Do you see this? These two panels above this are causing a whole lot of controversy. For those unaware, DC Comics very recently relaunched a number of their titles, rolling back the issues to #1 and taking many in a whole new direction. Catwoman is one that is a bit different in tone. In the past, sexual tensions have arisen between Catwoman and Batman, but any actual sexual relationship was implied as opposed to what you see above. However, many people have a problem with this, citing the argument that comics are meant for children, and this is something they would not wish their sons and daughters to see. Some people are claiming that this is an oversexualization of Selina Kyle (Catwoman’s alter-ego), and that DC’s inability to write a strong female character is echoed by essentially making a character “slutty.” Since I can, I’m going to give my opinion on the subject, and I hope this will spark at least some sort of conversation.
The first that issue that I want to address is the claim that making Catwoman slutty is DC’s editorial department’s attempt to strengthen the character. While it is very true that a lot of pop culture is guilty of this, I’m not quite sure such a claim is applicable here. For starters, Catwoman, as shown above, is not being “slutty.” Batman and Catwoman have had a very strange relationship over the years, and much of that has been romantic. Were these real people, it would be more confusing why they hadn’t had sex yet. And anyone who knows Batman’s more recent history knows that the two have intercourse regularly anyway. So it isn’t like Selina’s just throwin’ it around town; in fact, more people are outraged by this, it seems, than when she was revealed to have been a prostitute during Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One. That says something interesting about the current frame of mind of the American public: being a sex worker is okay, but actually enjoying sex with a partner of your choice is more obscene. There’s something very flawed in that logic.
To address the first argument I presented above, no, this isn’t exactly something I’d be comfortable letting my young daughter read. But the general public really has to understand—just as they had to learn with the video game industry—that comics are not just for children. There is definitely much worse on the shelves of your local comic shop than this, but DC hasn’t exactly been known for their sex scenes in the past either. However, a general audience may not be aware that DC places a rating scale on their books. This issue received a “T” rating, which signifies it is meant for a teenage audience. That’s really the heart of this issue, I think. People need to pay attention to the age appropriateness of the content, and that’s given to them right on the front. Just because this features a character more commonly associated with children doesn’t mean the story can’t grow up every now and then. Think about The Dark Knight. In the film, Heath Ledger’s Joker is terrifying in a very real, very disturbing way. The film was appropriately rated PG-13. As much as I absolutely love that movie, it also isn’t something I plan to watch with my child until he/she is also old enough.
A third debate is also brought into light, and that’s something I feel doesn’t have quite as simple an answer as the previous two. Open any comic featuring a female lead. What do you see? I’ll tell you: lots of skin. For some reason, comic artists really, really like to draw scantily clad women fighting crime. As a male, I tend to overlook this. But sometimes, it does bother me. It bugs me that every female is wearing booty shorts, or her unrealistically large breasts are unable to be contained in her two-sizes-too-small shirt. It bothers me for the same reasons it bothers me that Ke$ha is popular: it sends the wrong message to young girls. And while younger girls are not exactly the key demographic for DC Comics’ new line of stories, they’re more than likely going to see it. How many slutty Catwoman costumes do you think you’ll see next month for Halloween? At the same time, though, look at Batman in the same page; his features are just as exaggerated. I’ll never have abs like that, and I know how all of the women in my life have felt about a man with washboard abs. Are men just as sexualized as women in comics? That’s a question that I feel needs some thought, too.
I know this is getting a little long, and I appreciate anyone who has take the time to read this. As I said, I’m hoping that this will spark a bit of discussion about gender in America with comic fans or some of the followers of my Tumblr. Does anyone have any thoughts on this? Feel free to share them.