Transformers and the Smurfette Principle

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Postby Sprite » Wed Feb 29, 2012 2:33 am

I don't know if I've gone into this yet here, but I've been lauding MTMTE in places as a gender-neutral book: a comic that's highly appealing to readers of both sexes (as opposed to Mike Costa's run, which I felt distinctively male-oriented). That's funny perhaps as it only has male characters (or anyway characters-perceived-as-male), but what with the focus on characterisation and character relationships and all, those are highly relatable for women as well. Which goes to show that you don't necessarily need female characters (strong or otherwise) for or specifically cater to female readers to attract them. I wouldn't be at all surprised if we saw a rise in female readership for Transformers from DoOP onwards (all the more reason why those adverts are inexcusable).
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Postby ultramagnus1 » Wed Feb 29, 2012 2:46 am

Im not a fan of the adverts gracing the back covers I have to say. If my wife saw them she wouldnt be happy. Dont blame her.
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Postby Urzu Six » Wed Feb 29, 2012 3:50 am

Sprite wrote:Imagine mainstream comics were filled with images like these:

ImageImageImage
Image


All they do is make me jealous that I don't look like them. Which makes me wonder: Is there an element of that in how a woman feels when she looks at a picture of The Danger Girls(to use Sprites other example, that she can't bring herself to name...!)?

Not trying to belittle the argument or reduce it to a "women are superficial" thing, because that would mean that I am as well. Which I may be, but that's another debate... I am genuinely curious now.

Also: Where's our other female posters during all this?
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Postby Sprite » Wed Feb 29, 2012 4:03 am

Not in my case. I'm quite happy and comfortable with how I look and FYI, I have the most perfect set of boobs in the world. :P
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If there was just, say, one in ten female characters in comics that was presented in this fasion, I doubt there would be much of a fuss kicked up about it. You could take them at face-value, take 'em or leave 'em. Actually there are a few female characters I like who are portrayed that way (check my discussion on the Gold Digger comic in the Chit-Chat section for an example, for one). I can appreciate female beauty and sexiness. It becomes a problem when it's the dominant presentation and defines the norm.

And I know you, so I know you're more laid-back about that yaoi stuff. But I assure you there are more than a few regular male comic book readers who would complain if this was the norm (and this is purposely some of the more sedate covers out there).

(As an aside it also shows that, no, the idealised male image in superhero comics is not what most women find attractive (or female-drawn comics would be full of it). This is. The avarage superhero figure is a male power fantasy directed at males, not a female sexual fantasy directed at females, so let's not pretend it is anymore, shall we?)

And I deliberately did not name the Danger Girl ad because a) I want people to take out their comics, look at the ads and draw their own conclusions and b) it's not the only advert portraying women in a sexualised way we got the past two months.
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Postby ultramagnus1 » Wed Feb 29, 2012 5:19 am

Urzu Six wrote:
Sprite wrote:Imagine mainstream comics were filled with images like these:

ImageImageImage
Image


All they do is make me jealous that I don't look like them. Which makes me wonder: Is there an element of that in how a woman feels when she looks at a picture of The Danger Girls(to use Sprites other example, that she can't bring herself to name...!)?

Not trying to belittle the argument or reduce it to a "women are superficial" thing, because that would mean that I am as well. Which I may be, but that's another debate... I am genuinely curious now.

Also: Where's our other female posters during all this?


I dont like those above images. Nothing great about them.
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Postby Urzu Six » Wed Feb 29, 2012 6:23 am

Sprite wrote:Not in my case. I'm quite happy and comfortable with how I look and FYI, I have the most perfect set of boobs in the world. :P
No, you can't see them.



For the second time this thread, Spoilsport.

Anyhow, sorry for the DG spoiler, but I know that I'd only got RiD on Sunday, and others similarly lacking may have been a tad confused.

ultramagnus1 wrote:I dont like those above images. Nothing great about them.

So, why don't you like them? What's the reason?
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Postby The Father of Grain » Wed Feb 29, 2012 6:28 am

Sprite, if I'm understanding you right, you're saying that by representing females more in comics, it'll grow female readership.

I posed this same question to the late Dwayne McDuffie on a message board about 10 years ago when he said the comic book industry could use more African-American readers. (Dwayne was the guy who founded Icon, a branch of DC comics that featured African-Americans in lead roles). Dwayne was calling for a larger representation of black characters in comics. His heart was in the right place, but it begged the question if a majority of black readers truly cared. The answer was no. Icon did not add more black readers to the comics industry. Those that read comics, continued to read comics and those that didn't just didn't. And for those who read comics, a lot of them didn't read Icon. Strangely, most of the people who bought Icon comics weren't black.

