Divas Live

Divas Live

Apr 20

marveldivas

Trying to parse my feelings on the recently-announced Marvel Divas is about as simple as, say, untangling and comprehensively analyzing Alias’ infamous Rambaldi mythology. And then, for good measure, trying to explain it to a newbie who has never watched the show. Or, you know, television.

I mean, look: there’s crabbiness provoked by the expected source. The pitch is worded about as insultingly as possible (“hot fun!” Also, “sudsy!”). The characters, as rendered in the promo art, look weirdly similar (deflating balloon boobs gooooo!). And, you know, if we’re doing a series about “what it…truly means…to be a woman in an industry dominated by testosterone and guns,” it might be nice to see it written by a lady.

But here’s what throws a big, fat wrench in the seemingly clear trajectory of my fanrage — I find myself provoked to further crabbiness by a completely unexpected source: my fellow fans. These two strains of crabby meet and mate and produce a gigantic, tentacled beast of MEGAFANRAGE that wants to direct itself not just at Marvel, but EVERYWHERE, all at once, until I flounce away from fandom in a mighty huff, disconnect from the internet forever, and move into a cave in the most remote of wilderness locales, all “Han shot first! BlerggityblagblahFUCK!”

To be sure, there’s been much stellar commentary on the problematic way Marvel Divas is being presented — Jennifer de Guzman, for instance, is really kicking ass in that thread linked above. And yet, in a lot of the anti-Divas arguments and comments I’ve been reading, a common disdainful note keeps popping up. To paraphrase: why on Earth would Marvel want to produce a superhero version of (blech) Sex and the City?! No woman in existence reads superhero comics AND watches Sex and the City! And we don’t want that shit polluting our comics anyway! It’s all about shoes and shopping and, you know, women talking about…stupid stuff. At least, that’s what I read in Entertainment Weekly! Oh, God, this whole thing is just making me want to fucking throw up, because…because…SEX AND THE CITY!!!

No one bitches louder than geeks about being unfairly judged. Yet we are the first to judge — definitively and LOUDLY — the second we become aware of some sort of popular entertainment that we deem unworthy. We usually don’t even bother to watch/read/consume it, because we know we won’t like it. Try telling a room of nerds that you love Gossip Girl and watch the stink-eyes and the “Well, I’ve never seen it, BUT…” pronouncements pile up. The glossy trappings of that series and, I don’t know, the name immediately brand it as Something Geeks Don’t Like (Harumph!). And that means it — and its fans — are worthy of our neverending disdain. We, the geekly arbiters of good taste who will only deign to watch shows that get canned after two seasons, have spoken! Not watched, mind you! But spoken!

(By the way: I love Gossip Girl for many of the same reasons I love geekcentric entertainment — strong, iconic characters, nuance and subtext up the wazoo, and grand-scale storylines that usually boil down to the simplest of human emotions.)

So let me attempt, in my own meandering way, to bring this back to Sex and the City — another Something Geeks Don’t Like — and the Divas. I’m sure plenty of you tried to watch the show and hated it. Just like anything, it is surely not for everyone, and I enjoy reading analysis from folks who can’t stand it as much as folks who love it, cause the perspectives are generally interesting. But a lot of the comments I’m seeing are of the aforementioned “Well, I’ve never seen it, BUT…” variety and I gotta tell ya — that makes me Hulk out like nothing else. A couple comments I saw went so far as to suggest that not only do women who watch SATC not read comics, but that they don’t, you know, read (probably too busy shopping for shoes, right?! LOLzers!). As someone who loves both superhero comics and Sex and the City — and yes, other people like this do exist — I would just like to say: if Marvel Divas resembles the show at all…it might actually be good.

Yes, Sex and the City had a lot of glorious fashion porn and ladies talking about orgasms and whatever. It also had an emotional core that expressed — in sometimes painfully honest fashion — how friends relate to each other. There are scenes that still get me when I describe them, because — and again, this is also why I love a lot of the geekcentric entertainment I love — they cut so precisely to the heart of things. Like Carrie realizing, on a pure, from-the-gut level, that Miranda isn’t gonna make it through her mom’s funeral procession, and stumbling out into the aisle to take her arm. Or unhappily pregnant Miranda trying — and failing and trying again — to come up with the right words to talk to un-pregnant-and-devastated-about-it Charlotte. If Marvel Divas could somehow give me female relationship moments that resonate like this, interwoven with bits about living the superwoman life in “an industry dominated by testosterone and guns,” I’d be all over that shit. I was, in fact, all over that shit when they did it in Ultra, which reminded me quite a bit of SATC in the best of ways.

