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NUM-INOUS COMICS PT. 2

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...

Friday, June 19, 2015

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.

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