Queen of Geekdom #1- The Heroes and These Women
Here we are! The first week of Queen of Geekdom. Every week, I’ll be interrogating some aspect of Geek Culture and it’s feminist implications. Sometimes, that will be a spotlight on an amazing female figure in the geek world (like Amy Dallen or Jenna Busch or Kathleen Kennedy), while other weeks will be a review of a geek piece created by a woman.
But first? Let me get a little think-piece-y.
If you read my first post on this blog, you know that I listen to tons of podcasts. If you ever see me with headphones in, chances are, I’m listening to a group of mostly white, mostly straight, mostly men talking about movie/entertainment news. And something that these people often talk about is the idea of counter-programming. For example, The Choice was counter-programming to Deadpool, My Big Fat Greek Wedding will be counter-programming to Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, and supposedly Sisters was meant to be counter-programming to Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Basically, the term is meant to slyly condescend that women don’t see action films.
Additionally, their arguments for the success of Deadpool and Batman V. Superman are equally condescending. On all of these podcasts there is a female “host” (read: a thin, attractive, racially ambiguous girl who is only allowed to talk when she is reading pre-scripted copy of the news headlines), and the other panelists will often say something to the effect of, “After their commercial on the Bachelor, even Ashley wants to see Deadpool now!” Or, they’ll throw their moms in the mix, “Even my mom knows who Batman is! Never mind the fact that the female host works on a movie talk show and that Batman is (arguably) the most famous superhero of all time.
The point of both of these anecdotes is to point out the reality of the Fanboy: that women are ignorant creatures who “just don’t get” what makes action films so wonderful! They often complain about girlfriends “dragging” them to Romantic Comedies- which, they argue, glorifies female wish fulfillment and perpetuates unrealistic relationship models-while lamenting the fact that those same girlfriends (wives, significant others) don’t want to see their action films, comic book movies, and science fiction epics.
The argument in and of itself that women don’t want to see these films is, first and foremost, absolute bullshit. Many, many women see action films- the Man of Steel box office breakdown, for example, was split almost completely down the middle by gender. Most of the Avengers fans I know are women (I mean, have you looked at tumblr lately?). Female-centric geek sites and products are popping up left and right.
But more importantly, here is a question I have for so-called “sweaties” (a term for male fanboys that has recently become popular online): Why should women like your action movies? If romantic comedies are, in your eyes, nothing but vain female wish fulfillment, what then, are comic book movies?
To explore my question, let’s take a look the fanboys’ icon: Batman. The Dark Knight. The Caped Crusader. What’s so great about Batman? What does he have that other superheroes don’t?
Rich? Check. Handsome? Check. Powerful? Check. Desirable to women? Check. However, it is possibly the understanding that Batman- and, indeed, most if not all action heroes- is above repercussions is perhaps his biggest draw. The love of his life gets killed? Don’t worry. He can replace her with a newer, prettier, thinner model in the next movie with no moral, emotional or legal ramifications.
In Superhero movies, what are women? In action movies, what are women?
Disposable (any Bond love interest).
Female-shaped plot devices (the daughter and wife in Taken).
Scenery (Megan Fox in the Transformers series).
Tokens (Black Widow in any Marvel movie).
In Superhero movies, what are men? Well, they’re heroes. In action movies, what are men? Heroes. While women are relegated to the side, doomed by bad screenwriting and male fantasy to the sidelines, where their only jobs are to look hot and be save-able, men get to live out their greatest wishes. They get to be powerful, rich, handsome, smart, influential, controlling, desirable, clever, strong, at the center of attention, praise-worthy, above repercussions.
We get to be victims. They get to be heroes.
So, when men complain (falsely) about women not ‘getting’ action movies and not ‘getting’ superhero stories, all I want to ask is… Why should we? What’s in it for us?
At the moment? Very little.
Hollywood, do better.