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Why the MJ kerfuffle matters: (probably not why you think)
Sexy when he panics
brown_betty

If you already know what "the MJ kerfuffle" is, you're my target audience. Everyone else is excused, but if you're interested, context can be found here.



When devildoll posted the pictures of the MJ maquette I honestly only gave it a an exasperated sigh, and then moved on. However, it got linked on metaquotes and next thing I knew there were six pages of comments, some mildly amusing trolls, and letter writing campaigns. I was blown away by the outrage. Click that link. And scroll down. And down. And down. And down.

Why was I surprised? I honestly didn't think it was that bad. Oh, sure, she's the perfect blend of sexual availability and domestic subservience in ways that I could detail at length1, but honestly I've seen worse. I'm worn down. I can't get outraged every time, I don't have the strength. At least that MJ looks happy, unlike art I've seen where the poor woman looks embarrassed or humiliated.

But many of these people were outraged because they're only casual fans2; they saw the movie, watched the show, and have maybe picked up a comic or two, but they hadn't realized that the way MJ is presented in this maquette is pretty much par for the course. And they're outraged because seeing the movie and watching the show made them care and now they see how Marvel values her.

Pay attention: these are people who were interested in the property. These are people who were receptive. These are people who, if Marvel had played their cards right, might have been setting up pull boxes in a year or two.

Marvel: this is what you look like to people who are browsing the windows trying to decide if they want to come in.

In case I'm not being clear enough, people with money. Stop thinking of them as people who want to take away your precious boobies: start thinking of them as people with money to spend.



1. She's bending over to make every orifice sexually available to the viewer. In case orifices don't turn your crank, her breasts are available for frottage. In case you might worry about her super-strong husband, she's not wearing a wedding ring. In addition, she's doing a menial and unnecessary domestic task to signal her submission. Hotcha!

2Not all of them, obviously. Have you looked at that list of links? There's some sixty odd different reactions from men and women across the board. But I submit that in a general sense, this was a much more outsider group than your general comics-feminist outrage.


Good catch. I hadn't thought about that. And you're right.

I went through all those links and kept going "…well, yeah, but, don't they realize that… oh. Oh."

I totally understand what you mean by being worn down. It's not that I don't find this disgusting, but I wouldn't even have registered it myself in a comic order catalog as unusual or worthy of outrage.

I know. I was like, "oh, hey, yeah, I guess that is kind of offensive…"

I wrote something sarcastic (not at you, at those who would disagree) then deleted it in favor of simply agreeing with you. This is one of the things that gets me about those who say "but sexism sells, so therefore it must not be gainsaid": they act as if there are no people with disposable income who could possibly be turned off by these sexist depictions. It's as if they think women have no money, or maybe they just wish it.

You'd think with the tiny enclave of customers they still have they'd be open to thinking of women as "man-like creatures with money" to be catered to.

Adam usually has better proportions too, the stomach is disturbing. I assume it has something to do with the construction.

I think it's the combo of laundry and sex-potness that bugs the hell out of me and the fact that it's an action figure, which implies that the only action women are capable of is laundry.

I'm still too tired to properly express myself, but basically the more they throw on the more likely I'm going to get annoyed at something over becoming more and more apathetic lately.

I think it's the Damain action figure thing, when we don't even have a Spoiler or a RobinIV one.

I like the Hughes' sketch better, although I can't really isolate the reason why; it just seems to have more personality which will go a long way toward mollifying me toward cheesecake.

My lack of surprise is total. That statue actually reminds me of an issue of The Authority, where Shen is brainwashed into becoming some tycoon's Stepford wife. The pose, smile, and the fucking pearl necklace are scarily similar. Now if only MJ could snap out of it and decapitate the asshole who did that to her...

Yeah, I know the issue you mean. That arc kind of left a bad taste in my mouth, despite its eventual resolution.

Hm, and here when I saw the pics I was about to say "Now that is sexist." I think it's the suit washing that gets me most. Women being sex objects while kicking ass? Fine with me. Women being sex objects while doing subservient domestic chores for their man? Fuck that.

I mean, I can see it? But I sort of needed it pointed out to me.

Yeah, that's how I know I'm still relatively new to comics. I still haven't run out of outrage (not that you've run out, but...uh, yeah). Then again, I do have a lot of rage as is.

