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Parent Post: Cult of the Princess and Superhero Alternatives

The cult of the princess, with all of its feudal and patriarchal aspects, is so intrinsically tied to the socialization of little girls that my daughter was already consuming it, despite the fact that both my partner and I haven't been feeding it to her, because contemporary gender socialization is what it is. Meaning, it's fucking immanent.

Thankfully, I had something of a breakthrough several days ago when my discovery of an unopened "Wonder Woman" bendable toy––a gift from one of my daughter's aunts––coincided with my daughter's decision to, in the midst of her claims about being a princess (which means, for some reason, nothing more than wearing dresses) suddenly declare herself a "super hero", pretend that a kitchen towel was a cape, and run about the kitchen/living room.  And yes, before you say it, I am aware that Diana is the princess of Themyscira (I used to be a comic geek, peoples, thanks to a dad who read me his original Daredevil comics [yep he had the originals from 1-30] when I was six!), and so I know that Wonder Woman doesn't escape this princess problem, but even still it's an opening to something other than the Disney proto-feudal bullshit that has been inundating my daughter.  I mean, despite the use of the term "princess", Wonder Woman is a daughter of the ruling Amazon in a world of Amazons who think men are shit.  Frank Miller, with his typical ur-MRA ignorance, once conceptualized Wonder Woman walking the streets of Metropolis, upon her arrival in the male/human world, referring to men as "sperm banks"––he probably thought this was a clever anti-feminist statement, but I thought his reactionary fear of women was bloody hilarious.  Yeah, why wouldn't someone from an all woman utopia who landed in a patriarchal shit hole not refer to would-be rapists as walking sperm banks before beating them to a pulp?  The 2009 animated Wonder Woman makes a similar point, but without Miller's fear of "feminazis", with Diana becoming annoyed with men who try to get her drunk so they can hit on her, the exclusion of girls from boys' sword-fighting games, and the "social evil" (her words in the cartoon) of women who think they are less physically able than men.  So yeah, I prefer this kind of "princess" to the other princess shit that my daughter is being fed.

Unfortunately, the super hero versus princess thing won't have a very long life span if some comic creators and fans get their way.  Why convince my daughter to like super heroes instead of princesses when female super heroes have a long tradition of being scantily clad broke-backs designed for basement dwelling, manchild neckbeards?  Recently, a comic book loving father took his children to a comic book store only to discover that his seven year-old daughter, who wanted to read super hero comic books, was completely alienated by the majority of comics that were aimed at boys who were the same age.

Moreover, despite the fact that some mainstream comic book creators have realized that girls want to read comics––that they indeed make up a significant portion of the consumer base––and have begun to write characters and stories that resonate with this audience (i.e. Ms. Marvel, the new Batgirl, the new Spiderwoman), there is resistance within the genre's loudest champions.  The neckbeards, who see themselves as the only legitimate fanbase.  Erik Larsen, self-proclaimed representative of these neckbeards, claimed that the new "bulky costumes" of women superheroes ("bulky", here, meaning costumes that are more than a Sports Illustrated pin-up) was the fault of a some politically correct conspiracy hatched by a minority of comic fans.  The fact that his perspective, and that of the others upset with this "PC conspiracy", claims to represent the majority of comic book fans (they don't represent me, or comic book readers like me who are nearly as old as Larsen and don't participate in online fan communities because we think they're filled with children) is a joke when it is a fact that these redesigned female characters actually sell better (as many have pointed out) than Larsen's comics.  Indeed, some of the creators Larsen and his supporters attacked responded by pointing out that: a) they wanted to make comics their daughters could read; b) the fans were responding well to the redesigning.  Point being, as some have pointed out, maybe the "vocal minority" are the neckbeards considering that the aforementioned comics actually do well on the comic market.

Seriously, neckbeards, why can't you realize Ms. Marvel is cool? Is it because she's a character that resonates with young women? Because she's a non-white immigrant?  Because she's [shudder] Muslim and her writers eschew Islamophobic stereotypes?  Can't you see how effing awesome this picture is?

What bothers me about the Larsens and neckbeards, though, is that they are effectively arguing, when they demand a return to mainstream comic sexism, that my daughter should be excluded from enjoying a genre that could provide her with more confidence than the princess shit that is aimed at girls.  Really, this is an argument to keep adolescent comics for boys––for some sort of masculinist purity––as well as condition boys into accepting a particular understanding of gender mores.  It's the demand that comics remain the property of a tiny group of MRA-esque manchildren who imagine they are the primary comic book audience, and prize their expansive knowledge of a popular geek medium, and want to keep it this way.  They want my daughter to be raised on the cult of the princess because, apparently, superheroes are for boys and anyone who cares about their daughter as a developing subject is a [insert sexist and/or homophobic slur here].

