Reactions to Amethyst #0 and that “Rape Scene”

Posted: September 29, 2012 in Amethyst, Christy Marx

I hadn’t realized how much attention Amethyst was getting until after I wrote the review for it a few days ago.  A fellow blogger, of whom I’ve never met, pingbacked me in his/her post over at TangognaT, along with many other blogs reviewing or ranting about  issue #0.  There is an attempted rape scene that lasts for three pages, and so many reviewers are taking issue with it.

Christy Marx’s used the attempted gang rape scene for three specific purposes…

1) To rove Amy is already a competent fighter, even unarmed,
2) to illustrate that Amy won’t be allowed to have friends, (at least normal ones)
3) to get her and her mother moving to Gemworld proper.

There are multiple different scenarios Marx could have used to establish this aspect of Amy’s character, but Marx chose this specifically to show us how disgusting rape is, and how willing she is to fight against it.

However, it seems that many readers are looking at the scene from a different vantage point, being more of a negative thing that helps to promote the act of rape in order to sell books rather than portray it’s ugliness. Over at the Comics Alliance, it’s stated that “throwing rape and the threat thereof into a superhero story to give it an air of edginess and modernism is a trick that writers and editors have pulled over and over and over again over the past 20 years in an attempt to recapture the critical success and importance of Watchmen.”

While I certainly don’t disagree that writers want to shock-and-awe as a way of selling their books, to claim the comic book industry has been using a tactic of rape as a focal plot point for the last twenty years is based off of a factless perception.  Watchmen being an exception, all of DC’s titles have rarely delved into the issue of rape.

Other bloggers and reviews argue that bringing this topic up in a book (assumingly) targeted towards young girls is inappropriate and in poor taste.  Nerdcenaries makes this very assertion – “Despite being a HORRIBLE event given the potential demographic for the comic (young girls), the scene itself felt like a gaudy, anachronistic exploitation of a real issue.”

There’s also this idea/assumption being thrown out there that girls are being trained by teachers and adults that they should act cautiously when it comes to strangers, especially men, and that any story depicting a female who ignores these teachings is unrealistic. Over at the same blog, Nerdcenaries, the article focuses very clearly on why this “deviation” of reality is a huge concern…

Even the most optimistic nerd girl can recognize a social interaction that is out of the norm, potentially humiliating situations. More than that, Beryl is a woman, and even a teenage woman is going to be leery of potentially dangerous encounters with men. We are taught, as women, not to trust strange men. To be leery of rape at every corner. Beryl would be raised in the same environment; she would have the same health education that, in middle school, would tell you “always have a buddy, always keep an eye on your drink, and don’t let a man get you on your own unless you really trust him. In case you’re raped, this is what you do. Beyond that, you’re on your own and responsible for your own safety.” THIS IS WHAT THEY TELL US. (Although honestly, you’ll be lucky if they tell you about rape kits.) The artificialness of Beryl’s choices pulled me out of her story, and looking at it from a few steps back made it especially exploitative.

The article goes on to say how the comic REINFORCES rape culture…

It pretends that this scene is empowering or righteous. It is THE OPPOSITE, and I cannot stress that enough. The message that is taken away from this isn’t, “wasn’t it cool when Amy punched all those guys in the throat?” It’s “Beryl shouldn’t have tried to meet that guy at the bleachers at night, what was she doing?” 

This sentiment is shared by many reviewers talking about the scene, implying that, if girl’s learn to be concerned for their own well being, they will NATURALLY resort to their training and guard themselves against anyone who seems to have alterior motives.  In other words, being naive is unrealistic.  (ahem) Of course, we don’t really know much of Beryl’s background, nor do we know how much she actually listens to her elders.  Is it possible that Beryl, little naive Beryl, is simply another girl who made a poor decision in trusting someone she barely knew?  This is reality and it’s not as cut and dry as the author from Nerdcenaries makes it out to be.

I can always understand (and appreciate) a certain level a skepticism when it comes to anything dealing in the supernatural.  How many times do any of us, while watching a horror film, ask the protagonist, “What are you doing?? Don’t go in there!!”  The genre seems to generate unrealistic scenarios that even those of us, like me, who can set aside our concept of disbelief and take the scene for what it is have difficulty accepting the unrealistic nature of certain moments.

