Is Power A Finite Comodity, Like Energy? Thoughts on Marvel, Female Superheroes, and Lazy Writing

So first thing this morning, one of my FB acquaintences, Junk Yard Green (who often shares some of the coolest upcycling/recycling/build stuff projects on the internet), posed this question (which I’m shamelessly sharing in full here because I think it’s germane to the discussion and it’s not as easy to share stuff from FB as it is to share Twitter statuses):

So Nick Fury was changed from a white guy after 30 years into a brother. Now Captain America is being given the ebony treatment. All they need to do is make Black Widow more visually fitting to her name, have War Machine instead of IronMan and throw in the new female Thor for a token blonde white chick, replace the Hulk with Madea and get Tyler Perry to direct and we’re all ready for

‘ Avengers 4: Shit Just Got Real ‘

How does the African American and Female community feel about Marvel using illegid ( Advancing the Times ) as an excuse for obvious marketing tactics to sell comic books by changing known characters races and sexes instead of using already existing characters and giving them their own titles or creating all new ones more fitting and relatable to the races and sexes aimed for the project chosen?

I know how pissed off I was when they turned Terry in Spawn from a black guy to a white guy because I already knew him as an african american man. Why? No reason. Just did.

Speak up. Share your thoughts.

I thought it was a great question.  There’s been a lot of talk on both sides of the issue of “the new female Thor”, and I felt compelled to weigh in on this.

I think you’re absolutely right. It IS a marketing ploy. I would MUCH prefer seeing entirely new characters created, rather than the same old material recycled with a new face/race/gender. And I happen to have a thing about being seriously annoyed when stuff like that is changed for things like book to movie/tv adaptations anyway even when it isn’t such a blatant effort at doing the least amount possible to appease the masses. In the case of the new female goddess of thunder (because dude, THOR IS HIS NAME, NOT HIS TITLE–the semantics of this have been driving me bananas)…why is it that a MAN must LOSE his right/power/whatever in order for a woman to gain power? That seems to presuppose that power, like energy, adheres to the first law of thermodynamics. That there’s only a finite amount to go around and a woman can’t have power on her own without a man giving it up (or losing it). Not cool, IMO.

And then I stepped away from the discussion.  But that idea has kind of stuck with me since this morning, this idea that a woman cannot have her own power without somehow getting it from a man.  I mean, really, it underlies much of what the world understands to be feminism, the sexual revolution.  All these alleged “freedoms” and powers women are supposed to be fighting for are inherently male.  And I say this as a woman who naturally is very forthright (e.g. tactless) and decisive (e.g. bossy).  In our epically male dominated society, power is defined as a masculine thing.  The kinds of female power that actually are mentioned are tied, again, to sexuality and men.  The seductress.  The virgin.  And…not much else.  So of COURSE by that yardstick, we can’t have some new female super hero who is, on her own merits, an admirable powerhouse.  One of the other male super hero cannon has to do something stupid or shameful and LOSE power, leaving it lying around waiting for some woman to just pick it up and take on the mantle (and apparently the name–can we just all agree that’s STUPID?  For the love of all that’s holy, stop calling her the female Thor!).

I’m not sure exactly what point I’m trying to circle around to (as I’m in my post lunch brain slump where I really ought to be napping), except to say that I really feel like this “rebooting” that Marvel is trying to do of all these various franchises by changing gender or race is just seriously lazy writing and offensive to those groups that they are allegedly trying to include.  They can’t be bothered to put in the work to develop new, original kick ass characters.  That’s too much work.  Instead they have to try to co-opt the story and fanbase of existing ones.

Not cool, Marvel.  Not cool.

9 thoughts on “Is Power A Finite Comodity, Like Energy? Thoughts on Marvel, Female Superheroes, and Lazy Writing

  1. I find the premise ridiculous and insulting. Are they saying that no one will be interested in reading about characters unless they were first established by old white guys ages ago? Seems ludicrous to me.

    • That would seem to be the case. In ANY interpretation Marvel comes out smelling like something other than a rose. Either, as you posit, they don’t think people will be interested in characters who weren’t originally made popular by old white guys; they think it’s too much work to create new characters; or they think the public is stupid enough to be completely accepting of this bait and switch tactic and will actually think “oh yay, they’re finally moving to be more inclusive”. Um. No.

      • Worse still is that they will, inevitably, go back to the old characters the way they were, and leave us with the others as cast offs and C-list “also rans”. They’ve done this time and time again. And in the end, it actually makes the universe less inclusive then it was before.

        • I will never understand this obsession with rebooting old franchises. Superman. Batman. Spiderman. Can’t we accept that it was done and go on to new stories? Oh, but no, because this isn’t about story. It’s about money, and they are more comfortable investing in something that they believe has a proven financial track record, even though it is a tired old rehash rather than something new and unique. They are risk averse.

          • You know what I would love? Heroes that age. Get old, tired. Retire their cape. Want a new Spider-man? Permanently retire Peter Parker. Let him get old and fat and happy. But more…don’t do it as a stunt. Don’t reboot the universe later. Make it permanent. Make it stick. Make heroes retire or die permanently, and other ones step in and take up the mantel. That could be compelling storytelling. That could be as risky as the stuff they were attempting when they first invented the heroes in the first place.

            • YES. The world changes. Let the heroes change with it in the ways that everyone changes. It humanizes them and makes their heroism more…attainable somehow.

              • You totally get it. 🙂 Precisely…imagine how powerful the stories would be, if you knew that, from this point forward, all blows were real. Final. No take-backs.

                *That* would make me start reading comics again.

              • Then IN this paradigm we have where they make these heroes untouchable, with as many or more resets and takebacks as the Winchester brothers in Supernatural, it actually is a reflection of our society–because as long as the heroes are super, alien, mutants or whatever, normal people don’t have to step up, don’t have to be heroes themselves because it’s always somebody else’s problem, somebody else’s job. And that’s just effing sad.

  2. I love the Marvel characters, and quite frankly, I probably wouldn’t watch a female Thor or any other “reboot” to a beloved character. They are who they are! I think it would be great to introduce new characters who are women or others who are considered minorities. It would be great to have more kick butt women. But leave the originals alone!

    Okay, here’s a very embarrassing admission…I didn’t know Nick Fury was originally white. I didn’t know all the Marvel characters. So that change didn’t bother me, just because I didn’t know. *hangs my head in shame*

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