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(C) Marvel, the new THOR
In 1999 comics writer Gail Simone posted a list called “Women in Refrigerators,” in which she numbered female lead and supporting characters who had suffered doomed fates in the mainstream superhero comics. She wanted to start a conversation about the trends surrounding the treatment of female characters in mainstream superhero comics, a medium strongly dominated by male characters and theoretically a medium only aiming to appeal a male audience.
She called her list “Women in Refrigerators” because of Green Lantern #54 (1994), an issue where the Green Lantern discovers his girlfriend, cut in small pieces, murdered inside his refrigerator. A tactic used by the villain, Major Force, which aims to force him into battle. Gail Simone was so shocked by this that she decided to investigate what happened with other strong women in mainstream superhero comics. Making her list, she discovered that most of them ended up dead, tortured, crippled or depowered. ( See Duncan & J.Smith, 255-258)
Focal vocabulary related to hipsters in Barcelona, and hipster-wannabe.
Chonindie: (compound noun, mix of Spanish and English) choni (Spanish) + indie (English). “Chonis” are girls with very low cultural level, very poor manners, and who use heavy make up. Usually dress with few clothing and very tight. Adding indie means that there’s a hipster type of “choni” who mixes brands, and might use “cool” words, but in a bad way and with very bad manners.
Cooltureta: (noun, Spanish & Catalan) hipster, pronounced like “cultureta” in Spanish.
Two days ago I went to the local comic book store to simply hang out. Since they never have what I want, and I end up buying everything online, I had very low expectations. However, I found a local comic book about hipsters in Barcelona. The comic book caught my eye because of its incredible cover:
First, the title cooltureta, a hybrid word composed by “cool” (from English) and “cultura” (culture in Spanish and in Catalan). The Spanish word “cultureta” refers to hipsters (literally translated as “tiny culture”), specially those localized in specific districts in Barcelona. Hipsters are young people who want to become “cool,” as geeks are, but who fail to do so: it’s all about appearances.
The second thing that got my attention was the second part of the title: el cómic la novela gráfica, which means the comic the graphic novel. Since the comic is all about hipsters, using the word “comic” wouldn’t be that cool, thus we find it rectified and underneath we find the cool word “graphic novel.”
And lastly, the pseudonym of the author “Moderna de Pueblo”, which means, literally, “the modern country bumpkin.” It refers to the classical stereotype of the country bumpkin but with some modern fashionable twist around her. Thus, the author presents herself as a “hipster”, or at least, she does it in an ironical way.
The cover is a masterpiece. Not only it portrays a stereotype graphically, but it also conveys information about its contents through the chosen wording. Even the name of the author give us hints on what she is planning to tell us in her story. We know it’s all about a hipster guy who lives in Barcelona. And we also know that the author has some things to tell us about this guy (and these might not be pleasant).
Though the word hipster is known by some in Barcelona, the words that refer to hipsters are “modernet” (in Catalan) and “cooltureta” (in Spanish and also Catalan). The funny thing about cooltureta is the mix of English and Spanish/Catalan used. Though the pronunciation of “cooltureta” and “cultureta” is the same, the way in which you write it makes all the difference: you are distinguished from the masses, you are way “cooler” than the rest.
On Thursday I wrote about the need of having a female superhero portrayed correctly on the big screen. I did not talk about a strong woman, but a real counterpart for the superhero: a real female superhero who stands alone and has the same status among her peers, male and female. (You can read the post here.) I focused on was the portrayal of women in superhero movies, which happen to be based on comics. As usual, I posted my ideas in my Facebook page, my wall, and to a new group that I created on Thursday, so that I had a space to discuss comics, movies, geek/nerd culture, etc, comfortably, from an anthropological point of view. Hours later, I got some interesting comments from different men, one of which could be interpreted as the Test.
First of all, what is the Test? If you are a geek girl you might have been subject to the Test, which can come in a subtle way (lists or references to what the male considers you do not know because you are an outsider), or a direct way (a bunch of questions about the geeky topic you’ve talked about and surely you don’t really know). In both cases, the Test happens when a geek male resists to believe that there is a true geek girl in front of him.
There are two possible interpretations that can be applied to the comments that I got:
The Test. It came in shape of a link to Wikipedia stressing out the existing female superheroes. This could be considered as a subtle way of subjecting someone to the Test.
Lack of understanding. The person who commented did not read or understand the post.
The one that interests me is the comment which shows up the Test. Why? Because it shows up the problem existing in the Geek/Nerd community when a woman expresses openly her geekiness. Stereotypes surrounding women make it difficult for them to comfortably enter and enjoy the same status into the geek/nerd subculture as their male counterparts do.
Where are the heroines with superpowers? Where is the female superhero? How is she portrayed in comics? How do you think she will be portrayed in movies? If you are thinking about Natasha Romanoff (the Black Widow) in Iron Man, the Avengers and Captain America: the Winter Soldier, you must but forget her. She is a normal woman with no super powers. She is strong, she is not involved romantically with any of the characters, but her image is, still, highly sexualized and too close to the “Mata Hari” idea. In superhero movies, women are still behind men: they have no superpowers, though their overall image has improved even still being highly sexualized.
