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?