Zamaron — A Green Lantern Femme-Site

{July 26, 2006}   Boys will be Girls: An Examination of Warrior #42

When I first read Warrior #42, “A Gender Bender in the Blender”, I didn’t really think anything of it. It was the standard silly macho boy-turns-into-girl story. It made me laugh but wasn’t particularly noticeable.

But then, while wandering the Blogosphere a few months back, I stumbled onto a review panning the issue. They called it stupid and sexist. Now the stupid part is debatably true, depending on your particular tolerance for silliness. But sexist?! That surprised me because I hadn’t actually thought it was.

What was this guy seeing, I asked myself, that I wasn’t?

So I read it again.

The thing that occurred to me on second reading was how few of the really sexist cliches of gender-shifted stories actually were used in this one.

(Caution: Spoilers)

The Cliches of the Gender-Shift Story:

1. Boy turns into attractive Girl.

Well, yes this happens. Guy-as-a-woman is drawn as a very attractive female character in the bulbous breasts, wasp waist, thunder thighs look that Image is particularly known for.

Is this what the guy sees as sexist, I wondered. It seemed a bit odd, personally. Warrior’s always had a particularly stylistic art style and Guy-as-a-man tends to have equally exaggerated proportions. And it’s hard to find a comic hero/heroine that’s unattractive anyway. The pseudo-Image style is certainly ridiculous, but does it really warrant such venom?

2. “Girl” is weaker than Boy.

In a lot of these sorts of stories, the male character’s new body is a hassle. He complains o being weaker and clumsier.

While some of this is understandable, the center of gravity on a female body is different and so is the musculature. It’s easy to imagine this being a problem for normal characters.

The problem is few of these characters are normal people. Many are martial artists and fighters who can defy the laws of physics. You’re telling me characters who can punch faster than the speed of sound can’t compensate for a new body? As well, the clumsiness/awkwardness is usually never played up in an ordinary situation. Just when it’s time to fight…or for a convenient panty shot.

Warrior doesn’t do this actually. Admittedly, most of Guy’s Warrior powers aren’t as reliant on balance, and he’s got enhanced strength anyway. But Guy never once complains about being weaker. He doesn’t like being a woman, but that’s a pretty understandable reaction to being unwillingly transformed into anything. There was no “When I’m a man again, I’m gonna kick your ass” sort of reaction. Guy’s reaction is “I’m gonna kick your ass NOW.” There’s a difference.

Guy even says when “she” transforms into Warrior that “she’s” feeling damn powerful. “She” did have trouble figuring out how to cross “her” arms though.

3. “Girl” ends up embarassed by femininity.

In these sorts of stories a lot of cute embarrassing thngs happen to the main character. Their male friends unwittingly flirt with them. They end up being stuck in dresses and made to do feminine things.

This is probably where the sexism complaint comes in. Because Warrior takes it one step further. Dementor, the villain that transformed Guy, lures him into a trap, forcing him to take part in a “fashion show”, wearing increasingly skimpy and/or fetishized costumes. It’s certainly gratuitous exploitation.

For me though, I never saw it as sexist. Probably because it’s very in character for Dementor to pull something like that. He’s a character that delights in establishing dominance over Guy. Humiliation would be one of those tactics. This tactic was chosen, not because Guy was a woman, but because he’s Guy.

Also in a weird way, I think it’s feminist. See, the comic relief I described above, with the flirting and the cute outfit fanservice are kind of an attempt at a “Let’s show a guy what it’s like to be objectified.” But honestly, those things are pretty harmless. Flirted with by random guys, (though there are some that get *too* forward, the virtue of the main character is never in question), stuck wearing pretty clothes and serving tea or something.

It could be argued that it paints an idea of objectification that’s much lighter and more harmless than the reality can be.

Now the scene in Warrior. With the cat-calls and the sexual taunts, the out right humiliating exhibition. That’s hard core objectification. It’s not cute, it’s not funny, it’s awful and humiliating and afterwards you need a shower. I think most women have felt that way at least once in their lives. Where through no fault of your own, some creep’s made you feel small and dirty and sick. And this scene, while naturally also there for the incongruous comedy of a manly man in a dress, doesn’t skimp on that feeling.

4. “Girl” becomes Boy again and wins out the day.

Normally in these stories, the boy will usually use his wits to figure out how to regain his masculinity, then he’ll kick butt and win.

This is something I always found annoying. The boy could never win out as a girl, only when he’d regained his manhood.

Warrior’s not like that. Admittedly, Guy was helpless as a woman. But he was in a position that would have left him helpless as a woman or a man. It’s an acknowledged fact that Guy would have kicked ass and taken names, woman or not, if Dementor didn’t have those hostages.

A nice touch that completely negates the woman-as-weaker message that tends to unconsciously turn up a bit in many other such stories is that in the end Guy is saved not once but twice by women.

The villainess Martika is the one able to use her mind control powers to stop Dementor in his tracks and order Guy changed back. (She couldn’t mind control him as a woman). Whereas Guy’s friend Veronna then uses their mental link to save him from Martika’s influence.

The problem of femininity is thus solved, not by an infusion of masculinity, but strictly through the feminine. If you ask me, that’s not sexist, it’s very much feminist.


SallyP says:

Man, I have GOT to find this issue! I’ve been getting the old WArrior
comics lately, and terrible art aside, they really are a hoot. I haven’t
found this one though, and it’s KILLING me!
Anyway…you have made some excellent points in your dissertation. And
let’s face it…Guy is just fun.

kalinara says:

Aww, man, I really hope you find the issue. It’s a crazy, crazy blast! Like the rest of the series, really. ๐Ÿ™‚ Only, you know with girl parts!

And Guy is definitely fun! ๐Ÿ™‚

Ang says:

Oh thank goodness, someone finally put into words why I actually *like* this issue of GG:W so I didn’t have to.

SallyP says:

Yesturday I DID find the issue where Guy’s mother shows up…and what a
piece of work SHE is! I have to admit that the dialogue and characterization is just fabulous. When Guy say’s “Then I’d say it’s time to start spankin’ some monkeys” and “I hate it when apes lie to you”, I
just cracked up. Boy, I loves me some Beau Smith.

kalinara says:

ย Ang: Glad to be of service.ย  ๐Ÿ™‚

ย Sally: Isn’t she? Explains a lot about Guy, doesn’t it?

And yeah, Smith has a knack for dialogue. ๐Ÿ™‚ (I think the best part though was Buck’s “You sure know how to turn a phrase, amigo.” I don’t know why, but *that* of all things made me laugh my ass off. ๐Ÿ™‚

new here says:

I want this issue.

SallyP says:

Hah! I just got this issue yesturday, and it is a hoot. I dont’ quite
know why, but the note that Dementor left for Guy up on the roof just
struck me as being hilarious. And it was nice to see Verona vindicated.
And you know something else? If this had ever happened to Batman, I
don’t think that he would have handled it NEARLY as well. Snicker.

Thank you all for the kind words and for “getting” what I was trying to do in my own chimp-like fashion. My run of Guy Gardner Warrior was to try and have some fun and make Guy a character you’d like. If I did just one of those things then I’m very happy.

Thank you again,

Beau Smith

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