Thursday, July 2, 2015

MYTHCOMICS: "SUPERMAN'S SUPER-COURTSHIP" (1962)

For this first entry in my new series of “mythcomics,” I select an example of what I term “clansgression.” Readers of this blog may recall that this formulation takes in not only the phenomenon of literal incest, but all the sociocultural associations that have arrayed themselves around the phenomenon.




The story “Superman’s Super-Courtship” appeared in the June 1962 issue of ACTION COMICS, issue 289, by Siegel and Mooney, and edited by Mort Weisinger. This story was one of many during Weisinger’s tenure in which characters in the “Superman universe” sought to manipulate romantic alliances, either to the benefit of themselves or of some other person. “Courtship” wasn’t even the first time Supergirl attempted to play matchmaker for her older cousin Superman, but the story has garnered a little more Net-attention for its psychological content, as one can see here. The dominant reading for this story has been to focus on one panel seen herein, arguing that it provides what is currently called *squick * via the thirty-something Superman’s profession of lust for his teenaged cousin.


I won’t entirely disavow this interpretation. The story was written, drawn, and edited by men, and Mort Weisinger in particular isn’t known as a great bastion of feminist sensitivity. Nevetheless, “Courtship” is a Supergirl story, ostensibly aimed at juvenile girl readers, so the conscious intent of the story’s raconteurs was to play to the egos of girls, as the raconteurs perceived them. Thus the story might be better titled “Supergirl’s Super-Courtship,” since her decision to play matchmaker for her cousin is one that reinforces her own ego, more than doing anything for Superman.


Supergirl, in her secret ID as Linda Lee, sees a sad romantic film that makes her decide that since the Man of Steel can’t make up his mind about either Lois Lane or Lana Lang, he must need a new inamorata, one chosen by the Girl of Steel. Superman seems curiously compliant as he cooperates with her shenanigans, rather than undermining her efforts to “teach her a lesson;” this might serve as more evidence that the creators’ primary motivation was to validate Supergirl’s ego.


Supergirl tries three times to set up her cousin, and the first two matchmaking sessions are played for comedy. Even though Supergirl thinks to herself that her cousin doesn’t think one can change the past through time-travel—a repeated “rule” in the Superman-universe—the superheroine tries to do just that, after reasoning that her noble cousin deserves the most beautiful woman ever—none other than Helen of Troy. Technically, it’s Helen before she was either stolen by Trojans or married to the Greek king Menelaus; Supergirl arranges to have her cousin show up while dozens of suitors are courting Helen. Not only are no sparks struck from Superman’s meeting with Helen, the Greek princess gets royally pissed off at the super-duo’s intrusion. Helen is particularly miffed that Supergirl’s talents put Helen in the shade—which, psychologically speaking, is where a quasi-mother figure like Helen of Troy belongs.




Supergirl’s second attempt is firmly rooted in the Superman cosmos, drawing upon the superhero-team the Legionnaires, a group of teens dwelling in Earth’s 30th century. Supergirl takes it into her head that one of the superheroines in this group might be a match for Superman—though not as a teen heroine, of course. Supergirl draws her compliant cousin to a party in an era when where some if not all Legionnaires have grown to adulthood. Yet, while Supergirl researches Helen’s social matrix to get the lay of the princess’ land, the Girl of Steel doesn’t bother to find out first whether or not her second choice—Saturn Woman, known as Saturn Girl in her teen incarnation-- is married or not. This incident may have been a shout-out to Legion readers, who would have known that the character of Saturn Girl had a regular beau—to whom she would inevitably be married in adult life, given the expectations of the reading-audience.




When the two Kryptonians return to their own era, it’s then that Supergirl confesses her matchmaking scheme to her cousin. Throughout most of the story the reader isn’t privy to Superman’s thoughts; he’s only defended his intention not to marry as one of being dedicated to his superhero career. At this point he soothes his cousin’s bruised ego by telling her that he would only marry “someone super and lovable like… you!!” The “super” part of the equation refers back to a frequent trope in other stories: that Superman will not marry an un-super woman since she might be killed by his enemies. The “lovable” part of the equation might express some latent sexual feelings on his part. Alterntely, it meant mean that he’s figured out that she’s playing Cupid to exorcise her own libidinous demons, and he’s lerting her down easily, with a not entirely germane discussion about how Kryptonian cousins cannot intermarry. In an extrinsic sense, editor Weisinger may have wanted this speech included, if he had received fannish suggestions about seeing the super-cousins married—though this is only speculation.


