Tag Archive for women

Neither closet nor fridge: Or how Marvel’s Deadpool needs to take care of female and LGBTQ characters

With the rising popularity of comic book storylines turned movies, Marvel has been dominating the box office and the public’s interest for a few years now.

Most Marvel fans (myself included) have a favorite movie, a favorite avenger, and a favorite future project they’re looking forward to. (For me, they are Captain America: The First Avenger, Captain America, and Captain America: Civil War—anyone see a pattern yet?) Even if you find a die-hard fan of DC Comics, you can be sure that they’re familiar with the Marvel universe as well since it’s an almost unavoidable phenomenon.

One of the most recent installments in the Marvel universe was Deadpool, an irreverent, witty, and incredibly self-aware origin story that paints the main character (played by Ryan Reynolds) as anything but a hero. He’s a “bad guy who kills other bad guys.” Deadpool starts out as a mercenary and ends the movie as a man who’s gotten his revenge. Sure, he has a future as a reluctant superhero, but it’s more than likely he’ll be a thorn in the sides of the other superheroes.

deadpool heart hands

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The film version of Deadpool has gained some serious critical attention and made Marvel history by featuring an openly and explicitly pansexual character, which means that any potential romantic interest he has isn’t limited by gender. His partner in the current film is indeed a woman, but Deadpool’s attraction to folks of other genders isn’t invalidated by this fact. Ryan Reynolds has even spoken in favor of Deadpool getting a boyfriend in a future film, and fans (myself included) would love to see that.

The only hesitation that I have with this idea is his current partner, Vanessa (played by Morena Baccarin).

deadpool ring pop

Most of the film focuses on this relationship, even [SPOILER ALERT!] placing Vanessa in a vulnerable position that Deadpool rescues her from, allowing for a reconciliation at the end of the film.

This means that if Vanessa’s still with him in the sequel, then we’re most likely going to see one of two things happen:

1: Deadpool doesn’t get a boyfriend (which is such a drag, honestly, it’s about time).

or

2: Vanessa will be suddenly unavailable to Deadpool, allowing him to find a boyfriend.

But this presents a problem: I adore Vanessa. She’s sweet and smart and funny and retains agency even though her role at this point is mainly that of a love interest. She and Deadpool have a great relationship, and as of right now, I don’t see any reason for them to break up and I certainly don’t want them to.

You might be wondering why I wouldn’t want Deadpool and Vanessa to break up. If it means a well-known male superhero gets a boyfriend, and their relationship serves as open and obvious representation for LGBTQ+ folks in a way that’s handled with the proper respect, there shouldn’t be an issue, right?

To be clear, my issue isn’t with a potential male love interest, but rather with what would have to happen to take Vanessa out of the equation.

So often, superhero storylines rely on tired tropes when it comes to their female characters, whether they’re love interests or protagonists. These tropes include the Disposable Love Interest, who is left out with little to no explanation in the sequel, or the Disposable Woman, whose main role is most often to get kidnapped or killed in order to move the protagonist’s plot forward.

The worst trope originated in a Green Lantern comic storyline and is referred to as Stuffed into the Fridge or “fridging,” and it’s as bad as it sounds. An often female character close to the hero is killed and left behind for the protagonist to find, sometimes as the start of a revenge plotline, but always for the main male character’s development even though the female character will get little to no attention or development as a result of her brutal murder. In the Green Lantern comic, for instance, the hero’s girlfriend was shoved into the refrigerator for him to discover later.

My point is I don’t want Vanessa to go through any of this.

There was beautiful and careful attention given to fleshing out Vanessa’s character and her relationship with Deadpool in the first film, and she and the other female characters have so much potential moving forward.

It would be easier for the writers to kill off Vanessa in the next film than it would be for them to have to fully utilize her character (It would also be the lazier thing to do on their part.) Is this a bit pessimistic? Sure. But check out the list of women who’ve been fridged in comics before (warning: the descriptions in this link are brief but potentially triggering since they often refer to varying levels of abuse and violence), and you might also start worrying that yet another writing team will fall back on lazy writing rather than spending the time it takes to be innovative.

If the writers really need any ideas about Vanessa’s future role in Deadpool’s life, here are some suggestions about what they could do with her:

—The two of them could mutually decide to breakup in order to avoid any more damsel-in-distress moments.

—Vanessa could have a new job opportunity.

—Or she could have some cool powers that elevate her from girlfriend to partner-in-crime.

—They could break up but still be on good terms as friends (allowing her to poke fun at him in front of his new boyfriend).

—They could literally do anything besides killing her.

deadpool coupley Look

My point is this: it’s fantastic that big blockbuster movies—especially ones rooted in comics—are making an effort to become more inclusive of LGBTQ+ characters, but let’s not have that move forward happen at the expense of women.

—Molly C.

Taking plastic surgery to its unnatural conclusion

We all know about the dangers—emotional as well as physical—of plastic surgery: not only is surgery always a serious undertaking (several high-profile women have died during plastic surgery), but plastic surgery also hurts our collective psyche by sending the untrue message that we can look perfect and young forever. And also that doing so is desirable.

