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  1.  (10204.61)
    "lately i see more people that barely read comics complaining about comics than actual comics discussion and it bums me out."

    Then let's get back to why the authors who get it right get it right.

    First: Most of the people already posting are correct.

    Second: I THINK why those authors get it right is because they write characters who are female that are persons even if they're not human beings.

  2.  (10204.62)
  3.  (10204.63)
    Regarding the comments along the lines of "why can't cheesecake just be unapologetic cheesecake", and "it's thought provoking when someone in a skimpy costume gets called out for it", the issue seem to be that if you want to write a character well, everything about them is interconnected - wardrobe, face, expression, posture, mannerisms, vocabulary, attitude, etc, etc. No one thing about a person defines them wholly, but equally, any single trait must have an impact - that balance is the key to a believable and nuanced character.

    The problem with inappropriate sexualisation of characters (since there are plenty of appropriate ways to explore a character's sexuality) is that it seems like something about the character that feels incongruous - out of place. This begs the questions: what does how you dress, and how you pose your body say about you and your mind-set? When is it appropriate for a particular person with a particular set of traits to be portrayed cheesecakily, and what constitutes incongruity in such a character?

    These may sound simple, but I think they are HUGE character questions, and they touch upon seriously loaded topics. I don't know how to broach them properly. We know what cheesecake poses are, we know what cheesecake costumes are like, but what makes up the corresponding "cheesecake mind"? What might the possible range of character traits for a "cheesecake woman" be? Does such a creature even exist? I've got to be honest, as a guy I don't feel properly qualified to answer those questions: I appreciate and understand cheesecake aesthetically, but psychologically...? That's complex.

    Because of this, cheesecake with uninformed "feminist" meta-commentary inserted by the author is actually quite a dangerous playground, since chances are high that such commentary will be just as insipid (carry just as many inaccurate and harmful social assumptions) as the unaltered cheesecake itself.

    I'd even go so far as to say that an ideal is actually reinforced when under attack by an uninformed critique like this. This sort of process gives people who were sympathetic to the ideal in the first place a false sense of security in their conviction. I see this process happen time and time again with feminist rhetoric - a male dominated society is questioned in an uninformed or aggressive manner, and the questions are dismissed easily & legitimately; the status quo is reinforced, "feminism" is characterised as shrill and unintelligent - and all the while genuine arguments, and REAL feminism (a fascinating and powerful field of social study) goes unnoticed. Likewise, any author/artist who feels it's necessary to build a narrative around scantily clad women in provocative poses is likely to expose their real intentions in the process of "subverting" their own work.

    This doesn't mean I've got anything against people addressing feminist issues like that if they can, but I am saying it's HARD to do right! And so easy to do wrong! It's one of the most complex social/economic/political/personal issues out there, made up of assumptions and attitudes that are deeply ingrained in even the most thoughtful people - I fully hope that people tackle it, and love it when they do, but it requires a lot of effort to do so in a form that doesn't subvert its own efforts.

    I'd love it if someone knew of any comics that have tried to use cheesecake tropes to critique them, and succeeded in creating a piece which doesn't invalidate itself.
    • CommentAuthorJECole
    • CommentTimeSep 14th 2011
    63 Posts and not a single mention of Posy Simmonds?
  4.  (10204.65)
    I'd love it if someone knew of any comics that have tried to use cheesecake tropes to critique them, and succeeded in creating a piece which doesn't invalidate itself.

    I haven't read it (AGAIN failing the Brian Wood test!) but I've heard Adam Warren's Empowered series might be a place to look... although the aim is not straight out "critique" so much as problematizing / rehabilitating cheesecake by registering the potential negative effects it can have on people / society. It's something I think Slott did with She-Hulk, but my standards about this kind of commentary are perhaps lower than most. I quite like ridiculous cheesecake if the appropriate disclaimers are present to make me feel uncomfortable about it. I accept that this isn't gonna shake-up the patriarchy much, but I'll stick to the point that it's better than nothing.

    Also: Maybe interesting to talk about Kaare Andrews uglifying of Emma Frost in this context.
  5.  (10204.66)
    We know what cheesecake poses are, we know what cheesecake costumes are like, but what makes up the corresponding "cheesecake mind"?
    I can think of a few kinds of women who dress in skimpy clothes and present themselves as sexually available. The most common are flirts and prostitutes: women who are simply using their sexuality to attract men. Neither of which tend to be written as protagonists or well-rounded supporting characters. Another is a woman who uses her sexuality to intimidate men. Which exists, but I've met very few of them, and the ones I've known have done that through the things they said and did rather than by how they dressed and posed. They appear mostly in fiction... as an excuse for drawing cheesecake, not as a reason for it. The only other kind I can think of would be women who use it to manipulate men, basically pretending to be sexually available to get them to do things they wouldn't do for other people. That's not so much a "cheesecake mind" as it is another kind of person pretending to be a flirt.
  6.  (10204.67)
    @Jason A. Quest
    I could bring up that list as well, but I think you're right, it's one that lives more in fiction than life. Like a repository of character clichés that's stored and transmitted throughout society mimetically (often via "innocent" entertainment), finding a place in the minds and on the tongues of men and women who feel that they can identify such people from their life experience.