But I was surprised at the number of people this pissed off, too. You explain that excellently.

Conserve your outrage! It is a precious resource! Is that an Elsa icon?

When I first saw the statue on the GW forums it left a bad taste in my mouth to say the least, but I had no idea that the reaction would be so strong and widespread. I mean, I haven't even begun to start reading that WFA post. The Fandom Wank post relating to it had over 400 comments when I last checked it, and most of that was posters reacting to the statuette itself. And I think it really is because of the reason you stated.

Not that Marvel is actually going to realize this, of course. At the most they're going to write it off as "general comics-feminist outrage" and continue to be clueless as to the fact that this crap is turning away people who could have been turned into buyers and fans of their comics.

Of course not. It will be taken as proof that feminists are always sticking their nose in where they're not wanted.

On a mostly-unrelated note- I know there's supposed to be an Amazon associate button on the front page of Girl-Wonder, but I don't see it...? I can see something in the source, so maybe the problem's on my end, not yours, but I'd like to figure it out so some of the proceeds can go to G-W especially because I'm using that as an excuse to buy the slightly more expensive tablet pen. Halp?

Hmm. Possibly I have messed up the php, or the html. It's in a red box right below the blue ribbon… which I am going to remove since it's now outdated. If it doesn't appear for you, that's bad, so please let me know.

I definitely got jaded, and I don't like it.

Last weekend I was reading someone's post on the last outrage, e.g. Power Girl on the Power Girl / Black Canary cover, and the blogger (forgot who it was) made the point that "having breasts like woah" doesn't mean that the person has to look porntastic. To illustrate, he included some other Power Girl cover - JSA maybe? that had PG in a pose that made her look strong and capable.

Anyway, while that second cover was on screen, my mother came into the room. Her reaction: "Wow, that's awful!" (She meant the proportions and mentioned Barbie.) So I scrolled up to the infamous cover. She was literally speechless.

It's weird that apparently comics people don't get how far they've left "mainstream" people behind. True, my mother is not their target audience, she hasn't read a comic in her life and doesn't watch the movies, but it's still an indicator of how improbable it is to get someone into comics. I mean, why would they want to get into something like that? None of my male friends like it either (even the ones who say "Well, it's made by guys for guys" when I show the cover to them personally don't like it).

Reading / seeing this stuff makes me feel dirtier than Harry Potter porn ever did. (That's tongue-in-cheek, but also true.)

*winces* Yeah. I mean, honestly, if someone was all, "Oh, hey, I've been meaning to get into comics and I read something recently about Identity Crisis, can you lend it to me?" I'd probably try to redirect them Gotham Central or New Frontier. You kind of have to be desensitized to think that the IC is …reasonable.

Excellent post :D And very true :) Their movies have created a lot of fans who would usually avoid comic shops b/c of a percieved stereotype. But if these are the statues in the window of the shop, that just confirms the stereotype and will continue to keep ppl away :(

I concur with earlier posts. There's nothing inherently wrong with being sexy...if it's done in a respectful, responsible way. However, there is a significant difference between "sexy" and "puerile," which this statuette is in spades. Its creators, and the Marvel people who greenlighted it, need to be reminded that sexiness should enthrall the brain as much as other organs.

Mary Jane doesn't need to be pictured as this to be sexy, any more than Power Girl -- whose appeal is that she's as tough as she is voluptuous -- should be presented as a vacant-minded porn queen who just happens to have superpowers.

That's a great point that I didn't even think of. I'm not planning on dropping She-Hulk or Fantastic Four (the only Marvel books I read), but I would be reluctant to pick up Spiderman even though I love the movies. At the price comics are today I find myself looking for reasons not to buy a book. Small potatoes though this is in the wide world of comic book mysogny (too lazy to look up the correct spelling, sorry!), its' still something.

I like comics. I like boobs. I like red hair. Yet, somehow that figure just made me feel dirty. That's means someone screwed up royally. In my own ramblings on the subject I decided that this was the problem: While MJ isn't at Power Girl or Wonder Woman's level of power and confidence she isn't at the barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen level either. Unless she and Peter are into role playing, that just doesn't fit into what I think of when I think Mary Jane.

Heee! Your icon!

