Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Girl Wonder, but Not Wonder Girl.

So the DCU blog gave us another cover shot fo the new Batgirl. She's got purple eyes. Gasp. Shock. Awe. I don't really care. The only answer I could possibly be annoyed with would be Barbara Gordon. Other than that, let's just reveal who she is an move on.

I mean, I'm assuming she's a she. 'Cause, after all, her name is pretty clear. Batgirl will always be female. Batman will always be male. (Good thing Bruce never took on a female side - OH WAIT.) Luckily Superman's been cloned so there can still be a Superman if Clark ever decides to retire. Whew. And Wonder Woman is, well. You know. She's actually one of the rare examples of a gendered hero-name getting first billing. But her version of first billing is pretty pale compared to the other Big Two of the Big Three (Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman).

Considering I took An Awful Lot of Women's Studies classes (enough to get a degree in it, actually), usually with a lot of reading about critical race and gender theory, I don't remember a lot of the buzzwords I'm supposed to. I've been out of Academia for awhile now, and that kind of stuff just doesn't stick with you unless you practice.

Most of my dislike of various sexist, heterocentrist/homophobic, and racist images in comics (and the rest of pop culture) boils down to common sense. At least I think it's common sense, until I mention my frustration with Yet Another Crazy Lesbian Storyline and someone goes "huh?"

Seriously, it should be weird for everyone that most of the time you remember seeing a lesbian on television, she was pregnant or wanted to be pregnant or had just been pregnant and was fighting for her right to have her child.

This should bother people on so many levels.

Anyway. Pop culture. Women. Where was I?

Oh, my favorite Robin. (No, really, that's where I was. I swear.)

My favorite Robin is Carrie Kelly. Carrie came around in this dark and grounbreaking Elseworld right after Jason Todd "died". She wasn't my first Robin.* My first Robin was the Dick in the 60s TV show. But that's sort of my point. I grew up with Robin "the boy wonder". And then Frank Miller gave us Carrie Kelly, this spunky (hey, remember that word?) young girl who pushed and pushed until she was accepted. And she was fearless. Or she seemed fearless, until that scene on the roller coaster.

Good little soldier, Carrie Kelly. She was a Robin for the end of the world as we knew it. I was bummed when she ended up as Cat-Girl in the sequel. For a few reasons: one, Bruce's relationship with her bordered on romantic, and setting her up as an heir to Catwoman just reinforced that. Two, I really really really really hate hero names with genders in the title. Thanks a lot, Nietzsche. Three, because of two... it took a lot from the character. She'd gone and turned the original boy wonder into a role that didn't need a boy, thus freeing it from the requirements of having a specific (male, of course) gender. Stephanie Brown should thank her (and I should read more of her run as Robin, and I will be upset for similar reasons if Steph is the new Bat-Girl).

Of course, as Cat-Girl she was also brutally attacked by the original Robin and mangled for life. As the non-gendered Robin she was strangled, shot at, et cetera, but as Cat-Girl, her physical features were literally shredded.

And for me it's common sense that that is Some Very Bad Symbolism Right There, but I don't think it is for everyone else.

Which is probably why the female characters in comics still have a long way to go.

* This idea of having a "first" anything only really came to me when I got into Doctor Who fandom. In DW we have long and drawn out conversations about our first Doctor, our favorite Doctor, our first companion(s) and our favorite companion(s), and said conversations usually involve a lot of geeky talk about the minutia of episodes, the context of the era they were broadcast in, and some good old fashioned fisticuffs. Okay, no fisticuffs, I made that up.

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