Fangirl Xanadu makes a more logical argument about the faulty direction in story.  The author was more bothered in how “obvious it was to “Amy that it [the eventual rape scene] was going to happen. If she knew or suspected, why didn’t she do something before hand?” I completely agree that, with how Amy was built up as a character within the first few pages, she would have at least warned Beryl about the jock who randomly approaches girls like this.  However, with most stories, an angsty family moment compelling Amy to leave home out of anger with her mom was just what was needed to warm Amy up for the upcoming street brawl.

But then there are those reviewers to simply like to hack at the mainstream comics that delve into the troubling topics. Everyday is like Wednesday calls DC out, saying they’re producing stories that center around these types of issues with laughable after effects. “Attempted gang rape in Amethyst, the sort of thing a wag might make up as a hyperbolic example in order to parody the sort of screwed-up mindset evident in DC’s publishing strategy, only ha ha, you can’t make fun of DC for this kind of thing because there’s nothing to exaggerate up to.”

No doubt, this scene stirred up a lot more controversy than Marx was anticipating. I’m sure.  If you don’t like it, fine.  You don’t have to.  However, there’s something to be said about a writer who attempts addressing an issue that’s running the media coverage right now.  Raped women rarely have a voice, and it’s become even less of one with conservatives letting their opinions out about the rights raped women have in the world.  The mainstream superhero comics rarely deal with these types of troubling issues.  Marx delivered a short, yet appropriately placed scene that depicts rape for exactly what it is…a horribly traumatic and ugly infringement on the rights of the victims.

And who doesn’t enjoy watching a superhero kick the ass of heartless humans who would do such things?

  1. Martin Gray says:

    Interesting piece!

    ‘Christy Marx used the attempted gang rape scene for three specific purposes… ‘

    I’ve had a good old Google but can’t find any interview, or article, in which writer Christy Marx gives her thinking behind the scene. Is there a reference or link? Otherwise it’s you guessing what’s in her head and presenting it as fact, and building on that to assert that your fellow Bloggers who’ve commented on the rape scene (hello!) are oh-so-wrong.

    Isn’t it all just opinion? Yours, mine, theirs. Even if you’re correct in your assumptions about Marx, people are still entitled to present their responses to the comic. Once a story is out there, the writer can’t control how it’s received.

    And writing ‘there are those reviewers [who] simply like to hack at the mainstream comics that delve into the troubling topics’ is certainly assuming too much, implying that its a case of agenda over sincere opinions. Maybe they actually have opinions worth considering?

  2. For me, as a woman, it always feel tolken to have a rape, or attempted rape scene with a woman. It reads as something that is just, you can only find some strenght in yourself, if you are put in sitatution on when you have to fight back.

    I see your point, but I just felt like it wasn’t a very well handle rape. Which is why I didn’t pick up any thing passed this one.

    • Heretic says:

      Fair enough. But the book is more than just a rape scene, that was simply a precursor and character developing moment for the protag. The book itself has so much more substance to it.

      • Yes, but I just got that, the only way a woman would ever become heric would be a moment when she is being sexaully domated. You would never see a male character have his first big Heric thing being, involve that. It would be something more tame. It came off as, look, edgy. And it’s already and over played trope in fiction were nothing speacial was done with it. Plus it was cut short by the beowulf stuff that was alright, but I owuld have prefered a little more look at gem world. She just didn’t grab me as a character and the rape scene was the icing on the big turn off cake. Which was a bummer because I was looking forward to that title telling the truth.

      • Heretic says:

        Fair enough. My perspective though is I find rape repulsive and anytime I read a story where a woman kicks the ass of any man raping women, I applaud with delight. These are the real world issues that women face on a MUCH MORE consistent basis than men. How many men do we hear about getting raped vs. women getting raped? If we’re going realistically, rape is an issue that a woman turning superhero would face more than a man would.

        But the point of the rape scene was to show just how alone Amy is in our world. Not only does she feel isolated and alone amongst her peers, but even the ones she saves from sexual humiliations don’t understand her, running away in fear. There was supposed to be a huge disconnect in Amy and everything else happening around her.

