MARTHA THOMASES: Superhero Fashion Inaction
My pal Heidi MacDonald, has done a great job of covering the critical discussion of DC’s depiction of female characters in The New 52. Thanks to her, I read this awesomely thoughtful analysis by Laura Hudson, and this terrific bit of snark.
So there’s not a lot I can add from a political perspective. Instead, let’s talk about the fashion.
By fashion, I don’t mean the clothes you see on the runways or in the magazines. I mean the choices humans (and, in this case, women) make every day before they leave their homes to go to work, run arounds, or hang with friends.
If you’re a woman with super-powers, and you have a public role fighting crime, or saving people from disasters, it stands to reason that you’d want to wear something eye-catching. That allows you to be seen by people who need your help. It also makes sense that you’d want to wear something form-fitting, because you don’t want a lot of extra fabric to get in the way of the work you’re trying to do. There are many who think the superhero costume was inspired by circus acrobats, and that is certainly an occupation that would require costumes that fit these criteria.
But then what?
Let’s consider Starfire, currently appearing in Red Hood and the Outlaws. I almost didn’t pick this up, because I’m not much of a fan of the current version of Jason Todd, but I looked at the first page, liked the art, and decided to be open-minded. By the time I got to page 7, I was okay.
But then there was page 8.
I’m supposed to believe that Starfire, an alien warrior, would go into battle with almost her entire body exposed, with only her calves truly protected. A woman who, for whatever reason, has enormous breasts, and who wears an outfit that offers them no support, just small metal bandaids over her nipples.
Two pages later, we see Kory again, this time in a bikini. She’s swimming, so the fact that she’s wearing a bikini isn’t surprising, but it doesn’t fit her properly. The ties that should go underneath her breasts instead circle them from the middle. Maybe they have to, because the patches of fabric attached to the ties are too small to cover her if the suit fit properly.
(Perhaps this inability to find something appropriate to wear is related to her new characterization. An alien who can’t tell one human male from another probably has trouble understanding American sizing, or fitting rooms. However, since she makes it clear that, like all her people, she’ll have sex with anyone at any time whenever she feels like it, I’d love to see what the appliance stores are like on Tamaran.)
A costume can be revealing and make sense. When Amanda Connor was drawing Power Girl, I completely believed that Kara was comfortable in her outfit. Sure, it showcased her ta-tas, but Amanda emphasized the seaming enough so that I believed she had the necessary support. There is no doubt in my mind that Amanda did this because she has worn a bra.
A lot of the problems with comic book costumes for women occur because they’re designed and drawn by men, most of whom have not worn a bra. They don’t know what it feels like to run in heels. They haven’t tried to do anything when their breasts might bounce around enough to hurt. And they haven’t heard the things that other men feel entitled to say to women who flaunt their assets (or just try to keep cool in the summer heat).
I used to spend a lot of time decrying that kind of male attention. I really hated being interrupted by strangers and their opinions when I was just outside, minding my own business. “You’ll miss it when they stop,” people told me.
They were wrong. I don’t miss it at all.
If the men who used to hassle me are now distracted reading comics like Red Hood, that’s fine. Let them annoy fictional characters, and there will be no harm, no foul. I only wish DC would market the book accordingly, so I don’t think they want my money.
Dominoes Daredoll Martha Thomases thinks Spandex is just great, especially when it’s part of jeans.
SATURDAY: Marc Alan Fishman