Women in Refrigerators Women in Refrigerators


D. Curtis Johnson belongs in my personal hall of fame for creating (with his long-time friend and artist, J. H. Williams III) one of the most complex and believable females in DC history, Cameron Chase. Unfortunately, that book was cancelled, but he's since written several nifty short pieces in DC's 80 page giants, with more to come. He's got a full-time day gig at Apple Computers, but there's no word yet on whether or not he chose the colors for those weird-looking Imacs. He does have some bigger projects at the proposal stage, so hopefully we'll see more of his work soon. (GS)

Not yet having done something really horrible to a female character myself, I can't offer any evidence of why *I* would do it, but give me time, I'm new. Oh, actually, I take that back-- I guess I *did* throw Chase into a collapsing wall and put her into the hospital for an issue, but she turned out okay. And it was because she was the protagonist and you gotta subject your protagonist to danger. Nothing permanent? No harm, no foul.

While I'm sure there's no single reason why women are so disproportionately abused in comics, one thing stands out, I think: It's a male-dominated field, both on the creator side and the readership side, and *anything* that is mostly by guys for guys tends towards aggressive violence between rival males and abusive violence towards women. Unfortunate but true facet of human nature. The urge that makes adolescent boys (and grown men, actually) feel good when the hero saves the damsel in distress is, scarily enough, the same urge that wants that damsel to be in distress in the first place, and the chivalrous desire to protect women from harm is inextricably tied to a secret thrill at the thought that those women are out there somewhere, being slapped around. Want to get a quick emotional flare out of an adolescent boy? Don't show him your hero saving Grandma from a train wreck, or pulling the little baby out of the burning house. Those are obviously heroic acts but your teenage reader won't identify with them, particularly-- he doesn't understand old people or babies at all. But every teenage boy has at least one hot and sweaty crush going on at any given time, and if there's one thing he clearly knows and understands, it's wanting to rescue the love of his life from some horrible other guy who doesn't deserve her and is probably doing bad things to her... hopefully at the moment you actually bust in to save her, in fact, because then she's at her most vulnerable and needy and you're there to pick up the emotional slack. Unrealistic? Sure, but that doesn't make it any less compelling for your audience which, as you'll recall, is still primarily young, male, and very emotionally turbulent.

Which, I guess, leads inevitably to the well-worn question: Is it the creator's responsibility to resist pandering to these base desires, to try to make the story rise above something that might seem distasteful if not outright offensive? Or is it instead the creator's responsibility to use these hooks in the reader's emotions to twist and pull and work like the stops of an organ? The urges are there, like it or not-- so should you try to make people overcome them, or should you grab all the power you can from them?

Lacking a supportable answer now, I shall have to settle for crossing that bridge when I come to it.