I’ve been thinking about two things a lot lately, and decided I’d do a little writing about them. The first involves language, the second involves writing and how to approach death, especially when it comes to killing a character.
Swearing. Whether we admit it or not (or just cuss like a sailor) we all do it. I’ve dropped more than my fair share of F-Bombs in my day. I’ve called out bullshit, taken the piss out of someone, pointed out how much of a dick a person is, and even heard an ex-girlfriend shout out “what is this, cunts only lane” while driving. They’re words, rather harsh words, that can be taken as an insult or as something rather rebellious and carefree (especially when you’re six and you say fuck for the first time).
Some of the rather vulgar terms, as my mother calls them, are really unnecessary. It’s become a lot clearer lately that there are certain words that are just unacceptable no matter the situation. And there are others that are completely mind boggling. A few I’m talking about with the latter happen to be “pussy”, “cunt”, “you act like a girl” (not really a swear, but the terms fit), and anything referring to the female genitals. The end result of the insult is that by calling someone one of those names is to equate that person to something feminine and therefore weak. Seriously? You think a cunt is weak, especially when it can squeeze something the size of a football through a hole the size of a golf ball and still manage to retain it’s shape. That’s not weak, my friend. Now balls, that’s weak. Ball (and the accompanying dick) happen to be strategically placed in such a way that one graze can incapacitate a man. Even the mere thought of possible violent contact to the family jewels is enough to make a man clutch his groin and roll onto the floor into the fetal position. As a comedian once said, there’s even nice bumper rails set up so that if one does go to kick a guy in the balls, there’s no chance of missing.
But there’s other words that are used which are really hurtful, and they come from two different places. One is from racist imperialism and colonialism that began the slave trade. The other comes from sexism that for years saw women as property and not human beings. The latter is bitch. The former is the N-word (I can’t even bring myself to write it, the word is so vile, also, I’m white, I really don’t have any attachment to the word and really shouldn’t). Both are used to degrade and dehumanize different aspects of our society (just think about how bad it must be for black women with regard to those two words). In some corners, those words are being reclaimed for the appropriate portions of society. This sudden reclamation does not mean it’s okay for the rest of us to start using them. For example I’m a white dude, and the use of the word bitch and n****r coming from me would not only sound weird but really offensive.
As to the other words, like fuck, shit, dick, asshole (it’s okay to use that, ’cause everyone has an asshole), and my personal favourite, douche-canoe… it’s said that someone who swears a lot lacks intelligence. I tend to disagree. I believe that someone who swears at appropriate times is actually a lot happier and a lot (mentally) healthier. Granted, there’s more to good mental health than swearing (because if that was it, I’d be the most mentally healthy fuckin’ person on the planet).
Now, with all of this, one has to remember, there’s a time and a place for a good swear. Just as Simon in Firefly stated “there is an appropriate time to swear”. Don’t just drop an F-Bomb for the sake of dropping one (though, at times, it feels really good).
When killing off a character
This has taken place a few times in different forms of entertainment media. Just ask George R. R. Martin. He’s probably killed more (fictitious) people than most mass murderers (with the exception of a few megalomaniacs and dictators). Naturally, though, there is a time and a place for a character to die. Often, that is done with great fan fare and suspense. Just look to the Death of Superman for that proof.
There’s been two deaths recently in comics that have had two very different reactions. Both came from DC Comics, both came from the Bat-verse. The first was Damian Wayne, the son of Bruce Wayne (please don’t get me to explain all of the ins and outs of how Bruce has a son with Talia Al Gul, it’ll give us both a headache). I never read the issue, but I read enough of the reaction. According to the bio for Damian Wayne (who is/was the current Robin) he was 12 years old. Which is already very problematic for having a 30-something adult male taking a preteen out in full costume to beat up very dangerous criminals. But the uproar was huge both before and after the issue came out.
The second death was Catwoman. Yeah, you heard right. There was no pre fan fare announcing it either (which leads me to believe that the “Catwoman” that was killed off was not Selina Kyle). Her death was really problematic, because it’s a continued aspect which really supports violence against women in media. Catwoman was tied up in a chair, and shot in the head by the Joker. Which is another of the many times a woman has been killed in a submissive manner, or killed off camera and her body found in a stereotypically traditional female area of a house (the kitchen, for those who are scratching their heads). It’s called fridging, and it began with an issue of Green Lantern, when then Green Lantern Kyle Rayner returned home to find his girlfriend killed and stuffed into his refrigerator.
Death is a really difficult thing to deal with, because it’s (supposed to be) permanent. Take a look at the deaths in the Harry Potter series. This was a book that was geared for kids and young adults and it dealt with death a lot. Harry’s parents death, Dumbledore’s death, all of the students who died in the battle at Hogwarts. Another example of a series dealing with a lot of death is Star Wars. Hell “War” is a word in the title, so you kind of expect a lot of death. One thing I liked about Harry Potter, was how death was handled. When Lily was killed, she was killed protecting her son, which is a far cry better than when most of the female characters in comics (both Marvel and DC) have been treated.
Yes, I know, a lot of male characters die too. But there’s a difference in how it’s presented. Superman died fighting Doomsday. Batman died fighting to the bitter end (pre DC Nu 52). Even when Batman had his back broken by Bane he was fighting right to the end. As was Damian Wayne. On the other side, when a woman is killed it’s usually in a position of submission or placed in an area that is stereotypical. Big Barda, killed in a kitchen off camera. Kyle Rayner’s girlfriend, killed off camera and put in a refrigerator. Catwoman, bound to a chair and shot in the head. Barbara Gordon, paralyzed after being shot just for answering the door. The only exception to this rule might be Flamebird from the recent Batwoman series. Bette Kane went off in costume, defying her cousin, Kate Kane’s warnings, Bette got jumped, overpowered, and put in the hospital. But she was fighting.
Too often, death is portrayed very differently for men as it is for women. And people often wonder why there’s so much violence against women in the world. If you don’t think media has any influence on that, you’re wrong. Media is a mirror of what our world is.