Yes, we all know these things to be true.

But when I saw the photos above—photos of young Korean women before and after plastic surgery—and read about how common it is for such women to have work done, I became alarmed.

According to Jezebel‘s Dodai Stewart, South Korea is “the country with the highest per capita rate of plastic surgery in the world. One in five women in Seoul have undergone some kind of procedure.” This fact is perhaps best evidenced by the fact that there is now a Tumblr blog devoted to before and after pictures of Korean plastic surgery.

But it’s not just the commonality of these procedures in Korea that is alarming to me. It’s how radical the changes are.

As Stewart explains, “There are a few things unsettling about the images, especially the ones in which the entire shape of the face is changed thanks to bone shaving. Somehow eyelids and nose cartilage still seem rather surface-level, whereas changing the shape of your skulljust feels extreme and intense. And what about the parents of these men and women? Are they sad when their offspring, whom they’ve created from their own genetic material, change the jaws and eyes and noses given to them by their mother, grandmother, great-grand-mother? Or maybe the parents have already had their bones shaved, or paid for the kids’ surgery, or would if they could.”

Seeing these images and thinking about people who are willing to change everything about how they look—to indeed look like a different person, to look unrecognizable—reminds me of an episode of The Twilight Zone I saw when I was growing up.

In the episode, once a young woman became a certain age—around sixteen—she would go to a showroom and pick out her new self—a new body, a new face—from a handful of options. Then when the appropriate time came she would be undergo a procedure that would transform her into this new self. The result was that the young woman we followed in the episode became completely unrecognizable to both herself and to the viewer. At the same time, it meant that there were only four or five ways a woman could look, making society, at least female society, incredibly homogenous.

I’ve always been one of those people who has resisted making myself look different—I always hated playing dress-up when I was a kid and still don’t like wearing a costume on Halloween. And I was probably the last person I knew to start wearing makeup. And maybe the reason is because I am uncomfortable being someone I’m not. And this is why I cannot fathom why a person—female or male—would want to drastically change the way she or he looks.

Sadly, I fear I am probably in the minority on this one.

From the mouths of babes: college student’s art project gets everyone’s attention

Last month, Rosea Lake, a college student at Capilano University in Vancouver, posted a photo on her Tumblr account that she had taken for a high school art project.

In the photo—shown above—we see a young woman from behind. The woman is pulling up her skirt, almost to her waist, to reveal words that have been written along the back of her leg.

Just below her skirt are the words “whore” and then “slut,” at the knee is the word “proper,” and in the middle of her calf is the word “matronly”; several other words fall between these terms. Lake says she created this piece to challenge the notion that people can be judged based on how they look or what they wear, which is why she calls the photo “Judgments.”

Lake explains to Canada’s The Star newspaper, “If you see a girl wearing something you see as distasteful, then you automatically discount them as a person and you don’t give them the opportunity to really be somebody in your eyes…And that’s really shameful.”

Lake’s right: it is shameful to judge people based on their clothing or their appearance, and I applaud her for creating such a piece that makes our thoughts when we see someone who looks different than we do.

Why we must vote… during every single election.


Today was election day in the United States, and, like many Americans, I did my civic duty and voted. (My “I Voted” sticker is pictured above.)

I always feel lucky to vote, but this year I felt even more lucky than normal as I thought about all the women and girls who aren’t allowed to go to school, much less vote.

Last month, 14-year-old Malala Yousafzai tried to go to school in Pakistan and was shot by the Taliban for doing so.

Make no mistake, telling woman they aren’t allowed to go to school or aren’t allowed to vote has as much impact on the way we see ourselves as the images of women in our magazines and on our screens. Because when you tell a girl she doesn’t have the right to go to school or a woman she doesn’t have the right to vote, you tell her she is nothing, that she is worth nothing.

The truth of the matter is until women are treated equally, until all women believe that being a women means our life has value, we will never feel good about ourselves or our bodies.

And that’s why I will never take my right to vote for granted.

Almost one hundred years ago, the suffragettes fought for me to have that right to vote, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to dishonor their memory by not voting.

I hope you will continue to do the same.

Run free: why we should all run and walk and move as much as we can.

Next time you’re not sure you want to get up off the sofa to exercise, think about this…

There was a time when women weren’t free to exercise wherever and whenever they wanted.

In fact, women were still not welcome in the Boston Marathon as recently as 1967 (just three years before I was born).

That was the year Kathrine Switzer (pictured above) signed up for the Boston Marathon covertly (by using her initials rather than her whole name) and ran in the race. But while she was running, race director Jock Semple spotted her and tried to pull her out once he realized what she was doing.

According to Switzer, Semple “stopped the bus, jumped off, and ran after me. Suddenly I turned, and he just grabbed me and screamed at me, ‘Get the hell out my race and give me those numbers,’ and then he started clawing at me, trying to rip my numbers off. And he had the fiercest face of any guy I’d ever seen—and out of control really. I was terrified. All of a sudden my boyfriend, Big Tom, gave Jock the most incredible cross-body block that sent Jock flying.”*

(You can see Semple above chasing after Switzer like a madman above.)

