She-Hulkgate, Day 3. As founder and president of the Motherfuckers Act Like They Forgot About BLADE Society, I feel compelled to weigh in on this mounting controversy.
A few days ago David S. Goyer, writer of the upcoming movie BATMAN V. SUPERMAN AND THE CASE OF THE DAWN OF JUSTICE, was one of several guests on a live panel of the Scriptnotes screenwriting podcast. Alan Kistler, a writer on “Girl Geek Culture” websight The Mary Sue, wrote a post objecting to comments Goyer made about the comic book characters She-Hulk and Martian Manhunter. The complaints were picked up by other websights (I first saw it on Badass Digest), the torches and pitchforks came out on Twitter and in long comment threads, and it snowballed so much it ended up covered by secular news outlets such as The Hollywood Reporter and Slate. The Washington Post actually got Stan Lee to respond. For fuck’s sake, Time Magazine (the web version at least) had a not-joking “The She-Hulk Scandal Explained” item, like they probly had to explain the Clarence Thomas hearings back in the day.
What did Goyer say that was so offensive? That the character was created to be a sex fantasy for male comic book fans.
As quoted by The Mary Sue, Scriptnotes co-host (and SUPER HERO MOVIE writer, I’m afraid) Craig Mazin said, “The whole point of She-Hulk was just to appeal sexistly to ten-year-old boys. Worked on me.”
So Goyer offered his “theory about She-Hulk”:
Which was created by a man, right? And at the time in particular I think 95% of comic book readers were men and certainly almost all of the comic book writers were men. So the Hulk was this classic male power fantasy. It’s like, most of the people reading comic books were these people like me who were just these little kids getting the shit kicked out of them every day… And so then they created She-Hulk, right? Who was still smart… 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.
I have seen many passionate and convincing arguments of why this is not an accurate understanding of the character. She-Hulk was not meant to be someone Hulk could fuck, because they are cousins, and it’s only in one alternate future story where they fuck and have a bunch of inbred hulklings. She-Hulk is a feminist character. Some women relate to She-Hulk. The “She” in She-Hulk doesn’t mean she’s the girl version of Hulk it stands for “See Her Excel.” etc.
All fair points, except for that last one, which I made up. That point sucks. But it’s completely fair to say look here mister, I love this character of the girl version of Hulk, she is meaningful to me and this is why and here are some stories I recommend for you. What I don’t think is fair is the headlines, comments and tweets and shit I’ve seen labeling Goyer as a sexist douche for his comments. Even in these quotes, which I don’t think capture the full context of the podcast, there is no way around the fact that he is accusing the character of being a sexist creation. He is describing a type of sexism. This is like the boneheaded WOLF OF WALL STREET criticisms that it promotes sexism to show how awful sexism is. You’re shooting the messenger and you even agree with the message.
This matters to me not only because of my responsibility of protecting the legacy of BLADE, but also because I fucking hate sexism. If you’ve read me for years you have seen me struggling against different types of macho in movies, in life, and in myself. I consider myself a feminist. I am a guy, every time I hear somebody talking about the Seahawks having the first professional sports championship in Seattle since the ’70s (which happens all the time around here), I fucking bristle because The Storm (our WNBA team [women’s professional basketball]) have won two championships since then. And it pisses me off that so many people consider that not to count. And I guarantee you they would tell me it doesn’t count if they read this.
Therefore it bothers me when this actually finally-starting-to-be-addressed-more-in-our-culture set of issues is dragged into these knucklehead bullshit fiascos arguing over stupid shit. Clearly the guy is on the same side as you, people. He is criticizing the idea of a character meant to appeal sexually to horny young nerds (a group in which he seems include himself at least as a former member). I know the enlightened gatekeepers of Nerd Culture agree with that stance because I see them write about it all the time. For example, this heavily covered nerd controversy not much longer than a month ago when “Wonder Girl” (the girl version of Wonder Woman) had fake looking boobs on an otherwise beautifully drawn cover of Teen Titans (the teen version of Titans).
So really the only offense here is that he’s apparently unfamiliar with the character of She-Hulk. Which, I gotta suspect, so are most people on earth. And I think “a healthy chunk” would be a conservative estimate of the number of people piling on against him who had to look it up on Wikipedia themselves.
If it’s a crime now for screenwriters to speak publicly without an infallible encyclopedic knowledge of comic book characters then Goyer’s not the only one you guys need to run out of town. Also in the podcast, when the panelists are prompted to muse about a way to do a movie about Storm from the X-Men, screenwriter Andrea Berloff says, “I’d like to give her a nice, stable relationship.”
“Oh, I like that!” says co-host John August. “Who would Storm date?” And they discuss it for a minute and nobody, including the writers of the two CAPTAIN AMERICA movies, point out that that woman has been married to Black Panther for years! Even I knew that shit. Release the hounds!