So let’s be real — Marvel Divas probably won’t accomplish that same feat (it is, after all, “sudsy!”). In the meantime, I’d like to attempt to address my other, non-Marvel-related source of fanrage. Can we maybe stop with the sweeping “Well, I’ve never seen it, BUT…” statements? Can we give the general fan snobbery a rest since we hate it — HATE IT! — when the Mundanes do the same thing to us and turn their collective nose up at Farscape or Battlestar Galactica?

Because, despite loving SATC, I can read. And I’d love to read further discussion on this topic that doesn’t make my head explode.

29 comments

  1. Jeff

    What if I like Gossip Girl and Ultra and have tried watching SATC but really can’t get into it?

    I guess I can give Divas a chance but I, just, nothing about it makes me go “I need this” – not the title or the pitch or the writer or the promo art.

  2. Sigrid Ellis

    Gossip Girl is awesome. :)

    And, more seriously, yes. Taking a moment to not criticize that which one has *not read or seen* would do all of fandom a world of good. Because while it is true that there are some criticisms that CAN (and should) be leveled without experiencing the source material, a sweeping condemnation of a comic that does not yet exist in readable form by dint of comparison to a show one has not watched strikes me as knee-jerk judgment without cause.

  3. Sarah

    Jeff: I tried to address this in the post: my issue isn’t people genuinely hating something, it’s the snobby attitude that presumes 1) SATC is automatically shitty (“I haven’t watched it, BUT…”) and 2) people who like both comics and something like SATC or GG DO NOT EXIST.

    And my point wasn’t really “Hey, give Marvel Divas a chance” — I addressed that, too. Or at least, I think I did, by pointing out that I’m not exactly thrilled by the pitch/art, either. But if it is “like SATC,” which a lot of folks seem to see as “it will be AWFUL,” I might actually enjoy it.

  4. A

    I see a lot of people say that but I loved Sex and the City and love comic books. Divas intrigues me and I’ll give it a shot.

  5. Sarah

    Sigrid: That’s right, you’re a GG fan! XOXO. And yeah, that’s really nicely put.

    A: Yeah, see? People who like both exist! ;)

  6. Sigrid Ellis

    :coughs:Blair/Serena:coughs:

  7. Kiala

    I love comics and sci fi and fantasy AND I love Forever 21 and shoes and getting my hair did.

    I see no reason why being a geek means you have to stop being a girl.

    New Wave Feminism FTW!

  8. Jason

    You know I did watch SATC when it was on TV and enjoyed it quite a bit, though some of the storylines were trite, there was a good emotional core there and some of the storylines (most of them dealing with Miranda and Motherhood) were right on the money. The unfortuante part is that SATC has become short-hand for lazy writers to throw out there as a comparison for anything they think will “appeal to women”. Often the comparison is meaningless, much like how anyone writing copy for a movie featuring a superhero will throw in a reference to Iron Man to try and gain some of its cultrual cache.

  9. Wonderful post. Fandom as a whole really, really needs to learn this lesson.

    I’ve never seen Gossip Girl or Sex and the City, but I AM interested in Marvel Divas, and I hope it’s more like what you love about those shows than what everyone fears.

  10. Matt

    What Jason said. I think through their frequent incoherence and stupidity, that’s REALLY what a lot of fanwanks are saying, or at least, some of them.

    I loved SatC too, at least till about midway or near the end when Carrie got incredibly stupid and started talking weird. The movie was also pretty dumb.

    But yeah, it’s become an idiotic and inappropriate shorthand for “fiction about women,” and it reduces them to vague stereotypes with the goal of selling something. I do hope this project is closer to the real SatC than to the stereotypes they may be invoking, but I personally haven’t seen much either way to suggest what it’s gonna be, so color me slightly intrigued and waiting for reviews on issue 1.

  11. But. . .but. . .I have a right to say that a book that doesn’t exist sucks, based on a comparison to a show I’ve never watched! A RIGHT! It’s in the fandom Constitution!

    *pauses, fumbles around*

    Wait, it’s NOT? My God! This changes everything!

