Faith insisted that I blog this, so here goes: I was listening to her explain an argument she was having online with a chick who thought you can’t do a decent website for a male actor, and didn’t seem to have more reason than the fact that actresses look better at red carpet events. She eventually stated in one way or another that male characters aren’t as rich with depth as female ones. After Faith told me that, I kinda went off. One of the things I’ve always hated about character development in movies and television in general, especially on the executive level, is that whoever makes the movies either considers themselves to be the default, with everyone else as some kind of subtype, or assume viewers will feel that way, too. One of the most persistent examples is the female character, and how much they usually suck ass. Some of them don’t some of them rock. But the general rule is, they freakin’ bite.
When someone starts designing transformers, one might be the leader, another the medic, but the female transformer will always be the pink one with robo-tits. And what about Smurfs? One’s named Brainy, (he’s smart) one’s Hefty, (he’s strong) one’s Jokey (he tells jokes). Here’s Smurfette, guess what she does? And TV is filled with female stereotypes so that male writers never have to see women as people. That’s why wives are always sour, brow-beating prudes who kill the fun, and girlfriends are just a skinny cluster of nonsense, obstacles and double-standards who aren’t happy unless their man is jumping through the latest hoop, suffering under their latest inscrutable belief (ei, “I want you to know what I want without me having to tell you what it is,” etc.).
The best, mightiest example of this, I think, is in the Spiderman movies. All the male characters are somebody, they have hopes and dreams and fears and feelings. They all want something that makes sense, and they all behave as if they are sentient. The female characters, on the other hand, are mindless beasts, none so much as Mary Jane. Now this is a sore spot for me, because the Mary Jane from the comics was a great character, one of my favorites. But despite her character’s history and supposed personality, the MJ from the movies is like a princess stereotype: haughty, insensitive, self-righteous, demanding, ridiculously thin-skinned, cold as a witch’s tit, the biggest hypocrite on the planet, and a selfish bitch who is never satisfied with anything Peter does for her.
The reason for MJ’s transformation seems to be that it’s handy for the story that she be just one more burden Peter Parker must bear. It’s not enough that he must constantly rescue her to keep the dramatic tone high, she also must constantly offer him fucked-up ultimatums that tear him up inside:
“Pete, it’s either me, or you. Seriously. I’ve decided you can’t be a student, a photographer, Spiderman, have friends or testicles, or any of the other things you had, did, or were when I fell in love with you (directly after you put on thirty pounds of lean muscle and stopped wearing glasses) because those things aren’t about me, and whatever isn’t about me detracts from our relationship. You must always keep your life together so it never spills over into mine, have inexplicably large amounts of free-time to spend on me, and support me in everything I’m interested in to the level I require no matter how unreasonable I’m being about it, as everything you are must take a backseat to what I want. You must assume that, if I’m pissed off at you, it’s entirely your fault. You can never get angry at me and never talk to another girl, or else you just don’t care about “us”. I, on the other hand, have no such obligations to our relationship. Not only do I not have to support you in anything you do, I can tell you to stop doing it, (something I would never allow you to do to me) and can ignore you completely while I devote all my time to a shallow glamor-girl career. I can act cruel and you’re not even allowed to remember it, but if you behave even half as badly as I do, you’re a monster and must hate yourself. I can take without ever giving you shit, and you can’t argue. I can leave you, too, whenever I feel like it, for any reason, and it’ll always be your fault. This can happen at any time, so you better keep me happy. If we are in a temporary separation, I can date, get engaged, and beyond with other guys without it having any impact on you whatsoever, but if I even see you with another woman, it’s abuse against me. I can dictate to you, boss you around, and essentially change who you are, but if you don’t like it, you’re sexist. Basically, I can be a jerk and you still have to treat me like an angel, but if you don’t meet all of my standards, we’re through. When you’re trying to be Spiderman and save the day, I’ll want you to put me first. But if you do that, I still won’t be happy. I never am. All for Me and None for You. Because I’m Mary Jane Watson, and I’m a Woman©.”
I’m not saying there aren’t women like that, but MJ? She was so strong, self-sufficient, confident, kind, funny, unselfconscious, sexy, comfortable and all around dynamic, despite her secret emotional scars. She was the fantasy, a woman with super-model looks and a fat girl’s personality. (And I mean really fat, none of this 150 bullshit.) Not only someone men would love to be with, but someone girls would love to read about. Maybe even be like. And instead of that MJ, we get the shrewish, weepy train wreck from the movies. And she is like the default female lead in almost anything. The more demanding the woman, the higher her class, and therefore, the more desirable. The only sweet and giving girls are the complete doormats and the only women who aren’t lofty princesses are the dirty whores, but these types serve only as temptation for unhappy men who already have evil girlfriends or wives.
Of course, it never occurs to men that, because they choose to pursue relationships with women based on how closely their appearance matches up with some glamorous convention or sexual fetish, that they’ll always end up in relationships with incompatible, selfish bitches. And because the only women they ever speak to are on a completely different wave-length than them, one they never bothered to understand, they think all women are inscrutable. You’re average Joe character has a job and opinions and a whole angle on life, but most of the depictions of women we get are the characters where 90% or more of their personality is that they’re chicks. The same way a black character’s personality is “black guy” and a gay character is all about how gay they are. There are no interests, hopes, dreams, beliefs, complaints, or needs for these guys beyond chick, black, and queer. Because most writers, producers, actors, directors, and executives are straight, white, male idiots, who themselves are the basis for the most celebrated character in movies and television to date. The “everyman”. Thanks, you dumb mother-fuckers. Thanks a pant-load.