We’ve talked a lot about what happens when you apply the conventions of superheroine costuming or posing to superheroes, or men in general. So I was glad io9 dug up this spread of The Wasp and She-Hulk getting all Sex and the City in assessing the hunkiness of their male counterparts: in other words, doing to superheroes what male readers often do to superheroines.
As with most of these experiments, it shows how ridiculous the conventions of consumption are when they’re applied to a different product. Of course you’d be well within your rights to complain that She-Hulk’s being awfully reductionist when she complains that “Captain America — Mr. Avenger himself. For a little guy, he certainly has the bod, the looks, and the moves to put everybody but gods like Thor to shame. My only problem with him is he just doesn’t ever hang loose — ever! For me, that knocks him down to an ‘8’.” Because of course there’s more to Cap than what he looks like out of those ludicrous boots. There’s the whole punching Hitler thing! And being a civil libertarian in Civil War! And learning his horrifying origin story in Red, White and Black! We assume those things are supposed to be what’s most important about him, not whether She-Hulk thinks he’s worth a wild night at the Avengers mansion. But when it comes to, say, Catwoman, all too often it feels like those priorities are reversed. Who cares if she’s an abused wife, a prostitute, a sneak thief, or a cosmetics company executive? There’s a red bra to exhibit prominently and roof sex to be had!
I’m not saying that superheroes shouldn’t be sex objects, or that people of all genders and sexual orientations don’t have a right to some aesthetic appreciation. Chris Evans’ abs in Captain America are literally and figuratively a work of art. But it’s revealing how weird things we accept as normal sound when we move them to a different context, or when we turn different kinds of people from subjects into objects.