Unexpected Allies: Decibel Magazine’s Feminist Take on the DC Reboot

In the December 2011 issue of Decibel magazine (“America’s only extreme music magazine”), I read the interesting, but expected Dave-Mustaine-this-time-he-is-totes-over-his-feuds-he-means-it-even-if-he-is-called-SuperDave-and-Junior-isn’t-called-Junior story; lots of short articles with bands filled with fourth-degree clones of Zakk Wylde; and the usual review of extreme albums that I won’t be listening to.

But unexpectedly, especially for a magazine dedicated to metal and other extreme music, there is an actual for-real feminist take on the DC reboot that says that treating women as soulless objects is not entertainment. For an audience that reads a magazine featuring bands with album covers that will give children nightmares.

Unfortunately not online, Joe Gross’ one-page column dissects the reason why the reboot doesn’t make economic sense, by turning away girls and women (and men and boys) that aren’t interested in a “cruel, violent vibe and crueler sexual politics”, asking the question “Who the fuck is this crap for?”

He says that between the reboot “and a noticeable decline in women creators at DC, it would be tough for the company to have constructed a bigger “Fuck you, we don’t want your money” to potential female readers”. And that is a potentially huge loss for an industry that could use new readers — or at least not lose older newly disgusted fans. Perhaps it is just those that I know, but a large percentage of the comics fans I know *are* people of difference (such as women/girls, people of color, gay/queer, some other other, or a combination) — not the stereotype of Comic Book Guy.

One of the benefits of having this article written for this particular audience is demonstrated by the pull-quote on the page:

I’ve seen hardcore, [gnzo p!@#] that treated women with more dignity that DC is treating those two gals [, Catwoman and Starfire]

THAT knowledge is not likely to be found by writers from traditional feminist sources, even third-wave ones.

Gross also references “the terrific essay” by Laura Hudson on Comics Alliance, The Big Sexy Problem with Superheroines and Their “Liberated Sexuality”.

Thank you, Decibel. And to Shortpacked (who created the economics of comics comic above). And to all of the disappointed seven-year old American comics fans, may I suggest mahou shoujo (and manhwa)? It isn’t without issues, but that’s where I’m sending the comics-loving kids in my life.


From Strawberry Shortcake to Goth Version of Tweety Bird?

The New York Times recently had an article about the recent makeovers of some of your favorite (and least) favorite 80s icons, including Strawberry Shortcake. (International Herald Tribune version here). Another site had a hypothetical breakdown of what the costs of Ms. Shortcake’s makeover would be.

“We’re downplaying characters that were part of Strawberry’s world but who didn’t immediately shout out fruit.”

It was interesting that the NY Times article spent time discussing the marketing “mistake” that was Magic Earring Ken — tiptoeing around discussing the large secondary market for the doll (considering what his “earring” was popularly considered to be) — “he seemed to have come out of the closet — something that Mattel most definitely did not intend.”

These redos / restarts are also an attempt to give a sense of brand loyalty through the ability to morph characters into a closer approximation of self (see Hello Kitty):

“You want a dark, Goth version of Tweety Bird? Have at it,” said Lisa Gregorian, executive vice president for worldwide marketing at Warner Brothers Television.

I wonder what will happen when the line between licensed offshoots and fan-driven images and products becomes increasingly blurred — and the IP owners want to take back control. The U.S. approach to fan appropriation is usually a sharp contrast to Japan (birthplace of Hello Kitty!) where doujinshi (fan-made versions of comics) is part of a above-ground consumer culture — complete with contests and rules for participation.

This issue of control has happened before — when the Simpsons first came out there were a large number of unlicensed shirts marketed / worn by African-American /”urban” audiences. And according to the urban dictionary, tweety is being used as a term for white Americans that wear licensed “urban” (read: BLACK!) Tweety shirts. Is this something Warner Brothers will later try to crack down on?

Of course, many that are familiar with the originals became emotional on blogs when discussing the remodeled version of Strawberry Shortcake — the unrealistic body image/sexuality expectations for girls today, the death of children playing, or simple nostalgia. However, no comments I’ve seen have commented on what every woman of a certain age I’ve talked to has mentioned as Strawberry’s main draw — huffing their chemical hair. Though hardly a gateway drug, at parties little girls would all bring their various dolls together to linger over the highly artificial scents emanating from their hair. And argue about which one was the best — not in terms of cuteness, smartness, or niceness — but in terms of scent. And that’s one to grow on!