      • I can agree with that. I’m just saying it is over done, very much so. While it was a well-constructed scene, it was just one I have seen and read a shit ton of times. And can we also agree that there were other ways, which would have been more complex to write, to get her point across. And just going from my life experiences as a woman, I get it pushed at me all the time that if I step out of line in anyway, I could get raped. Go out to my car at night, there is a rapist lying in wait. Wear the wrong outfit, give a man the wrong idea, I could get raped. I don’t need to see it in my forms of escape. To me, this reinforced the idea that all women have to be victims; which is something that society has been so kind to teach from birth. But that is a discussion for another day.
        On the whole hearing about Men getting rapped thing, well, rape is a very under reported crime. Hell, it wasn’t still the 90’s that marital rape became a crime in all 50 states. Think about that one for a second. I’m not saying they miss handled the rape, they didn’t. It’s just this was the first title that DC decided they were going to push on the fairer sex and it has a rape and half the comic is about a man.

      • Heretic says:

        We can certainly agree that there are other ways in which to bring a point across. But I think this issue does the exact opposite of reinforcing women as the victim, since Amy was the one that put the hurt on the men.

        However, let’s take this to the realistic level and about your statement of under reported crimes. Here in Fort Collins, at CSU, females are being raped on a weekly basis, and it’s being reported constantly. Is it so wrong to address the ugliness of rape when it is, in fact, something that happens all the time? We can say it’s an issue that’s thrown at women, making them out to be the victims, but it doesn’t change the fact that it’s happening all of the time. I appriciate a woman author taking the time to say this type of behavior is ugly, and here’s what i think of it.

      • I feel like this is the time to bring up my favorite novel, which is, Lolita. The title character, is raped by her stepfather through out the novel. But the rape has a bigger meaning, like most of the time you see sex in literature. Rape, in that case, is used to to show tranny and how people in Fasict States have no control over their lives.

        Rape, when handled like it was in the comic, really didn’t do that. And I don’t want to go that is just a comic, and not to think to hard about what it;s meaning is. It doesn’t have much of one. And being that DC has been called sexist a lot over the pass year, it isn’t helpping their case at all.

      • And just to add on the whole real life rape thing, the fact is Rape is also under punished. Most rapist never see the inside of a jail cell and because some states statute of limitations, thecase are never sloved, or the guy gets out because the time to catch him goes up.

        And bring up that Amy is the one singled out to be different because of her williness to fight back just fell falt for me because the second I saw that girl at the lockers, I knew what was going to happen. It would have been nice to see something different, but we get the same bullshit. And saying that Amy is the one who has to gatecheck male sexaulity is a feeding the rape culture idea too. Since when are men so out of control of their sexaulity that they can’t keep themselves from going after women? Why is it okay for them to be so lacking in their control and that rape can only be seen as something that happens to Women. Yes, it is a power thing, and yes, its a good way to show how women can take back power, but message did they send to the women who picked up with comic and have a history of being sexaul assualted. You should have fought harder is another message that can be taken from it. Sure, it isn’t what was intended, but it could be there.

        I think the problem is that the New 52 has been pretty sexist from the start. I think if this comic had come out with the old canon it wouldn’t have blown up so much. But it feels like DC isn’t wanting to help their case with that, we aren’t sexist; they just want to keep feeding it for whatever reason.

        I also wanted to say, thanks for hearing me out. I really respect what you have to say, and it’s alway intresting talking to you. I really do enjoy reading your blog.

      • Heretic says:

        I appreciate that. And I think what you say has merit for sure. I simply believe the interpretation of the authors intent is different. I agree that, for the most part, the book simply takes what is reality and gives a scenario that’s fairly true to the time. But my assertion is that in doing so, the author actually does a good job at creating a situation that supports the protagonist in her character.

      • I agree she had a good reason for doing it. But being that this is the first comic DC decide to throw at women, and how much they have been charged with being sexist, it came off as the frosting of a very sexist cake. It’s just like the whole thing with Green Lantern and Alan Scott being gay for whatever reason. They are trying reach out to who they see as people who don’t buy comics but not doing any research about that group of people. The only ‘Female’ Comic proabably shouldn’t start with a rape then, not if you want them to buy your stuff.

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