Black Widow is a very skilled sexy assassin. She knows how to use her strength and she is very intelligent. However she has no superpowers like the rest of superheroes she is with. She is not her equal. And that makes it hard to really find in her a female counterpart. The message that is being sent with this inequality is that of the status of strong women is second to strong men. Another message strong message sent is that of having superheroes, but whatever the women do, they will never be female superheroes. And this is a strong statement for the subconscious to be picked up. Even though other films have challenged the roles of male and female in our society, like the Hunger Games with Katniss, reality is that we still need the figure of a female superhero. But, how would she be received by female and male audiences?
Do you like hugs? I am an incredible hug addict (but only from people that I know and I like). However, my Vulcan does not feel the same about hugs. Though he might want some from time to time, his hugs are not the same as my hugs. Have you seen the movie of Temple Grandin? (I recommend this movie a lot, since it is useful.) In the movie, we can see Temple make her own “hugging machine.” She was unable to stand human hugs, so she built her own hugging machine. This machine did not really mimmic the human hug, instead it “squeezed” her tight, enabling her to release all the anxiety she had stored during time. Now that she is older, she seems to like human hugs more than the machine ones. Whatever the case, “hugs” help both of us to feel better, though in different ways.
My Vulcan gets nervous with interaction with people. His anxiety can be challenging for him, creating discomfort and restlessness. In times of a high amount of anxiety, a “hug” a good way to help him release tension. Unlike the hugs I like to get, his hugs are “squeezing hugs.” In fact, what he needs is to be squeezed for a while. In that sense I become a “squeezing/hug machine” for him. While I like my hugs tender, he likes strong squeezing hugs. It seems that this type of hugs help him release the tension he has been storing, maybe during weeks, quite quickly. Huggins though it’s not perfect. He might feel relieved, but the whole anxiety issue does not disappear as if by magic. But they do help a lot.
In comics everything is reduced to two-dimensional images. Thus the use of stereotypes is a way to transmit information quickly to the reader. A stereotype is an oversimplified idea of a thing, a person or a group of people. Stereotypes are useful to convey information about a character or its surroundings in comics, due to the medium in which ideas are expressed. Comic-book artists decide what is to be pictured, in which position in the page is going to be pictured, how much of the action or the idea which they want to convey is going to be pictured given the available space in the page. The artist will decide what to present to the reader in each panel of the page, and how to transmit an idea or ideas in each page. This is called encapsulation.
Because the process of encapsulation is reductive in nature and additive in reading, artists use techniques to trigger meaning into the readers head. Creators reduce the story to snapshots in a page, using different techniques for encapsulating the story. That is why stereotypes are useful. Readers who share the same culture with creators will expand the meanings encapsulated by the creator using the common shared culture and ideas. The process by which readers expand the meanings is called closure.
We can also find symbols and visual metaphors in the comics. All of these are dependent on the context and the culture the comics was created in. This means that the experience of readers can vary greatly, not only by their own experiences, but also depending on the culture they share.
I have recently started to watch the Big Bang Theory. Though a friend of mine introduced me to it years ago, I simply disregarded it because it didn’t appeal to me too much: there were way too many stereotypes. Recently, despite the stereotypes, I’ve decided to watch it from another perspective and analyze some of its characters: Sheldon Cooper (the nerd who seems to have HFA and OCD) and Leonard Hofstadter (the neurotypical geek).
Sheldon Cooper does show traits of having HFA. However he is an extreme stereotype of what a nerd with HFA might be. So he can be extremely enervating, specially for a non-geek neurotypical. Let’s see some of his traits:
He has a high IQ and a photographic memory. He remembers everything like if it were a movie, and can tell you exactly when and what happened, and which were your words. In fact, he seems to have photographic memory and think with images (very much like Temple Grandin does.)
He has interests in many different things, and he does know deeply about all of those interests. Ask, and he’ll tell you all about them.
He does not like physical contact. Hugging is an issue for him.
Being alone is being at peace. He gets nervous with people around, but being alone does not affect him in any way, in fact, it is Heaven.
Back in the 80s, kids used to collect trading cards. For some reason, at the age of 4, I got an unfinished album from one of my cousins. And, for some reason, I needed to finish it up (along with all the sweets you needed to eat in order to get the trading cards). The album we’ve saved from oblivion is from the end of the 70s, but the collection lasted as long as for me to collect the missing trading cards! It means that the same collection of trading cards lasted during years, giving the collectors time enough to end up the whole collection.
“The book of riddles” has a total of 266 trading cards and it is accurate and complete. However, it is not the type of album a 4yo of the 80s would be willing to fill up. It looks like it is meant for older kids with more knowledge than a 4yo has. Whatever the case, it is a relic and a funny album to possess, specially if you take a look at the “technology” section. They imagined the future in funny ways. Another section that also makes you giggle is the “money” section. In there you can take a look to old European currencies, along with very old international bills. It makes you think how fast we’ve changed.