However, Superman’s attempt to end the conversation spurs Supergirl to new heights: since he’s said he would marry someone like her, she uses his “super computer machine” to find that there exists another superwoman—identical to Supergirl except for being an adult—on the planet Staryl.



Superman again complies with his cousin’s request to seek out Staryl and make the acquaintance of superwoman Luma Lynai. In one of the hero’s very few thought-balloons, he thinks, “Can I find a girl [on Staryl] as wonderful as Supergirl?”—indicating at the very least that he isn’t blind to his cousin’s attractiveness, teenager or not. Sure enough, in the space of one panel he meets and woos Luma Lynai (who wears a costume not unlike Supergirl’s, though Luma chooses hot pants rather than a skirt). Superman invites Luma to visit Earth so that they can be wed if she likes it there—a whirlwind courtship, indeed! But Earth’s yellow sun strips Luma of her super-powers, which was the main thing that pulled her ahead in the race against Lois and Lana. As Luma tearfully returns to her own world, Superman seems only mildly disappointed at his loss of possible connubial bliss. For Supergirl’s part, she’s also tearful for having meddled in her cousin’s love-life. At the story’s close, she’s momentarily tempted to try the matchmaker game once more, but ends the story with the firm resolve not to do so. Yet arguably her adventure served its ego-boosting purpose: without indulging in literal incest, Supergirl “makes love” (in the juvenile sense) to her cousin through an adult doppelganger, and shows that, except for that pesky Kryptonian law, she might have been the best match of them all.        

Monday, June 29, 2015

1001 COMIC-BOOK NIGHTS: A RESOURCE

I labeled a number of posts with the tag "1001 myths," even if those posts didn't contain actual myth-analyses. By so doing I ended up making more work for myself, since my current project requires a numerical list of said analyses. In addition, there are many posts in which I did myth-analyses not originally labeled as "1001 myths. If, in retrospect, any of these fit my current criteria, they will be added to the list after the fact.

I'll pursue the same logic with regard to listing my "inconsummate myths," in that I'll look at earlier analyses of comics that failed the "mythicity test." At one point I conceived, but did not make much use of, the term "null-myths," coined with reference to mathematics' "null sets." All of the analyses that deal with works that utilized something with mythic potential but failed to "consummate" said potential

Here's the original twenty-six:

1. ACTION COMICS #1-2, first appearance of Superman.

2. BLONDIE #150.

3. CEREBUS #298-300.

4. THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS.

5. ELFQUEST 1-20.

6. FANTASTIC FOUR #8.

7. GREEN LANTERN #16.

8. "Judgment Day," HEAVY METAL (1981).

9. INCREDIBLE HULK #1.

10. JAR OF FOOLS.

11. KAMANDI #30.

12. LADY SNOWBLOOD.

13. "Mickey Rodent," MAD #19.

14. NEW MUTANTS #62.

15. "The Lamb, Resurrected," ONE POUND GOSPEL.

16. "Woozy Winks Detective Agency," POLICE COMICS #20.

17. QUESTION #17.

18. RED SONJA #1.

19. "The Curse," THE SPIRIT.

20. "Lower Berth," TALES FROM THE CRYPT #33.

21. "A Good Catch," URUSEI YATSURA.

22. VOID INDIGO 1-2.

23.WONDER WOMAN #1

24. XENOZOIC TALES #8.

25. YUMMY FUR 1-18

26. ZATANNA 1-4..


And here are the new inductees:

27. JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #59.

28. "The Enchantress and the Executioner," JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY #103.

29. INCREDIBLE HULK #142.

30. VISION OF ESCAFLOWNE 1-8.

31. "The Sea Circe from Space," THE JAGUAR #3.

32. CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS.


Now here's the "null-myths," which may or may not ever reach 1001:

1. BLACK PANTHER #1 (Kirby), in part 1 and part 2

2. "The Secret of the Sorcerer's Box," SHOWCASE #6.

3. THE MAGICMAN ARCHIVES.

4. WANTED.


Only 969 to go...




