Results 1 to 7 of 7
  1. #1
    Astonishing Member kjn's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2018
    Posts
    4,062

    Default Feminism, Pérez, and the Amazons

    The recent discussion on Themyscira led me to reread Wonder Woman #1 by Pérez, and I think something finally clicked on why I felt uncomfortable with his take on the Amazons and their backstory.

    On page 10, the goddesses (Athena, Artemis, Demeter, Hestia, and Aphrodite) appear to the Amazons, anoint them as "a chosen race--born to lead humanity in the ways of virtue". Hestia builds a city for them.

    Next page we get what happens:

    From their mouths pour wondrous tales—tales of a city-state governed solely by women--of a place where compassion and justice reign—a place the poets call Themyscira! In this way, the power and the glory of the Amazons is soon known throughout al Greece!

    Yet, kings do not like popularity—nor do they like power—unless it is their own! Thus the rules of Greece grow jealous of the Amazons. And so the poets are seized—and bribed—and threatened.

    Now are tales told of Amazon atrocities—of murders, wars, and thievery. Now do the godesses cry from Olympus' heights! For their daughters have become outcasts—regarded by all mankind as different… strange… and even inhuman!
    Then Heracles drugs Hippolyta, tricks her of the girdle, and enslaves the Amazons. But when Hippolyta prays and Athena appears:

    But you chose to withdraw from humanity—to ignore the purpose for which you were created—and you grew bitter and corrupt.
    And then a little later on:

    My daughters—you have failed us! You have forgotten the source of your power—forgotten the trust placed in you! For these failures, you must do a penance!
    And that's how they end up on the isle of Themyscira, guarding Doom's Gates.

    Now what happens here? The Amazons do fail in their mission and withdraws to the original Themyscira, but the text presents it as that mankind rejected them—not because the Amazons didn't try, or because they forgot their mission, as the goddesses say. When they liberate themselves from their captors with violence, they are again berated.

    The armbands also change in signifiance. Marston gave them "to teach you the folly of submitting to men's domination" or "a reminder that we must always keep aloof from men". Pérez had them as "reminder never to err again", and the context is changed so it is not meant in relation to men but rather to their relation to the goddesses.

    In effect, the Amazons are given the blame that men were not listening, blamed for living in the city that Hestia built for them, and then again blamed for freeing themselves from slavery. Now, I can easily see Greek gods behaving in that way, but the text never interrogates that.

    So Pérez's Amazons become idealised noble suffering victims: first of Heracles, then of their own gods.
    Last edited by kjn; 02-27-2020 at 02:34 AM. Reason: clarity
    «Speaking generally, it is because of the desire of the tragic poets for the marvellous that so varied and inconsistent an account of Medea has been given out» (Diodorus Siculus, The Library of History [4.56.1])

  2. #2
    Junior Member
    Join Date
    Apr 2014
    Posts
    22,225

    Default

    Yeah, this is one aspect of Perez's run even I will admit hasn't aged well.

  3. #3
    Astonishing Member kjn's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2018
    Posts
    4,062

    Default

    Yup. And the sad thing is that Pérez had given himself an out, in the form of the Amazons who rejected the goddesses and rode away with Antiope. Pérez could have done some really interesting things with that split, but instead he made them into a group of misandrists and xenophobes: basically the precursors of Azzarello's Amazons.

    Another thing here is how thoroughly influenced this is by Abrahamic religions, especially Exodus. The way the Amazons are presented as the "chosen ones"; the way the goddesses speak to them on missions, failure, and punishment; the oceans being opened to them.

    I'm not going to say Pérez did a bad job at reimagining Marston's Amazons and Olympos. But he had some blind spots and preconceptions that shine through, and remains to this day.

    I will be the first to admit that this stuff is hard. One problem I grappled with while Revisiting Olympos was how to do a feminist reimagining and reinterpretation of Greek mythology without falling into a trap of "men evil—women good", and I still haven't solved it to my satisfaction, and I expect I never will.
    «Speaking generally, it is because of the desire of the tragic poets for the marvellous that so varied and inconsistent an account of Medea has been given out» (Diodorus Siculus, The Library of History [4.56.1])

  4. #4
    Astonishing Member WonderScott's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2014
    Location
    San Francisco, CA
    Posts
    3,193

    Default

    Interesting perspective kjn, my perception is that I didn’t read it that way, waaaaay back when I originally read the first issue.

    The Amazon’s failure (not entirely their fault) was turning inward when the outside world threatened and disparaged them instead of persevering with their divinely-created and -inspired mission for humankind. The events that follow with Heracles and Athena punctuate their failure (again, not entirely their fault) to greater degrees and it changes their mission to a penance (e.g. Doom’s Doorway) in the service of humankind. Toss in the capriciousness and demands of the gods and it gets horribly messy and quite dramatic.

    This at once marries a real-world historical perception of the Amazons with a fictional representation of the Amazons.

    Despite developing an equal and equitable culture on Themyscira for themselves, they’re challenged once again to take up their original mission with the birth of Diana and the selection of a champion to be sent to the outside world to save the outside world via Amazon philosophy and action.

    To me, Perez put all these murky, dramatic, sexist, misogynistic, and unfinished circumstances together in the first issues for the intended payoff of dealing with them directly with Diana front and center in future storylines (e.g. Heracles return, the Amazon’s revealing themselves to Patriarch’s World, the challenges of the gods) - she’s literally and metaphorically the (imperfect) savior and uniter of the imperfect mankind, the Amazons, and the gods.

