Msogyny is too often played up for the yucks in comics. Even excellent writers can fall into that trap, and that’s where this week’s commentary picks up. This week’s stash of comics includes one title that I really like…but didn’t review because I was completely torn by a subplot in the issue.
In case you haven’t checked out the series “APOCALYPSE AL” by J. Michael Straczynski, the story follows Allison Carter, the latest in a long line of private detectives whose job is preventing the end of the world.
She is the first female in the line, in a storyline that is part Men In Black, part Beetlejuice, and part classic noir tale. While there is a certain sexualized aspect to the character, the story is generally told in a way that establishes “Al” as a strong, intelligent, savvy character who owns her own sexuality the same way she owns every other aspect of her character. But, in issue #2 I was somewhat bothered by…this:
The first “joke” comes after Ronnie complements Al on her Juicy Couture clothes…only this isn’t a true Juicy Couture outfit, as Al simply sews the Juicy Couture labels into cheaper clothes to save money…wait, how did Ronnie know about what’s written on the labels? Oh, Ronnie can play with “missing time”, and that’s just what he did here to “read the labels”. Al’s response when he denies doing this? It’s Line #1: “Good. Because if I find my thong on backwards again, somebody’s getting their a** kicked”. See? Freezing someone in time so they can’t respond and taking off their clothes without their permission…it’s funny, no? Uh, no, not funny…but it doesn’t stop there.
Later, Al uses one of Ronnie’s devices to enter a virtual spiritual world where she can look for the information she needs. While this is going on, she is not aware of any events in the real world other than her communciation with Ronnie.
When she is brought back, she realizes something is just a bit different. That leads us to Line #2: “I was wearing a bra when I came in here. It’s gone. You want to explain that?” She proceeds to put an arm bar on him, so see? That makes it funny, no? No.
I’m guessing that J. Michael Straczynski’s main point here was NOT Ronnie’s behavior but rather Al’s response, to show her as a strong character who would not take anything like this from anyone. I don’t believe his intent was to celebrate Ronnie’s behavior…yet it still casts highly inappropriate behavior as something humorous.
I have a real problem with that, even though I am a fan of Straczynski’s work. Like a lot of people, I loved ”SUPERMAN: EARTH ONE”, and on this site we’ve highly recommended “TEN GRAND” and basically any Joe’s Comics title you want to grab. Straczynski is a highly talented writer who I enjoy following. But, I believe he went over the line in this instance.
The point to me is that Allison Carter has already experienced a predator removing and replacing her underwear in the past, and yet she goes back to this predator for help. She has her clothes “examined for labels” and barely raises a protest. She only physically responds when she realizes that this creep has taken advantage of her while she was not aware of reality and removed her bra as a “prize” for himself.
This isn’t funny, this is actually sexual assault, played up for the yucks. Allison Carter does defend herself…finally. But, she (and Straczynski) seem to never give a thought to the idea that, if Ronnie does this to her, what is he doing to other females? Should this be played for the lulz?
This is far from the only example of misogyny for comic effect in comics or in the larger culture. And, it is not typical of Straczynski’s writing. I can still highly recommend his other writing efforts, and remain a fan of “TEN GRAND”, which is one of my favorite titles. This isn’t intended as a slam on any one writer – it’s really something larger than that.
Just wanted to take a moment to post our policy on harassment on tumblr, it is also on our website, and will be in the program guide. The image attached is the sign we will have displayed throughout the convention.
Emerald City Comicon’s mission is to create a safe, awesome environment where geeks of all kinds can come together. We have a zero tolerance policy for harassment of any kind.
Harassment includes offensive verbal comments (related to race, gender, sexual orientation, body size, disability, appearance, and religion), overly sexual images in public spaces, deliberate intimidation, stalking, harassing photography or recording, sustained disruption of talks or other events, inappropriate physical contact and unwelcome sexual attention.
Exhibitors, sponsors and guests are subject to our anti-harassment policy as well and have also been informed. In particular, exhibitors should not use images or material that surpasses a PG-13 rating at their booths. Booth staff (including volunteers) should not use over-sexualized clothing/uniforms/costumes.
If a person engages in harassing behavior, ECCC Directors and Department Heads may take any action they deem appropriate, up to and including expulsion from Emerald City Comicon (with no refund). If you are being harassed, witness someone else being harassed or have any other concerns, please contact a member of the Emerald City Comicon staff immediately (identifiable by green Minion t-shirts or black polos/Staff badges). We are happy to contact our security or local law enforcement, provide escort, a safe place, or otherwise assist those experiencing harassment to feel safe for the duration of the convention.
All attendees, exhibitors and staff are subject to this anti-harassment policy and are expected to follow these rules at all Emerald City Comicon events.
Emerald City is one of my very favorite shows in the world, and this is the iceberg-tip of why.
Obligatory panel plug: On Saturday, at 12:40, in Hall D, Laura Hudson, Janelle Asselin, Bobby Roberts, and I will be talking about harassment in geek communities.
Thank you, Emerald City Comic Con for being a positive example for other fan conventions when it comes to harassment issues.
It is never okay to harass or touch a woman without permission, no matter what she’s wearing
This is no different at a convention
Folks, If you have a Comixology account, please change your password, today.