I've been wondering if I've been going about this heroism stuff the wrong way, and I think I have. For one, I'm just doing it too much, and there's no reason for me to be this locked in to one topic when it's not really the point of my blog. I'm still feeling out how I'm going to develop this blog and make it interesting for me and hopefully for other people, and this idea of just writing about heroism in film and heroism in film and heroism in film and heroism in film leaves me as empty as I imagine it leaves you. I think it's definitely interesting enough to do every now and then, but not in these big oppressive chunks.
So, for one: I'm going to just slow my roll on this whole hero thing. I think I got what I wanted to out of that first wave of posts, and I don't relish the thought of forcing out another two weeks straight when nobody's feeling it and my thoughts are underdeveloped anyway.
For another, when I have written about it, I just got myself locked in kind of early to a rigid way of thinking: this thing is being sold to men and this thing is being sold to boys. I wanted to paste that same framework over to women and girls, and then hopefully try to do the same for more and more areas of representation. I like how the idea of selling one kind of heroism to men and one kind of heroism to boys works, because it seems to fit. I can clearly see the division between a lot of stuff for boys and a lot of stuff for men based in broad strokes on how much the audience is asked to accept brutality as necessary. When I've tried imagining the kinds of heroes that are sold to women as opposed to girls, I don't see such a useful distinction, and it didn't occur to me until today that the reason might be that it's because that's the wrong way to think about it.
One problem is just that it's too easy to get into a stupid pattern of looking at male heroes for men/boys and female heroes for women/girls, which is ridiculous, and doesn't take much work to blow apart. When Olivia Munn's Psylocke costume is so tightly fit that it is prone to popping "like a balloon," it's not hard to read the male gaze catering. By the same token is how effectively Stephen Amell's Arrow and to only a slightly lesser extent Chris Hemsworth's Thor cater to the female gaze. And, again, in all of this, I'm struggling not to just get myself stuck in the superhero mud. If Jack Bauer or All-Current-Liam-Neeson Characters or American Sniper do just as much to push a masculine brutality myth as Man of Steel and Daredevil and Hit Girl, then surely Veronica Mars and Hermione Granger and Harriet the Spy do as much to push some more feminine ideal as Supergirl or Wonder Woman or Steven Universe.
So when I do think about this question in the future, I don't want to keep thinking about it in terms of what is being sold to whom, but rather just occasionally to think about some of the different ways that heroism gets gendered in cinema (recalling that gender in this sense is a performative social construct, I'm not trying to think of it in terms of what it means to be a woman or a man, but rather how femininity and masculinity are conceived and performed within our culture), or how it morphs when race is better represented, or sexuality, or ability, and so on.
And to not do it exclusively. To do it, like, every now and then, when the interest is there and the ideas are flowing.
This seems more useful to me. One of the problems that brought me here was, like I said, just that I was trying to force it and needed more time, or more inspiration, or just more variety. I kept trying to make it work by forcing that original square peg of an idea into more and more differently shaped holes, and I kept trying and I kept feeling more and more icky and essentialist with that approach. Further: One of the ideas that brought me here came from my Daredevil review, when it occurred to me that the show seemed to course-correct intuitively (and for the worse) against the elements of its narrative that were going to be perceived as the most feminine (emotional honesty, romance, tears, etc.). That helped me see that this question is less about what kinds of heroism are being pushed by gender, and more about what kinds of gender are being performed by heroes. But it also reminded me that you can make changes midstream.
So then, this is me, course correcting (hopefully, for the better). I want to write about Agent Carter and Steven Universe and the Six Minute Supergirl First Look and maybe Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and all sorts of other powerful texts that examine or interact with gender, race, ability, etc., whether they do a good or a bad job of it, but I don't want to write about them all at once, right now, as fast as possible. I don't want those essays and posts to be limiting or oppressive, or locked in to some manufactured framework that was really functional in one context and just doesn't work in the new one. I want them to work when I do them.
And hey, I'm figuring out this blog content thing. Stick with me. It's a work in progress