Holding You Accountable: Goyer, Mazin, and A Giant Green Porn Star

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Earlier this week, during the taping of a live-audience podcast named Scriptnotes, screenwriter David S. Goyer (Man of Steel) sat and talked with a number of other screenwriters (Andrea Berloff, Stephen McFeely, and Christopher Markus, to be exact) and the podcast hosts, John August and Craig Mazin, about writing superhero movies. A major point of discussion was adaptation — the panelists were asked about the ways they would “reboot” or otherwise reimagine different comic book characters. A conversation concerning the Hulk branched into a discussion of She-Hulk, leading Mazin to claim that “the real name for She-Hulk was Slut-Hulk,” going on a small diatribe about how she was created to play into the sex-fantasies of pubescent boys. With the initial pitch thrown by Mazin, Goyer batted it out of the offensive misogynist park, saying:

“I think She-Hulk is the chick that you could fuck if you were Hulk, you know what I’m saying? … She-Hulk was the extension of the male power fantasy. So it’s like if I’m going to be this geek who becomes the Hulk then let’s create a giant green porn star that only the Hulk could fuck.”

 

Here’s where I’m going to stop discussing these two directly. I mean, they’re obviously going to still come up — and we haven’t even gotten to where Goyer directly mocked the paying audience of his films — but what really struck me as interesting in this case was the response of the Internet.

The Internet, as it does so often lately, blew up.She-Hulk-and-the-Moloids-in-FF-3

 

I heard about this story long before I even read the post that seemed to have started the controversy on the Mary Sue. Granted, I’m probably on Twitter too much, but almost instantly, my timeline was full of She-Hulk related posts, my Tumblr dash was exploding with supportive fan art of The Jen, and people were emailing me with various iterations of “have you SEEN this?!”

Within hours, responses were posted to Goyer and Mazin’s words. Well-written, coherent responses, dissecting the podcaster and writer’s opinions, offering explanations of the many, many ways in which they were wrong.

 

Image from rubydoux.tumblr.com

Image from rubydoux.tumblr.com

But it wasn’t just the Tumblr/Twitter police: first one article popped up on The Washington Post, wherein Alyssa Rosenberg gave a detailed and admiring history of Jennifer Walters, particularly citing Dan Slott’s Single Green Female as an interesting take on the character and her depth. Shortly thereafter, another Washington Post article appeared, getting direct quotes from Stan Lee (who invented She-Hulk with John Buscema in 1980), who said that he always intended for She-Hulk to be brainy (for those who don’t know — she is a goshdarn lawyer): “I know I was looking for a new female superhero, and the idea of an intelligent Hulk-type grabbed me.” Of course, Lee also goes on to respond to She-Hulk being “beautiful and curvy” with “show me the superheroine who isn’t,” which is, of course, not the most awesome — but let’s remember, Stan Lee is like a million years old, and frankly, was always kind of weird. But the point is: people noticed, and they responded. The sexist trash being spouted by two influential men in the industry was called out on a major scale.

 

Inevitably, Craig Mazin wrote his own response/defense, through the blog of his co-host John August, apologizing for his use of the word “slut” (his reasoning: too loaded!) but sticking to his guns about the original intent of She-Hulk’s design and her deliberate marketing as a sex symbol. All well and good, glad he apologized for his misogynist word choices, but let me editorialize for a moment: this defense is weak. In his response, he makes a clear point of defending himself by saying that he “audibly” used the word sexist when talking about She-Hulk’s skimpy costumes — you know, when he was calling her a slut. The only thing worse than blatant misogyny is blatant misogyny disguised under the banner of white-knight pseudo-feminism — I can’t be sexist, because I said that someone else was sexist! does not really count as progressivism, and in the end, is little more than blame-shirking and finger pointing. Not to mention that Mazin essentially dismisses the critique his comments received with one sentence: “they think I slut-shamed She-Hulk.” With even the simple use of a word like “think,” he invalidates the criticism, because he knew what he meant, and it’s on the critics for being too sensitive. Regardless of whether or not Mazin was “right” about the oversexualization of superheroines by their creators is not the issue, it is the way he chose to speak about it, and the way he didn’t challenge the even more offensive misogyny of his guest.

 

Goyer was also called to task by various blogs for his treatment of Justice League fans (a topic not addressed by Mazin in his response), by speaking about Martian Manhunter, a foundation member of the Justice League, in less than favorable terms. At one point, he asks the audience how many of them have heard of J’onn J’onzz. After the response, he inquires “How many people that raised their hands have ever been laid?” This is taking a stab at one of the oldest, stupidest, and most inaccurate tropes of geek culture: that we can’t, and don’t, have sex. Our interest in comics, video games, tabletop RPGs, and the like renders us non-sexual beings, wholly reliant on things like She-Hulk to bring us close to even the edge of the possibility of sexual experience. Goyer invalidates years of innovative comic writing, independent books, and even the current superhero comics market, which boasts books like Young Avengers and JH Williams III’s run on Batwoman that bring us classic superheroes who belong to a variety of ethnicities as well as gender and sexual identities. He culminates tearing down two of the comic worlds most-beloved green heroes with this idea for a Martian Manhunter reboot, ending with implied “angry” (potentially non-consensual) sex with She-Hulk (remember, this is the man who will be writing the much-anticipated big-screen debut of Wonder Woman):

“I would set it up like The Day After Tomorrow. We discover one of those Earth-like planets… So maybe like… we get the DNA code from that planet and then grow him in a petri dish here… He’s like in Area 51 or something and we’re just basically… doing biopsies on him. Then he gets out and he’s really angry and he fucks She-Hulk.”

 

The cracking open of the comics world in the past few years, largely owed to the mainstream success of movies like Iron Man and The Avengers, means that the jealous guarding, ostracizing, and gatekeeping that has gone on for decades is finally being challenged. It’s not just the newbies, fighting for their space at the table, but the lifelong readers as well (like myself), who finally feel empowered and supported enough to question, to critique, to call out people like Goyer for being a jerk. Comics are being taken more seriously by the mainstream media. They’re no longer a niche market, and now stand for a more generalized human experience: whatever that lived experience may be. While it is difficult to listen to men like Goyer and Mazin run their mouths, it is heartening to know that the tide is changing, and that people are recognizing the fact that they should expect more from the creators of what they consume, and should call them out when they fall short.

 

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About Author

Ivy Noelle Weir is a Librarian, Writer, Photographer, and feminist geek out to ruin everything you love. She tweets excessively at @ivynoelle.

3 Comments

  1. Three things:

    1. I was amused when I was texting you the other day and my phone kept trying to autocorrect “Goyer” to “goiter.”

    2. What does “the real name for She-Hulk” mean, as a phrase? What is the fake name?

    3. The whole “non-consensual sex with She-Hulk” thing seems like it would go about as well for Goyer’s TOTALLY NON-GOOFY alternate-Earth “DNA code” (?) Area 51-cloned Martian Manhunter as jumping into some spinning helicopter blades.

  2. When I read the Mary Sue article I didn’t see how the angry Martian Manhunter’s sex with She-Hulk was implied to also be angry. Seemed pretty obvious to me that he’d be angry with the Area 51 people who’d held him captive, and that the sex with She-Hulk was just a callback to the earlier talk about having sex with She-Hulk. Because Goyer is such a comedian, you know?