I love female superheroes, I love female heroes with tragic backstories and redemption arcs. Basically, I love female heroes. They’re great because they don’t conform to traditional female character roles of being quiet damsels in distress, and they show women as complex characters with stories and goals. However, while they break the mold of traditional female character narratives, these characters still overwhelmingly conform to heteronormative societal standards of beauty, gender presentation and sexuality.
So, while we should celebrate all awesome female characters, we should also be mindful of the heteronormative ideas that these characters reinforce and what type of character could challenge them even further. To put it bluntly, I want to see butch queer (super)heroines, but they‘re near impossible to find.
A few weeks ago I wrote about raised female warriors and their fight for autonomy. Since then I’ve been thinking on whether male characters are ever given a similar kind of tragic backstory where they‘re kidnapped, as children or even as adults, and their agency is taken away and they are forced to learn to fight and kill on the orders of their captors. I managed to find a few that could fit this trope—Matt Murdock (Netflix‘s Daredevil), Oliver Queen (Arrow), Bucky Barnes/the Winter Soldier (MCU), and D‘Avin Jaqobi (Killjoys). All these characters have their freedom and autonomy taken away (to differing extents) and, as such, they present a lot of opportunities for nontraditional portrayals of masculinity.
Spoilers for Arrow, Killjoys, and Captain America: The Winter Soldier below.
More puns! The praise train for Splatoon and Nintendo keeps going!
For many of us, video games are a form of escapism. This can come in a few flavors, either by having equal standing in the game’s society, being able to perform outlandish feats, or just experiencing a world unlike your own. Another form of escapism is getting the chance to roleplay as something other than yourself. One of the most common ways to roleplay in gaming is to take on a character of another gender. In light of this, I want to discuss Splatoon and Super Smash Bros. some more.
I enjoy watching anime and analyzing it in terms of social issues and subtextual narrative content (ie: motifs, metaphors, and so forth). However, I and many other fans of the genre have an issue with the former of the two: we are not the audience. We are an audience, but many of us are not Japanese or East Asian, and thus lack a full understanding of how certain tropes affect the viewers of the intended audience. We can analyze, but only from a perspective that we have been brought up with: in my case, Western perceptions on gender and sexuality. These nurtured perceptions aren’t necessarily the best when coming to analyzing shoujo manga and anime, especially when it’s not really the American audience this genre is affecting at large. So when I decided that I wanted to take a look at Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun‘s Yuu Kashima, I figured it was time to look at things from a different angle. While I’ve thought of Kashima’s character as laudable because she seems unconcerned with typical gender roles and expresses her gender identity through non-sterotypical ways, when looking at her actions from the angle of the cultural trope she fills, her character becomes a little less praise-worthy.
On a rare break from work this past weekend, my excellent beard and I made the trip down to Baltimore, MD for Otakon: the second-largest anime convention in the US with over 32,000 attendees. While I was there having fun and sweating it out in my Oberyn Martell cosplay (gratuitously pictured), I intended to pop in on some feminist and/or diversity panels and happily report on the status of social progress in the geek community, but after reviewing the schedule for the weekend, I found virtually no programming that could fit into either of those categories. This would not have surprised me five or six years ago, but with other conventions and fan events putting marked effort into accepting and celebrating marginalized fans, it was surprising and slightly disheartening to realize that Otakon offered virtually nothing that I could consider relevant to this blog. Anime has many praiseworthy tropes, especially magical girls, as well as more than its fair share of problems with representation, but for whatever reason, neither positive nor negative commentary was brought to bear at Otakon.
A few months ago I was at my hometown con, Tekkoshocon, in good ol’ Pittsburgh, PA, and witnessed an interesting exchange. While waiting in line to ask about prop-check, I overheard the guys in front of me asking the con staffers if they’d seen any male crossplayers. They were participating in a scavenger hunt, and dude crossplayers are apparently rare enough to merit a spot on the hunt’s item list. This set me to thinking: Why is that?
I’ve already written once about crossplay a long time ago, but I think it’s worth revisiting. Crossplay is the practice of cosplaying as a different gender than the one you identify as, and it’s extraordinarily common at conventions these days. Except for one thing: most crossplayers are women dressing as men. I chalk this up to a number of factors, including the proportionally larger number of male characters compared to women in popular geek culture, and the fact that it’s far more of a societal no-no for a man to dress in women’s clothing.