Yeah. And you know, I don't even really like the role-playing explanation, because where's Peter? He's excluded, and you, the viewer, are invited to take his place. I don't think MJ's into that.

*sigh* Yes. Totally. I actually first saw the statuette in the Marvel solicits, a few *weeks* before devildoll posted and created this wave of outrage, and it...didn't really register much to me, either.

I feel slightly mollified, in a sad sort of way, that even you, who *manage* Girl Wonder, are desensitized to this sort of thing.

It just gets wearing, you know? Easier to go "ew" and move on.

Thanks. Where "because we're people" fails, perhaps "because we're consumers" will have an impact.

I questioned the volume of the outrage initially and have raised and read many different points beyond the obvious points of offense, but as buddleia pointed out, yours is by far the most intelligent, and at this point, highly refreshing. Thank you.


Well, I think there were a lot of intelligent critiques of the statuette, but it's a bit like if all of a sudden everywhere you looked, people were telling you that Girls Gone Wild was sexist and exploitative. Um. Yes?

I just saw Spiderman 3. Since DBPro/Marvel has been publishing the Anita Blake:Vampire Hunter comics, I've gotten interested in the comic industry.
Except that, almost everywhere I look, mainstream comics publishers like Marvel and DC seem to be heartily invested in telling me, as a woman, that I am not important. My tastes aren't important. My money and time and interest are not important enough to stop portraying any female in their comics whom I could possibly like or look up to as being nothing but a fucktoy, a creature that should be sexually available to anyone at any time, whether she likes it or not.

And it disturbs me that this is not out of the ordinary, that the typical comics fan doesn't see portrayals like that as being anything to get outraged about, because "it could be so much worse."

Yeah… I um. I'm sorry? Listen, if you were interested in writing an essay on your perception of the comics industry, I know a comics feminist website that would love to have it.

I'm pretty much out of comics fandom at this point but I just took a look at the statue pics.

And apparently comics took their toll on me even though I was never in as deeply as some of y'all, because I look at that and go "...oh, whatever; so they tarted MJ up for an idiotic, over-priced statue."

It's funny; my housemate tends to think I'm a fairly damn loud and opinionated feminist, especially as relates to comics and media. But I don't have a lot of outrage, just tired. I think that bothers me more than the statue--it's appalling to realise how desensitized female comics fen, even the loud feminists, have to become just to cope.

Yeah, exactly. I mean, if I imagine it as a movie poster it abruptly become outrageous again, but if I imagine it in a comics context… eh. I'm sorry, I'm overdrawn on outrage, but maybe if it gets put in my queue?

Oh good grief. I was one of those who saw it, gave an exasperated sigh, and moved on. When there were probably less than 10 comments on devildoll's original post. I've just ... I've been there, especially when X-Men were leading a comic book market that was starting to resemble the NYSE.

And this is not the only comics-related battle I'm worn out over. Lately I've gotten burned out yet again on the "it doesn't deserve to be dismissed simply because it's a comic book" debate, because it's too tiring and generally directed at people who aren't even going to listen anyway. So the people who are going to be turned off by the MJ statue? I can't bring myself to care.

Yeah. devildoll's on my flist too, and the first time I saw the post I didn't even bother to comment, it was just "seen that."

That's a very good point. I'm a very casual comics fan, and the MJ thing was just the icing on my list of reasons why I have no desire to ever be more than "very casual".

I'd say, "No, we're totally a very cool bunch, it's not usually like this!" but that would be a damn dirty lie.

I don't need to be a "comics feminist" to think ... good grief, that thing is embarrassing.

Great post! Pointing out the money to be lost here is probably more effective than just projecting outrage merely. You might be interested in an essay I posted describing the way the movie itself may be alienating female fans through casual misogyny: http://justinnisly.wordpress.com/2007/05/12/spiders-sluts-and-misogynists/

Re: The Movie is Misogynist, too

brown_betty

2007-05-18 06:36 pm (UTC)

I admit, I haven't seen the movie, so I can't judge. The woman-in-peril premise though, doesn't surprise me.

I had no idea when I metaquoted it would result in this

fengi

2007-05-18 10:08 pm (UTC)

I think many critiques have missed this, there's the context in which the figure was marketed.

Defenders of Sideshow try to act like this statue is hidden away in some "hardcore older fan only" company. Bullshit.

