Are all the “Action Chicks” in the music business?
Since getting home from San Diego, I’ve been ruminating on an interesting but ultimately unsatisfying Comic Arts Conference panel I attended called “Where are all the Action Chicks”? Meaning, “Where are all the strong female lead characters in TV, Film and Comics”?
Kramer, Stuller & Misiroglu
The panel seemed promising (and had a huge line for a CAC panel). The moderator Katrina Hill (ActionFlickChick.com, see summary here) was joined writer/scholars Jen Stuller (Ink Stained Amazons) and Gina Misiroglu (Encyclopedia of Women in Popular Culture) who both did a heroic job of summing up the history of female heroes in Film, TV & Comics in ten minutes each. Comics writer Marjorie Liu (Black Widow) and the always insightful J. Michael Stracznski (Thor, Wonder Woman, etc…) were there and had interesting things to say but left early. Rounding out the panel was a bevy of media chicks & actresses including Jill Pantozzi (MTV Splash Page), Adrianne Curry (America’s Top Model, who was dressed in a Princess Leia Slave costume), Cindy Morgan (TRON), and Clare Kramer (Buffy). Morgan told an interesting story about an on-line campaign to pressure the producers at Disney to include her in the new Tron: Legacy film, but otherwise, this panel seemed to kept circling around the usual litany of complaints with no real substance or suggested solutions. I didn't disagree with most of what was said, but with all the brains in the room, I hoped for more. The fact that Angelina Jolie, arguably the chief female butt kicker in film these days, was just there the day before promoting Salt went without comment. I think the public actually enjoys seeing a strong female heroine, but it has to be the right female heroine. We need to figure out how to keep building on our successes. It will be interesting to see how Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow is handled in the upcoming Avengers film.
2010 The New York Times Co.
One of the panel participants asked “where are the women who could really kick some ass?” I’ll tell you… have you seen Christina Aguilera lately? An article in Sunday’s New York Times (Pure Gaga: Spectacle Rules by John Caramanica) got me thinking about this. Here are all these ladies in pop music: they are rich, famous, have athletic bods, wear crazy revealing costumes, and they can dominate an audience (Photo: Lady Gaga, foreground left, and Beyoncé, right, in the "Telephone" video). The point of the article was a compare/contrast between the sincere, singer-songwriter Lilith Fair style performers (not doing well) and the outrageous spectacle of the Lady Gaga generation bad girls. Maybe the general public wants distraction from their problems instead of introspective confessions? I don’t know, but if you are looking for women in spandex that look like they could kick some ass, here they are.
JMS & "WW 601 Players"
One comic heroine that is still kicking ass is Wonder Woman, who just got a controversial reboot by DC and J. Michael Stracznski. Although I understand some people’s concerns about the change to her iconic outfit, personally I’m glad to see her wearing clothes that she can actually fight in without her breasts or butt falling out. It’s funny in a way that Wonder Woman is finally getting to cover up and Lady Gaga and Beyoncé in the photo above are obviously referencing her and not wearing much, but I digress…. I bring this up because I witnessed what must have been a ComiCon first at the JMS spotlight session, a staged reading of a comic book. Bummed out that Wonder Woman #601 wouldn’t be out in time for SDCC, he brought in 4 voice actors (the "Wonder Woman 601 Players") and had them do a dramatic reading of the characters, while he narrated and the drawn pages were shown on the big screen. Overall, I like this change. JMS is strong in character development, and I loved his reboot of Thor and his mythological world. I’m not sure how this version of the character will fit within the DC Universe (or if DC will completely screw it up when the next big crossover event comes along), but I’m willing to give WW & JMS a chance (here's another review I agree with).