After that, other runners protected Switzer, and she finished the marathon.

Not only that, Switzer went on to win the New York Marathon in 1974.

Women used to have to fight to be given the right to exercise and participate in athletic events. Don’t we owe it to women like Semple to exercise that right as often as we can?

 

 

You can see Kathrine Switzer’s story and more pictures from the marathon here

Men age better than women—fact or fiction?

Filming this weekend in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Photo by Barrett Griffin.

 

I’ve complained many times (especially in my “Holy Hypocrisy” and “Thank God Somebody Finally Said It” posts) about the fact that the heterosexual couples we see in television and film are often completely mismatched—the man is hopelessly out of shape while the woman has a body so tight and well preserved she appears to have come from the alien world of PlanetFit.

These odd pairings have always bothered me, but over the past week or so I had a tiny little insight into this problem . . .

. . . is it possible that middle-aged men don’t take care of themselves as well as middle-aged women?

I was forced to ask this question recently because I had to cast and produce a short film that will advertise my husband’s next book, Cemetery Girl.

We needed three actors—two adults to play the husband and wife in the book, Tom and Abby Stuart, and a twelve-year-old girl to play their daughter, Caitlin, whose disappearance near the cemetery gives the book its name.

We got lucky casting the latter since a friend’s daughter had just finished playing the lead in a local production of Les Mis and was anxiously looking for more work. (She was so dedicated she even dyed her hair for the part.)

But the husband and wife were harder to find. We didn’t need them to do much in the way of acting—they just had to sit at a dining room table and look upset after finding out their daughter has gone missing. So I scoured my Facebook friends with the director, looking for local men and women who fit these roles.

As it turned out, there were dozens of women I know here in Bowling Green who would have worked. Women of all stripes—blonde women, dark-haired women, thin women, curvy women. All of them just beautiful.

But the men were another story.

Most of them were either out of shape or out of hair or—how do I say this?—just frumpy, as if they simply didn’t care anymore what they looked like.

There were a few men who didn’t fall into one of these three categories, but I was still surprised by the fact that we had a dozen women to choose from and only a handful of men. And I couldn’t help but wonder: what does that say about our perception that men age better than women?

Of course, in our society, people automatically think men age better than women because men are allowed to have flaws—wrinkles, grey hair, pudges, etc.—and women are not.

So we just assume that men get better with age and women get worse.

But if you really think about it, maybe the fact that women are NOT allowed to age naturally is what keeps them working so hard to look good. Maybe there were more beautiful women to play the part of Abby Stuart because women feel so much more pressure to be beautiful.

In no way does this excuse the numerous movies and televisions shows that pair a hot woman with a schlubby guy, but it does make it seem a little more understandable.

With friends like these, who needs enemies?

I’ve recently had the pleasure of hanging out with a new group of women here in Bowling Green, and as a result, I’ve learned all about their interesting lives, including the ways in which they, like me, struggle with body image.

You’ll just have to believe me that these women are attractive, smart, funny, and fun. I’d show you a picture to prove they’re a good looking bunch of people, but it doesn’t seem necessary to do so, and I also want to maintain their privacy. At this point, I hope you are willing to trust me.

Because these are objectively attractive women, I was horrified to learn that one of them, I’ll call her Lola, had recently been criticized for her weight.

Apparently, some of Lola’s other friends were out one night when one of them said it was too bad that Lola had “let herself go.”

No, this other woman didn’t call Lola fat and unattractive, but she might as well have. We all know that’s what “let herself go” means.

What bothers me about this isn’t just that the insult isn’t true, though it’s important to point out that it’s not: Lola is a beautiful person. It’s that it came from another woman. Haven’t we learned yet that if we don’t support each other, no one will?

It also shocks me that any adult woman—a middle-aged woman no less—believes that there is only one way to be beautiful. I feel like I’m getting repetitive, but let me say it clearly: beauty is not just defined by a number on the scale. No, it is not about being super skinny, but it is also not necessarily about being wonderfully curvy. It’s about so much more than that. In truth, it’s about confidence and self-esteem more than anything else.

In addition, it’s worrisome that this woman doesn’t realize that our bodies change as we age and, especially, as we have children. After our stomachs are stretched out in front of us like a bulging canvas, we can’t expect them to lie as flat as they did when we were sunbathing at the age of sixteen.

It doesn’t surprise me that the comment came from a woman who is notorious for crash diets and obsessing about her body. She is a person who is extremely thin for her age, but despite this, she continues to try to lose even more weight. It’s sad enough that she cannot accept that, when nearing the age of fifty, she doesn’t need to have the same body she did as a teenager. But it’s even more disturbing that she spreads her poor self image to others like a virus.

Listen, I know that we’re bombarded with images of women every day that tell us that the only way to be beautiful is to be thin, but at some point, it is up to US to change things. We can’t immediately alter the way women are depicted in the media, but we can change the way we talk about each other’s bodies. Let’s all make a commitment to do it sooner rather than later.

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