The role of urban fantasy…

…and the kick-ass heroine.

Came across an interesting article by Jennifer de Guzman about the female audience need for a female superhero. Well, you know, I followed the links to the XY asshole type who said, “No, you really don’t.” Then I went to Jezebel’s post. Read them all, then come back. Josh Tyler (who knows what women want) posts:

Catching bad guys is not a common female fantasy.

Hey, you know, lemme go back in time to my 7-year-old self and tell Little Miss Batgirl that. (Notwithstanding BatGIRL opens up a whole host of other topics and is problematic in itself.) He further digs his hole:

Men are interested in imagining themselves as ass-kicking heroes. Women are interested in movies about relationships and romance and love.

Now, this discussion falls under the two of my pet topics: The definition of feminism and the gatekeepers, the gatekeepers in this case being filmmakers. And I gotta say, I can think of only one filmmaker who does the female superhero well (albeit not in WonderWomanish garb): Quentin Tarantino. And he made a lot of money exploiting the hell out of her. What does he know that Josh Tyler doesn’t?

Better yet, what does genre romance know that Tyler doesn’t? This is where the genre romance gatekeepers have stepped up to the plate and it’s where women will find their superheroes, albeit it not in graphix or on celluloid.

It’s the kick-ass heroine in urban fantasy. They don’t have a Batgirl or Wonder Woman outfit. They don’t have a golden lasso or an invisible plane. Sometimes they don’t come from a mysterious Other World. They have leather. They have a tramp stamp. They have guns or cross bows or daggers or swords or a combination. They prowl the streets looking for wrongs to right and bad guys who need an ass-whoopin’. Yes, yes, I hear Buffy’s name being screamed from the rooftops, but she’s not part of this discussion because…

…most of these setups (unfortunately) involve otherworldly paranormal goo-drooling and blood-drinking types, and, quite frankly, I get tired of the endless fighting of the supernatural. How ’bout some human baddies? (This is one reason I love Beatrix Kiddo just so damned much.)

Aside: I’m not talking about kick-ass heroines whose JOB it is to be kick-ass. I’m talking about the ordinary woman pulled into extraordinary circumstances and who rises to the occasion [ahem, EILIS], or the anti-heroine who exists outside a societal structure and takes on the role of vigilante as a form of service to society (with hopes of paying restitution or redemption or at least a few cosmic brownie points) [ahem, GISELLE]. Or—better yet—a heroine who starts her journey being a milquetoast and ends up with a spine of steel [ahem, JUSTICE]. After all, we’re not born kick-ass. Life makes us or breaks us that way and the hero’s journey has never been just for men.

So here again we see that the gatekeepers (in this case, filmmakers) don’t know their audience well enough to exploit another revenue stream—but genre romance does! We’ve been subsisting on these women for decades (can you say “pirate queen”?). Clarissa Pinkola Estés even wrote a little book about the kick-ass heroine, her history, and her place in our evolutionary collective subconscious, so this?

Men are interested in imagining themselves as ass-kicking heroes. Women are interested in movies about relationships and romance and love.

He really needs to go talk to Dr. Estés or at least read her book.

Tarantino! Thurman! Thank you for The Bride. I love her. (And all of her wicked evil baddie stepsisters, too!) Now, step up to the plate and give us a female superhero only with spandex this time, ’kay? Call me!

Favorite kick-ass heroines. Who are yours?

Beatrix Kiddo, feminist

I play with boys. Always have. I was the Batgirl and Princess Leia to my cohorts’ Batman, Robin, Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, etc. Apparently, I am not the only one, since the “urban fantasy” subgenre (with the blatantly hard-ass heroine) has become such a success.

Only within the last few years have I run into women with sensibilities similar to mine and with whom I feel comfortable. Also lately, I’ve found a couple of blogs with women I relate to on a more matter-of-fact level (e.g., Dear Author and Smart Bitches, Trashy Books).

But put me in the bloggernacle (a portmanteau of blog and tabernacle) and I have to start hanging out with the boys again because the women are…well, whiny. And inconsistent in their whining.

I didn’t realize this until I was reading over on Eugene’s blog about the Japanese movie, Freeze Me, which is, in his opinion,

…the standard Death Wish revenge fantasy formula: pacifist gets shocked into action delivers violent justice to evil-doers (“a conservative is a liberal who got mugged”).

But then the film disappoints him:

Freeze Me could have hummed and purred as well. Instead it alternately shivers and sweats and clunks and gives up without a fight.

Then Eugene goes on to blame:

Thelma & Louise which should more appropriately be titled: “The Original Dumb & Dumber.” This supposed paean to film feminism follows the exploits of two unbelievably stupid grown women who have spent their entire lives as victims of impulse and circumstance and aren’t about to let a little (almost justifiable) homicide stop them.

The good-guy cop (Harvey Keitel) finds them such a pathetic pair that he starts emoting like a father in pursuit of his two dimwitted daughters. Their exploits inspire pity at best, contempt at worst. Not once is logic ever allowed to compete with emotion, let alone overcome it. So why not just drive off a cliff?

It’s hard not to read a very obvious metaphor into the final scene: the caring man stands by helplessly while the newly “liberated” women cast themselves into oblivion. And a woman actually wrote it.

Which put me in the mind of Mormon feminist blogs. I can’t speak to feminist blogs of any other type because I don’t read those. (Except, well, I’ve stopped reading the Mormon feminist blogs, too. )

I can’t really get a handle on this feminist thing, being as I’m fairly new to the label. Some days I think I’m a feminist and some days I don’t. Most days I don’t know what a feminist is or how one defines oneself as a feminist. I mean, if it’s as simple as “equal pay for equal work” (and the definition of that is fodder for a different rant), I’m there.

This is what I have gleaned (albeit most likely incomplete) from my wanderings around Mormon feminist blogs:

1. You cannot be a feminist and against taxpayer-funded social welfare programs.

Where’s your compassion? Bitch. (Pssst: Did you hear that piece of the doctrine where Christ wanted people to be able to choose for themselves?)

2. You cannot be a feminist and a raging capitalist.

You’re contributing to the exploitation of women. Bitch. (Pssst: Did it ever occur to you that you can be more generous if you have money?)

3. You cannot be a feminist and pro-life.

(Yes, even amongst Mormons.) Bitch.

4. You cannot be a feminist and not want to be given the priesthood.

It’s just a natural extension of equality and you should want it. Bitch. (Pssst: Did it ever occur to you that God & Goddess might not be the ones doing the discriminating here? Oh, it DIDN’T occur to you. The church isn’t the final authority, you know.)

Oh, amongst other things. So it looks like to me the hierarchy goes like this:

Liberal-ish politics



There’s apparently room for the traditional Mormon woman role in this construct, but what I find disturbing is the willingness to completely bitch-slap a woman if her political philosophies don’t align with the label of “feminist,” especially if it hints at a more conservative bent.

So the LDS women of libertarian capitalist leanings have only one place to play in the bloggernacle: With the boys. As usual. Who are a helluva lot more enlightened than they’re given credit for–they just explain their philosophies in Belch (yes, it is an official language).

My soul sister is reading AmBITCHous, which means I’ve put that on my TBR pile (she finds all the good non-fiction!) along with Rules for Renegades.

Mind you, these are just my gut impressions, but the “discussion” of feminist issues in the church has a whinier tone than I’m comfortable with. And at this point, I’m thinking I’m not so much a feminist (whatever that means) as a bitch.

Thelma & Louise or Beatrix Kiddo? I didn’t hear much whining in Kill Bill.