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Author Topic: Superman characters that women like/don't like  (Read 4734 times)
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JulianPerez
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« on: August 31, 2006, 05:29:19 AM »

I was just looking at the STAR TREK episode "Amok Time" with a female neighbor, and it was interesting to see that while I found the manipulative character of T'Pring interesting, my neighbor hated her - and for the exact same reason! Just goes to show how different men and women think.

How about Superman characters?

The response to Lois Lane tends to be 1) angry response to how one-dimensional she can sometimes be, or 2) respect for how progressive a character she was.

In the recent SUPERMAN RETURNS film, Lois Lane is played as a somewhat more white bread figure than the raspy, assertive Margot Kidder. The reason may be that in previous generations, the figure of the working, independent woman implied a specific personality type; nowadays, when the expectation is that women are to work just as men are, you don't have to be a tough cookie to be a working, urban independent girl; they hired Kate Bosworth, who played her like the girl next door.

I've noticed that girls tend to respond a lot to Supergirl, and to Wonder Woman and the Catwoman; purses and blank books with their picture on it are sold in bookstores. Intriguingly, boys and men apparently aren't as interested in Supergirl; she was taken for granted in the 1970s and had various unsuccessful series.

Certain types of women also tend to respond well to Batman, mostly because he's such a sexy, dark and charismatic figure (there was a strip of the Norwegian goth comic, NENA, based on this very idea).

Superhero comic books are foremost for boys. However, if you'd like to see a series with a great use of female characters, read Alan Brennert's 1986 issue of SECRET ORIGINS featuring Black Canary, which is one of the few occasions that character has come alive. There also is BIRDS OF PREY, by Gail Simone, which features heroines from the women's point of view: the heroines talk about their diets and how they get their hair in shape, something few male writers would think of.
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« Reply #1 on: August 31, 2006, 02:11:07 PM »

I thought T'Pring was smoking hot, but she never really attracted or repelled me on a mental level.  She is interesting however as the first Vulcan we see who uses "logic" towards petty, mean-spirited and selfish goals.  Sort of a fore-runner of the despicable miscreant "Vulcans" who polluted "Enterprise" years later.

As for the popularity of some characters with girls, I've always wondered how many girls really read superhero comics.  Characters like "Wonder Woman" and "Supergirl" have a certain appeal based on name alone...their names suggest power and competence.  I think girls might see "Supergirl" more as a title for themselves, like "Athlete" or "Genius" or for that matter, "Princess" (notice how many favorite girl characters are royalty).  They may not know or care that, for instance, Supergirl's real name is Kara, that her secret ID is Linda Lee, and so on.  They just might see a beautiful girl who can fly and lift things and think that's enough.  Same with Wonder Woman, a character who I'd argue has gotten by for 60 years more on the power of her name and image than on the strength of her mythos.

Lois in SR I see as kind of harried and overwhelmed by life, the way a lot of us adults are.  She's not as "in your face" as Kidder's Lois because she's already made her point.  She's a mom and she has fame and respect for the way she does her job, so she has nothing to prove.  In contrast, I felt Margot Kidder's Lois went out of her way to constantly prove "I can do anything a man can do, only better!"  And in my opinion by the post-Women's Lib year of 1978 that didn't make her a pioneer, it just made her annoying.  Now when Phyllis Coates was kicking butt and taking names in the first year of the 50s TV show, that was a different story.  Showing a career woman on TV in 1951...one who was NOT pining away for Superman and counting the days til she could quit work and be a homemaker...now THAT was bold and progressive. (But of course that "edge" was gone by Year Two and the arrival of Noel Neill).

The only "girl" book I really liked was Wonder Woman when George Perez was on it.  I started reading for the pretty pictures, but I lingered because Diana was written as a strong, very likable character.  And yet I must admit that every time I bought it I felt a little self-concious about it, and wondered what "the guys" would think.  :lol:
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Uncle Mxy
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« Reply #2 on: August 31, 2006, 05:52:49 PM »

There's liking the character and liking the characterzation.  I don't think anyone would really like jocko Steve Lombard, but they may enjoy the characterization of Steve Lombard, how he's a dumbass, how he fits into Superman's world.
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« Reply #3 on: September 01, 2006, 04:24:12 AM »

I suspect this would have to be a poll to get any substantive answers (re: what comic book superheroes do women prefer, in order of preference?).

