comics

Gratuitous

It’s no secret comics have a long-standing and questionable history with how women are depicted. From Wonder Woman’s weakness of bondage to the whole Comicsgate nonsense, women being presented poorly has long been a problem.

The most glaring is obviously the incredibly salacious nature of how superwomen are often depicted, fighting crime and world beaters in skirts, high heels and bikinis.

None of this is new info and the criticism is valid.

It’s nice to see strong female characters coming into their own. I’m all for a variety of characters, of different races, genders, sexualities and body types.

What I don’t like so much is when that becomes their entire identity. No one is one dimensional. And it’s just not interesting to me to see a character who is based on a stereotype, even if it’s a positive one. No one is perfect, and that goes double for interesting characters.

I would much rather read about a fucked-up woman in skimpy dress who is actually interesting over a paragon in a full set of armour.

It’s important to give depth to characters. Where being politically correct can hurt more than help is when we start defining people by their labels, even if it’s positive. We stop seeing them as people, with their own hopes, dreams, skills and desires, and yes, their own misguided beliefs, mistakes and character flaws.

I hope that someday we’ll get to the point where we look beyond all that, and stop judging people based on traits that don’t speak to who they are at their core. You can be a white guy and still be pretty cool, just the same as you can be a white guy and super shitty. You can be a lesbian asshole, a black moron or an Asian over-entitled jackass, same as you can be a lesbian inspiration, a black woman with impeccable integrity or an Asian who spends more time on charity than the Salvation Army.

Those same characters could also neglect family, neglect themselves, be addicts, or prone to bouts of anger or depression as a result of the pressure they’re under. Or maybe, in spite of their entitlement or assholery, they’re actual genuises whose ideas help save the environment. Maybe they’re functioning alcoholics, any of them.

That’s what I like, and it doesn’t matter to me what state of dress they’re in. I’m sex positive as the kids say, so I don’t see the value in vilifying a state of undress. It just needs to have a reason, and be attached to a character with enough depth to keep it interesting. And maybe that reason is just, “I like the way it feels to dress like this.”

In the end, I think most people prefer characters in their fiction to be interesting before they are sexy or a particular human trope. Stereotypes, after all, are more gratuitous than a character with depth, regardless of whether or not they fight crime with their underwear on the outside, or in nothing but underwear at all.

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