Hence, the pop culture aimed at girls is predominantly a pop-culture about being demure, a member of royalty within a patriarchal mode of production, a domestic slave, or a subject whose autonomy is based on her sexuality.  On the other hand, the pop culture aimed at boys is about confidence, strength, courage––all of which are male attributes whereas girls/women in these narratives are victims and/or over-sexualized bimbos (and no, it is not "slut-shaming" to point out that there is a problem with the way in which women have been overly sexualized for a male audience––I'm getting tired of how this term is used to feminist-wash patriarchy).  No wonder my daughter is being drawn towards princess pop culture; it's the pop culture she's supposed to like because, according to sexist ideology, this is just how things are.

In this context all I have to say is thank the good lord for the trends represented by the likes of Ms. Marvel.  Here's hoping that they continue and become far more normative by the time my daughter is interested in reading comics.


  1. I have no idea why far leftists are fighting so hard to ‘reclaim’ superhero comics or what have you. Outside of the ridiculous objectification that seems inherent to the genre they’re also just completely bourgeois. Lone individuals, better than the slavish masses, use their natural superiority to defend the ruling class and uphold the status quo.

    Honestly don’t see the appeal.

    1. I'm not fighting to reclaim superhero comics because I do recognize their problematic tendencies, but I don't think the judgment of the genre being "just completely bourgeois" is accurate… This strikes me as the kind of puritanical marxist judgment of mass culture (or the kind of "activist art" thinking), the the kind you can find in Frankfurt School claims about the "culture industry." I don't think all superhero comics are typified by your definition, but this would be one problematic strand (there are other problematic strands)… and yet at the same time we have examples of communist superheroes produced in official comic books of the Soviet Union and China in the Mao era.

      There is no literature or art that is completely pure, and unless you only read or engage with cultural products that provide a perfect class struggle understanding of the world than it's difficult to make this kind of moralistic argument. I find comics interesting because I grew up with them and they are how I started reading––how a lot of people start reading––and superhero comics, for so many reasons (yes most of them ideological, but we can't ever get outside of ideology––it's because of ideology that you like what you like, and I would assume not everything you like is probably the most communist thing ever), and have a certain mass appeal.

      I also find it interesting as a father (I'm going to assume you aren't a parent or you wouldn't have written such an asinine comment because you would understand that the consumption of mass culture is something your child cannot escape in bourgeois society, so the point is to find a way of directing this love since there is not yet an awesome counter-hegemonic culture here) that some authors (none of them are communist, at best they are left liberal or soc-dem) are trying to make this genre less exclusionary so that people like my daughter cannot be stuck with the most boring and most reactionary elements of popular culture. Eventually, just as I graduated to indie comics that were usually more left and not about superheroes, she will as well.

      Also, you should probably read some things before claiming you know something about the topic. Ms. Marvel, though still aimed at teenagers, is primarily about a non-white immigrant girl who has to deal with racism in her day-to-day life and inherits powers that allow her to "pass as white" at first which is problematized in the comic. It's not perfect by any means, but it is important, I think, to have mass culture that resonates with people who are excluded from seeing themselves represented anywhere––as, for example, my wife was when she grew up. When she read Ms. Marvel recently she was laughing and nodding at so many panels because it represented a lot that was true about her experience as a teenager, something that has barely been depicted in mass culture.

      It's all fine and good to say you don't see the appeal… okay then don't read it instead of just making an unsophisticated comment because you want to troll or what-not. But if you don't see why it's important for people who are usually excluded from popular culture do have equal representation in this culture, even though this is a far-cry from revolutionary, then there is a good chance that you grew up with the effect of popular culture feeling "invisible" because it was a depiction of your experience and not those who are excluded from seeing themselves accurately reflected on television, comic books, etc. Your position seems analogous to those socialists Lenin attacked who were opposed to colonized peoples having their own nations because "the proletariat has no nation"––his rhetorical response was that it is something of a problem to make that argument when you benefit from living in a nation.

  2. Love this post,my friend sent me the link to this as he knows I'm very into feminist theory.Coming from a girl who father was heavily into comics I think it extremely important that girls see them selves in alternative fashions besides just main stream hetronorrmative pretty princess trope.Although my parents didn't totally cut away princesses,I watched a lot of disney during the 90's renaissance period where they had mostly semi-feminist characters like Mulan Pocahantis ect.Even these characters are problimatic of course with historical context.However I would say both served to politicize me into the person I am today.With that I will say one of the most encouraging things my parents taught me and I have learned from feminist marxist such as Bell Hooks is we must also pave the way for girls and women to tell and write there own stories as it pertains to academia and fiction.

    1. Thanks for the comments. Yeah, some 90s Disney characters were rather conflicted: on the one hand they seemed to be a little different than the typical princesses, but on the other hand they reified other problems––like colonialism and orientalism. Just watched Beauty and the Beast again because my daughter got it out of the library (I was trying to encourage her to get something else, hahaha, but it was sitting on the display shelf, and you know) and was surprised at how Beauty's character is premised on her intelligence (and the man who wants to woo her wants her to be a house wife, which she doesn't want), but then again the gender relationships between her and the Beast seems to be a sublimated justification of wife abuse (marry an angry man who screams at you, threatens you, and you can change him).


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