    I think the problem comes from the difficulty we all have identifying complex motivations in strangers or in groups of people from other socio-economic backgrounds. We all know there's a difference between someone's job and someone's life, someone's apparent and actual motivation, someone's sexual attitude and personal ideals, but when the sexual attitude is intimidating, or the job hard to understand, or the economic group too far from us, we forget that those distinctions are common to every human being, and mentally turn human beings into "foreigners".

    I guess because those differences make all the difference when actually writing a character, they're also the very hardest thing to imagine and access when we deal with a "foreign" character ... and let's face it, in an industry whose mainstream is an evolution of geek culture from 30+ years ago & crammed full of male writers, the woman is often a foreigner.

    BUT, if you look outside the mainstream it's not true at all (I personally know more female independent creators than male), so it also gets easy to get mired in the DC/Marvelverse and forget there's a whole universe of comics from other cultures, in other languages and other genres where very little is truly foreign!
    • CommentAuthorjonah
    • CommentTimeSep 15th 2011 edited
    ETA: Mea culpa. You were quoting joe.distort.
    ETA2: I totally suck, Local is on the 1st page. Anyway... Hope Larson.

    Now you are complaining about people complaining! :) And you didn't mention any comics to check out either! But you have due cause to be bitter because no one mentioned the fabulous Local! :) And I still remember reading this channel zero review in my early teens! Too many exclamation points! While I'm on the Brian Wood love train I should point out that with Demo I remember relating to quite a few of the characters. It was a really powerful work and I need to re-buy the singles that I lost.

    I don't feel like this thread is complaining (which I would define as entitled whining), so much as putting it out there that possibly there is an audience for this and some discussion around the issues?

    While I'm editing things:

    Is Northlanders realistic? AKA unrelentingly depressing?
    Talking specifically about women in super-hero fantasy comics seems to be missing the forest for the trees? These fantasy comics are fueled by society's depiction of idealized roles and bodies (that by design are unattainable to most). Mix in a dash of base fear and desire and you end up with an interesting representation of the Id and aspirations of a subset of (adult) males. Am I over-generalizing? Yes. Anyway, they aren't my cup of tea (not enough training montages), but I understand why they exist and don't have a problem with it.

    Besides, I think working from the top down would accomplish more than from the bottom up? I mean, wouldn't it make sense to attempt to re-tool the perception that punching someone in the face is anything other than hilarious and/or stupidly cathartic? A person than helps society stop using violence as a solution is a hero. A person that works a thankless, dead-end job 'til the day they die to support their family is tough. Is a character either of those things when winning is a foregone conclusion? For me, not so much.
  7.  (10204.69)
    The Amanda Waller slim-down in this week's Suicide Squad is exactly the kind of thing that DOES actually offend me. More than any cheesecake art ever possibly could. Because it means someone sat down and decided for whatever reason that Amanda Waller needed after decades of looking how she does--to look like every other woman in superhero comics. Because it wasn't okay for her to have a not magazine cover body, and still be an important character in the DCU.

    That kind of thing IS disgusting.
  8.  (10204.70)
    a whole universe of comics from other cultures

    The portrayal of women in Japanese manga or european BD might need their own threads, but I'm not sure if this gender / sexual / racial 'othering' is any less prevalent there. My suspicion (I'm no expert, so it will remain a suspicion) is that mainstream American comics acquit themselves rather well on the women front in comparison with these other mainstream comix traditions. The only solution, as Paul suggested previously, is to seek out those cultural spaces where female / gay / minority creators can be found... unfortunately they are often quite hard to find...

    Also: Hope Larson is the best.
    • CommentAuthorMathias B
    • CommentTimeSep 22nd 2011
    I found this essay by Laura Hudson both intelligent and moving:
  9.  (10204.72)
    @Mathias - I was just about to post that link. For the lazy among us, here it is again, but clicky like. I can't figure out how to link to it, but @Brandon Seifert has a really good post on g+ about the article/issue from his POV as a writer.

