I don’t necessarily identify as a “nerd” or a “geek,” but I definitely identify as a comic book fan. As such, it hasn’t been hard to notice how I and others like me are stereotyped by popular culture, whether it be Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons, Kevin Smith and his pals talking about which superheroine they’d most like to bang on AMC’s Comic Book Men, or the gawking crowd of guys in a particular episode of The Big Bang Theory. These stereotypes, like most, are not as true as people think, but every now and then they ring true, much to the shame of those who share in that group.
ComicBookMovie.com is one of my favourite comic news sites, and one that I check on an almost hourly basis. It’s great because it gives a lot of news about upcoming comic book movies, as well as previews of upcoming comic books. One issue the site has, however, is that all of the content is completely user-generated, meaning that certain things may get to the front page that aren’t exactly high quality stuff.
Take, for example, an article in response to actress Shailene Woodley being cast as Mary Jane Watson in the upcoming The Amazing Spider-Man 2, titled “EDITORIAL: Making Shailene Woodley Hot Enough To Play MJ In TASM 2.”
As a little bit of context, the first shots of Woodley as MJ were not met with a great deal of enthusiasm. They depicted what appeared to be a very plain-looking redheaded girl, and not one who was anything like the “super-hot, incredibly bone-able character from the comics,” to quote the CBM contributor Mark “RorMachine” Cassidy. Below is an image I took from the article which shows Woodley side by side with a very popular image of the comic book character.
Upon skimming this article I was disgusted. The four areas that Woodley could work on in her portrayal were listed as “TITS,” “FACE,” “HAIR,” “ASS,” and “ACTING ABILITY,” in that order. I’m going to pull the first, and most offensive, of the paragraphs out to explain exactly why I was so repulsed:
Look at the pic – comic MJ has lovely big disproportionate ones, Woodley doesn’t. Now obviously surgery would be the best route, but that’s highly unlikely so I recommend padding. It’s very simple, just stick a stuffed Wonderbra on the chick, and any scenes requiring actual semi or full (hey, we can hope!) nudity can utilize CGI! It’s a magical age for cinema folks.
To help restore your faith in humanity the article was met by others who were just as offended as I was:
I’m not sure if it was present the first time I skimmed it, but posted at the very bottom was the following note by Cassidy:
NOTE: This article is meant as satire. It’s a response to the – genuine – backlash Miss Woodley received when she was cast in the movie, and then again when set images of her were posted online. No offence to Miss Woodley or anyone else is meant, and I (meaning me, and not the absurd persona I wrote the article as!) genuinely think she is a beautiful, talented actress who will do a great job as MJ
As is the case with the internet, users popped up to comment and agree that clearly this was satirical, and began waging war with those who were “making too big a deal out of it.” Then, over on CinemaBlend, Katey Rich wrote an article in response titled “If You Think Shailene Woodley Isn’t Pretty Enough For The Amazing Spider-Man 2, You Don’t Deserve The Movie.”
In it she decries the shallowness of complaining an actress isn’t “hot enough,” using some very choice words to address realistic beauty. Rich exhibits just as much, if not more, disgust at the article, but more importantly addresses the topic of Cassidy’s article being a satire. She claims, and rightly so, that:
The “satire” was so close to the real thing that most of [CBM’s] commenters didn’t get the difference, and reading it makes your skin crawl because you just know that’s exactly how a strong handful of fanboys feel, no irony intended.
Thankfully, and again, people restoring your faith in humanity, another contributor named “Jack Sparrow” [in quotes because I’m fairly sure that’s not his real name] posted on the site featuring Rich’s rebuttal to the offensive editorial. He essentially agrees with her, summing up why it can’t truly be seen as satire, but more important he apologizes:
We are sorry, Shailene Woodley. We are sorry, comic book fangirls. We are sorry, women that came across Mark “RorMachine” Cassidy’s “satire”. He doesn’t speak for all of us.
We are not all mysoginistic pigs. And in the light of the recent The Amazing Spider-Man 2 announcements, I couldn’t be more excited to watch Shailene Woodley start her journey to bring Mary Jane Watson to life.
I’m mildly excited about TASM2 [I’m way more pumped for this May’s Iron Man 3], and at this point I don’t have any solid opinions on Shailene Woodsley being the girl to deliver the classic line “Face it, Tiger, you just hit the jackpot!” [or some variation thereof]. What’s more important to me is that, as the title of this post suggests, comic book fans stay classy. That the people who love this medium as much as I do conduct themselves in a manner that’s, at best, not reprehensible. The public has a general view of what comic book fans are supposed to be like, and it doesn’t benefit anyone to play to that stereotype even in jest.
Stay classy, comic book fans. I mean it.