    Yeah, seriously, I’m glad you wrote this. It hits on so many of my pet peeves.

    I did like ‘Sex & the City’ for a long time, though I gave up on the later seasons. Still haven’t seen the movie, dunno if that’s ‘fail’ or not.

  12. Dan

    While I am neither a GG nor a SATC fan, I am a fan of strong female characters.

    I think the major issue I had with the announcement of DIVAS was the fact that it was being marketed as “naughty” and “hot fun.” It led me to believe that it was being compared to SATC by someone who just thinks that show was about women shopping and getting laid (I’ll be honest, I was unaware it had a deeper level, myself). If, however, as you say, there was a deeper examination of friendship and what-not, that’s a whole other story. Sadly, I don’t think the comparison between the two projects was based on SATC’s look at friendship.

    But, I think the core of your post has a lot of merit. It’s odd that we sometimes find ourselves defending what we like to fellow members of fandom.

  13. I will also say that I think *some* female geeks will knee-jerkily hate on anything that is ‘stereotypically’ female (whatever that means), the same way *some* male geeks will knee-jerkily hate on anything sports related. Because, I think, there’s a feeling that this is what we’re being pressured to like by ‘the media’ and we got into geek stuff to get away from that.

  14. If it resembles the show, fair enough.
    If it resembles the movie, holy fuck no!

  15. @Dan But the point is, we don’t really have an idea of what the writer meant based on an out-of-context soundbite about a book nobody’s actually seen yet.

    And there ain’t nothin’ wrong with ‘hot fun.’ (I kinda doubt the book will be ‘naughty’ by SatC standards; I’m skeptical if it’ll have references to the characters having sex at all).

  16. First, my disclaimer: over the years I’ve been very fortunate to become friends with Roberto AG. So my opinion comes from that too. Take from it what you will.

    Back when he was writing Marvel Knights Four, one of its final issues was definitely his take on SITC. It was “sudsy”, campy, even queeny, and other girls-night-out adjectives that go along with it.

    It was a lot of fun to read, and MK4 was one of the few comics to ever give Susan Storm personality.

    Roberto has spent a lot of time writing horror titles, and screen writing for “Big Love” so I’m really excited for him to get back to the humor and wit with which he first won me over.

  17. I think you handled this topic very nicely! This is a tricky line to straddle, one that I find myself wandering over and I know I’m guilty of the pre-judge, as much as I try NOT to.

    “We, the geekly arbiters of good taste who will only deign to watch shows that get canned after two seasons, have spoken!”

    Painfully true–this is one of Those Things that help to make me crazy (not that I need much of a push in either direction). When Smallville is deemed ‘acceptable, good television’ while a show like SATC is not, I find myself wondering where the hell the good taste goes and when the majority of comic book geeks–like you said, who feel ostracized and picked on–are going to realize that the counter-attacking isn’t doing much for their cause. And PS, SATC is better than Smallville. Let’s be real, here.

    As for Marvel Divas, yeeeeah. I’ll give the first one a shot, because promotion is what promotion is and while I definitely bare my teeth at it, I’ll check out the first issue that may promise to capture some of the feminine divine that seems to be missing from a GREAT many comic books. My hopes aren’t up though, let’s be real again: the Luna Brothers had it and I don’t think a book that has promotion/cover art like that is going to get too deep. My worry is a Jerry Springeresque monthly, where the girls start fighting over some douchebag and my desire is to see a book that actually touches on what it would be like to be female and also pretty fucking super. They discuss that over at My Cup of Joe, but they also end all the potentially cool talk with: “But mostly it’s just a lot of hot fun.”

    Riiiiiight.

    Man, I miss the fashion porn.

  18. Great post. It’s always worth being reminded that we all have our blind spots, geeks included. There’s a phenomenon called “Nascar Blindness,” whereby people in the entertainment & advertising industries (who tend to work in urban centers on the coast) are clueless of, or disdainful toward, popular entertainment that isn’t their personal cup of tea.

  19. Matt

    Chris: I didn’t realize Roberto had written for Big Love…that’s a great show and it gives me lots more hope for Marvel Divas.

    For me, the best layers of SatC were the commentaries on female friendships and the realities of adult romance (such as they were). If Marvel Divas can touch on even a fraction of that depth, it could be remarkable.

  20. Sarah

    So many good comments!

