Thursday, August 16, 2007

Die Hard has hardcore heroines

Ok, this post came to be for two reasons. Reason number one, yesterday I went to see Live Free or Die Hard and I'm still on an adrenaline high. Reason number two, while answering an anonymous on my previous Girl Characters post, and chatting with my friend Leigh I remembered something that happened during the movie and it all makes sense in my head so...

Die Hard.

(Warning, there will be spoilers here)

If I tell anyone that Die Hard has kickass heroes, no one will doubt me. Maybe the plural part, but come on, Jhon McClane is worth at least two Batmans (Sue me, I'm highly biased). The man could take out 12 terrorists without shoes, and how cool is that?

However, if I say that the women in Die Hard are kickass, I will be meet by blank stares.

But stay with me. I'll make my point. I swear.

See Die Hard 1. We meet Holly Gennero, and just by that name we know that she's a take charge lady. She's married, yeah, but she put her career first. She loves her husband, but she had to do some hard choices, and her career came first. And she might sound a bit bitchy, compared to mr. I just bought our kid a giant teddy bear, but she's a take charge kind of woman. When the terrorists arrive, she doesn't lose her cool. She's the one person who confronts Hans, and in the moment she realizes that her husband is the one making short work of the terrorists, she makes damn sure she won't make things more difficult to him. She might not be out there shooting guns and breaking necks, but she keeps her cool, and even at the end, having a gun point blank at her face, she tries to stay calm enough not to be on the way of her husband.

Now that's a cool lady.

See Die Hard 2. She's still Holly McClean, she's still out of the action for most of the film, but then we realize that the one who actually took the idiot reporter to task for what he did was her. We saw her punch him at the end of the first one, mostly as a gag, but now we find that she actually broke two of his teeth, AND that there's a restriction order against her (Why, when he put her and her husband in danger, I don't know). Anyway, when everyone in the plane gets hysterical over the reporter's irresponsible reveal of the terrorist plot, Holly doesn't panic, she doesn't get hysterical. She grabs a taser and takes care of the idiot. THEN she goes to pray, and hopes as hell that someone down there is doing their job.

Man, she's still a cool lady.

I don't remember much of the third movie, to be honest. It's the one I like less of the three, but I do remember that there are no important women in that film, even when Holly is still an important part of Jhon's life.

Which bring us to Live Free or Die Hard.

While there was a woman henchmen in Die Hard 3 -and I honestly don't remember what happens to her- Mai, the girlfriend of the main baddie this time, is as take charge as her boyfriend. In fact, she's more of a take charge type of person, as we notice from the beginning that the henchmen report to her first, and later to her boyfriend. And when she fights McClean? That scene alone was worth my ticket.

Why? Well, for starters, it's a vicious fight.

Vicious in both parts. While the camera cuts and we never see his fist connect to her face, it is obvious that he does punch her with all his strength. And she answers in kind. She, in fact, throws him out of the window, forcing him to then have to use a van to stop her.

There was nothing in that fight that required that Mai was a woman. There was nothing in that fight that requiered a male henchman. Mai had to be there, because her character was the type that would be there, and the type that, after McClane did short work of her other henchmen, would take things in her hands. She dies, of course, but she goes down kicking ass, and even her last action is, in a mirror to that of Alan Rickman, an attempt to shoot McClane. (It also has to be noted that, of all the bad guys it is her the one who thinks of bringing up the file on Jhon McClane. Smart, strong, and evil. Cool woman)

Someone next to me complained that the scene was violent against woman. I answered "What? Did you expect him to ask her to surrender nicely?" Because that would've been a lot more disrespectful, and something seen in many action movies. The woman fighter gets the upper hand because the main bad guy (Or the main good guy, depending of the type of film) underestimated her. And of course 'gentlemen don't hit women' which is a perfectly good thing in real life (In my book, anyone who hits anyone else is an idiot. Violence doesn't solve anything) but in writing someone who is trying to save his own life... One can forgive a moment of not caring of the gender of the person pointing the gun at you.