Saturday, June 27, 2015

RE-ASSESSING THE ARCHIVE

I've been maintaining THE ARCHETYPAL ARCHIVE for a little over seven years now. I've never expected it to be popular on the Internet, given that in many ways it's been a notebook in which I could work out my unabashedly abstruse theories.  Even my waspish challenges to various 'Net critics have been,  for me, elements in necessary elements in the grand scheme.

While I haven't precisely formulated any "Key to All Mythologies and Literature," I have made significant inroads in the construction of such an inclusive theory. I anticipate that I could go on for years, exploring the intricacies of thought that have been borrowed from, or influenced by, such giants as Schopehauer, Nietzsche, Jung, Frye, Cassirer and many others.

But theory alone isn't enough, if the theory can't be put into practice. And for that purpose, I need to create more reviews to illustrate various aspects of my theory. 

About four years ago, I posted JUST THE FIRST MYTHIC MONDAY, a prelude to a series of 26 comics-stories. I had played with the notion that I ought to be able to discern at least 1001 comics-stories that possessed the symbolic complexity of archaic myth. Just for the fun of it I decided to see if I could do one for each letter of the alphabet, before deciding whether or not I would do more. I certainly had some thought about attempting to garner new readers through the use of a regular "special feature:"

...Monday will be the day that any interested party can check in and be reasonably sure that something will have been added. I have no idea whether or not any 'net readers will be interested enough to do so, but I'm cognizant that periodicity is just as important to online readers as Wednesday is for comic-shop customers.

When I didn't get many posted responses, I decided that either (a) the topic, or my presentation of it, did not attract comics-fans to check out this feature, (b) such fans didn't really want to read summaries and analyses of comics-stories, usually with no more than one illustration-excerpt. To the extent that fans wanted to explore such narratives, they wanted either to read the whole stories, or enough excerpts to make them feel like they'd read them. Since I didn't get the response I coveted, I didn't bother to go back to the topic, except on rare occasions, like my recent analysis of CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS. This was to some extent a response to a comment here from my correspondent AT-AT Pilot had wondered if I might try to apply my NUM theory to comic books. I responded to him on this particular point in NUM-INOUS COMICS, asserting that it might be tough to say anything meaningful about the comics medium in terms of that particular theory. However, in recent months I've been debating about reviving the "1001 myths" project as a means of illustrating many different aspects of the Gene Phillips "Anatomy of Criticism."

I have to admit that another influence is THE HOODED UTILITARIAN. The theories expressed on that site hardly ever stray from those two comforting critical teats named "Karl" and "Sigmund." But if a reader wants a site full of comics-reviews that are rooted in ultraliberal politics, HU has a lot of them. I argued here  that I don't conceive of "plenitude" in terms of political correctness or even debates about ethical values:

Plenitude for me is the interdependence of [human] senses with the [human] mind's first attempts to understand [sensory input] through symbolic action.
So, if I really want to demonstrate that my view of human plenitude is superior to that of HU, the Comics Journal, and others, the best response is probably not through my argumentative attacks-- fun as those may be-- but through focusing upon the texts themselves, the texts that the "bloody comic book elitists" feel free to misread.

The question then becomes, what is the best means to address the plenitude of comics? After being a fan of the medium for over forty years, and after reading widely in both fiction and non-fiction, I have no doubt that I'm capable of creating the comics-medium's version of "the Library of Apollodorus." I'm capable of devoting time to the project-- but what's the best approach?

I still like the format I premiered here, in which I summarized the narrative to be discussed and then launched into a "mythanalysis," devoted to sorting out the subtler symbolic elements of the stories. However, this format is very work-intensive, and I anticipate that I might get burned out on it pretty soon, especially since there probably won't be a lot of response, if any, to the project. I'm contemplating something more along the lines of the popular TV TROPES, though maybe with a wee bit more critical analysis.

Starting the week of June 28-July 4, I will start posting at least one review of a comic book that meets my criteria for being "mythic." I would like to do two, but that may not be realistic. It's also occurred to me that it might be instructive to post not only an analysis of a consummate "myth-comic," but also one of an *inconsummate* story. Such stories make good counter-examples, in that they will possess myth-elements-- as do all narratives, by virtue of being narratives-- but the story uses them poorly or not to their greatest potential. It might also serve to make clearer that I don't regard "mythic complexity" as some sort of rapture that descends upon the writer as from heaven. Some raptures result only in babbling, while others culminate in a poetry that transcends all the Babel-like confusions of language. 