It's marketed as part of the Spiderman 3 collection, in a context which is addressed to all fans of the movie. It's presented in a section linked to the movie website and which comes up under searches for toys.

This is a point much of the coverage has missed, and once you see it in this context you get how this isn't just fangirls scouring the web for something to denounce. If Sideshow had it in a self-aware, naughty wink adults section which mentioned the genre of naughty Japanese figures, it might raise so much ire.

Interestingly enough, when I did a search for Sideshow, the first link was to a loving review of their figurine of Nathan Bedford Forrest, Confederate General and first Grand Wizard of the Klu Klux Klan. Sideshow has figures from both sides of the Civil War and many other wars, so if people accused Sideshow of being racist, then they'd be taking things out of context and being dishonest.

Here, however, they put a creepy image out there as a regular movie tie-in where anyone could find it. And that's what put it over the top.

On a side note: As the guy who metaquoted devildoll, I had no idea I'd contribute to this issue making the leap to mainstream. I was just admiring her witty takedown of sexim.

As a man, I wonder why it's so difficult for guys to understand the concept of context and degrees of emphasis. It's not just the massive boobies, but the pose, the activity and the loaded image details (bare feet, pearls) and how the piece was marketed. It doesn't take a degree in women's studies to get this.

Re: I had no idea when I metaquoted it would result in this

brown_betty

2007-05-18 10:12 pm (UTC)

Oh, man, I hadn't realized that at all. Thank you for pointing it out.

Actually, it apparently does take a degree in women's studies to figure this out. I have wasted hours of my life trying to explain to a particularly dim troll in DevilDoll's post that no, I'm not an uptight puritan, this statue is genuinely offensive. I'm about to resort to strong drink.

I don't blame you, mind! The dark corners of the internet need to be vigorously poked with sticks on occasion. But man is there some stupid out there.

Hey brown_betty (What do you prefer to be called on the internets, by the way?).

I was talking to that dude that is friends with Adam Hughes (ironically I never caught his name) and he seems to be thinking that mainstream superhero comics are doing really well financially.

Yet I've heard from other people that Marvel and DC are concerned about their sales. What's the actual truth of it? Cause I'm not sure - I've been in the indie scene for so long that 'sales' are a lofty far-off dream for most of my peers and colleagues.

Betty is fine.

The truth is that Superhero comics have lost ground since the insane comic speculation bubble burst in the nineties (remember the Death of Superman? Now worth nearly as much as a beanie baby) and now make most of their money from licensing, and to a lesser extent, trades, rather sales of monthly pamphlets. This is more true for the "Big Two" than for other imprints.

This is more or less conventional wisdom, though, rather than numbers. I would be glad to see hard numbers myself, but I would be surprised if I'd got the broad strokes wrong.

So, are they doing badly? Well, they aren't going to have to sell the office furniture any time soon. But the truth is that they have to keep selling the pamphlets for their properties to have licensing values, and the pamphlets barely pay for themselves.

It's a bit of a squirrelly business.

You're exactly right. This is a good example of why I've never gotten into comics. It's not that I hate the art form, or think it can't contain good stories. It's this impression I bump up against every freakin' time I start to go there, that it's all about the fantasies of boys who are scared of women. And since that's not a set of fantasies I can share... oh, well.

Actually, I have read comics twice in my life. Once - Wonder Woman when I was a kid. Again - some SW comics Dark Horse was putting out. I remember the WW drawings offending me even when I was eight, but I don't recall the DH ones being too bad.

This makes me want to get into comics just to upset the applecart. :D

Not to discourage you, but there's a hell of a lot pounding your head against a brick wall involved.

A[nother] very, very good point, and very well-made, too.

It's one of the things that really annoyed me when I was buying comics at comics fairs - the assumption that I was there with a man, or buying for a man. I remember one event when there were about sixty men in the room, and I was literally the only woman - apart from two female staff. It was actually very intimidating, and the Fathom posters didn't help.

Do you mind if I friend you?

Thanks. There seems to be a bit of an idea not only that there aren't girls reading comics, but that there shouldn't be girls reading comics. It's not universal, but it's out there.

Friend away! I always take it as a compliment. Just be warned I sometimes do fanfic-type stuff on this lj.