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Recs & Dead Men Defrosting - moonspinner
moonspinner
moonspinner
Recs & Dead Men Defrosting
There’s been a trend of very interesting meta dealing with how women are portrayed – or rather, not portrayed – in popular entertainment:


fialleril’s Fanfic pet peeves #4: Rape fics

fialleril’s [Ahsoka’s] Wardrobe Malfunction

fialleril’s [ Why film schools teach screenwriters not to pass the Bechdel test

lazypadawan’s In today's WTF File: Clone Wars should be an intergalactic "Lolita"

deaka’s Attack of the antiseptic queen


After clicking on Google a couple of times, I discovered what I suspected had to be out there: the other side of the coin. For every Woman in the Refrigerator, there will be a Dead Man Defrosting:

Here are some of the highlights:

In cases where males heroes have been altered or appear to die (i.e., hit that part of the karmic Hero Wheel that says "Fall, then Rise to the Challenge!"), they usually come back even better than before, either power-wise or in terms of character development/relevancy to the reader.


A few characters of note:

Superman - Dies, comes back, inspires new heroes, changes powers, splits into two, gets normal powers back, and somewhere in all that gets married.

Batman - Back is broken after a grueling physical and psychological battle with his arch enemies. Takes some time off, heals, and comes back to continue his crusade for Gotham.

The men of the X-Men - The list, obviously, is long and distinguished, even after you take away the "feared and hated" aspect of their tortured mutant existence. With the exception on 'no adamantium' Wolvie (which we hear is going away anyway in favor of Full Metal Logan), they all get put through the ringer and get better. Cannonball/Sam Guthrie actually dies and comes back after Marvel reveals Sam is an External, an immortal mutant. Oh my. And let's face it, Scott and Charles started off, in our minds, with impediments, but have overcome them and/or lived with their burdens. But Beast has undergone changes in form, power levels and intelligence, all for the better, as has Angel, who loses his real wings, gets metal demon wings from Apocalypse, and eventually gets his real ones back. Nightcrawler, Colossus, the kids in the New Mutants (even CYPHER!) and Generation X... Their lot is a tough one, but goshdarnit, those mutant deformities and physical differences, shored up by Xavier's Dream, sure do build character. Just hope your mutant ability isn't to become an X-Woman. You'll be in for a Big Hurt...</blockquote>


It’s an interesting, educative article that everyone ought to read to understand even more just why recent discussions on this topics are so passionate, insightful and, sadly, long over due.

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Current Mood: thoughtful thoughtful

17 comments or Leave a comment
Comments
deaka From: deaka Date: August 22nd, 2008 10:39 am (UTC) (Link)
That was a really interesting read. And Dead Man Defrosting does pop up everywhere, when you think about it. Even in Star Wars - Luke gets his hand cut off, but becomes more powerful as a Jedi and advances in his journey. Leia got tortured and... nothing, really. It's like male characters are heroes, but female characters are victims.

Anakin's kind of an interesting version of that trope, too. He goes through the death and resurrection in RotS, and comes back - not better, but arguably more powerful, I suppose. In some ways, though, Anakin's journey is like an inverse version of the hero cycle, so it makes sense that he would fall and come back worse, not better off. *ponders*

... of course, his fall wouldn't have happened without Padme and Shmi around to be victims to the narrative, and neither of them had any opportunity to come back, for good or for ill. *sigh*
moonspinner From: moonspinner Date: August 22nd, 2008 01:13 pm (UTC) (Link)
Leia got tortured and... nothing, really. It's like male characters are heroes, but female characters are victims.

Oooh, great point there. There's no consequence to Leia's torturing. I actually meta'd something like this a while back about how some writers/story-tellers want to have profound things - usually assumed to be dark things - happen to their characters in the story but they don't want to deal with the impact of this trauma on said characters. Leia's torture came up as an example.

And the more I think of it, the more I realize that for women, it's usually one of two post-trauma reactions: they bounce back like indian rubber balls, with little or nothing to show for their experience (sexy injuries don't count) or they are completely destroyed by said trauma either physically (death), mentally (madness) or socially (hermit/neurotic, etc).

Anakin's fall to rise as Vader is like a reincarnation of sorts. And there is a strong argument that like Luke, his own mutilation makes him even more bad-ass. He certainly has more power as Vader (maybe not physical power but authority in the military, influence in the Galaxy) than Anakin did. And like you said, the other side of that coin is Padmé dying completely - both literally and figuratively. Her name is not even mentioned in the PT and there'll always be the question of whether Leia is recalling her or Queen Breha in RotJ.
fialleril From: fialleril Date: August 24th, 2008 06:20 am (UTC) (Link)
And the more I think of it, the more I realize that for women, it's usually one of two post-trauma reactions: they bounce back like indian rubber balls, with little or nothing to show for their experience (sexy injuries don't count) or they are completely destroyed by said trauma either physically (death), mentally (madness) or socially (hermit/neurotic, etc).