The very next post, however, will be devoted to enumerating just how many stories I've covered in the "1001 myths" mode, even if they didn't appear in the 26-part "Mythic Monday" project. Also, this time I'm not going to worry about whether they appear on a particular day of the week



Thursday, June 25, 2015

ULTRALIBERAL LYNCH LAW




The only pleasant thing about ultraliberal lynchings, as compared to ultraconservative lynchings, is that the former are generally content with killing nothing more than reputations. (Here is an example of one from 2013, albeit one better known to the general public.)

Of course, if you're in a financial league with Joss Whedon, you can afford to ignore the Internet's hanging-judges and their sycophantic juries. Going by Whedon's own remarks, he's been attacked many times by all sorts of  nutbars, presumably ultraconservatives as much as ultraliberals. However, in recent months the comics-related blogosphere generally-- and the Hooded Utilitarian particularly-- have conceived a new fascination for finding ways to take superficial pot-shots at Whedon. In all likelihood this "meme," as I choose to call it, has come about because of Whedon's alleged marginalization of the Black Widow character in AGE OF ULTRON, which I discussed somewhat in CURSE OF THE BLACK WHEDON-TWEETS.

One of the more ludicrous volleys appeared in April: Noah Berlatsky's BE WHITE OR EXPLODE. Given that the essay is two months old, I suppose it's "old news"-- though maybe not quite as old as writing an essay on a single episode of a television series; an episode that debuted a little short of two years ago, on 9-24-13.

In keeping with his standard practice, NB does not analyze the whole episode; only the part of it that he considers ideologically retrograde. The interested reader can wade through it if he pleases, but it boils down to the fact that (a) the show starts out with a working-class black guy performing an act of heroism, (2) NB's thunderstruck realization that the black guy is not the show's hero, but a "schlubby plot point." and (3) NB's criticism of the show for not spotlighting enough people of color.

I consider this muddled argument a "lynching" because hanging-judge Berlatsky conveniently ignores any evidence that might conflict with his prosecution of the show's producers for the crime of not being ideologically advanced. He's particularly annoyed that the episode's one black character is shown as being out of control (hence, ready to 'explode") while the mostly white guys are controlled and in control. (The presence of an Asian female in the SHIELD team is supposedly nullified by the allegation that she's a stereotype, which, even if it were true, would be pretty much impossible to demonstrate in one episode.)

I'm not a fan of AGENTS OF SHIELD (henceforth AOS), for reasons I won't explore here. Nevertheless, it's clear that the show isn't going to get a fair hearing in any court that watches only one episode-- or a court that automatically condemns said show for not having enough POC in one episode to suit the judge. It's significant that even after a correspondent informed Judge Berlatsky that one of the regular, apparently Caucasian characters was actually biracial, he simply inserted that datum into the essay as written but declined to let that fact cause him to reverse his judgment. AOS showed a character named Mike Peterson, who happened to be black, getting pacified with a tranquilizer gun, so therefore this escapist teleseries can be implicated into all the real-world narratives about criminalizing black men (Trayvon Martin is mentioned twice).. Never mind that Peterson, as written, could have been as readily played by a white actor as by a black one. Never mind that the first season's episodes quickly established that Peterson was the only one of several persons who received the destructive super-power treatment. Never mind that SHIELD is responsible for Peterson living through the experience, and that any moral umbrage regarding Peterson's destructive actions is clearly not directed at him acts but at the fiends who experimented on him-- at least some of whom were also white.  AOS is automatically guilty by association-- even though it's an association that's only in the judge's mind, that might read something like, "any disempowering portrait of a black character= automatic racism.".

In addition to considering only one episode as proof of retrograde racial tendencies, this judge also threw out of court any evidence that might have mitigated the verdict. Evidently NB decided that parallels with Trayvon Martin were the only reason that Whedon's team would have had for casting a black actor, one J. August Richards (formerly a regular on Whedon's ANGEL teleseries) as Peterson. The fact that the Peterson character was based on a Marvel character of color was not explored by His Dishonor, because such a consideration would have impeded the all-important "rush to judgment."

