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.

The Pursuit of Self Sufficiency

Being a writer is so often a strange thing.  On the one hand, it is a very solitary profession.  Unless you are collaborating with someone expressly to write a project, the ultimate act of writing is to be alone with your thoughts and the voices in your head.  

It doesn’t stay that way, or shouldn’t.  You need to have those words, your vision, filtered through the eyes of others to make sure that the vision is true, that it is not somehow warped and out of shape like the reflection in a fun house mirror.  Having someone come after you to check for structure and clarity and DUDE, DID THAT ACTUALLY MAKE SENSE is an invaluable step (or many steps) in the process.

If you are lucky, as I have been so SO lucky, you manage to find a critique partner or editor (in my case, I have both in the same fabulous person) who has the patience to wade through all of your newbie mistakes and crap drafts to find the good parts that will keep you from giving up when the draft comes back flayed alive and bleeding pink (she IS the Pink Hammer, after all).  And a smart writer takes that gift and learns from it.  Her skin grows thicker, and she stretches boundaries and improves (hopefully), to the point that she internalizes that editorial voice, stops making all the same mistakes over again (or at least catches them through the internal voice and fixes them before sending off to get the real thing).  Until eventually, one fine day, a draft comes back with barely a page of pink, and you think, No, there must be some mistake.  Where’s the rest of it?  And she says, “No really, it was good.”  And you’re simultaneously pleased and convinced it was a total fluke.

It’s a glorious thing, this kind of partnership.  It makes you feel less alone, like someone really, truly gets you (which is a gift beyond measure).  But the goal is, eventually, to become less dependent.  To truly internalize the lessons and eventually become master of your craft yourself so that you don’t need those repeated touchstones (though you should always, ALWAYS get at least a second set of eyes on your work).  The writer become true writer, not just the toddler coming back to hug Mom’s knees before going back out to explore the wide worlds of imagination.

That, my friends, is scary.  As everything about becoming a grown up is sometimes scary.  Quite apart from the worry that you didn’t learn your lessons well enough, there is, I think, a reluctance to go back to that state of being alone.  Because once you’ve known the glorious synergy and flow of brainstorming with someone who knows your worlds almost as well as you, who loves them almost as much as you, the idea of retreating into the (relative) silence of your own head again isn’t particularly appealing.  And it can be downright intimidating.  

I feel like summer always makes me think about these things, judging where I am in the process of this whole apprentice–>journeyman–>master sequence because my touchstones disappear.  That whole kids being out of school and having a life that does not center around me (and it shouldn’t) or taking vacations and unplugging (what IS this thing you call “vacation”?).  It’s lonely and scary and triggers pretty much every single one of my self-doubts–of which writers have an inventive plethora.  OMG.  They haven’t answered my email in a WEEK.  NOBODY LOVES ME ANYMORE.  

:SLAP:

Do yourself a favor, grab a big ass bar of dairy free chocolate and get over yourself.

For me, this is all just one more reason to hate summer (the others being the heat, mosquitoes the size of crop dusters, and POLLEN).  But it’s forced me out of my comfort zone.  I’ve reached out to some new folks to get feedback (that was fabulous) prior to my recent release.  I’ve gotten my butt out of my chair (I know, shocking) to do something other than write with some of my free time (going back to finish my black belt in taekwondo).  I’ve deepened friendships with some other writers (always a great thing) and had some magnificent mutual flails over great reads.

I survived.  I missed them like hell, but I survived.  The world didn’t end.  My creativity and inspiration didn’t stop.  I still made words.  Lots of them.  And I was forced to make some decisions without that oft relied upon feedback–decisions that reinforced the intuition of my gut.  And that’s a different kind of gift.  As far as I’m concerned, I’m one step closer to being master of my own fate, which has really been my goal all along.

Hooray for self sufficiency.