In the Company of Women, Part II

By Jeffrey Overstreet

2783315627_94f68e493d_zContinued from yesterday

“You’re the sort of man who can’t know anyone intimately, least of all a woman.”

That may be the most stinging, hurtful reprimand I’ve ever heard.

Thank God it wasn’t aimed at me: Those words were spoken by Miss Lucy Honeychurch to her fiancé, Mr. Cesil Vyse, in 1985’s A Room With a View.

The insult broke their engagement. It also broke the poor man’s heart, just as it would have broken mine.

As I wrote yesterday, movies have influenced how I feel and what I think in the company of women. [Read more…]

In the Company of Women, Part I

By Jeffrey Overstreet

6978815032_613400725d_zIn late July of 1992, Batman Returns ruled the box office.

I bought a ticket for something else: A film about two married women and a grumpy widow who take a holiday and, as The Seattle Times put it, “rediscover their sensuality on the sunny Mediterranean.”

Strange, I know. But there I was, a twenty-one-year-old male, spending what little money I had to see Enchanted April.

How many college guys would you guess were in the audience watching this ladies-only getaway, listening to women ponder, dream, commiserate, and grumble about their husbands? I doubt that the film’s marketing strategists considered my demographic. [Read more…]

Repression, Oppression, Suppression: A Life of Domestic Routine

jeanneSomewhere in the middle of Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles, the eponymous Jeanne eats a sandwich in her kitchen. We have, by that point in the film, seen quite a lot of Jeanne’s kitchen. We’ve watched Ms. Dielman cook in that kitchen, peel potatoes, wash dishes (shot from behind her back so we can’t really see what she is doing), dry forks and knives, and polish her son’s shoes.

By the second hour of the film (just under four hours long in total), Jeanne Dielman’s kitchen has become an intimate space for us. Within this intimate space, we watch a woman eat a sandwich. The most remarkable thing about the scene, to me, is that we see her eat the entire sandwich. [Read more…]

Wonder Woman, Flying, Part 2: Beauty and Sacrament

Continued from yesterday.

wonderwoman2In this scene from Batman’s first meeting with Wonder Woman in Trinity, you can feel the writer Matt Wagner’s personality trumping the artist; though it doesn’t really add much to the narrative, Wagner can’t help but let Bats make a crack about her costume.

Superheroines’ costumes are perpetually controversial, it seems (perhaps because few artists have done much to better protect their heroines), and I sympathize with those who critique the way women are often overly sexualized in ways men are not. I don’t agree that the antidote is more sexualized male bodies. That strikes me as the kind of capitalistic, individualistic, hedonistic thinking that led to the hypersexualization of all bodies at the magazine racks. But at the same time, I also don’t believe we need more realistic bodies or body armor in all cases.

Take Wonder Woman flying, for instance. Yes, it stretches the suspension of disbelief to breaking to put her in a strapless one-piece “armor” (and yes, it is frequently referred to as armor; if you look, you’ll see the chest-piece and waistband are, in fact, metal). Some newer series and geek blogs have tried to re-imagine her costume in more realistic terms with some success, but increased realism comes at the cost of bringing Diana closer down to earth. [Read more…]

Wonder Woman, Flying, Part 1: Transcendent Hope

wonderwoman1It’s one of my favorite images of Diana of Themyscira, a.k.a. Wonder Woman: her proud, bold body fills the page as she soars across a pink sunset, arms spread wide like a diver, her legs not straight but slightly askew as if skipping on the air.

As someone who never had much use for comics, I’m still a little surprised that I even have a favorite image of Wonder Woman, or that I prefer to call her Diana. Now she intrigues me for many reasons, but it was this image that helped me to “get” her and, indeed, to fall in love with her character.

I’ve read probably a hundred comic book titles in the six years since I really started to get into them—and I mean full-on novels running several hundred pages as well as the volumes that collect five to eight issues of a series—but I still tend to think of them as lighter fare, the medium I looked to for mental stimulation those early nights of parenthood when my newborn needed rocking, the medium I still prefer when my children, now six and three, are playing by themselves but I’m not confident I’ll be able to focus for long.

Yet for all their blatant dialogue and over-the-top action, I find that the good comics really do reach beyond entertainment status to become serious, thoughtful stories about morality, justice, and even the violence so central to many of them. And like any good story, the best comics develop these themes through the tools of their medium and not merely through a few key lines of dialogue. That’s what this image from George Pérez’s 1980s reboot of Wonder Woman does for me. [Read more…]


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