If you stay on the internet for any amount of time and filter through all the chatter out there about comics and comic book movies, sooner or later you're going to come upon the term VICTIM. And, almost unanimously, it will be referring to a female character; usually supporting character, but not always. If you keep reading, you'll end up in discussions about a certain Batgirl cover, the despairingly hideous portrayal of a female movie characters or the odd diatribe about women in refrigerators. Now, for the most part, since the majority of comic consumers in the past have been male, those writing and, especially, drawing the comics have not always done a great job portraying women. I won't argue with you there. As an unrepentant, old-school fan-boy, I have to say, “Guilty as charged”.
But, in the maddening arguments that follow, I have to say we lose sight of reason and reality, at times, in the rhetoric and failed attempts at proving ourselves right. Because, no matter what the shouting voices are saying, things are changing and have been changing over the past decade. In fact, going back as far as World War II, they've been changing ever so slowly.
First of all, to limit the discussion of victims in comics to women is a bit short sighted. Albeit, the culprits usually fall to the 'fairer sex'. On some of the grandest stages in comicdom, the term victim could also be used for some of the most iconic men in the medium.
The first character so maligned that comes to mind these days is Lois Lane. I can't tell you how many discussions and articles I've endured that have raged on about not only her portrayal as a victim, but every woman (but Wonder Woman) in Batman Vs. Superman being a 'damsel in distress'. Now, I won't repeat my argument about how EVERYONE in that movie became victims of Lex' maniacal plan. Go read that HERE.
No, in this movie, as in the whole history of the Superman comic, any character who was known to be a friend or lover to the Man of Steel was found to be in constant danger. Once an evil mastermind uncovered the relationship that Supes and Lois Lane had, there was a target on her back and she would be forever the 'victim' of plots to put our hero at a disadvantage. As far back as the Superman cartoons and the live action television show, the bad guys would constantly use Lois to get to Superman. But she was hardly alone.
Another character known by the tag line, SUPERMAN'S PAL Jimmy Olsen, was also known to be put in constant danger if only for the hero to come rescue. In fact, besides comic relief, Olsen became simply a plot device to further the heroes story. This, interestingly enough, is the same thing said concerning most females in most comics at one time or another. Could it be that the simple fact of being a supporting character in a heroes book places upon you the title of VICTIM from time to time. And, since from early on, most heroes were men, that the main supporting characters were female for balance. So, before the days of really fleshing out supporting characters, what you got was formula stories with cardboard cutout characters that played no more role that to make the hero look good. That it wasn't until the comic revolution of the sixties that we got see real lifelike supporting characters and villains.
But WAY before all of that, during World War II, a female lead comic hit the scene defying all conventions and formulas; WONDER WOMAN. The Amazon princess had come to save the 'world of man' from the evil of Hitler and his mad engine of domination and destruction. How did this EVER get past the publisher? (This requires more research than I have at this time.) But, upon looking back to the early comic, there was an even more enigmatic character that threw into question everything we held near and dear.
Steve Trevor, although a war hero and soldier, spent most of the first few issues being a victim and a plot device to further Wonder Woman's origin story. He crash landed on Paradise Island and set into motion an amazing story that I look forward to seeing on the big screen down the road. But the fact is, although the Amazon was enamored with the soldier to an almost swoon, she spent most of her time saving, mothering and protecting Steve Trevor. I found there are VOLUMES of books written on the psychology of the Wonder Woman comic and the strange relations her and Trevor played out in its pages. Written by William Marston and illustrated by Harry G. Peter, this comic set our norms on their head and made us rethink, to a point, gender relations even that far back.
So, on to my point. Any supporting character in any comic plays the part of the Victim for the sole purpose of furthering the heroic tales of the superhero from time to time. There are two reasons for such a backlash from the comic community as to the victimization of female characters in comics. One is simply the reaction to bad writing and poor character development. There is no excuse for terrible plots and horrible character handling. The other is a misunderstanding and an overreaction.
Watching Batman Vs. Superman, many individuals have apparently misunderstood the roles of many of the supporting cast. Lois Lane and Martha Kent are well fleshed out and important characters. Neither are mere victims. Martha is a strong frontier spirit with vast amounts of wisdom and support for her son. Lois is nobody's victim. She runs headlong into danger; fearless with abandon. She is single minded in her approach to life. And her actions in this movie are no different. If she had simply sat around the whole movie waiting to be abducted and dangled as a carrot on a stick for the Man of Steel, I would understand your rage. Was she used that way? You bet. But she proved to be an important part of the complete story which could not be told without her or Martha.
Doesn't sound like a plot device. It sounds like an important character to the story. Does she play the victim. I dare say anyone associated to the hero plays the victim from time to time. Was Jason Todd a victim when he was bludgeoned to death by Joker? Sure was. But this sacrificial character received barely a mention in the discussions of the movie besides saying 'Look! An Easter Egg!”
No, as the demographic moves to a more even keel sexually, the male supporting characters will find themselves in just as much peril as their female counterparts from the past. And, I dare say, bad writing, at times, will treat them the same; making them simple plot devices to further the story and not fleshed out characters. And, especially if DC/Warner stays true to the source material, we will live to see Steve Trevor play the victim on the big screen. Let's just hope that the writers do him the same justice that Snyder and his team did Lois Lane.