Thursday, August 12, 2010

Feminism in Magnus Robot Fighter!

Rather than just do a straight review with Magnus Robot Fighter # 1, I thought it might be fun to look at it through the lens of feminism. I spent some considerable time in the Ivory Towers, so I've been trained to do that.

Defining feminism is a dodgy enterprise, even for the really smart folks in the Ivory Towers who spend all day thinking about such things. I don't think it's profitable to get into a treatise on that - for our purposes here, let's just look at the comic and figure out how it values women, particularly in relation to the men around them.

That's overly simplistic, but I think fair. Certainly more fair than what I was subjected to in my post-secondary "education" on the matter. For all it's vaunted vocabulary and labyrinthine arguments, the modern take on such issues boils down to this:

"Men are evil. White men are extra evil, and probably invented it. If you're not male or white, you're off the hook. Since Racism/Sexism = Prejudice + Power, even if you're a rampaging sexist/racist yourself by any rational examination, you're a victim of White Evil and therefore it is impossible for you to engage in bias, since you have no power. Besides, they have it coming, so you're entitled."

There is no arguing this, by the way, if you find yourself owning a white penis. Either you agree that you're evil, and therefore evil, or you disagree with that assessment, thereby preserving your dominant position and proving your attachment to the Eternal Paternalistic Hegemony, and QED.....evil. See how that works? Also notice how this "super empowering" doctrine automatically defines its constituents as victims, which never seemed that empowering to me. But what do I know? I'm just evil. And I digress.

Now, it isn't Jim Shooter's job to even consider feminism as the writer of Magnus, which is important to keep in mind, I think. His agenda should be selling comics, and entertainment the most obvious currency toward that end. He's not writing Sylvia Plath poetry here. But there's a lot of fun things to look at in this comic on the feminist front, so why not?

The story opens with Magnus crashing through the window and attempting to rescue heiress Cinnette Victoria for her imminent abduction. Of course she's wearing next to nothing, which is pretty much standard procedure for comic books, so -1 Plath Point for doing that. He also loses a point for using the old "Damsel in Distress" motif, also standard for comic books. (and most everything else, for that matter) As usual, the woman here is portrayed as defenseless to help herself, and completely reliant on the powerful man to come fix things.

In fact, if she hadn't already figured that part of it out, Mangus commands her to cower in a corner behind him. Another -1 Plath Point for that. If you're keeping score at home, Magnus Robot fighter is now at -3 PP and we haven't even left the first page yet.

But, let's take a closer look. Yes, the girl is scantily clad, but this time it actually makes sense in the story. This is not a gratuitous shower scene coming out of nowhere. If you were going to stage a kidnapping, snatching someone out of bed in the dead of night makes some sense to me. No reason she shouldn't be in her nightgown, so I'm restoring one PP for that. However, they didn't have to give her giant boobs or make her name remind one instantly of Victoria's Secret, and that is fairly gratuitous. So -.5 PP for that.

While at first blush it seems fairly asinine for Mangus to command the woman to simper behind the bed, it does hold up to logic. There's three robots in the room. Magnus has enhanced strength and training, and he's in some legitimate danger. Inside the story, there's really nothing for Cinnette to do unless she's got a laser pistol in her undies drawer, and that doesn't seem plausible. She had robot guards (who were sabotaged) to take care of threats.

So given that, isn't slinking into the shadows and staying the hell out of the way the most responsible course of action? I think so, and I'm restoring one PP for that. Magnus's score clocks in at -1.5 Plath Points by my count. The Ivory Towers would probably have him at -8, but whatever. This is my column. Dicks.

By coincidence, Ms. Victoria is good friends with Leeja Clane, another main character in the book. Magnus and Leeja have an exchange at the park to discuss the matter and plot strategies for her rescue. That conversation begins with this banter:

That's good for +2 Plath Points any day of the week. Leeja reminds Magnus that she saved his ass in issue # 0. And when Magnus starts to treat her as less than equal and tells her to bow out, see tells him to go hang. Granted, she's wearing the miniest of mini skirts while doing it, but damn she looks fabulouuuuuuuus! Plus, that's just her expressing her sexuality as an independent woman, yo! So no demerits there.

