Craig Mazin wrote in to respond to criticism of his remarks in last week’s Scriptnotes.
I typed the words “She-Hulk” a lot yesterday.
During our live podcast, I took a swipe at the intentions behind the creation of She-Hulk. Specifically, I felt that she was drawn in such a way to peddle a sexist caricature to teenaged boys.
That’s not some kind of revisionist explanation. I used the word “sexist” in the podcast. It’s audible.
I said this because I believe it. Unlike the Hulk, whose appeal was clearly divorced from any kind of normative standard of physical beauty, She-Hulk was initially drawn (and consistently drawn for many years) as slender, long-legged and large-breasted with flowing locks. Her face was the same old media-model-pretty version we see time and time again.
The cover of her debut features She-Hulk in what I guess I’d describe as a revealing monokini. There are lots and lots of additional examples of artwork on the internet (actual covers, not alt covers) that are clearly pushing sex appeal.
This is a pretty good example.
All that aside, some people felt that what I said was sexist. I used the word “slut,” which they took to mean that I think She-Hulk is a slut.
They think I slut-shamed She-Hulk.
First off, my point wasn’t that I think She-Hulk is a slut. I don’t. I don’t think anyone is a slut. I don’t think there’s anything shameful about female sexuality or the female body.
What I don’t like is the practice of pushing exaggerated images of female bodies to boys because it sells comic books or video games. Women in comics and video games aren’t accidentally drawn over and over and over again with outsized breasts, long legs and narrow waists. It’s marketing. Having a character remark recursively on that marketing doesn’t negate the marketing, of course. It’s a clever way to defuse criticism with grownups while selling issues to hormone-addled boys. John and I have talked about this issue on the podcast before as it relates to video games (specifically in support of the work done by Anita Sarkeesian).
Bottom line: I wasn’t saying that I think she’s a slut. I was saying I think the people who created her were at one time pushing a visual image of Hulk as Slut in order to make money. And I don’t like that. My comment was entirely about the illustration of a fictional character. It was not a reflection of my opinion of the mind or actions of the character.
On the other hand, using the word “slut” was a bad move. It’s far too loaded, it’s not even accurate to what I meant, and for many it obscured my point. It may be obscuring my point right now, so lesson learned… and I’ll not use it again.
Also, if the people who created She-Hulk think I’m totally wrong, I can accept that. They might not be sexist, their intentions may have been pure, and if so, I am guilty of seeing sexism where none was intended. If fans of She-Hulk suspect that I’m not one of them, and that I clumsily wandered into their culture… yup. No question. Guilty as charged. And there’s also no question that the appearance and character of She-Hulk has evolved dramatically and positively over the years. My comments were entirely about the early appearance of the character. She-Hulk isn’t being drawn in the style of a cheesecake model anymore. I think that’s a very good thing.
And that’s all I have left to say about She-Hulk for the rest of my life.