Anti-Feminism Sci-Fi Bingo

26 Sep 2011

On MightyGodKing, John Seavey writes:

We were bouncing around the idea of what ‘Empire’ might look like if Leia was actually treated like the strong, fearless, intelligent woman she was in the original ‘Star Wars’, rather than the Ice Princess Who Just Needs A Big Strong Man To Tell Her What To Do in ‘Empire’.

Feminism, for whatever reason, seems to get under people’s skin. On a number of topics, I can step back from my personal thoughts on the matter and can understand the reasoning behind all sides of an argument, if not the conclusions that are reached. Not so much on feminism.

I call myself a feminist, but there are times when I find myself staring, completely confused, at the arguments people have about it. Do I think that women get the short straw in much of contemporary film and literature? Of course. When I can have an hour-long conversation about Oscar-worthy actors this year and have trouble thinking of a single leading woman, there are significant gender issues that need to be resolved.

At the same time, I can not seem to bring myself to care about the notion of Princess Leia as an empowered, feminist icon or the portrayal of women in Nolen’s Batman movies. It is not, necessarily, a matter of disagreement. John’s version of Leia seems reasonable enough. Likewise, I can not really argue that Nolen’s Bat-women are strong (or even likeable) characters.

That being said, I just do not seem to care.

Analyzing literature and criticizing it for not being feminist enough. It is all too academic for me (and I am saying that as an academic myself). It gets us nowhere to look at a thirty year-old film and say, “see, that’s sexist!”, and going one step further by telling me why doesn’t get us much further, because the problem isn’t Star Wars. ‘Empire’ is a symptom. The problem is within Hollywood itself.

To his credit, John does more than simply complain about where ‘Empire’ went wrong; his post is about righting ‘Empire’ while still capturing the soul of the movie. He makes some excellent points and I am sure I would enjoy watching the movie as he would write it. But feminists do not benefit from fan fictioning out our own versions of the movies we loved before we came into our own as thinking creatures. Feminists need to do more than talk about their manifestos; feminists need to write them. Those who have the gift of language need to take up their pens and do more than edit; feminists need to write their heroes to life and show them off to the world, on the page and on the screen.

So what’s the point of all this? Truthfully, it started off as a defensive (but respectful) rant where-in I proclaimed that I still enjoy watching ‘Empire’ as it is1 and I am tired of being made to feel bad because of that. But after letting it sit for a while, I have decided that is not entirely honest. The reason that I found myself frustrated comes from John’s penultimate sentence: “The fact that they didn’t do this isn’t a reflection of some insoluble plot conundrum, it’s a reflection of laziness and a reliance on stereotypes of female behavior on the part of the writers.”

A reflection of laziness.

I am in the process of writing something fairly significant. I am quite proud of what I have done and I hope to, one day, get it published. But nowhere in this work, planned or already written, is there a character that I can point to and say, “see, that’s my manifesto. There is what I believe.”.

It is not a matter of possibility. The fact that I have not written such a character is not a reflection of some insoluble plot conundrum, it’s a reflection of laziness. And I need to be better than that.

So, thanks John.

(Also: do check out his personal blog. He does good things with words, almost always about comic books. If you are into that kind of thing.)

  1. Kind of. In general, the Star Wars movies do not really hold up to the idea of the Star Wars movies. Just like the Cube movies. Sigh.