While I don't have any more experience than NB in the actual production of AOS, I offer for those interested my take on how this episode of alleged bigotry probably came into being:

______________


AOS WRITER 1: OK, we've decided we're going to have one guy, Peterson, survive the Project Centipede experiment. SHIELD will save Peterson, and their investigation will bring them into conflict with the architects of the project. Are we gonna make the survivor a one-shot, or bring him back?

AOS WRITER 2: Let's make him a reference to one of the Marvel characters we have the rights to adapt. We may work into later stories or not, but using one of the old familiar characters is good for keeping the attention of the hardcore Marvel fans.

AOS WRITER 3: OK, let's do that. Who do we have rights to use? Moon Knight... Two-Gun Kid... Doctor Droom-- jeez, who bought this package?

AOS WRITER 2: Hey, we got Deathlok. He works, 'cause he was already the subject of an evil experiment. Let's make Peterson our version of Deathlok.

AOS WRITER 1: That works, and for a bonus to Whedon's Buffy fans, we could cast one of the Buffyverse actors in the role. What's Boreanaz doing these days?

AOS WRITER 2: Are you crazy, man? You can't have even an off-brand Deathlok played by a white guy. Original Deathlok is black!

AOS WRITER 1: He is? I read the seventies Deathlok; I thought he was a white guy whose skin turned grey.

AOS WRITER 3: No, man, it was kind of buried, but that version was black, too.  Number Two is right. If you have one of Marvel's black super-guys played by a white guy, the bloggers will bury us in shit.

AOS WRITER 1: All right, already; we'll get a black actor to play off-brand Deathlok-- and then, everybody will be happy---

_______________________

(Fortunately the three writers were spared execution by hanging-judge Berlatsky, thanks to the appeals-court, presided over by Judge Phillips, who voided the lower court's verdict as insubstantial and not based in the rudiments of good literary crticism.)

Monday, June 22, 2015

SWORD, MEET CHALICE PART III

"Sugar and spice and everything nice,
"That's what little girls are made of"-- familiar nursery rhyme.

""When a dog bites a man, that is not news, because it happens so often. But if a man bites a dog, that is news."-- Alfred Harmsworth.

In Part I and Part II of this essay-series, I referenced a transformation of will that must take place for real or fictional human females to personify the "feminine will:"

A male human being does not have to transform himself radically in order to become a vessel of all those things I associate with Nietzsche's "willingness"-- receptivity, romantic ardor, and so on. A female human being must undergo such a transformation, in order to make what I have called "the feminine will" possible.
Since I had been focusing upon the "Athena archetype" in fiction, this assumes that any fictional character subsumed under this archetype must be, like the Greek goddess, a female able to master the arts of war. This means, in the "dynamicity-terms" I introduced here, that I've been addressing megadynamic archetypes, whether they were dominantly armed or unarmed types.

However, I would be remiss if I did not follow up on the refinements I made in COMPENSATORY CONSIDERATIONS PART 4, to wit:

The terms "combinatory mode" and "dynamicity mode" are new extrapolations from the established terms "combinatory-sublime" and "dynamic-sublime."

What this means is that although functionally the "Athena archetype" should only apply to female characters who undergo a transformation into a megadynamic mode, some audience-members may evince similar reactions to less dynamic versions of the archetype, which is to say any "girls" who show themselves to composed of something other than "sugar and spice." Thus even characters whose power of action is less than exceptional (either "mesodynamic" and "microdynamic") can inspire a fascination in that it's perceived as unusual that female characters can utilize violence at all. In other words, for most audiences, "man gets violent" is the equivalent of "dog bites man," while "woman becomes violent" lines up with "man bites dog."  In this review of a pair of film serials which atypically featured female protagonists, I noted:

Very few serials of the period depicted heroines who could fight.  It was a commonplace notion that any time a fight-scene broke out, any female characters would get shoved to the ground, where they would bump their heads and immediately pass out for the length of the scene. 
This may have been an extreme form of chivalry, implying that in most cases women had to be got out of the way of a real man vs. man fight, and that a bump on the head was a small price to pay to keep them from more serious injury. And yet, few if any persons of that time-period, male or female, would have really believed that women could not raise any kind of defense of themselves, either from men or other women.

