Remember that scene in “Spider Man 3,” when Tobey Maguire’s costume isn’t red and blue anymore but instead turns solid black? The spider insignia is still there, and so is the mask, but the color change tells us he’s not Spider Man anymore. He’s someone else.
Something like that happened to Spider Girl in anticipation of this Halloween. Instead of her trademark colors, she’s swooped into costume shops in pink. No, it’s not her dark side taking over the good — but she is reverting, back to the Dark Ages.
Sad confession: I often feel it’s a wasted effort to fuss over gender equality. It’s just that it tends to come across as “bitchy” or eccentric. It’s tragic, but the feminist movement has had a result of making feminists look like extremists, man-haters, terrorists to traditional family values — instead of what they intended to be: a voice for women who want the opportunities men have always had and women, still, fight to achieve.
But balancing the scales isn’t that easy is it? It can backfire, leading to the opposite problem: Useless men.
In books, TV, and film I keep noticing well-meaning attempts at equality that offer female-driven plot lines that make women seem strong in the absence of male influence. How do you empower a woman? Give her super powers or make the men in her life weak.
I’m not saying women shouldn’t be superheroes too. But at times it feels like a cop out. That’s why the “loss of powers” episode becomes so necessary at some point, so she can learn personal strength is something you earn — not a trick of nature.
Ignoring the fact that pink Spider Girl isn’t called the more appropriate and complementary “Spider Woman,” the pink Halloween costume highlighted in a story on Yahoo Thursday really defeats the purpose for any girl out there who wants to be (and look) like Spider Girl this Halloween.
But that’s not what decided today’s blog post. Halfway through reading, I thought of a Lifetime movie I saw once about a family threatened by home invaders. The wife took charge to save her family, and obviously the writers intended for her to look all brave and capable, and I guess they succeeded to an extent, but what I noticed after awhile was that her husband was no help at all. None. I think the kids even had a role in helping save themselves, while the husband spent the majority of the movie tied up on the floor.
This is how writers make women strong? By eliminating any successful attempt by men to help?
In my writing I’ve struggled with how to depict strong females. The book I’ve been editing features a main character who reluctantly takes charge of her life despite her fears, but I’ve wavered with how to make her effective without being untrue to her or to women in general — most of us aren’t superheroes after all, so I don’t want to paint Darby in an unrealistic light. But only this week I noticed how my male protagonists become weaker as Darby gets stronger, as if she’s draining their power. Unintentional, but it’s there.
It’s easy for me to criticize other writers for doing that, but I see how it happens.
Is a strong female character someone who never cries? Is she a workaholic who never in her life thought she’d want a family until the right man convinces her it’s okay not to be Superman? Make me gag. Yeah, I don’t think she’s any of these things, but the problem isn’t really with Darby, it’s with the others. Just because it’s her story doesn’t mean she can’t accept help or that others shouldn’t be able to help. She’d still be strong without their help, and maybe more admirable too for slaying a dragon all by herself, but I’d at least like to see the other knights try and fail at slaying the dragon first (rather than turning and running for the hills) before Darby saves the day — and not in pink armor please.