So yeah, Mai dies. And she dies after the longest, coolest fight scene in the whole film. Because man, of all the henchmen that the main baddie had, she was the coolest. (Or maybe, second coolest. Spiderboy was cool too)

And then there's Lucy Gennero, Jhon's daughter who in her mom's tradition is now denying his surname. That happens to McClean a lot. And of course, the terrorists kidnap her. But from moment one is obvious that she's not that dumb, as she does ask for identification before trusting the fake FBI guys -so she can't distinguish a fake ID. So can't I. That doesn't make any of us dumb- and she is dragged kicking and biting to the main bad's headquarters.

And when the bad guy lets her talk through a walkie to her dad so she'll beg for her life, what does she say?

"There are still five."

At gunpoint, kidnapped, just having heard that she's going to die, and what does she do? She tells her father how many terrorist are still there. She doesn't scream, she doesn't cry, she doesn't beg.

That's a hard core heroine.

That's the kind of heroines I like to read about. If it makes sense for her to literally kick ass, then have her literally kick ass. If it doesn't make sense, if she has to be kidnapped and tied up, well, kidnap and tie her up, but don't reduce her to a drooling mess of quivering fear if it doesn't make sense for her to be like that.

I could guarantee there would be less complains from women readers if that happened, you know?

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Ok, explain me this

Sometime between 3:00 am and 7:00 am this morning, someone hacked the page and forums. I know the hours just because I had a bit of a trouble sleeping and read a couple of messages at 2:45, and it was working fine.

There was an argument there about how some lowlifes tend to shut down feminist blogs with threats and abuse, and some people were actually defending their reasoning saying it was just because they were bullies, not because they were mysoginist.

And then the forum went kaput.

Now, the GirlWonder project has been subject of a lot of criticism. The demand for a case for Stephanie Brown, the fourth Robin, has been labeled as 'fan entitlement' and there has been other, less polite insults thrown around against the forums, their members, and the bloggers who write for GirlWonder, especially Karen of Girls Read Comics (and they're pissed). Apparently, the idea of women reading and writing about comics and what they would like to see in comics is so threatening that some idiot had just to try and shut them down.

What I honestly don't understand is why. I can sort of see the moron-logic behind the spam attacks, the threats and the insults at forums and bloggers. That is meant to frighten and annoy to the point of either silencing the blogger or make it impossible for anyone to carry an intelligent conversation trough the comments or forums. It's hard to do that when a lot of /b/tards are posting crap, both metaphorically and literally, unfortunately. But to shut down the forum completely? Hack their way in and just shut it up? Where they really that threatened by what was being said in the forum?

I used to think the one wonder of Internet is that everyone had a voice, even those who said things we weren't comfortable with. Obviously, that is not the case.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Girl Characters and me

This is the third time I start writing this, and I hope this time, I can finish.

I've been reading a lot in forums about women characters in comics (Specially in superhero comics) and how some fanboys (Because I can't call them other way) insist that since comic books are made for guys, and guys like their women with revealing costumes and we should all shut up because after all it's just comics and why are we doing a mountain over this? Girls have manga, right? So they shouldn't complain.

(I end up wondering why it's always 'Girls' and never 'Women' but that's a consideration for another post)

And of course, this kind of discussion tend to end with either the fact that those who complain are jealous of fictional characters, or the old tried maxim: "Well, if you don't like it, do your own."

There are a lot of problems with that particular phrase, and much better bloggers have already dissected it to death, so I won't repeat what has been said.

