50 Shades of Grey was originally fanfiction based on the Twilight series, which was then published as a novel (along with 2 subsequent books). It sold over 100 million copies around the world and topped best-seller lists everywhere. It’s about to be adapted into a film, set to come out early next year.
It follows a college student named Ana Steele, who enters a relationship with a man named Christian Grey and is then introduced to a bastardised and abusive parody of BDSM culture.
While the book is paraded as erotica, the relationship between Ana and Christian is far from healthy. The core mantra of the BDSM community is “safe, sane and consensual”, and 50 Shades is anything but. None of the rules of BDSM practices (which are put in place to protect those involved) are actually upheld. Christian is controlling, manipulative, abusive, takes complete advantage of Ana, ignores safe-words, ignores consent, keeps her uneducated about the sexual practices they’re taking part in, and a multitude of other terrible things. Their relationship is completely sickening and unhealthy.
Basically, “the book is a glaring glamorisation of violence against women,” as Amy Bonomi so perfectly put it.
It’s terrible enough that a book like this has been absorbed by people worldwide. Now, we have a film that is expected to be a huge box-office success, and will likely convince countless more young women that it’s okay not to have any autonomy in a relationship, that a man is allowed to control them entirely. It will also show many young men that women are theirs to play with and dominate, thus contributing to antiquated patriarchal values and rape culture.
By creating quality comics of powerful female superheroes, the comic book world is opening up to a new audience of women and girls as well as giving already hooked fans more of the powerful women they’ve come to know and love.
DC Comics, another major player in comics, has also joined the trend of bringing female characters to the forefront. It has “Wonder Woman” flying solo in a self-titled series, as well as “Supergirl” and even Batman characters like “Batgirl”, “Catwoman” and “Harley Quinn”.
The above (from the Huffington Post) is a sign of why good PR is important, and why DC really, really needs to step up on the issue of diversity in superhero comics.
In a story using the new Thor as a hook, DC merits a “has also joined the trend of bringing female characters to the forefront,” instead of the more accurate “DC led the trend, with seven ongoing titles out of its 2011 relaunch featuring female solo leads at a time when Marvel only had two ongoing female solo leads,” with DC’s number not dropping below seven since then while Marvel managed to reach a point later that year where it has zero ongoing series featuring female leads.
The HuffPo piece (and this Daily Beast piece from the weekend) point out not just how well the Marvel Hype Machine works these days in framing the narrative but almost more importantly just how badly DC does the same thing (It also points out how eagerly journalists for major news outlets eat up talking points instead of going out and researching things sometimes, but that’s neither here nor there).
In all of the news about the replacement Captain America, it’s surprising that no one — myself included — brought up that DC has had a black Superman for the last few months in Earth-2 (or longer, if you want to look at Grant Morrison’s continued use of the Superman from Earth-23). With all the push about diversity in Marvel, no one pointed out that the publisher doesn’t have a solo gay lead, whereas DC’s been putting Batwoman out there for the last three years (Not to mention Green Lantern in Earth-2 or Constantine, who’s bi, I think? He was in Hellblazer, but who can tell in the New 52?).
These are all alternate talking points that DC could (should?) be pushing out there in order to point out that, really, it’s not got a “crisis” or playing catch-up; it’s been there for some time, but not making the same kind of look at us look at us we have friends who aren’t white straight males noises as Marvel whenever it makes these decisions. But, instead, they just sit back and… I don’t know. Hope that someone notices?
(All of which shouldn’t be taken as a “Marvel, you are terrible,” or whatever — it’s not, and its PR machine is very good at what it does — but as a “DC, at this point, you’re practically causing your own bad press.”)