Friday, January 20, 2012

DEFINING PSUEDOFEMINISM PART II

"It really does take a hollowed-out ventriloquist puppet husband to keep a straight face while agreeing that Drew Barrymore, by purchasing through her production company the film rights to Charlie’s Angels and building a brainless, action film franchise out of that “property,” really, really has built upon the feminist foundations of…whom? Farrah Fawcett-Majors? If I remember correctly, Farrah Fawcett-Majors in her day was considered to be the problem by Marxist-feminists. Has the stone rejected by the feminist builders become the head of the corner?

"Huh? Oh. Whatever." -- Dave Sim, CEREBUS 293.


"Betcha can't eat just one."-- Lays Potato Chip slogan.


To someone who loves to argue as much as I do, nearly any Dave Sim essay is not unlike a bag of potato chips.  I quoted one example of Sim's anti-feminism philosophy in order to clarify the very different nature of my own quarrel with certain manifestations of feminism, regarded here as "pseudofeminism."  And yet, having given the entire essay a cursory read, I found that the above quotation touches on some other aspects of pseudofeminism, which I now consider covalent with the "Wapsterism" described in this essay-- that is, the philosophy of feminism inspired by/descended from the 1970s group Women Against Pornography.

Now, as wrong as I think Dave Sim is about many things, I believe that he's fundamentally correct that most feminists in the 1970s looked down their noses at the CHARLIE'S ANGELS teleseries.  This site alleges:


While viewers couldn't get enough of the three beautiful women, critics and feminists chewed it to pieces.  Goldberg's idea to "inject some really stunning beauty into the genre" of crime shows was not appreciated by raging feminists.  They accused CHARLIE'S ANGELS of setting women back one hundred years and were appalled by all the titillation and suggestiveness of Charlie's double entendres.  One angry feminist saw the show as "a version of the pimp and his girls.  Charlie dispatches his streetwise Angels to use their sexual wiles on the world while he reaps the profits!" 

Surprisingly, I've seen this sort of oppositional complaint-- often founded in Marxist precepts, though possibly not in the manner Sim perceives-- applied to the action-heroine genre overall.  I recall one academic essay-- its specifics lost in the mazes of my memory-- that went so far as to invert the meaning of action-heroines.  This deconstruction went something like, "Yes, the heroine-film shows butt-kicking heroines defending themselves against rape, but the *real meaning* is that if a woman DOESN'T possess super-martial skills, then she's fair game for rapists!"  If I can ever track down the comment I'd like to ask the writer if he or she had just come off a heavy reading of Roland Barthes prior to conceiving that masterpiece of dumbassed interpretation.

For sake of argument, I'll accept the assertion made by the Charlie's Angels site: that the main problem 1970s feminists had with the show was its depiction and alleged "fetishization" of female glamour, and not with the characters' propensity to unrealistically kick butt-- which I believe to be Dave Sim's main quarrel with all versions of the franchise.

What's interesting, though, is that though Sim and the 1970s feminists are philosophically opposed, they both scorn CHARLIE'S ANGELS because of its failure to conform to some aspect of reality: Sim because "real women" don't have the power or capacity to beat men, and the feminists because "real women" don't spend every hour of the day trying to fetishize themselves for the enjoyment of men.

Now, it should be obvious that Sim's biggest error in the quote above is to assume that feminism must be monolithic throughout the thirtysomething years that separate the ANGELS television show and the big-screen movie version thereof.  Even though he himself doesn't validate feminism's objections to sexual fetishization, he views it as a major contradiction that modern feminists should cheer what earlier feminists did not cheer.

Yet as I noted in WAPSTERS VS. FACTSTERS, feminism was not even monolithic in its earlier manifestations, since the repressive philosophy of the WAP group and its fellow travelers brought forth the rather more liberal FACT and its offspring.  I've not made a concerted study of the subject, but it seems to me that over the years a fair number of women-- whether hardline feminists or feminist-sympathizers-- have expressed an affection for the very thing Sim dislikes in the 1970s teleseries: a sense of female empowerment that to some extent trumps issues of sexual fetishization.

Admittedly, I'm not sure if the 2000s re-invention of the franchise at the hands of Barrymore and her crew struck quite as deep a chord.  But the first film was at least profitable, even though the sequel and a very recent new teleseries both flopped. I don't see any contradiction in some liberal feminists appreciating Barrymore getting the chance to make a profitable score in the male-dominated world of Hollywood.  Since it's a given that "brainless action films" are going to be made for an audience that wants them, why, they might think, shouldn't a female producer have the chance to attempt one, and to profit thereby if it does well?


And with that, I will try to go back to ignorning that tempting potato-chip bag, and concentrate on something new.

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