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This essay is a very belated response to a " part 1 " published in February 2015. The gist of that essay was a response to a corre...

Thursday, March 17, 2011


I took Richard Bensam’s advice and checked out the sites associated with Roz Keveney and Avedon Carol. It’s quite possible that these critics have expressed attitudes that might complement those of known “sex-positive feminists” like Camille Paglia and Barbara Creed. But I simply didn’t find anything that specifically addressed the theoretical problems I addressed in this gender-essay, itself engendered by Heidi McDonald’s commentary on “aggro culture” in “nerd fandom.”

One thing I didn’t touch on in McDonald’s essay was her quotation from a short video-film directed by one Sam Taylor-Wood, in which the question, "We're equals, aren't we, 007?" is posed to current Bond Daniel Craig by the voice of Judi Dench. I have not watched the video as yet, but clearly Taylor-Wood had polemical reasons for chooosing the characters of Bond and M (or at least the version of M installed in the role for 1995's GOLDENEYE). This is also the film in which M called Bond a "misogynistic dinosaur," thus establishing that the producers intended to take seriously those voices that had criticized the Bond films as sexist male fantasy. The fact that Dench continued to essay the formerly male role of M in subsequent Bond films can be interpreted as a measured victory for gender equity in fiction; therefore polemically M makes an ideal candidate to call Bond on the carpet for his gender's failure to deliver on such concerns as "equal pay for equal work," etc.

Taylor-Young's rhetoric doesn't concern me here, but I find it interesting that he and Heidi McDonald both invoke this phase of the James Bond mythos. I would not go so far as to call the "female M" concept tokenism in and of itself. However, the "misogynistic dinosaur" line, and similar sops to feminism in GOLDENEYE and subsequent Bond films, aligns the "female M" concept-- and by extension, all persons who validate it-- with what I may call the WAPster ethic. This ethic passes an unsubstantiated judgment upon all previous incarnations of Bond fiction: said judgment being that, because they were originally fictions designed principally with male buyers in mind, new iterations must and should be corrected to become more “female-friendly.” But this correction hinges on two presumptions: (1) that male-oriented fiction has no integrity in itself, but must be corrected in some fashion, and (2) that the Bond mythos did not already a healthy, though numerically smaller, female fandom even prior to feminist revisions.

It’s not hard to imagine why McDonald, a female comics-fan, might find pleasing this imposition of a WAPster ethic upon a genre dominantly enjoyed and supported by men. I doubt that a month goes by in which one of the BEAT columns doesn’t stump for gender equity in terms of female representation in writing comics, drawing comics, or critiquing comics (which is touched on in the aforementioned essay). I have no problem with anyone asserting the need for gender equity in these real-world terms. However, imposing gender equity upon fiction-- which I believe McDonald has called for on more than one occasion-- is a different matter.

What would a “sex-positive” female comics critic read like, given that I’ve not been able to locate any on the web? Presumably she would evince some appreciation that a given genre, no matter how seemingly inconsiderate of feminine values, might contain representations of sexuality, violence, and/or pornography which some women might find either pleasing on a kinetic level or useful in terms of forging a greater theoretical schema.

Female horror-bloggers provide some tantalizing insights. A particular standout, given that the McDonald essay addresses the politics of rape-representation, would be this blogpost by Brittany-Jade Colangelo on the infamous rape-horror film I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE and its then-impending remake.

First, Colangelo addresses the adviseability of remaking the film:

My heart is breaking at the thought of this film being redone. I have said many times before that I don't have a problem with films being remade as they bring the originals to a newer audience that were otherwise unaware of the film's existence. HOWEVER, (this however is so big it needed caps) there are certain films that I believe should not be redone for the simple fact that even the smallest change could completely ruin its heart. The film has its faults as does every film (except for maybe Star Wars), but this is undoubtedly a flawed masterpiece. When the film was created, it was a time that didn't have as many "politically correct" and taboo subjects constantly buzzing around. We now live in a day and age where we must walk on egg shells in order to protect the feelings of the people around us. 1978 was a completely different world.

Following this, Colangelo situates the representation of rape within this particular film-- one that she clearly labeled an "exploitation film"-- in terms of its thematic importance:

The rape scene in this film is VITAL. Without it, there is no set up for her absolutely brutal revenge on her assailants. These scenes were filmed in the 70's where we were flooded with video nasties but people weren't afraid to make them. It's not the same anymore. People take the easy route and they sugarcoat reality. I hate when TV portrays rape because they sanatize the hell out of it...AND THAT'S NOT BEING HONEST. We're going to end up getting a film with a rape scene that will be barely as graphic as the one in the remake of The Last House On The Left. This doesn't make me some sick person who wants to see rape, but the horrifying torture of Jennifer Hill is what gives this film such sting. The tagline of "this woman has just chopped, crippled, and mutilated four men beyond recognition...but no jury in america would ever convict her" only rings true if we get a real understanding of the pain that she endured which fueled her need for revenge. We're not going to understand her and the horror she experienced, unless we see it.

I should note that, in terms of stumping for real-world gender equity in the horror genre, Costangelo’s blog is in no way inferior to McDonald’s comics-blog. Nevertheless, Costangelo not only provides a personal feminist context for the film but in addition takes the name of her blog, DAY OF THE WOMAN, from one of GRAVE’s alternate titles. To be sure, Colangelo is not a theorist like Creed and Paglia, any more than McDonald is Susan Brownmiller. But if there were budding female comics-critics who wanted to know how one might take an unpleasant topic and render it into a meaningful pursuit-- without taking away from its identity as a work of kinetic exploitation-- they could do worse than learn from Colangelo's example.

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