YES! This is exactly what I was looking for in responding to a commenter on my post. If his reaction to the rape issue and its treatment in fiction is anything to go by, then women being completely destroyed by trauma is actually a backlash of the "heroine emerges unscathed" scenario. (But then, I think that's a backlash against the "heroine is completely destroyed" story, so perhaps it's a vicious circle.) In any case, he seemed to think that showing a female character as completely destroyed following rape would serve to showcase the severity of rape as a crime.

Of course, the problem with that is that the woman still isn't her own character. Now she's just the vehicle for an argument about how evil rape is. And in one sense nothing's even changed.

To change topics completely, Anakin is an interesting character because he goes through the transformation process twice. Ultimately, of course, he dies, BUT he gets a heroic death. (And his children wouldn't really be able to forget him if they tried - even if that's mostly a negative thing for Leia.)

Her name is not even mentioned in the PT and there'll always be the question of whether Leia is recalling her or Queen Breha in RotJ.

I tend to blame this on the simple fact that the OT came first, and when George made the OT he didn't know a blasted thing about Luke and Leia's mother. On the other hand...the cynical part of me says that very little would probably be changed even if the PT had been made first.

Also Fema Baab still strongly protests being double shafted as a woman of color. She's so thoroughly in the freezer that she never even made it into the movie!
moonspinner From: moonspinner Date: August 24th, 2008 07:40 pm (UTC) (Link)
Of course, the problem with that is that the woman still isn't her own character. Now she's just the vehicle for an argument about how evil rape is. And in one sense nothing's even changed.

I think that's the crux of the matter: defining the woman as a character, not as a motivator for the hero; or a vehicle for an argument.


I tend to blame this on the simple fact that the OT came first, and when George made the OT he didn't know a blasted thing about Luke and Leia's mother.

But it still comes down to the same thing, doesn't it? Luke's and Leia's mother & Darth Vader's wife isn't a character he thinks of long enough to give a name but he has already imagined the Clone Wars and the duel at Mustaphar to some degree? I think the PT coming first would have changed things just because of Lucas's meticulousness about continuity and not because he felt the need to keep the memory of Padmé alive.


Also Fema Baab still strongly protests being double shafted as a woman of color. She's so thoroughly in the freezer that she never even made it into the movie!

Technically, she never got into the freezer. *eyeroll* She was Dead On Arrival. Lucas certainly has a problem portraying females. Now that I think about it from an older, analytical perspective, I think that’s the reason why I didn’t care for the OT when I first watched it as a child.
fialleril From: fialleril Date: August 25th, 2008 12:50 am (UTC) (Link)
I think that's the crux of the matter: defining the woman as a character, not as a motivator for the hero; or a vehicle for an argument.

Exactly! And that's a trap even female writers can fall into. I'm sure I've done it myself at times. (Though to be fair I know I've also used male characters as vehicles for an argument. *hangs head in shame*)

Actually, I don't think George knew much of anything about Mustafar or the Clone Wars back then, either. Listening to Obi-Wan's line in ANH you'd think that General Kenobi once served under Bail Organa in some war, and from the way the line's constructed, until AOTC-ROTS came out I always assumed that Organa must once have been a Five Star General or something. I never would have pegged him as a Senator at all. As for Mustafar, well, in all the OT-era discussion of Vader's accident, George consistently refers to a "melting pit," which was conceived of as something similar to the pit Darth Maul meets his end in. Mustafar was originally supposed to be Vader's volcanic lair, where he had his home.

So yeah, basically I don't think George had anything figured out back when he was making the OT. However, that doesn't change the fact that he clearly didn't think it was important to figure out anything about Luke and Leia's mother. So the point basically still stands.

I'm pretty tempted to write a massive Fema Baab centered fanfic one of these days. I know I need to write a meta/rant about her, because honestly, have you seen the backstory the EU gave her on Wookiepedia! It's horrific. She might have been better off just left in the freezer of non-existence. *sighs*
moonspinner From: moonspinner Date: August 27th, 2008 05:19 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm pretty tempted to write a massive Fema Baab centered fanfic one of these days. I know I need to write a meta/rant about her, because honestly, have you seen the backstory the EU gave her on Wookiepedia! It's horrific. She might have been better off just left in the freezer of non-existence. *sighs*

Oh you mean the bio that she was a rather bad spy for Palpatine? Yeah, that was kind of annoying. I mean, I could take she was a spy for Palpatine. But a bad spy???
fialleril From: fialleril Date: August 28th, 2008 01:10 am (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, that one. *sighs*

There will be meta shortly, I'm sure. ;)
From: bobill Date: August 22nd, 2008 05:49 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, one thing for sure, the women of Star Wars don't learn from their pitfalls and injuries. They could never be classified as the "main character" who grows and develops; they're quite static. It's definitely the same for the superheroes comics, though it's getting better; the girls at least talk back when they're being victimized now.

