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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...

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


Before further exploring the topic raised by Curt Purcell's post (see PT. 1), I feel it appropriate to point out this blog's previous encounter with the topic of violence and superheroines, in reaction to this 1-31-08 BEAT post.  However, Heidi's post addressed a different manifestation of the same phenomenon. Whereas Curt addressed a subgenre of Japanese pornography, to which he gave the informal name "Superheroines Lose," Heidi alleged that similar violent material on the porn-website "Superheroines Demise" was uncomfortably close to imagery seen in mainstream superhero comics.

I didn't think then, and don't think now, that Heidi proved her case:

It seems to me that the jury is still out as to whether this dominance imagery “pervades” the superhero genre as Alexa claims. Heidi names three examples of similar-looking image but doesn’t (at least in this post) claim that it’s pervasive. Steven Stahl cites one other example that may be the only one I’ve read, too long ago to remember anything except a general impression that MS. MARVEL was a really vanilla book.

I think you need more than four examples to prove pervasiveness. Should I check out WOMEN IN REFRIGERATORS?

Another general impression I’ve had is that there are more triumphant, kickass female characters in comic books than at any other time in comic-book history. But maybe that’s just me.

Now, here's a new thought::

Suppose I am right, and there exist within any given year, contrary to Heidi and WIR, far more depictions of triumphant rather than trounced heroines in U.S. comics books specifically and in U.S. media generally.  Admittedly, to assert this, one cannot define a "heroine" simply as any lead female character: it would have to be a character possessed of ample power to defend herself in a violent situation-- which would certainly be the principal context for costumed superheroines, though not for the Lifetime Channel's treasure-trove of endlessly imperilled female leads.

IF that were indeed the case, then it could be that "Superheroines Demise," if its organizers and contributors are dominantly U.S. citizens/residents, might be a reaction AGAINST the valorization of superheroes in mainstream media, as opposed to being an outgrowth of a general male audience's imperfectly-concealed desire to torment the female figure.  ("Not that there's anything wrong with that"-- at least, AS LONG AS IT'S A FRICKING FICTIONAL CHARACTER!) 

Naturally, I'm not interested enough in the answer to go out and buy every mainstream comic book that features a (super)heroine and count the number of times she kicks ass as opposed to the number of times she's slammed silly.  Even if I did, statistics alone would never prove the matter.  People on either side of the question would believe what they want to believe.

But here's the point to which my series-title, "Mystery of Mastery," refers:

Is there as radical a disconnect as some would believe between the triumphant and trounced modes?

Do not both depend on the arousal of sensation, in reaction against ideas transmitted through cultural matrices (such as fiction)?

I'll go into more detail in future essays.  But in parting I'll point out that where the Japanese are concerned, they pretty much corner the market on every type of fetish imagineable-- and that I may be able to find at least one "triumphant" Japanese superheroine for every "trounced" one in Curt's survey.

More later.


AT-ST Pilot said...

A kind of off-topic question: in a 2009 post titled THE SIGNIFICANCE OF ACTION-HEROINES, you said you were going to write an essay about how "The action-heroine is a better symbol of the Schopenhaurean Will than the male action-hero." Is this essay posted in the archive?


Gene Phillips said...

Hi Pilot,

Nope, I never got around to writing a full-fledged essay on the topic. I dropped a few relevant remarks in some posts on my AMAZONS ASCENDANT blog, but nothing organized. I have thought about pursuing the idea from time to time, possibly as a natural development of some ideas in the MYSTERY OF MASTERY series.

Thanks for asking.