Total Plath Points: -.5

Then Leeja tries to emasculate Magnus for "failing" to resource Cinnette, which is pretty Plathy. But Magnus reminds her that he had everything under control until she ran out of the room against his orders like a panicked little girl. Which she did. I'm calling that one a wash. Granted, Shooter did portray Cinnette as a pretty weak character, but you know what? If I were in that room and three robots (who shouldn't even have the ability to commit such crimes due to their programming) came after me, I think I'd be making bad decisions based on fear as well. That's just life. So no extra penalties can be assessed, to my mind.

Then Magnus thanks Leeja for keeping his identity a secret. First of all, acknowledging a woman's contribution to the campaign, that's a bonus. And a woman who beats the stereotype of the incurable gossip? Yeah, baby! +1 PP!

Total Plath Points: +.5

Holy Chockatolleez! By my count, Magnus is now slightly feminist! And we haven't even factored in the undeniable truth that the male lead is wearing a skirt! We might have to start thinking about Magnus appearances in Ms. magazine before we're done.

My favorite bit of the entire issue is the end of the conversation in the park.

Magnus goes to meet a contact that might be able to help locate Cinnette, and Leeja wants to go with. Now, Magnus knows this is a bad idea, because it's probably going to be physical work, and she doesn't have the ability to shrug off 2 ton punches or the ability to rip steel with her hands.

So rather than argue the point, Magnus just says "OK, let's go!" And he hauls ass out of there. And Leeja cannot make that leap, and she cannot run that fast. So Leeja has no choice but to recognize that he's just able to do certain things that she can't, and that's just a scientific fact. Now, I'm going to assess a -2 Plath Point penalty for showing feminine "weakness" there. But because the logic is so inescapable, and because it was done so smoothly with absolutely no soapbox preaching, I'm adding in a +2 "Shooter Rules" bonus to counteract it!

Total Plath Points: +.5

While Magnus goes out to meet his contact in the goph levels, Leeja comes up with a plan of her own. She gets an illegal tracking device installed in her body and then goes on North Am's equivalent of The View for an interview, where she spills about Magnus on national television. Lots of stuff in there, folks.

  • Showing Independence and coming up with her own plan: + 1 PP
  • Outing that pig Magnus because he was a jerkwad to her in the park: +.5 PPP
  • Giggling about dating Magnus like a stereotypical high school girl on TV: -.5 PP
  • Leeja's "Master Plan" means getting captured so that a man can save her: -1.5 PP
Total Plath Points: 0

Leeja is flexing her muscles a little bit here, and it takes a brass uterus to hit an underground implant market and then deliver yourself right into the enemy. But I think it says something here that Leeja couldn't use her brains and courage to do something positive on her own. The best Shooter could come up with for her was to become yet another damsel in distress, so that Magnus could come fix it.

And dramatically, it works. It's just not a feminist thing to do. But once again, Jim Shooter is writing a drama, not a position paper on feminist ideology. So I'm willing to give him a pass. By my calculation, the book is neither feminist nor chauvinist - it's a dead wash. I'm sure the Ivory Towers would take a different position, though.

Listen, I don't think there's anybody left who counts that doesn't recognize that certain facets of the beast we've built suck lemur scrotums. Two people who do the same job with the same skill for similar tenures should get paid equally. Who would argue that at this point?

But on the other hand, I had to go deal with a grasshopper this week because two fully grown, college educated women couldn't deal with it. Really? And then I took heat for stepping on it, instead of creating a grasshopper adoption agency and finding a host family for it in the wild.

So as much as these women desire and deserve equality as valued human beings....they sure do enjoy the privileges of being girly girls, too. A grasshopper, for fuck sake. Life is good, comics are good. It's a +0 Plath Point world, at least in North Am. I did the math, and I'm totally truthing. We've come a long way, baby!

- Ryan

1 comment:

DJ Scott said...

This was actually a pretty good dissection..... too bad there are 0 females around here to actually read or take anything away from it.