Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Right Observation, Wrong Time To Make It


I've been catching up on the recent When Fangirls Attack links since Ragnell and Anna have gotten things up and running again (while their studious cohort Kalinara has been slaving away on law exams), and I found an interesting point/counterpoint between Avi Green and Mad Thinker Scott regarding TEEN TITANS#'s 64 and 65.


Apparently, Avi took strong offense to the scenes depicted on #64's cover and in #65's interiors which depict the villain Lycus attempting to strangle Wonder Girl aka Cassie Sandsmark with her own lasso. While Avi's post is terse and doesn't use the word "misogyny" in the post (he referred to it instead as "obnoxious, vulgar, and downright pointless"), he does use it as one of his label headings, so I (and apparently Scott) assume that he believes the scenes to be misogynistic. Scott claims they are not, and that the story in #65 as a whole was about female empowerment.


On my last visit to a comic shop, I had scanned through Teen Titans#65. Upon seeing the story in its entirety, I have to side with Scott.


First, let's discuss the attempted strangulation. Yes, it is violence against a female protagonist. I can see the misogyny charge carrying weight if it were a form of gender-specific violence in fiction traditionally directed much more at female heroes than male ones, such as rape or certain types of torture. Attempted strangulation does not qualify. It happens to both male and female main characters in fiction. In fact, I recently viewed a scene from the soon-to-be-late-and-lamented TV show "My Own Worst Enemy" where Christian Slater's character, government operative Edward Albright, had to fend off an enemy attempting to strangle him, this time with a phone cord. (Like Cassie, Edward emerged victorious.) In this case it's not misogyny, but merely dramatic tension.


Second, what Avi doesn't show and Scott does is the story's outcome. Cassie overcomes both Lycus and her power flux problems by tapping into her own natural power, rather than Ares' or Zeus'. Better yet, she appears to have received a power upgrade and a more confident attitude.


This brings me to the third point. Avi is not entirely wrong. TEEN TITANS in its current incarnation has, in Avi's words, been "alternately mediocre and unpleasant" recently. For every one fun story like the Blue Beetle/Red Devil spotlight, there have been things like Wonder Dog ripping out Marvin's throat or Miss Martian almost having sex in a bathroom stall or Ravager skinnydipping. It's like the book can't decide what its target audience is. And one of the worst-handled characters has been Cassie.


Green is also correct about Cassie being treated poorly, perhaps even in a misogynistic manner, but it was not in TEEN TITANS #'s 64 and 65.


It was everything before those issues.


This character, to be blunt, has been crapped on more often than my car in the last few years. We've suffered through such debacles as her involvement in the Cult of Connor in 52 and with the Amazons in AMAZONS ATTACK, the "love triangle" between her, Connor (Superboy), and Tim (Robin) long after Conner died, and the revelation that she only was friends with Supergirl because she was clinging to Connor's memory.


And let's not forget TEEN TITANS ANNUAL#1 from 2006. You want to talk about obnoxious covers and interiors, Avi? Here's one for you:


This is from a story which could have been called "The One Where Wonder Girl Gives It Up". Here, Cassie loses her virginity to the aforementioned Superboy at the "seasoned and mature" age of 16. Yes, I know that this is the real world and that teens are having sex all the time. But is it too much to ask for an iconic teen female superhero (and her male counterpart with the "S") to set an example for our young people, particularly our teen girls? (A group to which my niece will belong in just a few years.)

It wasn't always like this. I liked the spunky young Cassie with the homemade costume and the brunette wig and goggles when she made her debut in WONDER WOMAN and later in YOUNG JUSTICE. I enjoyed her evolution from a bit of a nerd to a strong independent leader in both books.

But since YOUNG JUSTICE folded up its tent, I've seen her devolve from that leader into the needy codependent she became in TEEN TITANS.

But with TEEN TITANS#65, there's at least hope for the character going forward.

22 Comments:

At 5:17 AM , Blogger Saranga said...

I agree with you regarding Cassie's plotlines in Teen Titans 64 and 65. Those were good issues for her and she's definitely moved on and matured. Looking at the strangulation scene in context I can't see the misogyny.

I'm not with you on Cassie having sex too early though, as I don't believe she would be a role model in this context - kids are gonna have sex anyway. So long as it's consensual and using condoms I don't have a problem with it.

Without having read the comic (and probably I should before I comment), I would hope that Cassie and Connor were shown to use condoms, were shown to both be fully consenting to it and that the relationship and decision to have sex be depicted as an equal one.
I think those are more important and effective messages.

 
At 4:52 PM , Blogger notintheface said...

Well, I don't recall any condom or birth control references, but my memory is admittedly spotty.

I do remember that their decision to have sex was consensual and equal. They both had agency, although said agency was limited by the fact that they were both minors.

 
At 6:11 AM , Blogger Saranga said...

Ahh yes, I forget about differing ages of consent. In the UK it's 16 so I tend to work with that. But I gather it's 18 in some US states?

 
At 9:33 AM , Blogger notintheface said...

Yep, it's 18. I forget the differing consent ages, too, so we're even.

 
At 6:20 AM , Blogger Scott (The Mad Thinker) Anderson said...

Cool. I agree with me too.

The sex thing is a tough one. In one sense, I'd say they should be good role models, but on the other hand, I don't think they are role models to any significant extent. I can't remember the last time I saw a teen reading the Teen Titans.

 
At 3:24 PM , Blogger mordicai said...

This is well said-- except I disagree about the sex thing. Having sex in a loving relationship? I don't want women to be held up as "virginal" a value quality. Or in young men (even those with an S) for that matter.

 
At 9:09 AM , Blogger notintheface said...

I understand your viewpoint, Mord. The whole sticking point I have re: the sex is that they seem a bit too young and emotionally unready for it, plus that, at 16, they're minors, at least in the eyes of US law (though not everywhere else, as Saranga pointed out). If the partners were extremely mature for their age (Tim?), it might ease things a bit, but Conner and Cassie didn't strike me that way yet. I sure as hell wasn't at that age. If they were 18, I'd zip it completely on this. Apologies to those who disagree.

 
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