Saturday, December 22, 2012

The (Female) Character Controversy: Appearance Isn't Everything

Welcome back to The Female Character Controversy, where I handle the topic of appearance. What do I have to say about it and how can we fix it, well let's dive in. So I remember awhile back I was reading or was it watching...not really sure, either way I remember a very interesting argument being made regarding the character She-Hulk. The argument basically asked, Why is it that She Hulk looks like...


While her male counterpart looks like...


The argument stated that if she was indeed a She-Hulk she should resemble her male counterpart in being LARGE and muscular to absurdity. I thought about the argument, and although it made perfect sense from a in-story & logical perspective, it made NO sense from outside perspective. Let me explain. There's a VERY valid reason why She-Hulk doesn't look like The Incredible Hulk and the answer is quite simple and has NOTHING to do with sex appeal...

It actually has EVERYTHING to do with women. Let me back track a bit, why do comic book characters exist? They exist to appeal to certain individuals, either as an expression of who they are OR who they want to be. How many guys would want to be able to transform into a muscle bound bad ass and be able to rip people limb from limb? How many guys would want to be as cool as Batman? And that's the reason why She-Hulk and The Hulk look completely different. Because they appeal to different people with a different set of expressions.

For guys, we don't give a crap about how The Hulk looks, he looks bad ass, and guys wanna BE The Hulk, so when we see something that we want to be on the cover of a comic book, we buy it. I doubt women would buy She-Hulk comic books if she looked like...

She Hulk would look like this in real life...

I imagine most of my female readers (all 2 of you) find the imagine above completely unappealing (and trust me you're not alone) but ultimately this is where men and women are divided. Men don't care about appearances and for the most part, women do. WAIT! WAIT! WAIT! Before you go alerting The Sexist Police, let me ask you, how many guys (who aren't gay) care about fashion? Find a guy on the street and ask him some questions about moisturizer. I'm stereotyping, yes, I know but let's be honest here, 9/10 men don't care about fashion or moisturizer or appearances. Which is why the Hulk is 9'10, Green, has muscles upon muscles and is running around in torn purple pants. A lot of guys wanna be big and strong and guess what, The Hulk is big and strong.

What do women want? A lot of women wanna be fit and look good. Don't lie now, how many women are committing themselves to diets next year in order to get in shape? I've noticed that Dr. Oz's audience is 99.9% women. Women care about getting into shape, nothing wrong with that. How many women have several pairs of shoes? How many women have their "cute" outfit? Or own make-up, Or wear make-up? Women wanna look good...and if you can rip a bus in half with your bare hands, why not? Guess who's in shape and looks good...She-Hulk!

All characters appeal to both genders differently and comic book creators as well as authors and so on attempt to make characters that are appealing to both genders. However both genders find different things appealing. Therefore there has to be something for men and women to enjoy. Guys aren't going to engaging in something that is meant for women;

Although the prospect of a talking horse does interest me very much...

In a like manner, women aren't going to engaging in something that is meant for men;

I don't always get to da choppa, but when I do I turn it into a memorable quote

Now again, I am speaking general terms here and I know that there are a share of guys (who aren't gay) who enjoy "Sex In The City" and I know that there are a share of women who can quote "Predator" in a better Arnold voice than I can, but understand that they are definitely the minority AND those properties aren't marketed to them. But for a property that is meant to be marketed to anyone who'll pick them up, there must be some kind of mutual appeal. What do I mean you say?


Look at these women, they're all attractive, physically fit and dressed in a way that although revealing isn't excessive or needless. What would be excessive and needless you ask? I'd say Emma Frost constantly walking around in lingerie;

I don't get it but I don't hate it either...

Long story short, what I'm saying is that somewhat revealing outfits are indeed there to entice guys to read their books BUT, the costumes have their own purpose and function, Zatanna is a magician, and magicians and always ordered to dress in a flashy or attention grabbing fashion, either by being extremely classy or extremely weird. Likewise Zatanna doesn't carry gadgets and therefore her costume is streamline and fitting for her stage persona. Black Canary, Vixen and Wonder Woman have costume streamlined for flexibility and therefore wearing baggy clothing or anything that isn't tight is a bad idea, and this goes for the men as well. Power Girl doesn't really need a costume and can pretty much fight crime naked (there would be so much crime in Metropolis if she did) since she's freakin' bulletproof. Hawk Girl is aerodynamic, therefore wearing baggy clothing would slow her down. Cyclists and track runners wear tight clothing for aerodynamics, so it's only right that a chick who can fly would wear a costume that aides her ability.

