Well-rounded Women in Media – Still a Work In Progress

We’re only four podcasts in, and already we’ve gotten our hands dirty with two of the most wretched anime I’ve ever watched (though, to be fair, I’m not a masochist [like, say, William] – I’m a pretty picky viewer, and thus have not nearly the same library under my belt as the gents and lady whom I cast with). And though we did touch on the subject in our last two podcasts, I’d like to rant, for a moment, about the lack of agency women have in the supposed “ideal” fantasies of both men AND women.

Of course, in Golgo 13 and Octopussy, this is pretty overt. The women in Golgo are there to screw or be screwed. Even a big, bad mob boss gets undone by her need to writhe on top of Duke while he lays stiff and unmoving beneath her (I assume his member can vibrate or something, because he is just that good). And poor Laura, as we discussed, falls victim of Madonna/Whore syndrome – once you’re sullied by rape, you can’t possibly live life as a woman who doesn’t sell her body for sex1(though one wonders what would have happened if Duke took her up on her offer. He seems to be cool with the occasional prostitute, given Nameless Steam Room Orgasm Blonde at the beginning of the film. I assume he could have sexed Laura back to good mental health somehow).

At least in Octopussy women storm the gates and try to take out the baddies who stole their stolen jewels. And yet, Octopussy herself, supposed criminal mastermind with a horde of beautiful, loyal minions at her bidding, is outsmarted by her closest male assistants, as well as her male client, and it is a man (Bond, obviously) who must save her from foolishly trusting these baddies with her business and her life.

All right, you say, I shouldn’t kvetch about two male-power fantasies from the eighties that use women as distressed damsels and sex toys. It was a different time, you say. That’s common in male-power fantasies, you say. You sure are disgruntled by my disgruntlement.

But what about the female-oriented fantasies we viewed? Both Twilight and Diabolik Lovers have protagonists who are little more than cardboard props for the men in their lives to move around as they please – strangely, to the women’s delight. Aside from specific dom/sub kink play, this is one messed up idea to present as a feminine fantasy and ideal – that a woman’s story doesn’t begin until men enter it, and that once they do, the woman is nothing but a sidekick in the men’s journey. And neither property can lean on being outdated as an excuse for their treatment of women, having come out in the aughts and teens respectively.

And it’s not as if the male-power fantasy isn’t still dripping in useless, 2D women (I’m lookin’ at you, Jurassic World).

I feel we’ve come to a time where we as a society can recognize these tropes (the damsel in distress, the cardboard woman) as being terrible, but we are so locked in to this idea of what a woman should be that even now it’s hard to smash out of the box. Would Mad Max: Fury Road have had as much backlash for being “overtly feminist” if part of our culture didn’t still  buy into the idea that movies that go smashy smashy bang bang2 need to be a.) only geared toward men and b.) only feature men being strong? Would the lovely Crimson Peak have been so sneered at for “not being scary” if the advertisers didn’t feel the need to sell it as a horror flick to get asses in seats instead of a female-led thriller and atmospheric period piece (and I’ve noticed that the romp Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is now also being sold in such a way – badass beauties fighting zombies in a horror movie rather than fun, action-packed satire starring women)? And why is the protag of Attack on Titan the overzealous Eren Yeager and not the efficient, skillful Mikasa Ackerman? We can say that perhaps they’re playing with the tropes of the main protagonist being the best of the best as well as male in an action-packed show, but why not simply make Mikasa the lead instead and really flip-flop expectations?

We’re making progress, guys, but there’s still work to be done so that both genders and all sorts of character personalities get their day in the sun. And the more we point out what we’re missing on screen, the more diversity we’ll see.

Amber Rant Complete

Notes

1. Not that I think prostitution is a profession without merit. But the movie clearly thinks so.

2. In the best possible way. Fury Road is my new religion, and when I die I will arrive at the gates of Valhalla, shiny and chrome.

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