    Also thanks to everyone for a great conversation that I totally missed (thanks week-long illness). I started this thread because A - it was something we were discussing elsewhere B - I'm a writer who'd like to not get it wrong (as much as possible) and C - I have a little girl and I would like to be able to share my love of comics with her. I don't know if I have much to add that hasn't already been said. You guys and gals (er... women) rock!
  10.  (10204.73)
    bat n cat
    Popped over to the forum to do the spleen venting, but think this might go here too.
      CommentAuthorJon Wake
    • CommentTimeSep 23rd 2011
    And with that issue of Catwoman, I am officially done with mainstream books until the shape the fuck up and rejoin the 21st century. Christ shit, act your goddamn age, DC.
  11.  (10204.75)
    I don't read DC, so that article by Laura Hudson was a shock. I sorta rated Judd Winick and Kenneth Rocafort, but the work they've done here is an embarrassment.
  12.  (10204.76)
    My only problem with it is how dishonest they are about making a fanservice comic.

    Own it, boys!
    • CommentTimeSep 24th 2011 edited
    Women are in the spotlight as DC Comics ‘All New 52’ rollout continues
    Wonder Woman, Supergirl, Catwoman, and the Birds of Prey are among the 12 new #1’s this week.

    By Rich Clabaugh / September 21, 2011 - Christian Science Monitor

    Catwoman #1, written by Judd Winick and illustrated by Guillem March, promises to be an exciting crime caper book with snappy dialogue and some gorgeous art.


    There was more unzipping than snapping

    Sep 22nd 2011 By: Laura Hudson
    The Big Sexy Problem with Superheroines and Their 'Liberated Sexuality'
    And that is the whole problem with this false notion of "sexually liberated" female characters: These aren't those women. They're how dudes want to imagine those women would be -- what Wire creator David Simon called writing "men with t*ts." They read like men's voices coming out of women's faces. Or worse, they read like the straight girls who make out with each other clubs, not because they enjoy making out with women but because they desperately want guys to pay attention to them.

    This is not about these women wanting things; it's about men wanting to see them do things, and that takes something that really should be empowering -- the idea that women can own their sexuality -- and transforms it into yet another male fantasy.

    To what Hudson wrote, I would add that comic creators often don't seem to be aware that the medium influences context, that twice as much attention should go into how things are displayed in comics because in comics, everything is displayed. This is especially true for sex. If you are making a movie or TV show, you have to do work to influence whether the footage of two people having sex has the atmosphere of a document or a drama. In film it is easy to use sex to show something about the character because you just edit it with an eye toward dispassionate realism. In a comic, it is hard to do that. By default, you are glamorizing and stylizing -- you are not communicating meaning. (just putting narration squares over your porn doesn't fix this, Winick!). So your characters become dolls unless you do the presentation really correctly. As I said in the previousous thread, if your goal is to make a story about sex, that is not a problem -- and stories about sex can be great. But if your goal is to make a story about dramatic action starring the sexy girl who has sex, then you need to include that without eroticising an action story, or you make the audience think you don't really have a good action story to tell.

    Typed on mobile
  13.  (10204.78)
    Though to comment more specifically on the presentation of sex in this week's controversial catwoman:

    I don't really get where the claims that the scene is 'explicit' and shows penetration come from. First, because it's not the point: the comic fails because it undercuts its own characters and stories and in light of the expectations DC created around their project, undercuts the perception of the medium amon the whole Western world as a source for good portrayals of female characters. But in terms of naughtiness I don't see it as different than an above-the-shoulders shot of two people under a blanket. It's earlier when CW is jumping around that the creators offer their [tasteful!] moneyshot of her crotch.

    Second, can we really blame Winick here? He's been writing Batman for a while. So when he got the chance to occupy a female character who Batman wouldn't reject, he used her to finally imagine having sex with big Brucey. I submit, without having read the comic, that the fantasy on display here is not a fantasy of interaction with a woman but with a man! And who wouldn't. It is clear from how much grown men read about Batman that he attracts the attention of our sex very strongly.
  14.  (10204.79)
    It isn't that the scene depicts penetration in the way that a porn video does, but that it depicts it to the point that plausible deniability is gone. With the shoulders shot under a blanket, or with the fade to black just before the act, or the cut to fireworks and a train going into a tunnel, the audience is left to decide for themselves what's really happening; this scene did not give them that "out". There is no way to read that scene and not conclude that Bruce's cock is in Selina's pussy. Perfectly appropriate for a porn comic, but for a non-porn comic, I think it qualifies as "gratuitous".
  15.  (10204.80)
    There is no way to read that scene and not conclude that Bruce's cock is in Selina's pussy.
    Other than the fact that they both still have pants on.