Sunday, February 12, 2006

Comic Book Girls

I'm not geeky enough to have ever been into comics. However, I'm more than geeky enough to lay my hands on Serenity: Those Left Behind the comic that bridges the gap between the TV Series and the Movie.

Which made me realise that it wasn't the fact that I'm not geeky enough that made me not into comics, it's the fact that I find the way comic book girls are drawn terribly distracting and so I can never get into the story.

This is what Inara looks like when played by Morena Baccarin:She's both beautiful and conventionally attractive (although that dress is hideous, but that's another matter).

Here's what Inara looks like when a comic book artist draws her:Now she looks like she's had breast implants and had several ribs removed.

It wasn't just Inara, Zoe got her waist winched in as if she was wearing a corset under her combo gear, and River must have bra of steel, the way we can see her breasts under the loose clothes she wears. Kaylee was, if anything, drawn a little shapeless. So if the artists are told (and I'm sure they were) that Kaylee couldn't look like a comic book girl, they don't know how to make her look like a woman.

Television is not well known for portraying a wide variety of body types (Kaylee is described in the Pilot script as Zaftig, which is a whole nother issue I'll rant about sometime), but each of those characters is played by an actual woman, with an actual body shape. The fact that Will Conrad couldn't draw the limited range of women's bodies that are acceptable on TV is really depressing.

15 comments:

  1. This bugged me as well and has kept me from actually buying the comic books, no matter how much I want them. I hated the way they drew all the women in them.

    semi-off subject: I still can't get used to how skinny Kaylee is in Serenity. I thought she looked great in Firefly, but you know it's her her body not mine.

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  2. Anonymous10:08 pm

    I suspect you are seeing sexist plots where only common or garden dumbness and failure to relate exists.

    I mean, how would the average comic book Geek even know the character was female unless the feminine characteristics had been exaggerated to the point of caricature?

    Almost the definition of Geek is "not good at this relationship thingy - takes to much time and effort to bother with.".

    Why? Because we don't notice subtle things like, "that dress is hideous".

    Is it really? Oh, can't say I noticed. :-)

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  3. Yes anonymous, I'm sure the reason comic book girls are drawn like that is because otherwise geeks wouldn't know they're female. It's a surprise makers of TV shows like the X-files didn't realise this flaw and surgically enhance all their actors, just to make sure people would know.

    The whole Kaylee thing actually really bugs me, lc, even though I really like Jewel Saitie in the role.

    The role is described as someone Zaftig and earthy, and from things Joss has said they couldn't find anyone who was bigger than Jewel Saitie in Serenity (to which I say: then your casting director must be crap).

    There aren't that many roles for actresses that aren't super-skinny, and that they're given to people who have to gain weight for them really sucks. Also it bugged me that they didn't think it was that important, so Jewel didn't have to gain the weight again (and I understand that it's not a good idea to gain and lose weight like that, which is why they should have cast a larger actress.

    Personally I thought Kaylee looked skinny on the series. But I appreciate the effort, I even appreciate that it was in her contract that she wouldn't get below a certain weight (extremely fucked up, but necessary), but I think they should have cast an actress who was that size.

    Of course it also bothered me that Joss strongly implied Summer Glau's eating disorder in the commentary for the first episode. That probably shouldn't be public knowledge (although as she's a dancer, you make certain assumptions)

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  4. Really? *runs off to rewatch commentary*

    I agree with you wholeheartedly on this one Maia.

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  5. Maybe eating disorder is putting it a little bit strong.

    But apparently the first thing she said when getting out of the box was "Did I look fat?"

    That's insane

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  6. Sexism is common or garden dumbness, applied selectively, on a very large scale.

    I've got a great book about how to write science fiction and fantasy, with a couple of chapters on how to avoid the tacky sexist tropes that filter through the genre. Unfortunately, the cover is a perfect example of one of those tropes - a bespectacled man sitting at a computer as the exotically beautiful scantily clad figure of his imagination emerges from the screen.

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  7. What??? SHe's stick thin. I think I'm remebering that part now.

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  8. "I mean, how would the average comic book Geek even know the character was female unless the feminine characteristics had been exaggerated to the point of caricature?"

    One of the reasons for declining comic sales is widely thought to be because many teenage boys can now get pornography easier through the Internet.

    It is not because the boys and men who buy them don't know what a women looks like (this is pretty ludicrous), it's because they want women to look a certain way, and the sellers manipulate women's images to what they imagine will maximise sales. Pretty much like all other mainstream media.

    I could point to the small number of comics that do have women characters who could pass the movie test Maia published earlier or whatever, but they are only the exception that really does prove the rule.

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  9. Comic artists always draw people how they'd prefer them to look rather than how people actually look. In the case of women drawn by men, that translates to unfeasably big tits and grossly exaggerated waist to chest/hips ratio. I wouldn't say it's how the people who buy the comics "want" women to look, given that women couldn't actually look like that and still function, it just reflects the fact that a comic character's appearance doesn't have to comply with the physical rules of the universe the way us actually-existing types do.

    I don't see it as a big deal. If male sexual response looks for things like breast size and waist to chest/hips ratio, any fantasy figure created by a male artist/author will tend to exaggerate those things. Similarly, heroes in comics are universally smarter, better-looking, braver, more athletic etc than me - but I don't think the comic authors are really trying to drive home to me just what a contemptible specimen of humanity I am.

    Of course, there are plenty of comics out there that include common-as-muck types like you and me in them, but they're not exactly volume sellers.

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  10. Psycho Milt you may not see the big deal, but you don't live in an actual women's body, which probably makes a difference.

    John A are there comic books that have two women talking to each other about something other than a guy and have those women drawn in a way that a woman could possibly look like without surgery? Because I'd like to read them.

    lc: The complete lack of body fat on Summer Glau was one of the reasons I found that really depressing. You put that together with the fact that she was a dancer, and I'm willing to make some guesses.

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  11. "are there comic books that have two women talking to each other about something other than a guy and have those women drawn in a way that a woman could possibly look like without surgery?"
    Wasn't addressed to me, but check this out. I have the Dori Seda stories and Persepolis, both are great. I also have Twisted Sisters, which is great stuff. Those are all by women though - from male authors the Love and Rockets series is wonderful stuff, and anything by Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman, although these don't do their own drawing so you never know what the characters are going to look like.

    But anything from the fantasy genre, or superheros - forgeddit. Fantasy and "realistic portrayal" are basically opposing concepts.

    I'll take your word for it re the body thing. Mine looks like shit but works mostly OK, apart from the Islets of Langerhans being shot, so I'm happy enough with it. Obviously this doesn't apply across the sexes.

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  12. The easy one is the Sandman series by Neil Gaiman, although it may depend on the artist. From memory 'A Game of You' would be a good place to start.

    I imagine Ghost World would be another, but I haven't got around to reading it yet, I've always meant to.

    Alan Moore is a good writer, but I'm not sure if I would say that many of his books would pass the previously mentioned movie measure. Certainly I don't think 'From Hell', 'Watchmen' or 'V for Vendetta' count in terms of women talking to other women about stuff that's not to do with men.

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  13. There's one series of Alan Moore's that would pass the Mo Movie Measure, but not the Normal Waist Measure - I can't remember the name of it off the top of my head but it's the name of a goddess... I keep thinking Anathema but that's totally not it. Oh well.

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  14. Promethea, I guess? Haven't read it myself, but I've enjoyed what I have read of Alan Moore's work.

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  15. Yep, Promethea, that's it!

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