The announcement that the newest Wonder Woman television show had not been picked up by a network led many people to question the darker meanings behind the scenes. Some might argue that the gender stereotype and the “sex sells” are to blame. Let’s be honest the new Wonder Woman is not quite revealing all she’s got. So what does this mean? Why do I care? Well many of us can already point blindly to the fact that women, in most media, are represented as nothing more than sex objects. Sut Jhally is a known Media Critic who has taken on the issue of women’s representation in media. Specifically in his film Dreamworlds 3, where he tackles the issue of women in music videos. How does this relate to comics? Has anyone seen what these women wear to fight crime?
Women aren’t necessarily the best people to be in a comic book. Take for example the old romance comics that were aimed toward women. Even in some of the funny comic strips, Blondie for instance, the intelligence level represented is often below any male counterpart. Digging further still, women in superhero comics tend to die off rather quickly. For example the Kyle Rayner version of Green Lantern has a storyline in which one of his love interests is killed and stuffed in Kyle’s refrigerator. There are even more stories of girlfriend’s of super heroes being kidnapped and used as some type of bate in a supervillain’s nefarious (maybe it’ll work this time) plots. Lois Lane is the poster child for this type of story line. While feminist movements and the introduction of the super-heroine have emerged from the comic book land, it is still odd in their stereotypically representation.
What can explain this behavior? Well Jhally recommends, in other media forms, to look at who is “behind the lens”. In this case let’s call it “behind the pen”. Wonder Woman was created by William Moulton Marston. Not to say that her creator is the root of all evil in this case, but let’s think about this. A man, not saying anything sexist, created a female character into a comic book in which he controls the outcome and everything in it. Obviously if the man is heterosexual he is going to try to emulate the stereotype, a society’s established ‘rules’ about what something is or should be (for example Goths wearing trench coats and wearing pale white makeup is a stereotype). The stereotype may come out as some idealized, hyper-sexualized character with an outfit that barely contains her extremities.
Even though Wonder Woman could represent the ultimate in Female Empowerment, she loses some credibility in her outward appearance. This has, as of late, taken a small turn as she was redesigned with a less revealing costume. Super Heroines of the Fifties are much less controversial than what we see today. Why is this? It is simple, the images of Fifties style heroines are hyper-sexualized in their own period. In today’s society anyone could agree on the sexualized state of media. The last thing to ponder would be what is this representing to kids who read the comics. Keep in mind some of the character portrayals are quite adult. With children varying in their cognitive development, developmental states of the mind and reasoning ability (in most cases this would apply to advertising but it fits), a young boy could develop his sexuality based upon women’s bodies (the comic characters) that just simply don’t exist. In theory this could leave a person sexually confused and/or frustrated.
This is just the tip of a much bigger iceberg. There are so many different things that could be discussed. There are also multiple views and finger-pointing games to play. For the moment, however, it may just as well do to consider your own views on women and their representation. If you feel that it is something of concern, maybe you should research more on representation in media. Instead most people decide that “this is just how the world is”, refusing to take a side on the issue. Be reckless, think beyond the Double D, scantly-clad, box that we put super-heroines in.