So, I recently watched the entirety of True Blood as portrayed thus far, and I finally watched the X Men movies, which are things I hadn’t bothered catching up on until recently when I had a big glut of spare time to myself.
I really have to say, the portrayal of characters in these things, which are held up as big Geek Culture shows, is absolutely awful in a lot of ways.
Trigger warnings: Violence, rape
Older things first, let’s talk about X3 – the Last Stand. We came across the Euthanized Damsel trope, and I just knew it was going to be coming more or less from the moment I heard about the Phoenix personality that Jean developed. Sure enough, Jean is possessed by this horrible thing and becomes an abomination, begging the male character lead of the movie to kill her. Later, he does so.
The implications of the scene are just…wow. He approaches her even though being near her causes him physical pain and damage, because he’s a tough enough man to take it. She asks if he’s willing to die “for them,” and he says “not for them, for you.” Then Logan, tears in his eyes and anguish in his voice, stabs Jean through the chest and kills her. There’s the phallic imagery of impaling the woman to death, but really there are only so many ways to kill someone when you have metallic claws so I’ll let that slide.
What bugs me is that killing her is presented as saving her. She smiles as in death she overcomes the Phoenix, so it’s alright, really. She needs the love of a big strong man to get past her vicious exterior. He says he’s willing to die for her, but instead he just kills her. I get that in the situation she was out of control, but why are you dressing it up as a good thing? Either killing her is awful but necessary, or you can write it so she can be saved, OR you write it so that her own choices lead her to her own end. Why does it have to be male agency that determines the ending? Where is Jean’s agency in choosing to die? It’s chock full of traditional Damsel in Distress/euthanized Damsel tropes, and I just did not like it.
Now let’s talk about True Blood, which comes to us years and years later. Surely the portrayal of strong female characters has evolved, right?
We have Sookie Stackhouse, the girl around whom everything revolves. Ok, maybe not everything, but still. A lot goes on that she is an absolute and integral part of. I have to admit, when Pam said “I am so sick of Sookie Stackhouse and her magic fairy vagina,” I agreed with her. Sookie is irritating in her neediness, her insistence on putting herself in the middle of other peoples’ affairs when she has no experience or capability to handle many of them.
I’m not saying she shouldn’t be involved, we wouldn’t have a series otherwise. But this is a weird person to watch. She runs off from work, constantly leaving others to handle things while she’s gone. She stays angry at her brother for selling the family house even when it’s revealed she was gone for over a year. She expects other people to protect her when she gets in over her head – not hopes for, expects.
She’s strong, there is no doubt about that. Her negotiating with Warlow in season six is extremely well handled, and her engagement with his personality is incredibly done. She’s brave, because she keeps going into danger to help the people she cares about. I just wish she wasn’t so freaking self-absorbed as she did it. She displays a chronic inability to learn from her mistakes and those of others, and it’s just…weird.
A strong female lead doesn’t have to be this way. She can grow, writers, it’s ok.
Then there’s what happened to Jason. Now, I’m not defending his personality. He’s reactionary in the extreme, he doesn’t think things through, he’s rude, thoughtless, and kind of racist. But he DEVELOPS. He grows, learns sensitivity, maturity, and strength. Yeah he’s still bumbling through things, but he’s also hard core when he has to be and he will ALWAYS step up to the plate to help people.
So Iw as kind of floored when an entire arc of the series revolved around him getting raped. And word of god from the writer is that it was fair treatment for how he treated women.
That is not feminism. Rape is NEVER right, rape is NEVER a fair action.
Even if you were going eye for an eye, Jason never raped anyone! He slept around a lot and broke hearts, but he NEVER raped or forced or coerced sex out of anyone. If anything, he was the one being dragged along into others’ desires in most cases.
If he HAD, the punishment would be legal, or social ostracisation. Raping him in return? Particularly in that fucked up scene where a girl tells him that he was the best she ever had, while in tears? THIS IS NOT HEALTHY. This is terrifying and awful as far as television can be. I’m floored. This is not a feminist idea. In its own way, it’s just as toxic to the argument as the notion that women can be property, and that’s horrible.