In this week's Nerd Boner Alert, Katie Hutchison discusses the issues of male masculinity within superhero culture.
So somewhere between watching Disney and an inordinate amount of X-Men cartoons as a child I started thinking that I would someday fall in love with a handsome, strong, incredibly crazy well toned, and rich guy. So where is my superhero? Oh yeah, he doesn't exist.
Is this an 8 pack?
Now I love my husband more than anything. But he doesn't have Batman's money. Or the Green Lantern's abdominal muscles. And it was while I was sitting at home watching the 1992-1997 X-Men TV series on Netflix and saw that Sabertooth had not a 6 pack, but what appeared to be an 8 pack that I thought to myself, "Why do these superheroes look like this?" I also recall something along the lines of "Have these animators never taken looked at a human body?" Despite the fact that I mostly took botany and ecology related science classes while getting my BA I still understand basic anatomy better than these guys.
And I definitely mean "guys". I checked Internet Movie Database and there were 16 people in the Art Department for that X-Men series. 15 of them were men. One is named Pat, so, much like the early 1990s androgynous Saturday Night Live character, we'll never know. It could be 16/16 men. So why did these 15-16 men draw every male with crazy overexerted steroid injected muscles? Is this a beyond fanatical overcompensation for tiny penises? And is this overly male outlook creating a false sense of masculinity in young men?
Since I've mentioned it already, let's begin with appearance. Nearly every male superhero has an overly defined body. In real life I have seen plenty of men in spandex, and no one has ever looked like Captain America. And when I took a quick informal poll on my Facebook page asking my male friends how over muscle-y superheroes made them feel, the answers were that they were very much over-exaggerated, somewhat "disturbing" and that the non-powered superheroes were always more relatable. And then somehow we all started talking about how hot Hugh Jackman is. *Sigh* Hugh Jackman.
Take off this trench coat- would you find 8-pack abs here too?
One superhero I can definitely think of that is not guilty of steroid consumption is Britt Reid, aka the Green Hornet. He generally just looked like a normal guy in the comics (but who knows what's underneath that suit and trench coat?) and in the recent movie adaptation he was even slightly chubby being played by comedian Seth Rogen. But where the Green Hornet gains strides in not being guilty of an overly well defined physique, he is guilty of another potentially emasculating comic book stereotype: much like Tony Stark/Iron Man and Bruce Wayne/Batman, he's filthy stinking rich.
Social standing has long been associated with wealth; wealth with power; and power with happiness. I'm not saying that's good, or that being rich means you'll automatically be happy, it's just the way it's kind of always been. As Daniel Tosh says during his stand up comedy routine "Money can't buy you happiness. Just kidding. Try to look unhappy on a jet ski. You just can't do it." So when an adolescent male thinks the Black Panther is a good role model, will he realize that he'll never have that kind of money, power, or, once again, crazy defined muscles?
As I sit here writing this I realize it almost sounds like I am fighting against comic book superheroes, which is silly, especially on a comic book website like The Outhouse. I love comics, especially the X-Men if you haven't been able to tell from my last couple columns and I'm not going to stop reading them, or tell my (future) son not to read them just because they're an over exaggeration of the male. But what I'm really doing is calling for more comic book authors and artists to make more realistic men. Men who have average incomes. Men who don't have "roid rage". Men more like Art Spiegelman's Vladek in Maus: A Survivor's Tale (but can mice even have defined musculature?) Or Aaron Johnson's character Dave Lizewski in the movie Kick-Ass.
But my favorite well rounded, un-muscle-y, poor super hero? Hands down Scott Pilgrim. Written as 6 graphic novels by Bryan Lee O'Malley between 2004 and 2010 and then later turned into a movie (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World) with Michael Cera in August of 2010, the Scott Pilgrim series centers around Scott as he first woos and then dates Ramona Flowers. But while he is trying to date Ramona, he must battle her seven evil exes who are out to get him.
As a hero, Scott is bumbling, often in need of a haircut, so poor he shares not only a room but a bed with his friend Wallace, easily distracted, has his ass kicked several times, and seems to derive some sort of super power from his bass playing in his band Sex Bob-omb. The duels between Scott and the exes are similar to a video game where Scott "wins" bags of coins and gains items such as the Power of Love sword.
I personally loved both the graphic novels and the movie and I feel like Scott was a relatable hero. Haven't we all felt like a less ideal mate when we found out our current boyfriend/girlfriend had a "perfect" Vegan ex? My final year of college I ran out of money. It would have been nice to be friends with someone who had Tony Stark's cash, but in the end, I mostly felt like Scott Pilgrim. Poor, wimpy, but totally fucking awesome. And to be honest, I would much rather be with a "Scott Pilgrim" than with someone whose abs were so hard I could use them as a washboard and do my laundry.
So men, I ask you all the same thing I asked on facebook- do stereotypical comic book superheroes make you feel less masculine? And women, do you feel like you were let down since your current romantic partner doesn't have more abs than is humanly possible? And what other modern day superheroes are there? Leave your answers and comments in the discussion section below!
Written or Contributed by: Katie Hutchison, Outhouse Contributorhttp://220.127.116.11/index.php/features/miscellaneous-features/14721-nerd-boner-alert-wheres-my-superhero-or-do-comics-give-us-a-false-sense-of-masculinity.html/