|Date(s):||June 1, 1991 to January 1, 1995|
|Tag(s):||Women, sex, Violence, Hypersexualization, Victim, Power|
|Course:||“ENG 492H Honors Seminar in English,” Rollins College|
In the 1990s, there was an extreme influx of violence and sex in comics. In Amazing Heroes #191, released in June 1991, science fiction, fantasy, and horror writer, Adam-Troy Castro, wrote a review of a series of sex comics. This publication problematizes the majority of these comics for their lack of substance and oversexualization of women. Many of the comics are completely degrading and have no clear story line. Though many of them are written to sell and earn a profit, they are incredibly distasteful and offensive to many.
In Comic Book Nation: The Transformation of Youth Culture in America, Bradford W. Wright explains, “The comic book industry suffered some shock in the mid-1990s… The biggest problem is the transformation of American culture itself” (Wright 283-84). As the United States modernized, television, video, computer games, etc. were popular and “comic books simply could not match.” This suggests that the contemporary world seemed to outgrow comics. There were so many different avenues that consumers could enjoy, rather than just reading a comic.
Leading up to this collapse of the industry, was a time of complete oversexualization of females in comics. At this point, the Comics Code Authority lost power and the industry focused on writing for more mature audiences. Brigham Young University’s Kyra Nelson writes, “The ‘90s was a particularly notable decade in comics for impossible body proportions with very few clothes to hide them…These women were so impossibly proportioned that, had they been real, they would have tipped over if they had tried to stand up” (Nelson 4). These images caused consumers to have an incorrect image of what women really look like. In this tough time for comics, writers utilized the oversexualization of women as a selling point for their comics in order to keep the industry alive.
Females also had a complete lack of power in relation to their male counterparts in comics. In a journal on Feminist Criminology, Tammy S. Garland, Kathryn A. Branch, and Mackenzie Grimes discuss stories of rape in comic books. They write how, “This oversexualization of comic characters coupled with the sexual violence perpetrated against them reifies rape myths as they are ‘cultural artifacts that contribute to the cultural construction of hegemonic masculinities’… As a result, the path to justice is determined by a patriarchal system that determines ‘who’ may be the hero and what type of person maybe the victim” (Garland, Branch, & Grimes 6). This indicates that having females constantly playing victims rather than heroes reflects the patriarchal society in which we live. It glorifies males as powerful and dominant, while females are perceived as weak without control.
In Castro’s article, in Amazing Heroes #191, he discusses a comic, Revelry in Hell, by Ron Wilber in which females are portrayed as victims to their male counterparts. He writes, “This is a book where women are chained, whipped until they’re raw, threatened with branding irons, and pictured both before and after having their eyes poked out, all for supposedly erotic effect” (Castro 89). A description like this causes one’s stomach to turn. The fact that someone decided to write a comic for male pleasure that is completely violent towards women is problematic in itself. It is completely distasteful, and again portrays females as the victim, while males are dominant. This indirectly suggests that extreme violence towards a woman for sexual pleasure is okay. However, in reality it is harmful and objectifies females.
In the 1990s, there was a comic book crisis along with an extreme rise in violence and sex in the media. With this, female characters were completely oversexualized and objectified. Sex was used as a means of gaining profit in the industry and females had little to no power over their male counterparts. This was a very dangerous time in society because women were perceived as lesser and weaker than males. Despite this, it is absolutely crucial to criticize these comics and their portrayal of women so that one can have a greater understanding of the social injustices that are hidden within all types of media during this time.