Monday, July 11, 2005

Warning: I'm going to talk about Marvel, race, and Captain Planet

Amy is home for an extended long weekend of family nagging, being scraped by dermatologists, and delicious lead poisoning and so my mutant brain in a jar has been left to its own sinister devices. Usually this entails cooking experiments or giant lasers but I was feeling kind of introspective and didn't get much done.

In order to stave off the boredom of an empty, sweaty, shitty apartment, I reordered my run of Sandman (I recently acquired 3 early issues at a garage sale, squee of squees!) and settled down with some classic Chris Claremont New Mutants.

As I was savoring the delicious crack (and I mean that in the most loving sense--it's one of my favorite Marvel series, but 500 pound evil Xi'an Coy Manh does not make any damn sense) when I came to a realization that stunned me: I would not want to be on their team at all.

Usually, I would be more than happy should some merciful god reduce me to two dimensions and Mary Sue me into, say, Sandman, JLI, or the Outsiders. But I would loathe to have been written by Claremont in the 80's because he would have made me a huge freaking bitch.

While my beloved characters have their own personalities, they are still very stereotypical. Sunspot is the sassy Latin dude (he reminds me a lot of Fire but um penisy), Cannonball is a Southern gentleman-hick, Wolfsbane is...um, Scottish (and apparently there was no TV in Scotland in the 80's), and Dani Moonstar wears a freaking feather headdress so everyone is really, really sure she is an Indian. This is an instance of what I like to call Captain Planet diversity--the "one from this continent, one from that continent, make sure they have visual racial markers, and everyone gets an identifying accent" approach that dominated attempts at "diversity" until fairly recently.

Granted, this is the ideal that I was raised with, and it is not the same as tokenization. Apache Chief, Black Vulcan, and...um, the Asian wind samurai with no pants from Super Friends were tokens. They were minority characters grafted on to a pre-existing white team. The Captain Planet approach starts out with a multi-ethnic group and does not feature a white majority. Usually, though, there is at least one white American character, and his or her coming to terms with everybody's cultural differences is at some point an important plot point. Think again of Wheeler--fiery Irish-American from Brooklyn learning to appreciate cultural differences. Nobody was worried about Gee or Kwame learning about white people--it was all about Wheeler expanding his horizons.

Then again, New Mutants was more complex than that in who had to learn to understand whom, and there was an alien, a girl supposedly from Nova Roma aka ancient rome in the modern day (who later suffered terrible, terrible retconning), and a Russian girl raised by alternate universe Storm in a limbo dimension. But when things got messy, they had a slumber party, and it all worked itself out. There is still a lot of stereotyping in this strategy (fscking feather headdress) but it is an improvement. And unconsciously, for people who grew up with this stuff, it's an ideal. I am sure that this archetypical team is what ensured I would always be really uncomfortable wiht a room full of white people making decisions.

But I still wouldn't want to be in the comic. Personal disclosure: I am from Grosse Pointe. It is a suburb of Detroit infamous for wealth and snobbery. It's 90210 but colder and less interesting. It's 48236. But due to an excellent upbringing by conscientious, non-snobby liberals, I am not like everyone else you might know from that place. But if I had to be reduced as a teenager to a stereotype for purposes of creating a "one from column A, one from column B" team, and I had discovered my amazing powers in the Marvel Universe in the 1980's, I would have been the bitchy rich girl who had to learn to get along with poor people and Indians. And robots. And Russian girls from Limbo. (Monet from Generation X was somewhat like this, except she was also a genius and that made her cool. And Claremont would not have made me cool.) I would have been girl Cyclops! And no one would like me!

Thank Bob that Chris Claremont is not writing my life. As of now, I am instead fulfilling the tormented genius stereotype, teamed up with a working-class hero partner, with the lesbian subtype, and an odd-couple templated dropped on top, and everything is going just fine.

9 Comments:

Anonymous Ron said...

But as a bitchy rich girl, you wouldn't have ended up on the New Mutants anyway. You'd have been shipped off to the Massachusetts Academy and forced to join the Hellions.

It is probably pretty lame that I know that.

12:02 AM, July 12, 2005  
Blogger Franny said...

Yes, and then I would be dead. So I would lose either way.

9:05 AM, July 12, 2005  
Anonymous Ron said...

But if you were lucky, your death scene would be poignantly rendered by Bill Sienkiewicz!

12:49 PM, July 12, 2005  
Blogger J said...

Bril-liant! :'D

On a second note, and forgive me for not keeping up with anything in the Marvel X-dom at all, whatever happened to those crazy kids from Gen X? I used to love that series X(...

12:52 PM, July 12, 2005  
Blogger Franny said...

Well, Jono ended up in Runaways as a bad guy I think (I haven't read the series but I've seen him show up in scans from scans daily) and that's about all I'm sure of...

I totally loved Gen X as well, and I think I'm going to have to do a "where are they now" investigation sometime soon.

1:21 PM, July 12, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

re: ethnic diversity, I liked the lesson GI Joe taught us. On one side, Cobra---where the rank and file are identical masked white men, and the top brass just WILL NOT STOP backstabbing each other. On the other side, GI Joe---misfit soldiers from almost any background you could think of, can't even be bothered to wear the same uniforms, but dammit they were gonna stick together no matter what nonsensical plan Cobra came up with.

Now you know.

1:34 PM, July 12, 2005  
Blogger Devon said...

I frickin' love this blog! I want Geoff Johns to write me. I'd die and come back cool, walking around smacking Batman then walking into men's rooms, holding my mace, freakin' squares out and shit.

2:30 PM, July 12, 2005  
Blogger J said...

Jono?! I loved Jono. T_T He was my moody angst-ridden comic crush!

I STILL fantasize about him layin' Skin out on the pool table for dirty sex0rs. D:

3:20 PM, July 12, 2005  
Anonymous Rachel said...

Nah, Jono wasn't a bad guy in Runaways. At first, he was part of a misfit-ish good-guy team (ex-teen vigilantes) who got together, first as a support group, then went back to the costumes so they could stop another at-large misift vaguely good-guy team (the Runaways themselves)-- and help them, in stopping them, since after all they *are* a bunch of punkling kids on the lam from everyone from California state law to the Avengers.
And then it was revealed that it hadn't been Jono at all, but some guy using magic to impersonate him. Woo!

9:32 PM, August 01, 2005  

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