A discussion of whether the female characters represented at Comic Con are overly sexualized. While male characters provide opportunities for fans to embody the strengths of their favorite heroes and villains at Comic Con; are the female characters being equally, accurately represented for their strengths? How much is being represented of a female character’s worth when the focus is on her body and a lack of clothes. Fans can defend such costumes, claiming they are depicting the character as accurately as possible. But at what point can fans compromise the accuracy of their favorite character without contributing to the objectification of sexualized female characters in this Comic Con culture.
As a man, I'm not sure if it's entirely right to put in my two cents. But I'd like to try just the same. While it is entirely understandable and agreed that dressing in skimpy clothing does allow others to focus more on your body than anything, it is still entirely up to the individual to decide what they do or do not wear, and how they wish to present themselves publicly. Female characters are indeed still often drawn in a revealing fashion: which is where the issue really starts. And yet all of these female Con-attendees wouldn't dress as these characters unless they enjoyed the characters themselves, but then also enjoyed the outfits. They certainly wouldn't take the time to craft and build them to perfect specifications if they didn't like the look of them. Beyond this, though, in recent years I have come to understand that our culture is becoming far more defensive against the sexualization of women then it perhaps ought to, strictly because if it is taken too far, this defense begins to encroach on the right that each woman has to present themselves as they like. To say that sexualization is inappropriate in specific places or to certain extremes is completely acceptable and reasonable, but to say that sexualization is inherently wrong is both unfair and unwise, especially because it can be seen as a dehumanization of those women who do have strong faculties of mind and manner, but are put down because they like to show off more than some think that they should. The real trouble has always been the extensive use of sexualization by the media in order to sell products, and the perpetual depiction of attractive women as people with either a distinctive lack of smarts, or a pension to use their sexuality as their chief asset to get what they want. Beyond these stereotypes, there is nothing inherently wrong with showing yourself off if you think you look good in a particular outfit: and I say this for both women and men. If you wear a particular outfit with pride and never out of obligation to anyone, then as long as you are within the limits of dress-code where-ever you may be, I think one's fashion choices can be something to be admired. Because it isn't just the person's body that we see, it is their personality and their strength of character on display as well. An outfit, and how one wears it, can tell you a lot about someone. – Jonathan Leiter7 years ago
As an additional note: the idea that a female character who chooses to dress in skimpy outfits can't be an admirable character or a good role model, or that a conservatively dressed female character can't ever dress in more revealing attire because it might diminish her other values; can be considered a stereotype in and of itself, because it just isn't true. Granted, fictional characters are still designed by other human beings (often by men), so they don't make their fashion choices by their own accord. But that's not to say that real people like such characters can't or don't exist. – Jonathan Leiter7 years ago
Sexualization itself is not inherently a bad thing. It can be incredibly empowering and transcending for people and fictional characters. However, in the given context of Comic Con (where the content curation and creation is heavily dominated by men) it is an unavoidable fact that there is a lack of balance and unequal representation for female characters. This leads to a limited source of inspiration and adaptation for female fans to embody and represent.
It is not a statement or question of whether a sexualized character can be admirable. But what does it say when the sexualization of a female character is more pronounced than her super powers or other strengths? That does not seem to be an issue for sexualized male characters and their male peers. – yshim7 years ago
I love the topic. I think, there is a bit of a Halloween Complex when it comes to cosplaying for some folks. Do I want to be Wonder Woman or a super sexy Wonder Woman? The writer could also try looking into the signs that Comic Con posts (i.e. cosplay is not consent). As a cosplayer, I'm more about the armor and covering up, but still, there are those people that think no matter what a woman wears, the fact that she's there, engaged and enjoying similar subjects, is what makes her attractive. – Jaye Freeland7 years ago
Thanks for the clarification, ~yshim. I think I understand your question much more now. It would help to have specific examples of course: context would be everything here, and whether or not one is already aware of a particular characters' abilities, powers, or past deeds. I can think of a few characters, both male and female, who just by looking at them, you can't really judge their innate abilities or true personalities at all, because it isn't clear from the get go. If you didn't know who Luffy from "One Piece" was, or L from "Death Note" was, you would have no context for their abilities or their character, they're not strong or powerful in any outward facing way, and one might judge them improperly. The same would be equally true of someone dressed as Vanellope Von Schweetz. The personality of Sara Silverman's voice-over is what makes that character work so well, but just some random person wearing that outfit with the hoodie, the skirt, and the stockings, would give no indication of that character's true nature. Perhaps powers and strengths come more clearly through outfits which exhibit a sense of tactical nature, or being "combat ready:" which I will agree are found much more often on men than women, and could be a key source of your topic's issue here. For instance: Kim Possible, Black Widow, and Leela (from Futurama), all wear outfits which allude to what they do or what they can do. Kim and Natasha both wear gloves and utility belts. Natasha and Leela both wear heavy dark boots. Kim and Natasha both have red hair, which can express visually a more dynamic personality, same with Leela's purple hair. Kim wears khaki cargo pants. Leela wears her hair tied up, whereas the others seem comfortable with their hair down. And each of these characters are usually depicted in artwork striking a fighting pose, or brandishing some sort of weapon. So in almost all instances, their characters are fairly clear, even from just looking at pictures or cosplayers portraying them. You can tell they are capable of more than just looking pretty. Characters like Princess Peach, Tinker Bell, Bulma (from Dragon Ball), and Elsa (from Frozen), though, perhaps not so much. – Jonathan Leiter7 years ago