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Women in refrigerators and the Mystique billboard

By Scott Tibbs, June 13, 2016

A large part of the problem with the mainstream media covering geek culture (comic books and video games) is that the mainstream media usually has absolutely no clue about the subject matter. We have seen this in the controversy over a billboard featuring super-villain Apocalypse choking X-Men member Mystique.

Does it really glorify violence against women?

We should not dismiss the issue of violence against women out of hand. The "women in refrigerators" plot device is a problem in comics, and should be called out. (That is named after a story arc in Green Lantern where Major Force murders Kyle Rayner's girlfriend and stuffs her corpse in a refrigerator for Rayner to find later.) The retconned rape of Sue Dibny in Identity Crisis was unnecessary and excessive, and was there purely for shock value. I could go on.

So what about the billboard? If Apocalypse was choking Beast, would that be as problematic? What if Apocalypse was choking Mystique disguised as Beast? (As a shapeshifter, Mystique can make herself look like any character in the Marvel Universe, even characters with more mass.) Or is it just consistent with who the character is?

See, in order to understand the billboard, you have to know the character. Apocalypse wants to decimate the population of earth, killing billions. At that point, only the strongest will survive. He kills indiscriminately without regard to race, sex, species or galaxy of origin. He is a villain being a villain. While "women in refrigerators" is a problem, I do not think this is a problem here. Mystique is a soldier who is fighting to save the planet from a genocidal despot.

If we are going to eliminate man-on-woman violence in comics and comic book movies, you have to do one of three things: First, you could get rid of all female superheroes. Second, you could have female heroes only fight female villains. Finally, if female heroes fight men, the woman has to totally curb stomp the man.

Either female superheroes are on the same level as male superheroes or they are not. The way women are treated in comics is a problem, but if we're going to address that problem then we need to address it where it actually exists, instead of seeing the problem where it does not exist. Doing the former is productive. Doing the latter makes it more difficult to address real problems with the way women are portrayed, as it gets lumped in with political correctness.