Another way to check would be to search for the various incarnations of superheorines chosen as cosplay costumes by women at comic book conventions --flickr is a good place to start.  Not all of the pics are of cosplayers, of course.  The other mitgator is that these are probably pictures taken by men.

wonder woman=2935 pictures
http://flickr.com/search/?q=%22wonder+woman%22&m=text

catwoman=1469 pictures
http://flickr.com/search/?q=%22catwoman%22&m=text

supergirl=1300 pictures
http://flickr.com/search/?q=supergirl

batgirl=816
http://flickr.com/search/?q=%22batgirl%22&m=text

lois lane=361
http://flickr.com/search/?q=%22black+canary%22&m=text

batwoman=88
http://flickr.com/search/?q=%22batwoman%22&m=text

black canary=49
http://flickr.com/search/?q=%22black+canary%22&m=text

t'pring=1
http://flickr.com/search/?q=t%27pring&m=text

steve lombard=0

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JulianPerez
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« Reply #4 on: September 01, 2006, 05:39:54 AM »

Quote from: "nightwing"
As for the popularity of some characters with girls, I've always wondered how many girls really read superhero comics.  Characters like "Wonder Woman" and "Supergirl" have a certain appeal based on name alone...their names suggest power and competence.  I think girls might see "Supergirl" more as a title for themselves, like "Athlete" or "Genius" or for that matter, "Princess" (notice how many favorite girl characters are royalty).  They may not know or care that, for instance, Supergirl's real name is Kara, that her secret ID is Linda Lee, and so on.  They just might see a beautiful girl who can fly and lift things and think that's enough.


Well, by their nature superhero comics are for boys at some level - the elements that make up superheroes are things designed to appeal to the minds of boys: fistfights breaking out, attraction to the filthy and abnormal (monsters, robots, aliens), and that whole Edgar Rice Burroughs vibe of unlimited power and unlimited sexuality. Alan Moore made a point a while back that one of the differences between the pulps and the comics is that there was a repressed sex urge in the pulps that isn't present in the more wholesome comics. I don't know if I'd agree with that general sentiment, because part of the unstated "fun" and wish-fulfillment of being Superman is that he was something special, and so he probably could get laid very easily. He had women catfighting over him.

Okay, yes, a guy as clean-cut as Superman probably wouldn't seal the deal with the girls in his Crush Ring, but it isn't important whether he does or not; what's important is that he COULD.

On that same note, of the intriguing differences between boys and girls is that girls are attracted to the pretty and clean, whereas boys like the dirty and the scary. Notice that all of the female characters that women respond to are very glamorous figures. I suspect it was for this reason that the Englehart creation, She-Thing, never really caught on; girls don't like monsters as much as guys do. The one monster that a lot of women like, Dracula, is a monster with a great deal of sexual power always played by these "Latin Lover" types. He's the ultimate sinister and aggressive giggolo type.

This is why I've never thought of LOST BOYS casting vampires as "party all night" types in leather jackets and tattoos is that much of a leap of the imagination; if Dracula was written today, he'd drive a motorcycle.

I don't have any statistics on hand, but I'll bet ten to one that the girls that like Catwoman, Sandman, and the X-Men are more likely to be the same kind of girls that like to play with bugs and worms, and listen to Joan Jett, and less likely to play with Barbies and listen to Susanna Hoffs.

Quote from: "nightwing"
Same with Wonder Woman, a character who I'd argue has gotten by for 60 years more on the power of her name and image than on the strength of her mythos.


I don't know if that's entirely fair. Wonder Woman has had a few impressive moments; the Martin Pasko and Alan Gold stuff in the seventies and eighties comes to mind, as does that Kurt Busiek miniseries from the 1980s and the George Perez stuff.

Quote from: "nightwing"
Lois in SR I see as kind of harried and overwhelmed by life, the way a lot of us adults are.  She's not as "in your face" as Kidder's Lois because she's already made her point.  She's a mom and she has fame and respect for the way she does her job, so she has nothing to prove.  In contrast, I felt Margot Kidder's Lois went out of her way to constantly prove "I can do anything a man can do, only better!"  And in my opinion by the post-Women's Lib year of 1978 that didn't make her a pioneer, it just made her annoying.  Now when Phyllis Coates was kicking butt and taking names in the first year of the 50s TV show, that was a different story.  Showing a career woman on TV in 1951...one who was NOT pining away for Superman and counting the days til she could quit work and be a homemaker...now THAT was bold and progressive. (But of course that "edge" was gone by Year Two and the arrival of Noel Neill).


Interesting analysis; it had never occurred to me that the change in Lois's characterization come Kate was due to a process. I just figured it was one big galumphing "break" between SR and the first two, which bothered me until now.

