Girl Power? Grrrrrrr!

Green-Lantern-The-Animated-SeriesThe other day, as I watched an episode of Green Lantern: The Animated Series (developed by Bruce Timm, Giancarlo Volpe, and Jim Krieg for Cartoon Network), I wondered whether or not the producers, animators, and writers of animated superhero shows really want more female viewers. The point is moot in regard to this show, however, since it was canceled after one season. But the catalyst for my musings is the look of the females in it. Many have the look of swimsuit models with Barbie-like measurements. Even a starship’s AI (artificial intelligence), after deciding to take on human form to travel and converse with three male comrades, chose to be a female wearing a midriff-baring shirt and tiny briefs.


Aya the computer turned Green Lantern warrior

In the illustration below, note the amount of clothing of males like Hal Jordan, one of the Green Lanterns, in comparison with females like the Star Sapphires—a group of women wielding pink power rings. The woman in the suit is Hal’s boss and girlfriend, Carol Ferris. Her Star Sapphire outfit (long story) is at her right.


When referring to the Star Sapphires, Hal Jordan calls them “hot girls” (not women or smart, powerful women). How’s that for empowerment? Fine. I get the fact that to him, they’re “hot girls.” They’re supposed to be powerful, but do you think of power when you look at the illustration above? (Makes me long for Katara and Toph of Avatar.)

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Katara and Toph

Look, I grew up reading comic books and loving superheroes. But some things irritate me. I realize that writers and animators have the right to do what they want with these characters. I’m speaking as a woman who watches them, but sometimes is ready to throw in the towel. If the power of women is really to be emphasized, let’s start with the basics, namely wardrobe. If I’m blasting people with my power ring while ducking their energy blasts, a bikini and six-inch high boot heels don’t add up to a smart wardrobe. Ever try to run in six-inch heels without turning an ankle? Also, anyone who has ridden a roller coaster high up in the air knows how cool the air can be. Who in their right mind would fly around half naked in cool air? Who would expose that much skin to an energy blast that could singe you?

Okay, I realize I’m in the minority with this. And I’m not saying I haven’t enjoyed many of the Green Lantern episodes I’ve seen. I gave the show a shot by watching 14 episodes. But I can’t help seeing a pattern here which also was obvious in other series. Women might have powerful abilities, but that power is deemphasized when design choices for the characters are made to appeal to only one demographic. My thought is this: why not try to appeal to a wider market?

I searched the Internet to see if I could find anyone who had a comment on this issue. I found a different take on the subject. Writer/director/actor/producer Kevin Smith and famed writer of Batman/Superman animated series, Paul Dini, discuss the issue of female viewers and canceled animated superhero shows on this SModcast. Warning: if you’re sensitive to language, avoid listening at all costs. I listened, because I’ve seen many of Paul Dini’s scripted episodes in various Batman animated series. I wanted to hear what he had to say. Part of the conversation was transcribed here. This part especially jumped out at me:

DINI: “They’re [Network executives] all for boys ‘we do not want the girls’, I mean, I’ve heard executives say this, you know, not [where I am] but at other places, saying like, ‘We do not want girls watching this show.”

SMITH: “WHY? That’s 51% of the population.”
DINI: “They. Do. Not. Buy. Toys. The girls buy different toys.” (Emphasis and punctuation as per the transcript.)

Well, my blood boiled after that exchange. Adults buy the toys—not boys. I’ve bought many toys for the kids in my life. And I’ve seen many girls playing with action figures long after the boys have given up and turned to Hot Wheels or Thomas trains.

I like Kevin Smith’s solution to those who claim they can’t market to girls toys related to animated superhero shows: “Get better at your job.” In other words, find something else you can sell, rather than write off a significant group of viewers. Irate listeners agreed with Smith and totally disagreed with the notion that girls weren’t interested in the licensed products. The problem, says the parents whose children watched some of these series, is the lack of toys for girls.

Honestly, based on the decisions made about female characters in some series, I wouldn’t want to hand a little girl an action figure of those characters, where the depiction of women leaves a lot to be desired. I’d rather give a girl the X-Men action figures (particularly Rogue and Storm). Or, better still, I’d rather just say, “You’re beautiful and special just as you are.”