    Not that you or anyone else doesn’t get this, but I just wanted to explain my thought process and take on the feminism within the stories’ circumstances. (And I’m certainly not claiming it’s “perfectly” representing feminism.)

    Also, you’d do a great Wonder podcast. You always dive into the layers and aspects of Wondrousness that many don’t consider, let alone discuss.
    Last edited by WonderScott; 02-27-2020 at 09:49 AM.

  5. #5
    Astonishing Member kjn's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2018
    Posts
    4,062

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by WonderScott View Post
    Interesting perspective kjn, my perception is that I didn’t read it that way, waaaaay back when I originally read the first issue.
    I expect most people don't. It requires more than a bit of grounding in narration and feminist (or equivalent) theories in order to pick this up on a first read. I know that I found pieces of it unsatisfying when I first read it (note, as an adult), but it required rereads and lots of discussion about stuff that touched these issues—including Birds of Prey the movie—until I managed to twig into exactly what made me uneasy.

    Quote Originally Posted by WonderScott View Post
    The Amazon’s failure (not entirely their fault) was turning inward when the outside world threatened and disparaged them instead of persevering with their divinely-created and -inspired mission for humankind. The events that follow with Heracles and Athena punctuate their failure (again, not entirely their fault) to greater degrees and it changes their mission to a penance (e.g. Doom’s Doorway) in the service of humankind. Toss in the capriciousness and demands of the gods and it gets horribly messy and quite dramatic.
    That is one interpretation of the events, but I looked for in-text evidence that the Amazons turned inward, and I couldn't find it. The closest reference is Antiope's words that "man has hunted us for too long". Granted, there is also nothing that says how the Amazons were active in Man's World in the first place, or which role they played apart from being the topic of the tales of poets.

    In a way, Pérez makes the Amazons into objects, not subjects of this story. We are told what the gods tell them, what the poets say about them, and how the kings and mighty react. But we are not really told how the Amazons act until Heracles appears, in what ways they tried to accomplish their mission, or in how they "grew bitter and corrupt".

    Another way to look at it is that Hippolyta does in fact reach out to Heracles to make peace. She is then fooled. Marston in his first story had the honesty to have Aphrodite punish the Amazons for being fooled by mankind. Pérez has the Amazons punished for withdrawing from humanity, when Hippolyta in fact attempted her best to do that very thing.

    Quote Originally Posted by WonderScott View Post
    Despite developing an equal and equitable culture on Themyscira for themselves, they’re challenged once again to take up their original mission with the birth of Diana and the selection of a champion to be sent to the outside world to save the outside world via Amazon philosophy and action.

    To me, Perez put all these murky, dramatic, sexist, misogynistic, and unfinished circumstances together in the first issues for the intended payoff of dealing with them directly with Diana front and center in future storylines (e.g. Heracles return, the Amazon’s revealing themselves to Patriarch’s World, the challenges of the gods) - she’s literally and metaphorically the (imperfect) savior and uniter of the imperfect mankind, the Amazons, and the gods.
    Yes, I agree that sending out Diana implies a resumption of the original mission of the Amazons. But is this in order to redeem the Amazons (and what should they be redeemed for?), or because the goddesses realised they needed them again?

    I think one core of this problem—apart from not showing the early history of the Amazons—is that the goddesses are acting capriciously and punishing the people who attempted to serve them, but that the text never manages to point the finger at the goddesses and make clear that's the way they act.

    Granted, Pérez is not alone in having trouble depicting the Greek gods. The only Wonder Woman writer that I think has managed to modernise them with any success while still keeping a core of the way they were thought of in classical times, and critique their behaviour, is G Willow Wilson. Her Aphrodite was a delight, and I'd have liked to see her develop Ares further. To not speak of Atlantiades.

    Quote Originally Posted by WonderScott View Post
    Also, you’d do a great Wonder podcast. You always dive into the layers and aspects of Wondrousness that many don’t consider, let alone discuss.
    Thanks! But I'm more of a text person.
    Last edited by kjn; 02-27-2020 at 10:38 AM. Reason: clarity
    «Speaking generally, it is because of the desire of the tragic poets for the marvellous that so varied and inconsistent an account of Medea has been given out» (Diodorus Siculus, The Library of History [4.56.1])

  6. #6
    Astonishing Member WonderScott's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2014
    Location
    San Francisco, CA
    Posts
    3,193

    Default

    Yeah, I don’t have the original issues in front of me to read the text and art and see what was to be conveyed. I’m going clearly off memory. And the “turning inward” part might be my assumption in Pérez trying to get through a lot of exposition in a condensed way.

    Excellent food for thought.

  7. #7
    Amazing Member E.Marie's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2020
    Posts
    35

    Default

    I'm glad that I'm not the only one that was bothered.

    Quote Originally Posted by kjn View Post
    Another way to look at it is that Hippolyta does in fact reach out to Heracles to make peace. She is then fooled. Marston in his first story had the honesty to have Aphrodite punish the Amazons for being fooled by mankind. Pérez has the Amazons punished for withdrawing from humanity, when Hippolyta in fact attempted her best to do that very thing.
    When I first read it I assumed the goddesses were upset because the Amazons were fooled despite their oracle foreseeing danger. That the Amazons wouldn't trust someone that basically had a direct link to them. But that's not mentioned, at least not that I remember.

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •