies worthy of “true film criticism” showcases more about yourself then what you’re talking about and undermines your argument. Inception is well made and interesting but it has very large flaws, including far too much exposition, a plot constructed in a way that requires leaps of audience faith rather than a logical thought, stock characters and of course the ever present Dead Woman to motivate a character.

    I like Inception regardless, I really do, but it seems we now have a cult of Nolanites who think praising Inception and bashing Transformers and comics makes them seem as if they have taste and intelligence. Instead it just shows that you don’t understand what you’re criticizing, are unaware of the holes in your own argument and examples, and instead use gross over-generalizations to put down everyone who enjoys whatever film/book/comic you are writing about. I don’t come here to be insulted. Thoughtful criticism of something I like is perfectly acceptable to me. Stereotypes and unfounded declarations are not.

  17. emeldi says:

    Pastabagel is also making a lot of broad generalizations about comics when he (she?) should probably be specifically talking about “superhero comics” (and not necessarily all of those, either).
    There are so many other important works in the comic book and graphic novel field which entirely resist his (or her?) repudiations.
    We in the comics industry have a (bad) habit of pulling this out as justification for what we do, but take a look at Art Spiegelman’s “Maus: A Survivor’s Tale” and tell me again that “the comic book medium is a ghetto.” Read “Y: The Last Man” and tell me again that sexism is the coin of the realm in Comicland.
    It’s simply untrue.

    • Pastabagel says:

      I thought I made it pretty clear that I’m talking about superhero comics. What I wrote does not apply to Blankets or Jimmy Corrigan, obviously. And again, yes I read Maus. Maus isn’t a comic book the way Batman is a comic book. But notice how many people have name-checked graphic novels that are 20 years old or older to make some point that comics can be more than muscles and T&A. Of course they can be. The point is that they almost never are. You might want to ask yourself why that is.

      • geerussell says:

        You made it clear you were talking about superhero comics–in the comments. Not at all clear in the original post. Starting about a third of the way in with “The comic book medium is a ghetto” the post went forward talking in broad terms about the medium and the fans of it, finally ending with why Laura Hudson should adjust her preferences to something more acceptable.

  18. lemmycaution says:

    Kids don’t like comics anymore. It isn’t really a good entertainment value. Comics cost a lot of allowance money. There are a lot of TV show they can watch instead. They have tried making kid oriented comics; they don’t sell particularly well.

  19. AdamSaleh1987 says:

    I think it’s cute when feminist theory rears its head. It assumes all women think a certain way about everything and thus should adhere to one standard, the reason why Wonderwoman is drawn a certain way is the same reason why Spiderman does not have a flabby gut.

    Feminists like to complain about how things make them feel and whine for men to change it. But they forget that there is an overwhelming majority of MEN that populate these universes. Idealized version of men who dedicate their lives to an ideal whether they are good or bad. Athletic men with god like powers. They are oversimplified caricatures too. Batman’s physique is hilariously impossible to have without illegal substances, these heroes are in no way possible for little boys to become yet they read them, what about the men who feel inadequate after reading? You would call them cowards for feeling that certain way. Yet somehow the feminists that are all for equality should be coddled?

  20. Lemma says:

    The question I’m left asking is, why aren’t there other comics specifically aimed at a mature audience? Why is there no market for it? I get that puerile superhero characters are a product of loyal fans voting with their dollars. But if not DC/Marvel, then why hasn’t some other company been able to fill the void and draw in more discriminating readers with more nuanced stories? (I understand that at some point in time and space, someone has produced a highbrow comic, but why is the demand for that never as high as the pulp middle-school stuff?)

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