What got me thinking, and, in time, caused this post and it's previous non-posted versions, was that yeah. Most of the women (And men) complaining about the sexism in comic books now, if they want to create comics, will most probably not do all the things that they don't like in comics. That's true. But I was
thinking... what about all those future creators who do not spend any time in comic book forums and are not familiarized with the community and this type of discussions? The ones who are reading comic books and manga right now and met every possible type of awesome guys and so-so girls? (And if you don't believe how much a girl reader can hate a female character, go hang around an anime forum for a while. Even the ones who hate yaoi take female-character bashing to an art)

I.Doll thenBack in 1994 there was this mexican comic book, drawn manga style. The main character was *everything* one could come to expect of a stereotypical manga heroine. She was cute, bubbly, had pink hair, was a professional pop singer, day dreamed about the guy she wanted to be her boyfriend, and even when she had the whole army of hell trying to kill her, she never did anything to defend herself. Her friends (Two guys, and a girl) did all the saving. Man, I hated her.

The punchline?

I had created her.

Her name is Irene, and she was my first professionally published heroine. I had started writing her story as a half a joke, you see? But in the joke, I made her... well, just as every single heroine of the man
ga I read at the time. Clumsy, boy obsessed, fashion victim. Incapable of realizing she was in dire danger, or trying to save her own life. I came to hate her so much that even when she was the main character of the story, I wrote a complete chapter where she didn't appear at all (Which my partner at the time called me on. But I don't think she realized how much I hated to write about miss bubbly head)

Now, the thing is... She was liked. A lot. Even when her story had been approved by the editor with the clear intention that it was only going to last for three issues (And that's a story for another day), it became the most popular story of that particular magazine, and the only one that lasted for more than four issues. And when the magazine was canceled, everyone asked what happened to the characters, as the story hadn't been finished.

I moved on. I worked on other stories, with other characters, and every now and then someone asked me when would I finish I.Doll. And after a long time, I sat and asked myself... why do I hate her so much? Why did I created a character with so many things that bother me? And I looked around at my comic book collection, with the Sailor Moons, and Fushigi Yugi, and a ton of shojo, and then how Jean Gray might be the world's most powerful mutant every five years, but she still will get killed and left powerless, and I re-read a lot of the things I had been reading at the moment I started my career, and I realized that... she wasn't that different from the 'nice girls' I read about back then. Hell, it even coincided with the Infinity Wars at Marvel, where Sue has to absorb Malice and become 'bad' to be the team leader. And, even when I *hate* the idea that one has to use sexy images to sell a good story, I even did a cover in which my heroine (15 years old, btw) was completely naked. And the editor let it be published. To this date, I don't know who was the worst offender there. Me for drawing it -even if it was a non-sexual nude- or him for not pulling back that cover.
I.Doll now

I wrote my pinkhaired nighmare the way I did because 'that was the way comic book heroines are'. It was it, right, it was what sold, it was what was expected. And yes, I was being a sheep, but it was the influence I had. It wasn't until I was exposed to a whole lot more of comics -and, more important, to a whole lot more of comic book creators- that I realized that I was going at it completely wrong.

And it was mostly due to influence. And I'm not going to say that every single creator is responsible for what one 16 year old hopeful creator did when she was young -or that every single girl who reads manga and comics would come to the same conclusion that I did. But then, I see y!Gallery, with many very talented artists who simply shun the female form and have wrote that 'girls are icky' being women themselves. And at the office, I see comic after comic that is written by women and still propagates the very same problems we're complaining about and when I ask those creators "Why are you writing your heroine as a useless pinup model who needs the hot cute guy to save her?" they will most of the time answer either a) Because I don't like girls, and writing about girls is boring, b) well, it's my style. And (insert popular mangaka here) does the same, or, my personal favorite c) Guys draw girls with huge boobs, because that's what they like, so I draw cute guys all the time because I don't like girls.

Like most of my posts, I don't have a very good conclusion. I know that the industry gives a very clear image to those who are starting now to read comics, and I'm pretty sure that a lot of people don't like that image (Just look at the Heroes for Hire cover. Or, leaving american comics for a moment, the Nymphette situation with Seven Seas). Of course the question is... why there's so much resistance to change that image?