I wasn’t gonna weigh in on this since I already went a few pleasant rounds on the ol’ twitter, but this just happened. At the top of the controversial article published today on Moviefone.com, “The Girl’s Guide to ‘The Avengers’”, the title of which has now been changed, there is an editor’s note. It reads:
[Editor’s Note: As you can see, we’ve gotten a lot of heat for this article. It was meant to be a satirical piece, and obviously, it did not come across that way. There are plenty of female superhero fans, and our intent was not to make them feel marginalized. We’ve changed the headline to reflect the focus as we originally intended it (but did not communicate as well): One woman’s perspective on the Avengers]
Couple problems here. One, changing the title doesn’t help. It doesn’t make it seem more satirical. It just makes it seem like you’re trying to blame one person instead of offend many.
Two, the piece doesn’t really marginalize female superhero fans. It implies we’re an anomaly, but not in a negative way, and, in fact, it specifically excludes us from the demographic that the article is aimed at.
(Of course, that’s not a slight against the girls who actually do read comic books — i.e. real fans, actual people with varied interests — but for this, let’s just go with the stock view of ladies, ladies!)
What the paragraph this sentence is from states is that women who enjoy these things aren’t normal, and that women who are normal are neither actual people nor do they have varied interests. This sentence makes the strongest argument for the piece being satirical. The idea of a stock view of ladies that it expects the reader to associate themselves as is pretty preposterous. Unfortunately, the article doesn’t run with this. It doesn’t get sharp or sarcastic or condescending enough to become funny. The rest of it just makes you go “wh…wha….wait, whaaaaaaaaaat?”.
Now, the unfortunate truth is, is that we’re used to being treated this way, mistakenly and condescendingly pandered to. Way back in ‘09, I wrote an article on All Things Fangirl, The Real Girl’s Guide to SDCC, in response to the atrociously offensive one the LA Times put out. Were the writers being tongue in cheek when they said “Women will be rushing the stage, offering to do star Jake Gyllenhaal’s laundry on those washboard abs that he acquired for the film, since he spends much of it fighting, shirtless or both. Jake, we don’t want to know how to quit you.”?
Maybe, but combined with the rest of the article, it was still so mind blowingly out of line and cashing in on the most dismissive stereotypes of women that it was completely and totally unacceptable.
We’re only doing it to please a man. We’re only doing it to see a man. We’re only doing it to be close to a vapid, shallow concept of fame and promise of titillating contact with movie stars. The Moviefone article isn’t as bad. In fact, broken down into its parts, bits of it have merit. The idea of it, and the point of it, are drowned, though.
A few days ago, when we started the Avengers/Loki themed giveaway for fangirls, a twitter acquaintance jokingly demanded to know why ATF was so sexist. A fellow self proclaimed fangirl commented that she found the idea of a gentleman geek calling fangirls sexist to be somewhat humorous, and he replied that fangirls have no sense of humor.
Well, no, yeah, we do. But only for things that are actually funny. The Moviefone article falls disastrously short. And because articles like these aren’t rare, and frequently aren’t satire, and insulting misconceptions about women are so prevalent… kinda kills the joke. Even when it’s being made well.
Also, the editor’s note is incorrect. This is not one woman’s perspective on the Avengers. CLEARLY it’s not. Jessie Heyman saw and loved The Avengers. So no, this isn’t actually her perspective. This is one woman’s attempt to comment on the way women have ‘male’ properties pandered to them through a fictional (well, semi-fictional, sadface) perspective. So, Editor’s Note, you did not help. Not at all.
So where does the fault for the backlash rest? I’m going to have to agree with Scott E Weinberg and a few others and say the editors. Someone should have been able to take a step back and see that the article wasn’t strong enough to convey what it was trying to.
Unfortunate. It could’ve been funny.