A life-consuming dissertation and a lack of excitement about Nolan's latest offering meant that by the time I managed to see The Dark Knight Rises, several key points had already been inadvertantly spoiled. Thankfully a combination of my truly appalling memory and an overwhelming gullibility when watching films resulted in me promptly forgetting said spoilers and enjoying the film with fresh eyes. That said, this piece contains spoilers.
I should have been excited of course. The opening shots from The Dark Knight are still etched into my otherwise awful memory banks, as daylight - daylight! - shone on Gotham before insanity was unleashed. The Dark Knight was a juggernaut of a film, jumping straight into the action with the understanding that the groundwork had already been laid in Batman Begins. The utter freedom of a second film in a trilogy - no need for a solid beginning or ending, just all middle - meant that the film never stopped. In fact half way through it pivots and hits reverse, screaming into a new direction that left more conventional linear films seem old and stale.
In the last couple of weeks there has been a slew of articles about the subject of "women in comics" that range from calling out "hot" women that supposedly pretend to be into "geek culture", to telling us that the phrase "women in comics" is passée because the battle has been won, and to other articles taking the depressing line that superhero comics will never change.
The first takes a line on policing just how geeky an attractive women has to be to count as a geek, while ignoring the inherent sexism of industries that pay women to dress in provocative clothes and strut their stuff. The second, makes the mistake of thinking that the experiences of some of the women who have had success in comics are universal, and the third is a tad confusing as I know the author is not against giving up on working towards better representation and portrayals of women at DC and Marvel, yet takes the angle that we should focus on indie comics instead where women are more welcome.
"For a bulky segment of a century, I have been an avid follower of comic strips - all comic strips; this is a statement made with approximately the same amount of pride with which one would say, 'I've been shooting cocaine into my arm for the past twenty-five years.' I cannot remember how the habit started, and I am presently unable to explain why it persists. I only know that I'm hooked, by now, that's all." - Dorothy Parker, 1943
Last week, a new ad campaign was released by the Associação da Luta Contra o Cancer, a breast cancer awareness foundation based in Mozambique, who have run some pretty hard hitting campaigns in the past. These ads were a little bit different, and featured some of the most well known women comic characters, which is why you may have seen it featured on a fair few of the comic websites around.
Clearly, breast cancer awareness is a very worthy cause, and anything that will help get the message to women is great. However, that doesn't mean we can't stop and think about just why it is that a) comic book women almost always look sexualised, and b) women touching their boobs immediately gets re-shared across fandom (the reaction in Mozambique is not covered here as it is not my place!). We need to separate our applause of the message, from our apparent applause of the (objectified) method. Everyone knows "sex sells", but how messed up is it that we live in a society where the best way to spread a serious message about women's health is to use objectified women's bodies?
How messed up is it, that these wonderful illustrations of women touching their own body, have been greeted with slobbering idiots drooling over the idea of women checking their own breasts?
It's fair to say that DC have dominated the comic headlines in recent months, with their much hyped reboot/relaunch stirring up a great deal of controversy and interest for those with an existing interest in comics. A relaunch of any kind is guaranteed attention, but in assuring fans that this move was about attracting new readers and increasing diversity, DC found themselves firmly in the spotlight.
All the first issues are now out, and you've no doubt seen some of the more vitriolic criticism already. I've been waiting for the last week of #1's to arrive so that I could sit back and look at the comics as a whole as well as individually. Now my mega-review of women in the New 52 is ready... and it may not be what you are expecting.
Firstly, a huge thank you to Red Hot Comics for selling me all the comics I needed and going to great lengths to procure them! Despite being a huge fan of comics, I've previously only bought trade collections and graphic novels due to not living particularly near a comic shop. So I guess in some ways, I'm both an existing fan and a potential newcomer.
The internet went bat-crazy this week over the release of new images from the set of The Dark Knight Rises featuring Anne Hathaway and her stunt double. Interest around the Batman of the Nolanverse is always extremely high, and it's understandable why this infamous character is attracting far more attention than the equally impressive but less well known Bane (Tom Hardy).
But let's be clear: this particular shot was not released as an image of Catwoman in costume, but as an image of Selina Kyle who happens to be wearing bike gear. Himself the master of misdirection, Christopher Nolan has declined to refer to the character as anything other than her plain clothes name, and given that in Batman Begins, it was Bruce Wayne rather than Batman that ran the show for the most part, and in Dark Knight, Two Face only showed up for the final chapter, it's fair to assume that the image that has created such mass hysteria this week, is not necessarily a costumed Cat.
Looking at the new covers to début in DC's continuity reboot later this year, it seems that the as yet unconfirmed "women in trousers" edict is almost certainly in effect to a large extent. It's become increasingly clear too that this focus on covering up bare legs has little do with any de-sexualisation trend: the women are still in tight fitting outfits and busty to the point of falling out their tops (if I was Harley Quinn I'd at least like some straps on that top but perhaps my rack isn't so well behaved).
One of the first casualties is Catwoman, whose playful covers of the last 10 years have enamoured her to a new generation of fans. At first glance, the cover of the upcoming Catwoman #1 may not be seen as terribly out of place for a character who is so openly sexual and enjoys revelling in the power she holds over lustful men. But female fans of the frisky feline beg to differ; the hyper-sexualisation of a proud sexual woman is still exploitation, exactly the same as for any other woman in comics.
But is it possible, as a feminist, to defend Catwoman at all? And where is the line between non-passive sexualisation and objectification?