Thursday, February 19, 2009

Joss Extravaganza continued - the problem with the comic books

I've really enjoyed the Buffy comics, even though I stopped reviewing them. After a while there are so many ways you can say "It's great that Buffy had sex with someone that I don't hate so much I would like to pickle them in brine, but do they have to draw all the women looking the same?"

What draws me back to talking about the Buffy comics isn't the series itself (although it's getting really interesting and exciting), but the letters column at the back of last month's issue (the Harmony issue for those who subscribe). The last letter in the column said:

I'm not loving the way the characters are drawn. I know they're comics and that's how men typically draw women in comics, but why does Buffy have such a tiny waist and such large breasts? Seeing the way she was drawn in #10 was a real let down; Buffy looked more like Heidi Montag of Jenna Jameson than Buffy. I don't have anything against a tiny Waist (I have one myself!) or large breasts (okay, those I don't have, as most women with tiny waists don't have naturally. But it was disappointing to see Buffy have an unrealistic, unattainable, Barbie-esque body type. I don't understand why Buffy's looks are clearly modelled after Sarah Michelle Gellar, but someone decided to inflate her chest.

I wish I had a scanner so I could show you the image she was talking about, but I'm sure you can imagine it. I want to draw attention to how specific the author's point is. You could write, but all she is saying that in the comics female character's waists have got smaller and their breasts have got larger.

You can tell the reply is going to be full of weasaling because Scott Allie immediately turns over the replyto one of the few women who work on the comics.* Sierra Huhn an assisstant editor spends the first few sentances blathering on about how Buffy is much better than other comics, because the women don't have big breasts and itty-bitty waists (she clearly didn't look at the first frame of #10 before she wrote that.

She ends with the mealy mouthed "The last thing we want is for anyone who reads this comic, or works on this comic, to feel like we're in the business of exploiting women" (acutally the last thing she says is 'yay Buffy means more women read comics', which is so irrelevant that I'm ignoring it). Which is nice side-stepping what was actually brought up (the original letter didn't mention exploitative. It's also an interesting rhetorical technique when the facts are against you (the way women look in the comics is limited and emphasises extreme hour glass figures) you say "I don't mean to make people feel that way" - shifting the topic from what exists to other people's feelings.

But it's in the middle that she gets really offensive:
It's true most of the characters are attractive (have you seen the show?), and thin (Slayers ahve to follow a pretty strenuous exercise program...just saying'...), and sometimes Buffy may be more buxom from one issue to the next. It happens. But not unrealistically so, and not all the time.
Because we all know training regiemes give women large breasts and small waists (you think slayers spend hours doing the "I must, I must, I must, increase my bust arm thrusts?). It's a ridiculous and insulting answer to a serious question.

That's not even what I object most to what she says. It's that she's stepping on the greatest moment of the history of TV.

Those of you who watched the show will remember Buffy's last speech. For those who don't Buffy is talking about doing a spell to share her slayer power, with all the potentials all around the world (it's way cooler than I can make it sound in a sentence). And as she was doing this there is a series of images of girls becoming slayers, at school, at home, and on a baseball diamond. It means a lot more if you've watched the show, but you get the idea.

One of the slayers is fat. She isn't not-skinny, she isn't hollywood fat, she isn't a size twelve, she takes up space. And she stands up and uses her body and her strength to stop stops the man who is trying to hurt her. Meanwhile we hear Buffy's voice saying "Everyone who can stand up; will stand up."

Why haven't we seen her in the Season 8 comics yet? Don't tell me that she started a strenuous exercise programme and now she's got a tiny waist (her boobs would presumably be the same size) and is one of the many identical looking slayers you see in the background, because I will hurt you.

* There have been eleven men and one women involved in producing the art of the comics (that's pencils inks colours and letters) and five men and one woman have written scripts. Jo Chen does most of the covers, and the designer has always been female. Listed in the front is three editorial staff and a publisher. The Publisher and Editor are both male, but usually one of the editorial staff is female. I say this not because I necessarily think the comics would look any different if they had more women involved in their creation, but to point out that given how few women are involved in producing the comics to put one forward to justify the way women's bodies are drawn is tokenism of the worst sort.

** Random piece of Buffy trivia - that was the last shot of Buffy Joss ever shot.

1 comment:

  1. Her breasts might even become smaller with more exercise since that's what generally happens.