Quote from: "nightwing"
The only "girl" book I really liked was Wonder Woman when George Perez was on it. I started reading for the pretty pictures, but I lingered because Diana was written as a strong, very likable character.  And yet I must admit that every time I bought it I felt a little self-concious about it, and wondered what "the guys" would think.  :lol:


I think it's possible to enjoy a comic book or story with a central female character. There was a gag on FUTURAMA, where Fry was drafted into the military:

    "I'm a science fiction hero! Like Uhura...or Janeway...or Xena!"[/list]

    On the WONDER WOMAN season 1 DVD, Linda Carter was asked about the costume she wore, and she said that she didn't even notice that it was a bathing suit; she just thought of it as a uniform.

    The ideal approach can be found in the recent ad campaign for the 2000 CHARLIE'S ANGELS film. I swear, whoever was responsible for it deserves a Nobel Prize for Marketing, because they chanced on the most brilliant advertising strategy ever conceived, a strategy that singlehandedly made a wild success out of what was otherwise a rather pedestrian television show remake-slash-action picture. They sold the Charlie's Angels as positive, strong role models for girls, while simultaneously selling them as wank fodder for those girls'  brothers and Dads.
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    « Reply #5 on: September 01, 2006, 01:14:17 PM »

    Quote
    Superman probably wouldn't seal the deal with the girls in his Crush Ring


    Crush ring?  Is that a real term?  I always learn something from your posts, Julius.

    Or maybe I'm just really old and out of it.

    Quote
    The one monster that a lot of women like, Dracula, is a monster with a great deal of sexual power always played by these "Latin Lover" types. He's the ultimate sinister and aggressive giggolo type.


    Well, there's a lot of not-so-subtle sexual symbolism in the vampire myths, and in its day "Dracula" was considered very racy stuff.  Bram Stoker took some heat for it.

    On the other hand, I never thought of Christopher Lee as the sex symbol type, even for girls who like bad boys.

    Quote
    Interesting analysis; it had never occurred to me that the change in Lois's characterization come Kate was due to a process. I just figured it was one big galumphing "break" between SR and the first two, which bothered me until now.


    I've seen Kidder's Lois held up as some sort of bold, revolutionary take on the character, but honestly I think Phyllis beat her to the punch and did a better job of it.  If anything, Kidder's take seems designed as the antithesis of the Noel Neill model most people were familiar with at the time...the airhead pining for her dream man and kept on at the Planet seemingly out of some policy of tokenism more than anything else.  (All of which is not to slam dear Noel, one of the nicest people who ever lived).  The vibe I got was, "this is not your father's Lois Lane."

    That said, Kidder's Lois is still an airhead who rushed headlong into dangerous situations any 5-year-old would know to avoid.  What quotes we hear from her stories have the ring of supermarket tabloid to them, and it's made clear from the outset that she cannot spell to save her life.  The only thing she has going for her is that she is working at a very important paper in a position of some importance.  But that's an achievement that occured off-camera before the films began.  When we see her *in action*, she's a nincompoop.

    My take on Bosworth's Lois is that she's grown up a bit.  She's had some real set-backs and life's gotten serious.  On the surface she seems to handle her abandonment and the demands of motherhood and career with ease, but whenever she gets a moment alone, she seems on the verge of losing it.  When Jimmy says that marriage is a sore subject for Lois, my take is that Richard has offered more than once, but she's not accepted because in her heart she loves someone else.  There's the sense that for all her accomplishments, Lois has a hole in her life that keeps her from happiness.

    Or maybe that's just me trying to read depth into a characterization so many other people have written off as wooden.  Certainly she's not the scene stealer Margot was.


    Quote
    On the WONDER WOMAN season 1 DVD, Linda Carter was asked about the costume she wore, and she said that she didn't even notice that it was a bathing suit; she just thought of it as a uniform.


    The great thing about Lynda was that she wore that skimpy thing without any hint of embarassment or, alternately, coy exhibitionism.  She just came off as a genuinely sweet woman almost unaware of her own great beauty.  To me, that's sexier than any dozen "Pussycat Dolls."
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    « Reply #6 on: September 02, 2006, 06:20:04 AM »

    Does Sandman really appeal to the rebel girls or more to the literate/romantic/fantasy types?  The so-called "goth" audience to me seems to cross over between the two crowds.

    As for even older characters, let's not forget that Supergirl had a huge female readership in the 60s and Wonder Woman/Sheena/Mary Marvel did appeal to girls in the 40s/50s.

     I suspect all these characters we are discussing are so varied and malleable that they can absorb almost anything a reader brings to them.  Thus Batman is all things to all readers, in a way, despite how we as purists loyal to various older iterations view him.
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