Now, I may not be female so you have the advantage here, but I'm wondering do a majority of female readers feel the way you do? In other words, is this another Icon-type of incident where you, like Dwayne McDuffie, have your heart in the right place, but from a sales perspective it may not reflect that good-natured call? If we took out most of the scantily-clad female characters, increased their roles to better prominent characters who seemed more realistic as women...would this increase female readership? I say this because I know plenty of women who still wouldn't read comics. It's not so much the lack of representation and the inaccurate portrayals that push them away from comics...for most women who don't read comics (which is, let's admit A LOT), they don't read them because they perceive the entire medium itself as unintellegent and juvenile. THAT's why I think a majority of women aren't into reading comics. There's something about putting art and words together that they find "illiterate". (By the way, I'm not trying to represent women or anything...but that's just what they've explained to me. The thought of sexism in comics really wasn't a big issue with them as much as the idea of the medium itself. I would observe that a majority of women in this part of the world have a very closed mind into trying comics and video games. They have no problem watching a Batman movie with a leather-touting Catwoman, but they refuse to read Batman comics)
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Postby ultramagnus1 » Wed Feb 29, 2012 6:37 am

Urzu Six wrote:
Sprite wrote:Not in my case. I'm quite happy and comfortable with how I look and FYI, I have the most perfect set of boobs in the world. :P
No, you can't see them.



For the second time this thread, Spoilsport.

Anyhow, sorry for the DG spoiler, but I know that I'd only got RiD on Sunday, and others similarly lacking may have been a tad confused.

ultramagnus1 wrote:I dont like those above images. Nothing great about them.

So, why don't you like them? What's the reason?


I dont like that kind of art. Never did.
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Postby Urzu Six » Wed Feb 29, 2012 6:43 am

So it's purely a stylistic choice? The poses and implied themes don't bother you?
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Postby CyclonusArmada » Wed Feb 29, 2012 7:34 am

The Father of Grain wrote:
Urzu Six wrote:Dreamwaves Sunstreaker was supposed to be gay, for example, but you wouldn't get that from the stories he was in. It wasn't his defining characteristic.


Really? ::chuckles:: Was that admitted by the writers or just fan speculation?

Sounds like the whole Tigertron/Airazor thing in the Japanese translation of Beast Wars..
Urzu Six wrote:So it's purely a stylistic choice? The poses and implied themes don't bother you?

Bah thats nothing, some Manga makes the implications here practically redundant.
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Postby ultramagnus1 » Wed Feb 29, 2012 7:42 am

Urzu Six wrote:So it's purely a stylistic choice? The poses and implied themes don't bother you?


Not really because I dont like the art the poses arent affecting me either way.
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Postby Sprite » Wed Feb 29, 2012 8:56 am

The Father of Grain wrote:Sprite, if I'm understanding you right, you're saying that by representing females more in comics, it'll grow female readership.


I don't know where I said that (although it might well be true). Actually I think I said the opposite: you don't need to specifically cater to women because there's no reason why they can't/don't enjoy a lot of the same comics men are. More Than Meets The Eye being a case in point. Although more material geared to women (romance comics would be good) would help a lot.

How women are currently represented in the majority of the comics is another issue and might well play a role in why most women don't read comics. I don't know if I quoted it in this thread before, but it's been said that you don't need to cater to female readers so much as try not to actively offend them. For instance... have you ever considered that the reason women find the medium "unintelligent and juvenile" might actually be because it is used as a platform for men to present their sexual fantasies about women? Not so much that your lady friends might realise this, but I do think it's related to the reputation the comics industry has as a whole.

(American industry anyway. In Europe, comics are viewed way more as an art form (albeit still a bit of a niche one)

There is nothing particular inherent in the female sex that would put them off against comics; it has something to do with the industry itself. Because you don't see this discrepancy between male and female readers when it comes to manga: actually I think the percentages might even favour female readers (teenagers especially) a little more. And in the thirties, most comic book readers were female. So it's not that most women won't read comics, it's that there's simply nothing suited for them. And there's no reason that cannot change.

(Actually it needs to be pointed out here that plenty of men don't read comics either. It's a pretty niche market.)

As for the black reader analogy - I think that's best left out of the discussion. The difference between men and women is far, far greater than the difference between black and white people (which is only skin-deep). If you take any given character and suddenly make them black, that should not make one whit of difference for the character, how they relate to other characters, or the story itself (unless you're writing a story set in, say, South America in the 18th/19th century). Case in point, Nick Fury in the Avengers movie. But it would make a whole lot of difference if the change was male to female (or vice versa). Plus, women make up one half of the world's population.
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Postby Cyberstrike » Wed Feb 29, 2012 9:04 am

The Father of Grain wrote:Sprite, if I'm understanding you right, you're saying that by representing females more in comics, it'll grow female readership.