Perhaps inevitably, specialized fetishes arose in reaction to the portrayal of "violent femmes." In my opinion, the three most popular at present are:

(1) BALLBUSTING. Though this fetish doesn't always concern only violent encounters of males and females, it certainly takes its cue from the real-world practice by which women, unable to equal male opponents in strength, can resort to kicking or kneeing the opponent's vulnerable nut-sack in order to discourage an assault. Since the fetish by itself does not place any priority upon fighting-skill, most fictional characters who practice this form of assault are likely to be *microdynamic*-- though of course there are a fair number of exceptions.





(2) CATFIGHTS. This fetish is by definition a violent encounter of two women. All three dynamicities can be represented here, ranging from characters who have no intrinsic fighting-skill, those who can fight with some modest skill, and those who are genuinely exceptional. While I'm not precisely a catfight enthusiast, it's my observation that a number of the hardcore fans tend to favor either the microdynamic or mesodynamic types, rather than the megadynamic types. Although their fetish depends on a trope in which women do not "act like ladies," there seems to be a sense in which the enthusiasts do not want these encounters to stray too far from the familiar associations of femininity.



(3) MIXED-GENDER FIGHTS: Fetish-scenes of this type can also encompass all conceivable combinations of dynamicity-types, but the most familiar type here will be one that opposes two megadynamic types, since this is the one that evokes the greatest sense of the feminine will that "swims against the current." As one example, I cite scenes from the 1992 film LADY DRAGON, in which Cynthia Rothrock takes out villainous Richard Norton, despite the fact that he probably outweighs her by over a hundred pounds.





I may develop these matters somewhat more in a separate essay. For now, I'll just note in passing that this argument references my definition of "impure states" in which the usually opposed phenomena of sex and violence join with one another in what I've termed "impure states."
In CROSSING THE LAWLINES PT 5 I specified that these states took two distinct forms: "erotic violence" and "violent sex." Only the first of these applies to archetypes that prioritize violence: the latter apply better to archetypes of *eros.*


Friday, June 19, 2015

SWORD, MEET CHALICE PART II

In Part 1 I recapitulated some of my earlier musings about the division of male and female roles in biology and culture, and the expression of the "feminine will" in its literary form of the "Athena archetype." At the end of the essay I specified that the charisma of weapons did have a positive manifestation comparable to the manifestation seen in male heroic archetypes.

The negative charisma is not so pronounced. As I mentioned in THE DOUBLE EDGED SWORD OF VIOLENCE,  fictional male heroes are often constructed as being so tough that they can outfight enemies who have the advantage of being armed with a non-projectile weapon, such as a sword, whip, or knife. This manifestation certainly does not contradict the positive charisma of, say, two sword-experts dueling one another, as seen in films like 1935's CAPTAIN BLOOD; it's simply a different variation on the theme of proving superiority through violent conflict.




Without mustering any statistics as such, I would say that the variation of unarmed heroines choosing to fight, or being forced to fight, armed opponents (be they males or females) is not as pervasive as it is with male heroes. Certainly there are numerous examples where the same scenario takes place; in KILL BILL, Uma Thurman's heroine initially pits her sword against Gogo's spiked "yoyo-weapon,"  but Tarantino disarms the heroine rather quickly, forcing her to fall back upon her personal resources (notwithstanding some improvised weaponry). Still, on the whole I believe there's less of an emphasis upon using the "unarmed vs. armed" trope as a proof for martial toughness.




Still, if I am correct regarding this lesser emphasis of this scenario with respect to female characters, it may have come about because any "Athena archetype" who has mastered the arts of combat-- thus, as I said, swimming against the current with regard to biology and culture-- really does not have to *prove* toughness in quite the same way that males do.

The theme of the human body's superiority to weapons receives a different emphasis, as well.  A male who avoids being penetrated by a weapon only avoids injury and/or death. A female who performs the same action *may be* avoiding the indignity of a figurative rape as well. I've argued here that male characters certainly suffer humiliation through violence as well. Yet in the same essay I also stated that the trope is certainly better known with respect to female characters, whether they are heroines as such or not.

