Huntress - With Power Girl

Sonny Bunch takes issue with io9’s costume redesigns for the sake of making female superheroes… fully dressed:

In a post titled “Fully clothed female superheroes finally look like they can fight crime in the winter,” we are treated to the illustrated stylings of one Michael Lee Lunsford. Check them out, I’ll wait here. Get an eyeful? Which was your favorite? Personally, I liked Wonder Woman. Because nothing screams “Amazon Warrior!” more than creased khaki slacks stuffed into boots worn underneath a blue-and-red skirt with stars on them. Makes a lot of sense.

He then points to several examples of muscular male superheroes, often in tight clothing.

I get where Sonny is coming from on this, but I think he’s off-base. To me, it’s not just that there are scantily-clad female superheroes out there. Nor that there are some who wear tight clothing. I mean, I have a shirtless Hawkman poster in the computer room. And, as he points out, Hulk. Others wear tights – which itself is sufficiently common that it’s considered a part of the deal (“Men running around in tights”).

Where it does get somewhat problematic to me, though, is primarily the difficulty in finding female superheroes that aren’t showing off a lot of skin, and that to be honest they very much come across in a way to titillate boys and men in a way that Hawkman’s bear chest isn’t for the reverse (though, I should disclose, I never liked the bare-chested Carter Hall costume nearly as much as the Katar Hol one).

Ahhh, but is it a problem if the female costumes as well as the male costumes are designed for boys? That is, after all, who mostly reads comic books! Well, yes, to an extent. We can assign the rationale to grubby capitalism. We can assign it to the fact that an overwhelming number of writers and artists in the comic book world are male (or at least have historically been so). And we can assign the rationale of objection to living the political life.

Really, though? I want to be able to introduce comic books to my daughter. And I’d kind of rather she be able to find role models without dressing like a trollop in the process. I have (or had) this thing that I enjoy(ed) that I can share more freely without being self-conscious. Now, I suppose I could blame the self-consciousness on the uptight feminists or whatever, but given the way that guys respond to other men produced to meet female preferences (Justin Bieber!), I’m not sure I can.

The fan-service in female superhero costumes is not too much unlike, in my mind, the infusion of sex into entertainment. Gratuitous sex (or gratuitous nudity). I don’t mind sex in entertainment when it belongs, but I see it too frequently where it doesn’t.

And it’s sort of like that with superhero costumes. Just as too much entertainment inserts sex just for the sake of inserting sex, the costumes show flesh for just that purpose and often no other. Huntress’s costume went through an evolution through costumes that made sense in various contexts (Bertinelli’s first and second in a more acrobatic sense, her third offered protection) to one that was just about being fleshy (to be fair, the newest is more modest again, but it isn’t Bertinelli). Power Girl, also featured above, has some rather interesting aspects to her character overshadowed by her big chest and the window thereto. This just isn’t as frequent with the male characters and it’s not really that hard to avoid it with female characters.

Now, as for the costumes themselves, I do kind of agree with Sonny about Wonder Woman’s. I sort of agree that the khakis on Wonder Woman are strange. And I should say, I would object to attempts to make every (or most) characters in this fashion, just as I am objecting to the commonality. But I’d like to see more costumes like this, and fewer like the open-window Power Girl costume.


Category: Theater

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3 Responses to Heroes Undressed

  1. SFG says:

    Funny how the possibility of raising a nerdgirl makes those silly feminist arguments sound sensible, eh?

    I’d be hesitant to encourage geeky interests in a child (odds are he or she will find them on his own), but it seems less stigmatized than it used to be.

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