I get mail:
If this combination of two of your favorite topics doesn’t rouse you from your blogging doldrums, nothing will.
To which I replied:
Then I started writing this post, which is, as per the title, about James Hudnall’s remarkably unselfconscious rant about Wonder Woman. Hudnall’s not interested in her costume change, which was apparently a topic of no small interest while I had my head in the sand, and about which all I have to say is this: if you attended a meeting and were the only one there wearing a swimsuit, would you feel uncomfortable? Enough said. For Hudnall, though, the debate about her costume merely provides him an excuse to attack her character. Like many a spurned misogynist, he does so by accusing her, and by proxy all feminists, of misandry. He begins:
The problem with Wonder Woman isn’t her look. It’s her personality. She has never been a warm, appealing character. She comes from an island populated only by immortal Amazons who hate men. And men aren’t allowed to set foot on the island. This island of super-women send her to “the man’s world” where she brings the baggage of this sexist worldview.
You want to talk about baggage? Consider what Hudnall brings to the table: women who are not “warm” are also not “appealing.” The first question, obviously, is what does he mean by “warm”? The second, of course, is “appealing” to whom? That he failed to notice that his definition of “warmth” entails that she must be “appealing” to men like him is a remarkable, albeit typical among his lot, feat of argumentative blindness: women who possess characteristics that he finds unattractive hate all men because they fail to cater or conform to Hudnall’s needs.
In addition to his inability to distinguish the universal from the particular, he simply misunderstands the character. Wonder Woman does enjoy giving those who underestimate her because she’s a woman, be they thugs or comic villains, their comeuppance—a category that by extension includes readers like Hudnall, but more on that in a bit. But notice what Hudnall fails to: the comic universe is predicated on the logic of a vicarious enjoyment of comeuppance.
Consider this scene in The Dark Knight. The nifty camerawork helps ratchet up the tension on a formal level, but on a narrative one, the tension comes from the viewer knowing what the Joker doesn’t: the implications of having crashed Bruce Wayne’s fundraiser. The viewer anticipates the comeuppance, because the Joker underestimated Wayne on account of his being a wealthy playboy. Same thing works in any situation in which Clark Kent is threatened. It even girds works that demonstrate the limitations of the genre, as that last panel neatly illustrates.
In other words, despite being the motivating force behind the genre, the logic comeuppance only bothers Hudnall when men who underestimate women receive theirs.
I wonder why that is?