    Sigrid: Blair/Serena are like the slashiest couple on TV right now. <3

    Jason: Cynthia Nixon kicks ass, right? And yeah, that’s a really excellent point — stuff that is nothing like SATC gets compared to SATC all the time, because, you know, it’s for women! Not all women like SATC, obvs. There is no hive vagina.

    Jennifer: Thanks! It’ll be interesting to see what the response is once Marvel Divas actually comes out.

    Matt: Total WORD on the Carrie talking weird thing. There’s this certain point later in the series where SJP is suddenly…I don’t know, really affected? I felt like she became extra self-conscious about her performance or something and it resulted in Carrie speaking with these really strange inflections. I actually did enjoy the movie, in part cause I felt like SJP managed to drop that weird quality and Carrie was Carrie again.

    Caroline: Ha. What *is* in the fandom constitution, exactly? I seem to have misplaced my copy. And yeah, that knee-jerkiness bothers me as well, probably cause I enjoy so much girly stuff. If the book does contain “hot fun” on par with SATC, then it’s gonna need a pretty mature rating…like the MAX line is gonna have to come back or something.

    Dan: I try my darndest to be all “we are family” in regards to fandom, but damn! Sometimes my fellow fans make me mad. :)

    dizzy: LOL, I actually enjoyed the movie. I don’t know that it needed to exist, given how well the series wrapped itself up, but it was fun seeing everyone again.

    Chris: Thanks for the comment, that really adds a necessary bit of context. I understand why the pitch/soundbite annoyed a lot of people (myself included), but I need to practice what I’m preachin’ here and check out some of Roberto’s work (and the eventual book) before getting all pre-judgey.

    Kristina: Thanks! You bring up a piece of this that I didn’t get into, but that bugs the living hell out of me — what makes the “acceptable geek television” cut and what doesn’t. SATC is better than Smallville. And a lot of other shows I could name. I also hope the Divas don’t fight over dudes — that’s one of the quickest ways to turn me off of something.

    Dan W.: Nascar Blindness! I like it!

  21. Mike Miller

    Well I’ve never seen it, but… I’m not one to jump to hasty judgements. ;) Great Post Sarah!

  22. Mike Miller

    Although you and Kristina’s “SATC is better than Smallville” pronouncement now means I have to watch it…. because shamefully Smallville is a guilty pleasure of mine… I know its not GREAT… but i can’t help but watch…

  23. Sarah

    Thanks, Mike!

    Well, maybe we should qualify that as “Sex and the City is better if you’re a person who’s going to like Sex and the City.” Cause, you know, it’s not a direct line, like, “If you like Smallville, you will LOVE Sex and the City!” ;)

    Nothing wrong with guilty pleasures, I’ve got plenty of those.

  24. Sarah

    Kiala: I don’t know why, but your comment got stuck in our spam filter. Now it’s all approved and shit. We have a very similar cross-section of tastes ;)

  25. Matt

    for what it’s worth, and being totally unrelated to comics or geekdom in any way, I always thought SJP’s affectedness on SatC coincided with her becoming a producer on the show? or something? cause her character kinda changed too; it wasn’t the same Carrie Bradshaw.

  26. Sarah

    Matt: I always wondered if there was some correlation with that as well. Cause it seems like there was, timing-wise, but then they always made a big deal about how she was *really* a producer from day one, just not in name (which could be total spin, I know, but she did seem to be pretty involved from an early stage). I remember reading an article somewhere — Salon, maybe? — about how Early Carrie Bradshaw did stuff like unselfconsciously pick her teeth in public, while Later Carrie Bradshaw would never even consider such a thing.

    One thing I noticed about SJP as the show went on: in the early days, she always seemed really bubbly and uncensored on talk shows and stuff. Later on, she got a lot more…guarded. Like she was really working on crafting a public persona of sorts. Now it kinda seems like she’s found a happy medium — she seemed like she was genuinely having fun on Project Runway, right?

    Yes, I am now using this thread to dissect the evolution of SJP. Go, me!

  27. Ben

    Sarah,

    From the heart, well-written, but I have one bone to pick. There is only ONE GG and it is not Gossip Girl. And you know what it is.

  28. Sarah

    Point taken. Can I call Gossip Girl “GG 2″? Or maybe “GoGi”?

  29. I didn’t hate the film but I felt Miranda got shafted by all her friends while Carrie’s ass was kissed as usual. I’m still a little bitter…

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