I think feminism is being tricked into getting mixed up in a nerd grudge here. That’s an important factor that nobody is saying: Goyer was already on the Internet’s Top 10 Most Hated list. Ever since the outrage of… when some stuff got destroyed during a fight in MAN OF STEEL(?)… he has been in the sights of the comic book movie discussers in socialistic media. So the reactions to this story were largely about that he should be fired and he can’t be allowed to write Wonder Woman and etc.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: David S. Goyer has written or co-written more great comic book movies than any other single writer. He wrote BLADE and BLADE 2, he co-wrote the DARK KNIGHT. He also co-wrote BATMAN BEGINS, most people agree that’s a great one. Since I also like MAN OF STEEL and DARK KNIGHT RISES I gotta give him credit for those. And to be honest, even though he dropped the ball with BLADE TRINITY (which he also directed), it’s a totally underrated movie. Compared to the other Blades it sucks, but I’d rewatch it before alot of movies. I also enjoyed his NICK FURY: AGENT OF SHIELD tv movie, and BLADE: THE SERIES, and you know me, I liked KICKBOXER 2: THE ROAD HOME. And DARK CITY! Plus, he wrote DEATH WARRANT. To have written a Van Damme picture is a knock against him in the mainstream but around here it’s street cred in my opinion.
So obviously I don’t relate to the nerd fatwa against him, but different people have different tastes. It’s okay if you don’t like his stuff or have such high standards that writing the three best comic book movies of all time is simply not qualification enough for trying a couple more. That’s fine. But to adjust everything he says (or that you heard he said) to fit some preconceived notion of him being an asshole doesn’t help anybody. It’s not worthy of intelligent individuals striving for excellence.
After all this controversy I listened to the podcast, and there’s some context that I didn’t know about just from reading about it. One, it’s part of a panel where issues of gender were already being discussed. Berloff is asked what it’s like being a woman writing about extreme masculinity for LEGEND OF CONAN and STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON. Two, it’s also a raucous, jokey podcast with a live audience. Most of what they’re discussing they’re going for laughs. Goyer calls his take on She-Hulk “my theory” because it’s exactly that. He’s not presenting it as fact, it’s more like his funny insight into the character, like when Tarantino talks about TOP GUN being all about homoeroticism or something like that.
That said, his theory bombs. Other people on the panel make fun of him for it, not so much like it’s offensive but I think they just aren’t sure what he’s talking about.
The other smaller part of the controversy is that Goyer makes fun of “Martian Manhunter” and pitches a different way to do this character in a movie. This bothered people because he actually is writing some of the DC Comics movies and they don’t like his take on it. What was not clear in any of the articles I read is that this is part of a game where the panelists are given a random card with a character’s name on it and they have to pitch how to “reboot” the character. Most of their answers are intentionally goofy, and Goyer is just thinking aloud about how he could do a new twist on this character that he doesn’t like. It doesn’t have much bearing on any future movies other than if they want to do that character he’s probly not gonna jump to get the gig.
Anyway, here’s all I know about Martian Manhunter: Hugh Keays-Byrne (Toecutter from MAD MAX) was cast to play him in George Miller’s Justice League movie that never happened.
And here’s all I know about She-Hulk: In the early 1990s, Larry Cohen almost wrote and directed a movie version. That’s actually why it comes up on the podcast, it sounds like August was an assistant to Cohen or one of the other producers. It was going to star Brigitte Nielsen, who even did a photo shoot as the character. Cohen’s 1990 movie THE AMBULANCE starring Eric Roberts has cameos by Stan Lee and a couple other Marvel Comics writers, I’m guessing because he was developing the movie at that time.
For whatever reason it fell apart. If it had happened I don’t know if it would’ve been good. It’s not like Cohen’s best movies were made in that period, and it was New World Pictures who didn’t do too great with that Albert Pyun CAPTAIN AMERICA movie at that time. But it could’ve made She-Hulk one of ours, like The Punisher and Blade, comics characters with a foot in the lower budget, lower brow world of R-rated action movies. And you know what, maybe if they’d made a movie then the character would’ve been more widely known about and Goyer would’ve known that the She-Hulk and Standard Hulk are cousins. After all, most of us never knew there was such a thing as a “Daywalker” until Goyer himself made a movie about him that kicked off this entire movement of movies and pop culture that helped create a world for some of these websights to exist in.
Anyway, I apologize for this column, more important things to be discussed soon, and I have no opinion on She-Hulk or Martian Manhunter I am innocent just trying to be fair here come on guys. Hey, where are you taking me?!
May 23rd, 2014 at 3:23 pm
Thanks for posting about this and articulating why it’s problematic in a more substantive way than I have managed to; I’ve been scratching my head at this “controversy” all week, for exactly the reasons presented here. Shooting the messenger despite agreeing with the message, indeed.