Toph and Katara from fanpop. Green Lantern logo from Wikipedia. Aya, Green Lantern, and other characters from Cartoon Network.

Is a Savior Complex Enough?

Today I interrupt the series on space (and I hope you’re enjoying it as much as I am) to bring you a Batman-related post. For the last few weeks, I’ve been on a Batman kick. And no, it’s not just because he’s hot and brooding. For some reason, watching his antics always makes me feel better when I’m feeling powerless. Chew on that, psych majors! But there’s another reason for my Bat-brooding, one I’ll get to in a moment.


Batman: The Animated Series, The New Batman Adventures, and Beware the Batman (below)


When I admitted to watching Batman, I didn’t mean the movies, which I’ve seen and loved. Various animated series on WB/CW or Cartoon Network have featured my favorite non-super-powered superhero. I’ve seen them all. I cut my eyeteeth on Batman: The Animated Series (1992—1995) and followed that up with The New Batman Adventures (1997—1999) and The New Batman/Superman Adventures (1997—2000). I disapproved of then approved of Batman Beyond (1999—2001; with a non-Bruce Wayne Batman) and The Batman (2004—2008). Recently, I blew through three seasons of Batman: The Brave and the Bold (2008—2011). (Um, not all in the last few weeks, mind you.) I recently investigated the latest awesomeness, Beware the Batman. Yee haw!

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The Batman and Batman Beyond


Batman: The Brave and the Bold

Bruce Wayne as Batman has been a source of fascination not just to me but for many since his creation by Bob Kane and Milton “Bill” Finger in 1939. After all, he’s a bilionaire who fights crime at night with cool bat gizmos. (Can you imagine Bill Gates doing that?) Emotionally scarred by the murders of his parents, Wayne wages a one-man campaign against crime. And yes, he has the occasional sidekick: Robin, Batgirl, Katana, etc. But he mostly prefers to work alone.

Watching Batman in action has caused me to question the motivation of one of the main characters in my young adult fantasy novel. While not strictly a vigilante, this character has a chosen calling, which drives him to do what he believes is right. Unlike Bruce Wayne, he won’t stop short of taking a life.

While watching a Christmas episode of Brave and the Bold, I was struck by Batman’s declaration that he can’t take Christmas off, since crime doesn’t take a holiday. And in another episode, which causes me to wonder if the denouement of The Avengers movie was inspired by a scene in this episode, a severely injured Batman refuses to stay in bed and recuperate. After all, Gotham needs him. Apparently the police in that city are so incompetent, only Batman can save the citizens.

Batman seems to have a bit of a savior complex mixed in with his desire for revenge against criminals. What’s a savior complex? I found a handy definition at People Skills Decoded:

The savior complex is a psychological construct which makes a person feel the need to save other people. This person has a strong tendency to seek people who desperately need help and to assist them, often sacrificing their own needs for these people.

This is what makes Batman/Bruce Wayne so fascinating. The dude can’t help himself! But this is not a master class in psychoanalysis, so I’ll get to the point of this post. As I contemplated my character’s emotional arc, I came to the conclusion that a savior complex wasn’t a compelling enough reason for this guy to keep doing what he does. I needed to go beyond that as I fleshed out his story. So embedded in his wound of rejection is the shrapnel of despair and anger—a combination with lethal results at times for others. I can’t help thinking of damaged heroes like Tony Stark/Iron Man (especially in Iron Man 3) or Wolverine/James Howlett/Logan. Sometimes, they don’t want to save people. Sometimes, they need saving, especially from themselves. They make mistakes. And since my character is a teen who’s trying to figure out his life, making mistakes is par for the course. So, his complex is really a chip on the shoulder + rebellion + temper + needing to prove himself + parental nagging (“Get off your behind, boy!”).

Hmm. He reminds me of myself at that age.

How about you? Is a savior complex what you look for in a superhero or just a plain hero who isn’t so souped up? What qualities make a compelling hero?

P. S. If you have more spare time, you might take this superhero quiz to find out which superhero you are. For some reason, I’m Superman. Not exactly what I suspected of myself. Go figure.

Batman images from,,,,, Wikipedia, and