I posed this same question to the late Dwayne McDuffie on a message board about 10 years ago when he said the comic book industry could use more African-American readers. (Dwayne was the guy who founded Icon, a branch of DC comics that featured African-Americans in lead roles). Dwayne was calling for a larger representation of black characters in comics. His heart was in the right place, but it begged the question if a majority of black readers truly cared. The answer was no. Icon did not add more black readers to the comics industry. Those that read comics, continued to read comics and those that didn't just didn't. And for those who read comics, a lot of them didn't read Icon. Strangely, most of the people who bought Icon comics weren't black.

Now, I may not be female so you have the advantage here, but I'm wondering do a majority of female readers feel the way you do? In other words, is this another Icon-type of incident where you, like Dwayne McDuffie, have your heart in the right place, but from a sales perspective it may not reflect that good-natured call? If we took out most of the scantily-clad female characters, increased their roles to better prominent characters who seemed more realistic as women...would this increase female readership? I say this because I know plenty of women who still wouldn't read comics. It's not so much the lack of representation and the inaccurate portrayals that push them away from comics...for most women who don't read comics (which is, let's admit A LOT), they don't read them because they perceive the entire medium itself as unintellegent and juvenile. THAT's why I think a majority of women aren't into reading comics. There's something about putting art and words together that they find "illiterate". (By the way, I'm not trying to represent women or anything...but that's just what they've explained to me. The thought of sexism in comics really wasn't a big issue with them as much as the idea of the medium itself. I would observe that a majority of women in this part of the world have a very closed mind into trying comics and video games. They have no problem watching a Batman movie with a leather-touting Catwoman, but they refuse to read Batman comics)


Just for the record: That line was comics was called Milestone and Icon was a title in that line.

Icon Comics is the current name of Marvel's creator-owned line.
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Postby ultramagnus1 » Wed Feb 29, 2012 9:14 am

Sprite wrote:
The Father of Grain wrote:Sprite, if I'm understanding you right, you're saying that by representing females more in comics, it'll grow female readership.


I don't know where I said that (although it might well be true). Actually I think I said the opposite: you don't need to specifically cater to women because there's no reason why they can't/don't enjoy a lot of the same comics men are. More Than Meets The Eye being a case in point. Although more material geared to women (romance comics would be good) would help a lot.

How women are currently represented in the majority of the comics is another issue and might well play a role in why most women don't read comics. I don't know if I quoted it in this thread before, but it's been said that you don't need to cater to female readers so much as try not to actively offend them. For instance... have you ever considered that the reason women find the medium "unintelligent and juvenile" might actually be because it is used as a platform for men to present their sexual fantasies about women? Not so much that your lady friends might realise this, but I do think it's related to the reputation the comics industry has as a whole.

(American industry anyway. In Europe, comics are viewed way more as an art form (albeit still a bit of a niche one)

There is nothing particular inherent in the female sex that would put them off against comics; it has something to do with the industry itself. Because you don't see this discrepancy between male and female readers when it comes to manga: actually I think the percentages might even favour female readers (teenagers especially) a little more. And in the thirties, most comic book readers were female. So it's not that most women won't read comics, it's that there's simply nothing suited for them. And there's no reason that cannot change.

(Actually it needs to be pointed out here that plenty of men don't read comics either. It's a pretty niche market.)

As for the black reader analogy - I think that's best left out of the discussion. The difference between men and women is far, far greater than the difference between black and white people (which is only skin-deep). If you take any given character and suddenly make them black, that should not make one whit of difference for the character, how they relate to other characters, or the story itself (unless you're writing a story set in, say, South America in the 18th/19th century). Case in point, Nick Fury in the Avengers movie. But it would make a whole lot of difference if the change was male to female (or vice versa). Plus, women make up one half of the world's population.


Actually there are slightly more women then men in the world. About 51% are women largely because they tend to live longer.
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Postby Focksbot » Wed Feb 29, 2012 9:24 am

The Father of Grain wrote:Now, I may not be female so you have the advantage here, but I'm wondering do a majority of female readers feel the way you do?


Absent polls, 'the majority' can only ever be an anecdotal majority but almost certainly it's a significant number. I'd point out that there are a seemingly vast number of articles written by women (and sometimes men) making identical points to the ones Sprite does, which contain reams of comments along the lines of: "YES! Thank you so much for articulating my feelings on this!"

Then add in the fact that these arguments are very easy to understand and empathise with (at least I think so). How many of us would read and enjoy comics where almost every single male was portrayed in the style Sprite has posted above, or at least sticking to those character models? ie. Always slim and boyish with big eyes, seductive grins, rumpled shirts, high cheeckbones, foppish hair, often pouting, often caught in homoerotic poses. No Wolverine (he's short and hairy). No Colossus (bulky with a flat-top). No Magneto (too old and chiselly). No Hulk, or when Hulk goes green he stays ultra-slim with no veins or snub-nose. No Professor X ... the list goes on.
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