That being said, the sexualization comes from the gaping whole in Power Girl's outfit that shows off her cleavage, Zatanna and Black Canary's fishnets, also just Zatanna herself, Vixen's V in her costume exposing her cleavage, Black Canary's nipples being shown, Wonder Woman's ass. But all of these are minor offenses that are utterly harmless. REAL sexualization comes when the female character exists for NO OTHER REASON THEN T&A. In my personal opinion a female character can't be sexualized if she's active and has more going for her than she looks good naked. For example let's take a look at Starfire;


Starfire may look like a character made purely for sex appeal at first blush and with scenes like;


It wouldn't be hard to place her in that category, but anyone who's read "Teen Titans" can attest to the fact that Starfire is SO MUCH more than just a pair of nice orange boobs. Starfire is a flurry of emotions, she's encouraging, kindhearted and is a bit of a firebrand (I mean she did sucker punch Wonder Woman once and if that ain't bad ass I don't know what is.) If what I said doesn't sell you on Starfire, I know the scene below will.


Sure she's hot and barely dressed, but she has character and personality and so much more than her nice orange boobs (oh shut up, she's hot!). Also her near constant nudity and cluelessness about social norms is apart of her alien charm.

Oh Starfire, she's not wearing underwear lol...

So while I enjoy seeing Starfire like;


I HATE seeing Starfire like;


One is a sexy character with personality, the other is a sex prop, you see the difference. I got side-tracked talking about Starfire, but honestly what they did to her PISSES ME OFF BEYOND BELIEF! Getting back on topic. When it comes to guys however, well the story is different. It's easy to figure out what traits appeal to guys (do I have to put a picture of Emma Frost here again?), but for women it's difficult. Not all women think alike and therefore finding a male character that women deem sexy will vary depending on who you're talking to. But I do know that if I was drawing a male character who was meant to be appealing to women, I wouldn't draw Christopher Walken!

You're welcome ladies.

I'd probably draw someone like Joesph Gordon Levitt.

Chicks think he's hot right?

I'd draw someone like him because I know he's visually appealing women and if women see a guy like him in some kind of costume that showed off his muscles, chicks would dig it. As the old saying goes "Men wanna be him and women wanna be with him.". How would one go about sexualizing men? Not exactly sure since it's kinda of hard to cater to women the same way men are catered too.

Not all women find this appealing...

But all guys do find this appealing...

 People wanna argue that their costumes are sexist and while I can see the argument, it falls of deaf ears because people really don't care because the characters themselves aren't sluts blowing every guy in sight, NO, the characters are awesome and appealing to women. Hence why when you go to a comic convention you are bound to find men and women dressed as their favorite character and if they look good doing it then that's just a plus for everyone;

Best Power Girl I've seen, and I'm not just saying that because of the boobs.

Long story short, appearance isn't everything and at the same time it is. Women wanna look hot and guys wanna look at hot women, that isn't exactly a secret and I wish people would stop pretending like it is and shaming us for it. Starfire's clothes doesn't make her slutty, and She-Hulk's appearance doesn't make her any less threatening or competent than The Hulk. We should be focusing more on who characters are rather than how they look, BUT in order to focus on who they are we have to enjoy how the look and therein lies the rub.


  1. One flaw, men do care about fashion and so on even when they aren't homosexual (just saying) its been seen throughout history too many times to deny that .
    But the thing is, women depicted as overly masculine would be seen as comical as opposed to taken seriously, just like a man dressed in a revealing costume would also be seen as comical, even if he was a homosexual character.
    While there are some things that are messed up like depicting a large person as comical instead of serious, that's a sociological issue rather than sexist since large people regardless of gender are depicted as comical characters.
    Both men and women are sexualized in comics, even if a man is disfigured he has a skin tight suit with a rocking body regardless. (And it pisses me off when men say to women hero lovers: oh you just love them for their rocking bodies, when the female characters in comics are the same!)

    1. So I take it I failed with this one? D'OH!!!