Comics, Critique, Geek Culture, Gender, Opinion

Sequential Sartorial on Princess Crystal’s Redesign: Hair vs. Body

The Inhumans’ Princess Crystal’s weird hair thing is one of the most precious mysteries of comics; undaunted by science, unsullied by commonly touted explanations. It is—it simply is. Crystal’s hair does this thing, and we like it, and it is good. Here is a series of tweets on the subject:

But I’ll tell you more deeply why I like Crystal’s weird hair thing. I like it because it makes me feel special.

When you get a Barbie or Barbie-like doll, if she is new and presented to you in her own pristine box environment, her hair will be controlled within it. In my youthful experience, it tended to be banded by a wideish strip of usually clear, fairly firm plastic. I recall it to generally be flat on one edge and jagged on the other, but many methods have been used. This strip or band is there to perform a highly necessary function: it is to arrange the hair of the doll in an attractive and certain way: as one full, smooth, buoyant swag.

Barbie hair (and the hair of Barbie-like dolls) is not especially good hair. It’s impossible that it would be, because a Barbie is just too small. Even without considerations of relativity, it is thicker and coarser than real hair; real hair itself even often takes the notion to stick out somewhat alarmingly and become a C-shaped arrangement of lumpy claws, when shorter than a hand and not cared for impeccably. Barbie hair styling goes downhill fast. Secondhand dolls will be noticeably imperfect, about the bouffant.

Posh Spice Barbie head

Not so Posh now

Hair kept suspended and controlled, just-so, while the doll is given or gifted to the child who finds themselves suddenly blessed with a streak of luck, means that this child has done something right and special and good. They are valued and even, for a while, they are cosseted. You’re a good girl, this band of plastic says. Remember that band of plastic?, Crystal’s weird hair thing says. Crystal’s weird hair thing reminds me of being given toys during childhood, when toys matter a great, great deal and gifts are the only way of receiving anything. Being given a brand new doll as a child is close to true heaven. There you are pinned in the face of generosity. Validation via luxury! What a moment!

Perhaps I’m the only person in all the world who makes this aesthetic association! Am I a uniquely sparkling diamond?? Perhaps. But I’m assuredly not the only comics reader who played with Barbies as a child. So it’s a shame to lose Crystal’s long hair, because short hair just doesn’t need a band in the same way. You can be Kaare Andrews-good, and all you’ve got to shoot for is looking like some sort of drunken hijinks backwards Minions cosplay.

All-New Inhumans #2 variant cover, Kaare Andrews for Marvel Comics

So, the body then. If we want to change Crystal’s classic design up a bit, put a modern mark on a Kirby character, what should we do? We should make her fatter.

Kirby characters, first of all, tend to have a structure sturdier and thicker than the average 2015 comic book woman. He liked to draw solid, muscular women, looking at whom provides a middle-step on the thin to fat path. “There is precedence, your honour.” And Kirby also liked to draw high-cheeked, intense vivacity of a sort that’s recognisable immediately as a facet of the success and attraction of many pro-fat and fat-acceptance style bloggers. A fat, happy, big-haired Crystal in a chic graphic jumpsuit is a woman in a happening and fashionable mould. There is marketability and money in a joyful, stylish, fat alien princess giving a tongue-lashing to some assholes who think it’s okay to shout slurs at her on the street. That’s intensely topical, intensely modern, “relevant to our times.” A silver lining in the dark, drawing clouds of 2016, which Valiant has already picked up on.

Where Crystal’s hair band is nostalgic and precious, her tall, thin, wasp-shaped body is reminiscent of Barbie in a negative sense. Box-fresh Barbie hair is exciting because it represents validation, and because it doesn’t last—Barbie’s hard plastic commercial idealism never gets shorter, never builds muscle, never accumulates fat. Barbie’s body never changes, and Barbie’s body is the only one we’ve learnt to regard as normal for purchase (until we get older and learn that waists can be even thinner, thighs longer, breasts more enormous and buttocks quite round). Normal for purchase means normal for consumption, normal to “have,” and Barbie bodies become the spore of a social plague. I doubt anybody meant for me to view Crystal though this hot pink lens, but context is context. It looks to me like the harsher strictures of Barbie’s template are being upheld and redoubled while the make-your-own tender moments of a childhood in this material world are missed, by grown men’s eyes.

Step it up, Marv. Capitalise on the little pushes from behind your newer hires are shouldering.