Undead sexist fictional cliches: nothing’s worse for a woman than losing her looks (#SFWApro)

wonderwoman221This Wonder Woman story (cover by Ernie Chan, all rights with current holder) is a textbook example of one fictional cliche, that the most horrible punishment for a woman is to lose her looks.

Here Diana is overseeing a diplomatic conference for female politicians which turns out to be an exclusive resort because the owner has access to some miracle face cream and all the women want some.  This is actually a scheme by Diana’s old foe Dr. Cyber, who’s secretly plotting to destroy the women’s faces (why should they look good when she doesn’t?) and then decides to transplant her arch-enemy’s face onto her own, regaining her beauty.

Wanting revenge for a disability or handicap is of course an old disability cliche, and it’s worse than usual as used here. Even though male characters sometimes get the “I am scarfaced, I must hate” treatment, the emphasis society puts on women’s looks makes it very sexist. It reinforces the idea that the most important thing about women is their looks; feminists, for example, can’t be taken seriously because they’re ugly, frumpy and don’t shave their legs.

I suppose you could argue that precisely because of that social pressure, women would be scared about losing their looks, but in most cases I see, it seems less about social pressure and more about Well Of Course It’s The Worst Thing That Could Happen. In the classic-Trek episode And the Children Shall Lead, for instance, Uhura’s worst fear is becoming old and ugly rather than, say, failing the Enterprise; Chekhov, by contrast, is shown struggling to steer the ship to safety through a tunnel of death. In the 1970s Dr. Strange TV movie, the demon bad guy punishes his henchwoman, Morgan leFay (Jessica Walters) by aging her rather than, say, eternal torment in hellfire. Without looks, it’s implied, these women have nothing.

It’s particularly annoying with Cyber, who was a world-class crimelord when she first encountered Diana. It’s not as if she relied on her looks to gain power; most people didn’t even know she was a woman. It’s hard to imagine a story where after Spider-Man smashes his crime syndicate, the Kingpin is ultimately pissed because Spider-Man scarred his face or made him put on weight (even though Fisk has been shown as sensitive about growing up fat). The Silver Age origin where Luthor hates Superman because Supes made him bald is routinely mocked (even though that distorts the original story). Make a woman ugly though? Of course she wants revenge!

Writer Marty Pasko gives Cyber another motivation this issue, but it doesn’t help. A flashback reveals that when she first locked horns with Diana, Cyber was in love; when the man overheard Cyber ordering Diana Prince killed, he walked out in horror at her ruthlessness. So Diana not only cost Cyber her face, she cost her a boyfriend!!! It doesn’t help that as drawn here, Cyber’s delivering the kill order right in front of the guy, which makes her look like an idiot (as he apparently didn’t know at the time what a deadly woman she was).

The story is, unfortunately a mass of undead sexist cliches.


Filed under Comics, Undead sexist cliches, Wonder Woman

5 responses to “Undead sexist fictional cliches: nothing’s worse for a woman than losing her looks (#SFWApro)

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