Sunday, October 12, 2014
NYCC: Women Can Like Whichever Movies They Want (And Anyone Who Tells You Otherwise Can F*ck Off)
It seems like every day there's a new article (like this one) that generalizes what female audiences wants to see on screen, which films are for us and which films are boys only. In the words of the great Samantha Jones on Sex and the City, "Did someone just order a Victorian straight up?" Why are people still thinking like this? Why are we still designating films to a certain gender?
Thankfully, I'm not the only one annoyed by this trend. At a New York Comic Con panel I attended this weekend titled "Panel: Vulture Presents Carol Corps and Beyond: The Future of Female Fandom," it seems there's a whole community of women struggling to navigate their love of certain films and comic books that still have a strict boys only label attached to them. While the discussion focused on popular comic books, panelists and successful female comic book creators Gail Simone, Kelly Sue DeConnick, and Sana Amanat dished about the problems with fandom gatekeeping which crosses all mediums.
First off, it's important to note that women loving superhero, action and other genre films (including horror and sci-fi) is not a new trend, it's not a hashtag that will eventually fade away in the next year or so. Women have been fans of these types of books and films for years. Thanks to social media and other platforms, it's given us a voice to discuss our fandom on a larger scale. "[Female fandom]," said DeConnick, "is not a revolution but a restoration."
But still, women have to fight to prove that they're legitimate fans of genre fiction (as ridiculous as this may sound, a woman in the panel audience revealed that she went to a comic book store and was actually quizzed by a male employee on her comic book IQ. WTF?). We're not only fighting for acceptance by film and comic book marketers, but also our male counterparts. Seriously, when will the madness end? Simone reflected that when she first attended San Diego Comic Con a decade ago, the attendees were about 80% male -- not because there were no women fans, but because they didn't feel welcome at the event. Now the ratio is more even, but we are still struggling to be accounted for. "I believe in another ten years female creators will change the way comics are," Simone said. (*fist pump*)
It's not enough, however, that we are represented on the page or the big screen just to fulfill a quota. Quality should should be a serious consideration that allows a female character to have agency -- and whose sexuality is her choice, not something the creator tacked on as the only way to distinguish her from her male cohorts. Please writers, consider using your imaginations when creating female -- and male -- characters (multidimensions are key). As DeConnick advised,"Pretend their people." And to that end, my fellow movie critics, I love you but the next time you get the itch to discuss whether a film is for women or men (or any one group of people), don't. You sound silly. DeConnick agrees: "No one gets to make you feel like they can decide what you like."
The panel conversation got especially interesting when an audience member mentioned the division in feminism in which it seems to only include white women and not all women. So how do we contend with that? And why isn't this more of a concern for not just non-white women, but all women? I mean, seriously, if we're going to discuss feminism in media, this needs to be all inclusive. The most memorable quote of the conversation was when DeConnick said, "My feminism is intersctional or it is bullsh*t."
The only panelist of color (specifically, of Indian descent), Amanat, who co-created Ms. Marvel/Kamala Khan (featured above), discussed the idea behind the first Muslim character to headline her own comic book and the wide reception she instantly received. "We tapped into something that people wanted for a long time," Amanat said. She went on to say that in a country in which Muslims are one of the largest religious groups, there is still a prejudice against them. But it's obvious that there's a hunger for more diverse female characters, but there is still resistance in the industry--from both men and women. Default women characters are still white and even their personas are being policed by those less accepting of villain/antihero characters than the traditional protagonist. How can we demand better female characters and not welcome the plethora of personalities and motives they can have? "To put all female characters on a pedestal of goodness gets old," Simone said.
People, we must do better. Female fandom is in a good place, but it can be in a much better place. What are you doing to make it better?