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  1. #1
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    Default How much autonomy do women have in their own stories?

    With a new version of the Dark Phoenix saga coming to theatres next year, I am definitely looking forward to it. However, a friend of mine recently said that while he loved the stories, the one flaw in it is that it's about something that happens to Jean, and not about her actually doing something. He also said that it is a trend when it comes to female characters in comics for the most part. I am not sure that I agree, but some of the more famous storylines involving female characters do share that trait.

    Here is an article about Jean's autonomy: https://www.syfy.com/syfywire/how-wr...er-own-stories.

  2. #2
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    “Rampant” superpowers happen to people - man and woman - all the time in comic books. In fact that’s pretty much Bruce Banner’s main itch.
    Last edited by Ragged Maw; 11-26-2018 at 01:21 PM.

  3. #3
    Mighty Member kjn's Avatar
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    It's a pretty clear trend in all sorts of fiction, not only comics, that women are turned into bystanders of their own stories or development. For an examination in fiction of this trend, I can recommend The Refridgerator Monologues by Cat Valente, though it focuses on the specific case of fridging (which is but one way in which this trend expresses itself).

    As Ragged Maw points out, superpowers have a tendency to happen, but this is more on how the character reacts to and handles their superpowers, their role in their stories, and their relations to other people (superheroes or not). The story about Spiderman is at its core on how Peter Parker as a person reacts to receiving superpowers, while a lot of the stories about Jean Grey are about how the people around her react to her powers and act to contain them (and thus her). Of course, there is a difference that Jean Grey is part of a team, while Spiderman usually is not, so a comparison with the other X-Men might be more fruitful.

    Now, it's of course possible to find stories where women have agency and acts accordingly, but note that historically, many of these stories frame the women as dangerous, threatening, or as villains. But the only superhero movies which consistently presents women with agency are Wonder Woman and Black Panther (with the qualification that I haven't seen Ant-Man and the Wasp). Captain America: The First Avenger has some element of agency for Peggy Carter, but this is mostly in relation to giving advice and support to Steve Rogers, not as a truly independent agent.

  4. #4
    Astonishing Member dancj's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kjn View Post
    It's a pretty clear trend in all sorts of fiction, not only comics, that women are turned into bystanders of their own stories or development. For an examination in fiction of this trend, I can recommend The Refridgerator Monologues by Cat Valente, though it focuses on the specific case of fridging (which is but one way in which this trend expresses itself).

    As Ragged Maw points out, superpowers have a tendency to happen, but this is more on how the character reacts to and handles their superpowers, their role in their stories, and their relations to other people (superheroes or not). The story about Spiderman is at its core on how Peter Parker as a person reacts to receiving superpowers, while a lot of the stories about Jean Grey are about how the people around her react to her powers and act to contain them (and thus her). Of course, there is a difference that Jean Grey is part of a team, while Spiderman usually is not, so a comparison with the other X-Men might be more fruitful.

    Now, it's of course possible to find stories where women have agency and acts accordingly, but note that historically, many of these stories frame the women as dangerous, threatening, or as villains. But the only superhero movies which consistently presents women with agency are Wonder Woman and Black Panther (with the qualification that I haven't seen Ant-Man and the Wasp). Captain America: The First Avenger has some element of agency for Peggy Carter, but this is mostly in relation to giving advice and support to Steve Rogers, not as a truly independent agent.
    Honestly, as Ragged Maw pointed out, the Jean Grey thing is something which could just as easily happen to a man in a story. There's no sexism there.

    All of the other issues you point out come form the same thing - most of the protagonists are male (or in the case of fridging - male and heterosexual).

    Supporting characters tend to not be treated with the same respect as the lead character, and at the moment a disproportionate amount of female characters are supporting characters. Hopefully this will change over time.

  5. #5
    Mighty Member kjn's Avatar
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    Ragged Maw just mentioned that superpowers happen to everyone in superhero comics. But what is different is the way the character handle the superpowers, and how the people around them react. That's a choice the storytellers make.

    In the case of Jean Grey, the original article points out that she was constantly controlled by others, or lost control of her powers. While similar storylines can and does happen to male superheroes, the issue here isn't the existance of those storylines, but the preponderence of them for female superheroes.

    Quote Originally Posted by dancj View Post
    All of the other issues you point out come form the same thing - most of the protagonists are male (or in the case of fridging - male and heterosexual).

    Supporting characters tend to not be treated with the same respect as the lead character, and at the moment a disproportionate amount of female characters are supporting characters. Hopefully this will change over time.
    True, up to a point. But you can still check the actual storylines and compare characters. Look at the Jean Grey storylines in comparison to the Wolverine and Cyclops storylines, since they are all members of the same team. Or compare the various Batgirls with the various Robins (and the Robins are more of supporting characters than the Batgirls are). Or look at the way characters like Donna Troy or Black Canary has been treated.

    At some point, the individual instances cease to be trees, and become the forest of a systemic bias.

  6. #6
    Astonishing Member dancj's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kjn View Post
    Ragged Maw just mentioned that superpowers happen to everyone in superhero comics. But what is different is the way the character handle the superpowers, and how the people around them react. That's a choice the storytellers make.

    In the case of Jean Grey, the original article points out that she was constantly controlled by others, or lost control of her powers. While similar storylines can and does happen to male superheroes, the issue here isn't the existance of those storylines, but the preponderence of them for female superheroes.

    True, up to a point. But you can still check the actual storylines and compare characters. Look at the Jean Grey storylines in comparison to the Wolverine and Cyclops storylines, since they are all members of the same team. Or compare the various Batgirls with the various Robins (and the Robins are more of supporting characters than the Batgirls are). Or look at the way characters like Donna Troy or Black Canary has been treated.

    At some point, the individual instances cease to be trees, and become the forest of a systemic bias.
    I think you're stretching a bit - especially trying to compare Jean Grey to Cyclops and Wolverine just because they happen to be on the same team. I'd be more inclined to compare her with other mega-powerful heroes who've had similar story-lines, like Sentry, Hal Jordan (Paralax), Superman (controlled by Maxwell Lord), Swamp Thing (in the final arc of Mark Millar's run) etc.

  7. #7
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    In any story, regardless of what the writer intends, they invariably end up telling a story that is colored by their own experiences and perspectives. As most comic book writers tend to be drawn from a relatively small circle of middle aged white men, trying to write a story from the point of view of someone like Jean Grey will be difficult. The few instances of female characters with some degree of agency tend to be spunky teenaged types, no doubt because many writers have daughters that they can base them on, and inevitably trying to progress these characters into adulthood tends to meet with little success.

  8. #8
    Better than YOU! Alan2099's Avatar
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    I think you're stretching a bit - especially trying to compare Jean Grey to Cyclops and Wolverine just because they happen to be on the same team.
    I can think of more stories where something took control of Wolverine and he went on a rampage than I can think of stories where something took control of Jean and she went on a rampage.

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