Wiscon Report 2012 (Minus All the Cheese Curds)
|June 11, 2012||Posted by Jess under Comics, Ladytexts|
Join the Mod Squad: Enhance Your Moderation Skills: This was exactly what it sounds like. Since I was moderating a panel for the first time early the next morning, I figured it would be a good idea to sit in on this and get some guidelines. I found it extremely helpful, though it didn’t exactly quell my nerves. Moderating is hard, you guys!
YA Love Triangles: Cultural Advance or Retreat?: This panel, which included BFF Becky among the panelists, was really interesting but frequently meandered off topic. This isn’t a bad thing; it’s just that all of the panelists seemed to be basically in agreement that love triangles, at least the way they’re used in current YA, suck, so there wasn’t much debate about that. Instead, the discussion focused more in the prevalence of romance in YA and how frankly annoying that is, at least in books that aren’t actually supposed to be romances. To which I can only say: word.
Women in Superhero Films: Oh, this was fun. Unlike most Wiscon panels, which discuss the issue at hand amongst themselves for a while before opening up the floor to questions and comments from the audience, this one – late at night on the first proper day of the con – was kind of a free-for-all from the get-go. It was also fun because, well, it was so much more positive than it would have been five years ago, or even one year ago. Large chunks of it were devoted to talking about how fantastic Black Widow was in Avengers, how Thor had four awesome female characters, included the female gaze, and passed the Bechdel Test in the first five minutes, and how much we all love Pepper Potts. I could not shut up in this one, because hot damn do I love superhero movies, and mentioned the following points:
- Fantastic Four, which I’d recently rewatched, includes no less than three “hilarious” scenes of Jessica Alba being humiliated while naked or half-naked; her Sue Storm wasn’t the best, to say the least, but that can be partially chalked up to the script and director, as evidenced by her “Cry pretty, Jessica” anecdote
- even not-so-great superhero movies can treat the female characters well; Green Hornet has a lot of flaws (though I love it), but Cameron Diaz’s Lenore Case is competent, professional, explicitly older than the hero, and way smarter than either Britt or Kato, and she soundly rejects both of them when they treat her like a piece of meat, ending up with neither by the movie’s conclusion
- one of the key factors in writing a good love interest is making the hero worthy of her, otherwise she looks like an idiot when she ends up with him: hence Lenore comes off as awesome for rejecting Britt and Kato, while Carol Ferris and Pepper Potts make very bad romantic choices in Green Lantern and Iron Man 2 respectively (though Avengers repaired a lot of the damage of IM2 by showing Tony and Pepper in a very playful, equal relationship)
The panel was also “cautiously optimistic” about Anne Hathaway’s Catwoman, Amy Adams’ Lois Lane, and the women of Arrow (a bastardized version of Black Canary called “Laurel Lance” and Ollie’s mother Moira).
(I love that my “Wiscon report” consists of telling you things I said at panels I wasn’t even on. That’s what you came here for, right?)
Women in Comics: This is the one I moderated. I was surprisingly nervous – it’s not like I don’t love a) talking and b) telling people what to do – but I think it went okay. We talked about the reboot, especially vis-à-vis Barbara Gordon; Womanthology; women in indie comics; the controversy over the number of female creators at DC; X-23 and Captain Marvel; and other stuff that I don’t really remember because the whole thing was kind of a daze for me. One major point that came out of the discussion, though, was that a few years ago this conversation wouldn’t be happening, or at least wouldn’t be as positive. Progress marches on!
(Also at some point someone mentioned Ted Kord and apparently I made some extraordinary facial expressions. TED. ;___; )
Fantastical Girlhood: This panel wound up focusing on media for young girls – mostly My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, Adventure Time, and Disney movies, as I recall – and how girlhood is presented in it. A really good discussion, though I may have gotten my dander up a bit when one of the panelists dissed the “original three” Disney princesses (I will go to the mat for any Disney heroine, let me tell you!). I only have one note from this, but it’s worth preserving: “’Girl’ is not a personality type,” courtesy of Becky.
Considering the Female Villain: So here’s my thing: I don’t like villains. I’m not interested in their stories. But I find an effective villain crucial to telling a strong story (at least in a lot of sci-fi/fantasy), so I attended this panel hoping to tease out some constructive tools with which to approach creating villains. Unfortunately, the panel mostly boiled down to people mentioning good or bad female villains from various media, which is not super compelling. I also checked out pretty hard when the panel declared that heroes are stupid and boring, and never checked back in. I like the good guys!
Girl Cooties: Considering the Romance Novel: Another one that didn’t exactly deliver what I was looking for. I really enjoy romance novels and would have loved a spirited discussion of why we like them and how as feminists we can defend them (um, we can defend them as awesome books for (mostly) women by (mostly) women that make a jabillion dollars every year and yes, are predictable, but no more so than any genre fiction), but this was mostly the panelists talking about their favorite Georgette Hayer books, and I haven’t read anything by her yet, so you can see my difficulty. Also at that point I’d been up all day and running on maybe four hours of sleep, so it was hard for me to engage. The perils of Wiscon!
Mad Norwegian Press Chicks Dig Comics Launch Party: Well, there were drinks. I remember the drinks very clearly.
“But it’s not for girls!”: This panel, which I was on, tackled an issue familiar to comic book fans: when you point out sexism in a medium or property aimed at men and boys, one of the most common counterarguments is that it’s not intended for women, so who cares? Because if a sexist tree falls in a forest with no women around to hear it, is it still sexist? (Yes. Well, if trees could be sexist it would be.) This wound up focusing mostly on kids’ media, which as you might expect was not a problem for me. I had a lot of fun on this one.
We’re Not Contortionists: I was also on this panel! Lots of comic books and sci-fi/fantasy novel covers portray women in impossible poses in order to show off all of their, um, “assets” at once. The mod put together a slideshow of some of the most egregious examples and we panelists took turns imitating them. It was a lot of fun, and I hope I get the chance to do it again next year.
Cultural Not-Appropriation: Basically a different name for last year’s “Writing the Other,” this focused on how to write cultures other than yours without totally screwing it up. Not totally screwing things up is important to me, so. It was a good panel! One key point that Sofia Samatar brought up which I found really useful was that we make “Home” settings monolithically “not-Other” and exoticize “Away” settings; making Home more diverse and Away less othered is a good first step. Other key points were research, of course, but also making sure you know whose research you’re using; and that diversity without power analysis is empty. Very informative!
RETURN OF SIBLING OF REVENGE OF NOT ANOTHER F*CKING RACE PANEL: A Wiscon institution, this panel consists of writers of color who are tired of sitting on a billion race panels and want to talk about something, anything, else. It’s always a very funny, rapid-fire discussion of everything in pop culture but race. It was funny last year; this one was more free-flowing and had fewer creepy questions from the audience, so it was even better. A+!
De-Gaying and Whitewashing: What Publishing Trends Mean for Writers: YA authors and editors talked about experiences of publishers removing gay characters from books and POC from covers. More hopeful than I expected, which was a nice way to end the convention – but honestly at that point I think everyone was too exhausted to work up a good righteous fury.
So! Those were my panels. There were also friends, multiple delicious meals, a big group outing to see The Avengers for the fourth time, and one very bizarre cab ride where the driver asked us trivia questions and gave us prizes if we got them right, and who doesn’t like all of that? I can’t wait until next year, and in fact have already proposed panels on Piers Anthony (boo) and Disney Princesses (yay!). Wiscon, never change.