Monday, September 29, 2008

Betty and Veronica Don’t Live Here Anymore: The Changing Role of Women in Comics

The American comic book industry has had a long tradition of introducing strong and empowering super heroines and villains, including Wonder Woman, Catwoman, and Dazzler. Over the past decade, more titles have been adapted to feature films, and their popularity continues to grow. Do these and similar comic book films reflect how the role of women in comics have changed since the Golden Age, and do they draw new audiences to a literary and artistic medium they would not have otherwise considered?

According to the Friends of Lulu Retailer Handbook, women tend to purchase mysteries, fantasy, romance and science fiction. Even though the majority of comic book customers are men, female readers tend to lean towards genres that match their tastes in comparable media such as TV and movies.

Comic books and their audiences have evolved since the days of the Comics Code Authority, which sought to regulate and censor content it deemed inappropriate. Today, readers have a wider selection of genres and titles from which to choose. Comics have grown to reach mature audiences with grittier titles, adult themes, and a stronger focus on story and realism.

Romance comics have also been around since the 1940s. Originally aimed at older readers (and typically penned by men), the genre shifted to a younger audience. Storylines took on a more innocent tone, but the gender stereotypes and antiquated roles of women in the mid-twentieth century were reinforced by its content.

DC Comics recently announced it will be canceling Minx, a line of graphic novels aimed at young women. Distributors had difficulty pushing the title at mainstream retailers such as Barnes & Noble. Minx writer Mike Carey attributed the book’s poor sales to the expectations of the market. “It was an unusual format, and unusual formats have to elbow their way to the table,” Carey told CBR News.

Despite the disappointing sales of new titles like Minx, publishers continue to develop new products aimed at the ever-growing female comic book audience. As noted in The American Prospect, Marvel publisher Dan Buckley said that its growing female readership pushed the company to develop new storylines aimed at that demographic.

Writer Alyssa Rosenberg argues the disparity between superheroines in print and their translation to the big screen - evidenced by movies such as Elektra, Catwoman, and X-Men - which lessened the development of complex characters and presented audiences with two-dimensional reflections of the same.

Today’s comics have come a long way since the Comics Code to present strong, independent female role models in complex and intelligent stories. But while many in the mainstream will quickly associate traditional “female-friendly” comics to characters like Wonder Woman, the demand for new mature stories and characters continues. It’s just a matter of reaching readers.

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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

And the next COVERGIRL is.... Ellen DeGeneres!

She’s funny, witty, successful, attractive and now SEXY too! And, she’s got great skin. Bravo to COVERGIRL for selecting her as their next... wait for it..... cover girl.

P&G explains it like this...
"Ms. DeGeneres appeals to consumers who are looking not so much for a role model as a woman they can relate to both physically and emotionally,” P&G V.P. Esi Eggleston Bracey tells The NYTimes. You may question what you actually have in common with a wealthy 50-year old talk show host/comedienne who's been the star of a successful sitcom, shills for American Express, and is a high-profile lesbian.
That is, you may question the connection until you take the "celebrity" out of Ellen's life and focus on where she's been, how she's re-invented herself and how comfortable she seems to be in her own skin these days...and then you get it. Or as CoverGirl's new tag line goes, "Easy, Breezy, Beautiful...Ellen."

So for me... mainstream just got a little better.

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