However, the other side of the coin is that the female capable of exerting "body violence" (as opposed to "weapon violence") usually gains an image of superior sexual attractiveness in addition to the fact of her innate toughness. This is by no means inevitable with regard to male heroes: Bruce Willis' toughness may enhance his sexy repute, while Arnold Schwarzenegger's toughness does little if any good for his image as a "sex machine."  In contrast, even a female actress who is not conventionally attractive, such as Melissa McCarthy in the 2015 film SPY, obtains greater sexual allure through her ability to kick butt and take names. In this particular film this transformation is referenced by the attitude-change of Jude Law's character once he's seen her fighting (admittedly, with a substantial amount of gun-play as well).

SWORD, MEET CHALICE

In THE DOUBLE EDGED SWORD OF VIOLENCE, I pointed out that the charisma assigned to weapons could assume one of two values. One is positive, ranging from Thor's hammer to Dirty Harry's magnum handgun. The other is negative, but only in contrast to an emphasis upon the superiority of the human body's resources, as illustrated by the film ENTER THE DRAGON and the teleseries KUNG FU.

It may be noted that all of the examples cited deal with male characters. There would be no need to philosophize about exceptions if I subscribed to Nietzche's dichotomy, detailed here, regarding males and females as representing "will" and "willingness" respectively-- or, as I reworded it: "masters of violence" and "mistresses of sex." But I specified that these social and cultural roles, though they came about due to the evolutionary predispositions of the two genders, did not determine the full range of possible roles either for real persons or fictional representations. In Part 4 of SACRED AND PROFANE VIOLENCE,  I showed how either dominant role could undergo a boulesversment, and gave examples, respectively, of two "turnabout archetypes" that I termed the "Adonis type" and the "Athena type." 

Yet, when these types are realized in real persons, the nature of the reversal involved has different physical permutations. A male human being does not have to transform himself radically in order to become a vessel of all those things I associate with Nietzsche's "willingness"-- receptivity, romantic ardor, and so on. A female human being must undergo such a transformation, in order to make what I have called "the feminine will" possible. In WHAT WOMEN WILL PT. 3 I wrote:

...when fictional action-heroes do their kickass thing, they are in essence "going with the flow," conforming to an archetype of male behavior based in both culture and physical nature.  When fictional action-heroines kick ass, they are in essence "swimming against the current"... [Action-heroines] align themselves with a reverse-archetype that describes not real experience but a gesture toward desired experience.  That implies a greater level of conflict in this reverse-archetype in that it contravenes (albeit in fiction, where nothing is impossible) both physical law and cultural experience.

Having established this line of argument, I must next inquire whether or not the "charisma of weapons" applies to the "Athena archetype" as it does to the normative "male warrior archetype."

In WHAT WOMEN WILL and elsewhere, I've drawn attention to the appearance of "warrior goddesses" in archaic cultures, including not only Athena but also Anath, Ishtar, and (to stretch the definition of "goddess" somewhat) Celtic war-maidens like Badb and Scathach. However, I am not aware of any strong tradition in which the weapons of the war-goddesses are given particular names or properties. That doesn't mean that there never were such weapons, since it goes without saying that many oral traditions have been lost to the mists of time. But for whatever reason, there seems to have been more narrative attention paid to the concept of male warriors using weapons that have actual names like Excalibur and Mjolnir. It's inevitable to draw comparisons with modern men who choose to give a name to one particular organ, though of course no one can prove, or should assume, that this male quirk has a history stretching back to the gods of Asgard.

In contemporary pop culture, it's become standard to produce female versions of every male heroic archetype, ranging from a "Lady Terminator" to various types of "Dirty Harriet." Fictional heroines, however, seem to be somewhat less *attached" to their weapons than fictional male heroes. One can't make too much of this, though, since for every Dirty Harry there are dozens of cinematic cops who don't generate any special "gun-myths."



But even if one could demonstrate that the weapons wielded by female characters were statistically less "charismatic," one certainly cannot say this about the females wielding them. This page of links from GirlswithGuns.org isn't devoted exclusively to the subject of girls and their guns, for the page also links to sites that simply concern overall "tough girl" fiction. Still, on the whole, there are a lot of pages that focus only on girls-and-guns. I'm not aware of any other weapon that has received this much Internet attention, though I have come across one devoted to female swashbucklers and their swords.

Thus, I conclude for this part of the essay that the positive charisma of weapons certainly occurs with respect to fictional female characters, even if it does not follow precisely the same paths seen with male characters. In Part 2 I will devote some attention to what happens when weapons are given a secondary status in comparison to the superiority of the body's resources.