22 May 2009

Superhero(in)es wot I have(n't) known

As regular readers over a period will know, I have an ambivalent attitude to blog post comments; I won't revisit the reasons, but I do have to admit that they sometime sprout discussion that wouldn't happen in any other way. One example is the slow burning discussion in comments to Kookaburras and other fossils, where Dr C and Poor Pothecary (Ray Girvan of JSBlog) have provided not only food for thought on the longitudinal "glue function" of communicative artefacts but also a continuation of Wonder Woman by other means.

I look forward to any posts in which Dr C might expand on his observations, and also to Ray's suggestion that he may post something on how radical the superheroine must have been in the 1940s.

I am of a similar, though not identical, "vintage" (his word) to Ray. The existence of superheroines was, in the abstract, as much a matter of established fact for me as superheroes. Not that I particularly noticed either. I saw the TV version of Superman, the comic versions of Marvel Man, Marvel Woman, Spiderman, Superman, Superwoman, Super Girl, but none of them made very much impact on my view of world or (apart from a brief summer month at age nine when, in yellow tee shirt and red underpants, I became Marvel Man) self. I was more a Robin Hood or William Tell sort of kid – same superhero mindset, of course, but more interested in leafy glades and mountainsides than urban skyscapes.

In my very patchy state of ignorance on the subject, and with zero research to fill the gaps, my adult gut responses are three. First is an aversion to the whole superhero concept (this has been discussed before and I won't belabour the benevolent dictator, might is right point here). Second comes a dislike for gender differentiation of nouns which ought to be gender neutral (actor/actress, hero/heroine), suggesting that the male is the norm and the female a special case. Third, related to the second, is the fact that Superwoman's lack of evolutionary survival compared to Super Girl illustrates another patriarchal use of language (for men, after puberty, "boy" is generally a belittling term; women are widely referred to by the juvenile "girl" for much of their lives).

I know nothing whatsoever about Wonder Woman, beyond what I have read in exchanges between Ray and Dr C ... but the adult name wins my provisional approval.