I don't know how much exposure you have to Battlestar Galactica, but it's an interesting space opera in that it does have female heroines who grow and develop from injuries (Starbuck, Athena, President Rosalind) but you could argue it's because they have room for so many characters that they don't have to prioritize and only pick the male as the hero. On the other hand, Xmen had plenty of room for female heros, and clearly that didn't go well. But you definitely get the impression that the producers of BSG are integrating more females because they believe that is the vision of the future, that men and women have no social boundaries, so that's promising.

Wow, I just rambled a lot. Sorry, but your posts are always so interesting.

moonspinner From: moonspinner Date: August 23rd, 2008 08:17 am (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, one thing for sure, the women of Star Wars don't learn from their pitfalls and injuries. They could never be classified as the "main character" who grows and develops; they're quite static.

For a moment, Padme seems to break this trope: in TPM, when she's the protagonist of the movie, and she arcs from a naive, sheltered Queen to a real leader in every sense of the world, winning back her planet on her own terms, without the help of the Republic, and uniting the divided people. Then AotC comes around, and Padme is now one of the Separatist's strongest opposers, which makes little sense when one remembers that the Republic failed Naboo in TPM. No explanation is given for her loyalties and from thence, she becomes a stagnant character who's biggest arc is falling in love. At least that's a mite better than Leia who never changes, other than falling in love, but still... I was actually discussing in a comment thread a while back about how Leia's torture is one of the examples of this syndrome in movies. There are no consequences to it, no fall back or reaction, not even when she later realizes that the man who did that to her was her father. It's like modern entertainment is only ever satisfied with two kinds of post-torture reaction for women: it either destroys them; or it has no effect on them. The heroes are allowed their man-pain and transcendence. The women are either static or deleted.


I keep hearing good things about BSG!


Wow, I just rambled a lot. Sorry, but your posts are always so interesting.

*g* Thanks! But I think it's comments like yours that make it so.
From: bobill Date: August 27th, 2008 03:11 am (UTC) (Link)
There was one novel right after ROTJ where we saw some Leia/Vader angst (I think it was The Truce at Bakura but you're right, Leia is virtually ignored in the movies in terms of character development. Sigh. Though she was one of the first women to hold a gun on TV, so I forgive them somewhat.
moonspinner From: moonspinner Date: August 27th, 2008 05:15 pm (UTC) (Link)
Though she was one of the first women to hold a gun on TV, so I forgive them somewhat.

Yeah, I get that a lot - that because Leia broke a lot of conventions in her time, she should be exempted from the kind of scrutiny we place on other female characters.

I dunno... *ponders* I grew up on Nancy Drew and Mallory Towers and CS Lewis. Stories where girls could be kickass, or leading characters, or go on their own hero's journey never struck me as rare or even groundbreaking. Of course, Elizabeth Allen was the hero of the "Naughtiest Girl in School" (even though Whyteleafe was co-educational). Of course, Ned was Nancy's love interest (and not the other way around). I watched Star Wars really late in life (10 or 11 :p) and I remember being totally unimpressed with the story in general and Leia in particular even though I couldn't put my finger on why.

Someone once asked me why I picked Leia as my user-name since I have some issues with her character. I told her that the person we saw in the movies wasn't very special. But the potential. The Potential. Now, that is phenomenal.
frostbit_sky From: frostbit_sky Date: August 23rd, 2008 01:56 am (UTC) (Link)
That "Clone Wars should be an intergalactic "Lolita" article pissed me off. I agreed with the comments made in those posts.

What a sick author.

Oh, I second bobill's Battlestar Galactica heroines' discussion.
moonspinner From: moonspinner Date: August 23rd, 2008 08:29 am (UTC) (Link)
The really scary thing? There are going to be Ahsoka/Anakin shippers/ficcers who won't think anything about promoting this twisted concept.

frostbit_sky From: frostbit_sky Date: August 24th, 2008 01:52 am (UTC) (Link)
I don't want to think about it. :(
fialleril From: fialleril Date: August 24th, 2008 07:12 am (UTC) (Link)
Wow, thanks for all the recs. :)

Also thanks for the link! That was a very interesting article. And you don't know how much good it does me to finally see a man on the internet writing this kind of meta!
moonspinner From: moonspinner Date: August 24th, 2008 07:42 pm (UTC) (Link)
Have you read the responses from DC and Marvel writers and employees? Some of them are very heartwarming.
fialleril From: fialleril Date: August 25th, 2008 12:35 am (UTC) (Link)
A few of them are. Quite a number of the responses I'd like to pick apart with surgical instruments, but it would take far too long. ;) Suffice it to say that I am so royally sick of the "teenage boys are afraid of strong women, so we shouldn't be surprised line." Because apparently teenage boys lack any and all capacity for change, and the society in which they grow up has absolutely nothing to do with how they come to perceive women. Of course not.

*sighs* But yes. A few of those comments are heartwarming, like you said, and I'm glad to see there are at least a few sensible male comic writers out there. :)
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