In which the author hopes for once to avoid attacking the entire enterprise of mainstream superhero comics

So over on FB Amal posted a link to this comic strip by David Willis, to which Ben responded:

the sad thing is, it’s not that DC comics is bad at math. it’s that DC and Marvel don’t see comic books as for selling; not for selling copies of.

they see them as for generating IP to sell in more lucrative media.
misogyny is just a traditional part of that package.

I think the middle two sentences are true as far as they go, but there’s something about the last sentence that irks me, and when I started trying to explain to Ben what it was, I found I needed paragraph breaks. So here we are.

So, I think it’s true that DC doesn’t have any intention with this reboot of trying to sell Red Hood to as many readers as watched Teen Titans, and to that extent, yes, the comic is not likely to change any minds at DC. But to shrug and say “misogyny is a traditional part of the package”, to me seems dismissive to the point of unhelpfulness. That much, if true, might explain the general situation of women in comics; it doesn’t in itself explain the sudden jump in misogyny at (and sudden sidelining of creative women by) DC in particular, and by treating that jump as business as usual, it discounts criticism and invites passivity. And as the comic itself points out — however incidentally — the level of extreme misogyny in the DC reboot doesn’t necessarily fly in “more lucrative media”, broadly considered.

That said — I went to the movies last weekend and saw “Moneyball”, which on the whole wasn’t bad apart from the obligatory scene showing that our hero’s ex-wife’s new husband is an effeminate twerp. And thanks to bad timing I had to sit through a raft of ads, including ads for NBC’s entire fall lineup, and through a clutch of film previews that ran the gamut from predictable to depressing. It would be an exaggeration to say that “sexism” was the pitch for NBC’s entire fall lineup, but it started with The Playboy Club and went downhill from there, culminating in some sitcom the name of which I can’t be bothered to google about a new married couple, in which the humor apparently derives entirely from the new bride’s desperate attempts to attract her husband’s attention while he treats her like a piece of furniture. And of the previews, the one that stuck in my mind was for “50/50″, which appears to take what could have been an offbeat romantic comedy starring Joseph Gordon-Leavitt and Anna Kendrick, and stir in a big greasy bucket of Seth Rogen bromance.

So contra Mr. Willis, I have to admit that misogyny sells, or at the very least that the Powers That Entertain think it sells. It’s not that DC thinks they’re going to sell comics to every Apatovian dudebro, but if they can hook enough of them with soft porn and date rape jokes, seat those brand names deeply enough, then when these properties hit the big screen, with the misogyny toned down from the embarrassingly appalling to the merely egregious, they’ll entice their bros and drag their girlfriends to the theater. Or that’s the best theory I can come up with, at any rate.

That being the case, yes, I have to say that misogyny is part of the more-lucrative-media package. But “traditionally”? That makes it sound like there’s nothing anyone can do, that it goes back to Adam West and George Reeves. And I’m pretty sure I’ve got a few mylar bags somewhere in someone else’s attic that show it doesn’t really even go back to the 80s. At least, not to the level it’s at now. The best I think you can say for DC is that they’re reflecting a broader trend; it’d be more accurate to say they’re exploiting and amplifying it. And while I don’t think anyone should expect comic books to do better than pop culture at large, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t demand it.