Monday, May 26, 2014

David Goyer, Craig Mazin and She-Hulk

For those of you who haven't heard, David Goyer (screenwriter on movies such as the Blade trilogy, Man of Steel, and the upcoming Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice: The Overextended Title: Seriously, We Can't Stop With the Colons: We're Starting to Sound Like Rikti) recently did an appearance on a podcast called "Scriptnotes", where he and host Craig Mazin discussed She-Hulk. The Mary-Sue summarizes it here.

In all fairness, Craig Mazin did apologize. In the other, harsher kind of fairness, he waited until it was perfectly obvious he was never going to get any peace until he did so, and he gave a lazy, weasel non-pology where he explained that he didn't think She-Hulk was a slut when he said, "The real name for She-Hulk was Slut-Hulk," he was just pointing out all the sexism inherent in the character that only he can see, and which he admits in the podcast "worked on" him! Seriously, I've seen multiplexes with less projection than this guy. But again, in all fairness, he did apologize. So he's actually ahead of Goyer on this.

Now, in fairness to Goyer...because I'm a big believer in fairness in all its many forms...his statement that She-Hulk was "a giant green porn star that only the Hulk could f**k" does have some background to it. Mark Millar wrote a comic where the two characters had an incestuous relationship that resulted in children, because of course he did, and John Byrne wrote some comics where She-Hulk lost her clothing a lot more than was strictly plausible in the course of a superhero's daily activities, and certainly more often than male superheroes do in the general run of events. There was a Dan Slott run where She-Hulk was kicked out of the Avengers Mansion for bringing home too many drunken hook-ups...if you were someone who wasn't a comics fan and who was given a random stack of She-Hulk comics to research the character, I don't think it's unreasonable to suggest that you might form a conclusion that she has not always been well-treated by her creators. And pointing out that those creators were mostly men and tended to sexualize her, well...again, not unfair.

But Goyer went much further than that. He reduced the character to nothing more than a male sex fantasy, which is something that suggests to me that he's at the very least wanting to have his cake and eat it too. (Which is something that Mazin can also be accused of.) He wants to point out that the character is a sexualized caricature, but he isn't at all interested in making the effort at a redemptive reading (which isn't even that hard, given that she's also a trial lawyer who argued in front of the Supreme Court while being an Avenger and a member of the FF. Competency is pretty thick on the ground with Jennifer Walters, here.) Instead, he seems to be suggesting that it's okay if he sexualizes and reduces She-Hulk to a caricature, because it's no different from what anyone else was already doing.

And more than that, it seems to point to a deeper unwillingness to engage with the characters. Later in the podcast, Goyer spent an inordinate amount of time making fun of the Martian Manhunter as "stupid", which isn't in and of itself offensive--let's face it, DC has spent a lot of time and effort trying to transform the Martian Manhunter into an A-list character, and they've never succeeded--but it is illuminative. Goyer isn't interested in working at this stuff. He simply doesn't care enough about superheroes to give them more than a surface examination, and write his scripts based on that. And based on his comments about She-Hulk, he at the very least expects to be given a pass on not bothering to challenge the sexism of others beyond commenting on it, assuming he's not adding a healthy dollop himself.

This could be a problem, given that he's currently working on a script that features Wonder Woman. And that's directed by Zack Snyder. And that's inspired by Frank Miller. I mean, at this point if you added in Dave Sim and Mark Millar, you could form some sort of Misogynist Voltron out of the people working on this movie, and it's set to define Wonder Woman for a whole generation of fans that have already pretty much given up on comics as a medium for delivering superhero stories. This worries me. I'll admit, I'd already written off SvB:TDoJ:INWATA (the last initials stand for "I'm Not Writing All That Again") due to the Snyder/Miller thing, but it does sadden me that DC has hitched their star to a bunch of jackasses and sent it chasing Marvel. I like DC. I want to like their movies.

But they have to make some good ones first.


Eric Qel-Droma said...

You're absolutely right, as you so often are. It makes me very sad to have to write off what appears to be an entire generation of DC movies, but that's where I'm headed.

Jason Barnett said...

She-Hulk wasn't kicked out of the Avengers for bringing home drunken hookups in Slott's run, she was kicked out of Avenger's Mansion for consistently throwing parties that damaged the foundation

fritzcat said...

Oh My God! Let the man say things like She-Hulk is a slut or so. Don't play the anti-sexism-police. That's still embarrassing. The really indignating is your poor indignation.

John Seavey said...

@fritzcat: I'd almost be willing to leave this, simply because "The really indignating is your poor indignation" is a far more damning indictment of your intelligence than anything I could write. But I do feel the need to answer your question.

And the answer is, "Why?" Why should I let Goyer say these things without criticism? What good does that bring to the world? I notice you say "anti-sexism police" (well, actually you say "anti-sexism-police" because in addition to your other flaws, you don't know how to place dashes correctly) but it's not like being criticized fairly for your actions is some sort of legal punishment. Saying to a person who's being an asshole that they're being an asshole is not the same thing as arresting them and putting them in jail, and only people like you who never want to be called to account in any way, shape or form for their words or actions try to equate the two, in order to make themselves out to be the victim when they're really clearly the oppressor. And I'm going to call you on that bullshit the same way I called Goyer on his.