This column is a response to an Op-Ed written by Patrick A. Reed over at MTV Geek. The column can be found here, and I encourage all to read it before diving into this response.
** THIS ARTICLE ALSO CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR THE GAME OF THRONES SEASON 3‘S RED WEDDING **
In his piece, Mr. Reed wags his finger at DC Comics for killing off iconic female character Catwoman in Justice League of America #4. His contention isn’t merely that she died, but the manner in which she died – tied to a chair. He felt it was a humiliating and demeaning portrayal of violence against women that served only to advance the plot of the comic.
See, most comic book readers would chalk it up to the tendency of comic book publishers to kill off medium-tier characters needlessly for shock value. These deaths rarely hold any meaning for the overall story – but exploit a comic reading public who will buy up any issue where a character dies. Sure, the death usually serves some motivating action for the rest of the plot, but the character that dies is usually inconsequential.
The best example of this is when DC Comics killed Superboy in Infinite Crisis. It was originally supposed to be Dick Grayson (Nightwing, formerly Robin) who bit the dust. DC Comics publisher Dan Didio couldn’t bring himself to kill Grayson – so they changed it last minute to Superboy. It made zero difference to the outcome of Infinite Crisis – someone just had to die.
This is not so in the mind of Mr. Reed. Catwoman was tied up and killed – exploited for the progression of the plot, rather – because she’s a woman! They wouldn’t dare think of doing that to a male character!
Except Blue Beetle died the same way, but you won’t hear Patrick Reed bitching about that. It isn’t convenient for his argument and wouldn’t attract nearly as many page views.
Mr. Reed: a character in a comic book died. That character also happened to be female. Don’t we have real societal problems to address, like the fact that women still get paid 77 cents for every dollar a man makes 50 years after the implementation of the Equal Pay Act? Your distaste with the state of comic book writing — if real and not simply to attract readers — would be better directed towards an actual injustice such as this.
I’m sorry, I just don’t see how Catwoman being held captive and shot through the head sets back the women’s rights movement when one of our country’s biggest pop stars – a role model to millions of little girls – gets beaten by her boyfriend and then takes him back. That is something that happens in the real world and that, you know, people actually pay attention to.
Even if the death of Catwoman is a violation; is getting outraged by old media really going to affect any significant change? I saw a really racist sock puppet show the other day — would you like to be the fearless crusader who takes up the cause, Mr. Reed?
The fact of the matter is it takes no balls to stand up and act all outraged over a comic book. Finally, someone is addressing the problem of chauvinism in comics! Oh yes, you are oh so progressive – lets pat you on the back and pin a medal on your chest for being a conscious comic book reader! The only problem is most of us are smarter than that.
You know who still reads comic books? Hip college kids (like muh’self!) and middle-aged white guys. What about violence perpetuated against women in films and television? These two mediums are much more widely influential – especially to children. I wonder why you’d choose to write about this in the same month that a main female character on Game of Thrones is GUTTED while still pregnant, at her wedding. That’s not humiliating, Mr. Reed?
And so I ask you politely, Mr. Reed and the greater comic book blogosphere, please drop the Dr. Wertham bullshit. Put your energy and outrage towards something that actually helps or stop acting like you care.