Armor is a Girl’s Best Friend

I don’t seriously follow comic books any more as I did in my teens but I did pick up (a little belatedly) on the news that the new Thor is a woman. I’ll stay out of the debate over whether this is a good idea in itself and won’t go anywhere with the recent media blitz implying (apparently in error) that new historical data shows up to half of Viking warriors were women. I’m more interested in registering my relief that the new Thor is properly attired for battle. Elsewhere, I have commented on the way some heroines have been left a bit under-prepared for doing serious business.

Here were my thoughts on the original Star Trek series: “I had forgotten about the jarring discord between the way women were dressed on the pilot (sensible pants and shirts) and how they were dressed on the regular show (tight mini-dresses with matching panties and what must be space-age super hose with black go-go boots).  The guests fared even worse, showing up in strips of cloth (and even fluff) that just barely strategically covered their nether regions, as this is apparently the way alien women would dress in the far-off future as imagined by male writers who have a lot of adolescent baggage left over. Every time I get a glimpse of Lt. Uhura’s bottom (pretty much every episode at least once) , I am struck by how undignified this looks.”

In the same post, I took the writers of Red Sonja to task: “(As a teen) I was a fan of the comic Red Sonja because there seemed so few strong women around but, there again, skin was an issue. For Red Sonja (and her peers), it was common to go into battle in a chain or scale mail bikini. This boggles the mind from a practical standpoint. Why leave all your important vital organs completely exposed but gird your naughty bits with metal? This would be like sending Conan, a contemporary and friend of Red Sonja, into battle wearing only a solid iron cod-piece attached to metal briefs (enjoy, gentlemen). Granted, he was often observed going into battle in an iron collar and cuffs and a cotton loincloth but at least there is not even a feeble attempt in that costume to affect protection (as supposedly he doesn’t need it). The coldish climate of northern Europe, where they supposedly lived or which inspired their world, would, I would think, make the ‘nothing but metal clothing’ approach prohibitive, leaving aside the issues of chafe and pinch (ouch and double ouch).” NOTE: Red Sonja underwent a sensible makeover at some point as I recall but can’t seem to pick up the trail of this change on the web and my comic books are all long gone.

I spared some praise for R.R. Martin’s writing in the same post: “When they (his characters) do dress in revealing clothing (Danerys springs to mind) it is done with a wider purpose (bamboozle your opponents like Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct). When his characters go into battle, they are not unprotected (think Brienne of Tarth in full armor) and don’t get strategically stripped of clothing (as does Amidala in the Star Wars franchise, losing the midsection of her uniform) or kidnapped and forced to wear a metal bra and brief loin cloth (Star Wars again, Amidala’s daughter in Return of the Jedi). There is also plenty of humiliation to go around clothing-wise for the male characters (the once white-cloaked Jamie gets grungy as a prisoner and his brother is made to wear silly circus-like garments). In sum, you can trust his characters to be properly dressed for the weather and the occasion.”

The point of the original rant (and this one) is that female characters, especially in science fiction and fantasy, are often dressed in ways that make less sense to their character and seem more about constantly assuring their gender is on display as much as possible. After the first shock of realizing what we have here, Thor as a woman is immediately (or should be) old news and we should get past that to ask the really important question: What can Thor do for me? If it’s shielding me from a bunch of well-armed bad guys, I hope for my sake she comes with loins properly girded.

 

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