Friday, September 23, 2011

Addressing the sexual nature of Catwoman and Red Hood and the Outlaws #1

So, every comic blog and its brother is up in arms about the sexual nature/activity/attitudes of Catwoman and Red Hood et al this week, except me it seems like.
I enjoyed both these comics, they were fun, exciting, and yes, sexy.

Both were rated T/T+ and neither one featured anything you aren’t currently seeing on network television or MTV (for those with short memories complaining about Starfire standing around in a bikini in provocative poses, please recall the soft core masturbation material that was MTV Spring Break from the early to mid 90’s for an example of how that and worse was marketed towards teenagers nearly 20 years ago).

First let’s just skim the Catwoman issue. I have Catwoman comics dating back to Her Sister’s Keeper. I enjoyed Ed Brubaker and Darwyn Cooke’s work as well as Loeb’s. This might be a little more on the explicit side, but there is nothing that isn’t already set in precedent in Catwoman’s character. She exposed more skin in When in Rome, has almost always had the hots for Batman, and was never above using her sexuality and sex appeal to get her way. Notice, she went out of her way to not be disguised as a prostitute and only exposed herself to the Russian mob boss as a distraction, never letting him actually do anything. When she did make sexual contact with someone, it was with Batman, and then, they kept their costumes on, because to her, that is more exciting, more erotic than being naked. It’s the excitement and mystery of it that gets her, not the exposing of flesh. To her, that is something lesser people find erotic and it is a tool in her larceny toolbox.

So on to the Starfire issue:

Let me say first, I’m not that bothered by this partially because I have never emotionally invested in the character of Starfire, dating back to when I first read Teen Titans in the Judas Contract period.

But also because Starfire has always been an adolescent sex fantasy fulfillment fan service character. A superhot, sexually open and available alien from a planet of exhibitionists that has the hots for a teen sidekick that was used for the majority of his career as a reader POV character? Her primary reason for being is to appeal to 13 year old boys.

Yes, over the decades, her character has developed beyond that, but that part of her character has always remained present. Her costume has always been a scandalously cut swimsuit with a T-back or racer back rear (epically displayed during the sun salutation of Titans#16). The next issue, Titans 17, they go out of their way to point out that she doesn’t wear underwear (while sporting only a Batman logo T and strategically placed milk carton). The BBQ scene in issue 18, she is wearing less than my wife wears to bed. The end of issue 21 sees her in a submissive FDAU pose after being attacked by Phobia. So, in 4 issues out of 6, she serves a cheesecake purpose.

I choose those, because the trade for those issues happens to be close at hand when I write this, so I don’t have to go digging through my longboxes or bookshelves to find examples. There are plenty more across her entire career as a character.

If you want a point to be upset about with her, it shouldn’t be the displayed sexuality, it should be that these relationships mean nothing to her. A cornerstone of her character development has been her love of Dick Grayson, and his rejection of that love and its effect on her. That is tossed out the window and erased from her memory. It’s not that she has sex, acts overtly sexual, displays herself as sexually provocative that should be the issue, it should be that it is all meaningless.

But you can also see that as being in service to the plot they are building in Red Hood et al #1. The art and actions show that while her fling with Jason Todd is meaningless to her, and while he pretends to be nonchalant about it, it is not meaningless to Jason. He goes to his “friends” to help him with an issue from his past, and finds them in bed with each other. Instead of accepting it, and their help, he chooses to move on alone, putting himself at greater risk rather than facing the pain of a woman he has emotional attachment to sleeping with his best friend.

If you want a female character whose treatment you should be outraged with, it’s Power Girl. A female character, that while sexy, has treated her physique in a tongue and cheek manner. She was also on a power level equal to Superman, led the Justice Society, is an entrepreneur and philanthropist on par with Batman, and a scientific genius equal to Mr. Terrific (third smartest man in the DCU if you need to be reminded). Since the relaunch she has been downgraded to Mr. Terrific’s Booty Call.

Yet, I don’t see a lot of outrage about that reversal of a depiction.

Also, the lead in image? Titans issue #1. She spends 3 pages traipsing around a pool completely naked.

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