Fighting with the Sky

A Watchmen Concern

Posted on: September 10, 2009

untitledThis post comes from Amanda at The Undomestic Goddess (on Twitter as @TheUndomestic).  Be sure to also check out her feminist projects: The Undomestic 10 interview series and the tumblr This is What a Feminist Looks Like. Also look out for Amanda’s reaction to Watchmen after seeing the movie this upcoming Movie Monday (Sept. 14).

So, I may be a tad bit obsessed wih the forthcoming release of the graphic-novel turned purportedly-awesome movie, WATCHMEN (which I may or may not be seeing the day it comes out…in Imax).  Yet, as excited as I am, I am a bit nervous about its protrayal of the female characters (warning: slight spoilers ahead).

In the book, there is a subplot of rape that is pretty essential to the storyline, and the female in question, the Silk Spectre, emodies the stereotypical “blame the victim” role.  As much as I want to dismiss this as a way to explain a complex relationship between charcters, I can’t help but scream “cycle of abuse!” that falls too easily on women who need to be mistreated in order to feel loved (Rihanna, please do not become this!).

Though a January article in Publisher’s Weekly, which commented on the need for more (and better!) female superheroes, named Silk Spectre as the “great female hope.”  Aside from my issue with the rape scenario (which is a BIG issue, mind you), she does bring a new optimism  for women, if only in her bravery to face sexism head on, even within her own team, for the greater goal of, you know, saving the world.  And who cuold turn their nose at ambitions like that?

Then there is her daughter, Silk Spectre II (at right) who, in the book, was totally wearing more clothes, and was more feminine and less dominatrix-y (though I can’t decide which angle is worse, timid and meek or ball-busting; I guess between the two you have your range of male fantasy).  In the book, she is ALWAYS CRYING.  Maybe “adventuring,” as they refer to it, is too tough for girls.  Or maybe it’s because she’s kicking ass and saving lives in heels.  Though to put it in perspective, when the male characters are distressed, they either suffer from impotence, exile to Mars, or go on a rampant killing spree.  Is she better off?

Also problematic is that the Silk Spectre II does not choose adventuring of her own accord; she does it to please her mother, who lives out her superhero life through her (she quit once she gave birth).  In this Silk Spectre II embodies classic female guild by putting the family’s needs abover her own, not to mention her mother becomes a bit of a pushy stage-mom (another stereotype!), except in superhero terms.  And dear movie-promoters: Yes, the line at right is straight from the book, but taken out of context like you have, it’s a bit Girls-Gone-Wild, no?  Yes, I get that it was what you were going for.

Anyways, I’m real interested to see how the Watchmen movie treats gender.  The book did, after all, come out in 1985, so I am willing to ease my judgment for now.  But if the movie merely translates these stereotpes to the screen, are they staying “true to art” or perpetuating inequality?  Worse, what if the female objectification is exaggerated for sensational Hollywood purposes?  It’ll take a real superhero to knock that injustice to bay.

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1 Response to "A Watchmen Concern"

[…] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Laura. Laura said: Check out this awesome guest post from @TheUndomestic about Watchmen (look for another on Movie Monday) http://bit.ly/L7j2c […]

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