POST SAN DIEGO: DEAR MEN IN ARTS, WE NEED A REFRESHER COURSE ON SEXISM, DON’T WE?
AMBER LOVE 26-JUL-2016 I monitored a little bit of the SDCC announcements over the weekend. I’ve been mostly staying offline on weekends, but once in a while, I catch things that have me glued to the timelines. Thoughtful posts like this are financially supported by the backers of Patreon.com/amberunmasked.
OH THE SEXISM!
The first thing I’d like to bring to everyone’s attention is this unbelievable thread by Lauren (@laurasaurusrex) on TwitterREAD THE THREAD. She was on a panel about Women in Filmmaking and their panel was completely disrupted by a male staff member who stole their space, time, and the attention of the audience. Never do this! Stop talking OVER women! This was designated as a “women in….” discussion and no one wants to hear about your stupid screenplay!
Ok so now that I am finally sitting down on a 3hr train ride, I wanted to address something that happened at our rad ladies panel on Friday
— Lauren @ SDCC (@laurasaurusrex) July 24, 2016
The second is the Brian Azzarello comment calling someone from Bleeding Cool a pussy during The Killing Joke panel. Let me unravel this one. It’s going to take a bit and hopefully my thoughts are organized. A more brief response will be on Women Write About Comics.
If someone asked me “in general,” do I care about gendered slurs like “cock,” “dick,” “cunt,” or “pussy,” my honest answer would be no, I don’t care. The key is “in general.” I have a filthy vocabulary and will use all those terms gender neutral. Anyone can act like a dick.
In context, however, is a different ball game. The SDCC panel was about the new animated version of the most horrific Batgirl story of all time, The Killing Joke. In the story (you probably know), Barbara Gordon and her father Commissioner Gordon are sexually assaulted, humiliated, and then Babs is shot and paralyzed. All this done by Joker. Those are well known – not spoilers. Some is open to interpretation; I’ve seen people argue that being stripped naked and photographed and shot is not “rape” while others say there is penetrating rape off-panel. We aren’t going to get into the Crime Bureau statistics changing definition, ok? There was unquestionably assault of a sexual nature against both characters.
TKJ is considered more Batgirl’s story than anyone else’s because of the trajectory that altered the course of the Barbara character for decades after (until these recent “miracle cure” reboots). If you ask people, they’ll agree it’s a Batgirl story despite the small amount she actually appears. This part matters.
Barbara didn’t have a lot of panel-time in TKJ. She was specifically a prop to evoke anger and nothing more. She wasn’t handled with any kind of care. Her assault was motivation to humiliate her father who was shown the images of her abuse and then to spring Batman into action. She’s a sexy lamp that gets fridged.
Beyond that, the character was taken over by creators who did care for her and molded her into The Oracle character. She had agency and purpose. She was given a wide range of emotions and skills. She wasn’t perceived as only a struggling crippled person, but her vulnerability was not absent. So the agreement is that something good came out of Moore’s abysmal piece of crap story that fridged her.
Not because of TKJ, but because everything that came after, Barbara Gordon grew into an icon and role model for all kinds of people, not only women, not only the disabled community. Even after the reboots, she’s shown in therapy for PTSD. She’s relatable. But because she is a woman, there’s going to naturally be a “for girls” mentality about her role model status.
This is why the gender basis of the slur “pussy” spat out by the screenwriter, Azzarello, is so important. In the new movie a bunch of new content had to be added because the story was deemed too short (per Bruce Timm). Some of this new content is revisiting a sexual relationship between Batgirl and Batman — something fans acknowledge happened in certain versions of the Gothamverse like Batman Beyond — but generally left forgotten because no one liked it. Barbara is considered much younger than Bruce Wayne in a sisterly or student/mentor role; and she was better known for her relationship with Dick Grayson/Nightwing/Robin #1.
The movie seems to have taken the already established prop-in-female-form (Babs) and reduced her further to a sex object for the male hero, Batman. As if one thing weren’t bad enough, now she’s a fusion of bad female character tropes.
Other than point out how wrong it is to name call someone during a CORPORATE EVENT (hello, DC, did you notice?), there’s not much anyone can do. Azzarello seemed to see the error of his ways and tweeted something resembling remorse; but then he undid the retrospection of the event by referring to the target of his slur as a heckler from the media who was constructing his own narrative.
I wasn’t there and I’m not sure if anyone has it recorded because I’m curious what he considers heckling. The first thing I read about the incident was that someone who identified themselves as being from Bleeding Cool got up to ask a question during the Q&A. That’s what the Q&A portion is for. It’s not heckling. Heckling is shouting out from the audience and being rude. So, on this I am curious, but it doesn’t excuse the slur.
Using the specific word when he could have picked any number of descriptive insults (see the Scottish reception of Donald Trump), absolutely insinuates that something female (genitals) are things less than his successful masculine screenwriting penis. You know how men with expensive cars are compensating for small penis size? Well here you go in creative entertainment form. How dare someone ask about the agency of the leading female character of the plot he wrote?
In other cases of Batgirl teams making mistakes, they’ve owned up and apologized and then did the simplest thing possible: said they learned from it and would try to never repeat the mistakes.
Apologies are hard.
The thing that concerns me is that Azzarello thinks he’s being called on the carpet for insulting someone who pissed him off, but that’s not the whole problem. He needs to understand context — he diminished a female role model then used gender as a weapon in a corporate forum to promote the product.