Marvel’s statues folk have really out-done themselves with these uber-sexist models of Mary-Jane:

As one would rightly imagine, there is considerable disappointment and outrage about this image. While comic books have never exact been modest in their representation of women (or men), this particular statue is ridiculously misogynistic and patronising, even by the standards of early comic books, let alone the twenty-first century. Nor, sadly, is this a unique case, evinced by more examples in ArcanaJ’s “Comics Industry Bullsh*t” Flickr set.

While such an image is clearly sexist, whatever the context, it’s doubly disappointing to see Mary-Jane, who has always been at least a strong, active figure in the comic books, reduced to the sexed-up laundry lady. The latest film, I guess, really doesn’t do much to argue with such a representation – there were moments, there, but MJ was a sadly under-developed character in Spider-Man 3. However, given the huge number of people, and especially kids, looking to find their heroes in comic-books and the films they inspire, this, and similarly images, really need to scrubbed out.

In a different way, Nancy Lorenz replies even more forcefully (and graphically) by showing how ridiculous Spider-Man would look in this pose!

[Via Falling Apart In Half Time]

Update (18 May, 9.45am): Boing Boing links to a post by artist Tom Hodges, a friend of Adam Hughes (who designed the MJ statue). Hodges post includes these comments:

Now I may be wrong, but ANYONE who complains about this piece obvious does NOT read Superhero comics. If you did, I’d consider you a hypocrite. I enjoy the Indie stuff (SiP and Lenore) but without Spider-man, X-Men and other comics, they wouldn’t exist. Do you think Terry Moore is offended by this piece? I HIGHLY doubt it!

That’s probably a fair point; most indie comics came into being on the back of the success of the superheroes comics (and funnies) in establishing comic books as a recognisable form of entertainment and (although more controversially, even today) art. Also, I think Hodges is right in that this statue is not an outlier, but rather representative of a large part of the way Marvel, DC, and many independent comic books, represent women and men. I did read superhero comics a fair bit when I was younger and occasionally pick up stuff at the moment (I enjoyed parts of Marvel’s Civil War and have been consistently impressed by the current Justice mini-series by Alex Ross et al). That said, I think that what this statue represents is the worst aspects of this tradition; I don’t think Adam Hughes should bare the blame for the conventions of much of the art in the superhero genre, but I do think his representation lacked subtlety enough to crystallize the sexist nature of many comic books, even today.

Hodges also suggests this statue may be ironic – pointing out that Mary-Jane in the comics is a far more successful supermodel. Even if that was the intention, I fear it’ll be lost on the majority of people who purchased the statue.

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5 Thoughts on “Mary-Jane Watson … Likes to Wash Peter’s Spider-suit?!?

  1. Kate on May 21, 2007 at 10:08 pm said:

    Have you seen the spiderman version that one of my friends drew (and has recently been noticed by quite a few popular blooging sites)?

  2. Kate on May 21, 2007 at 10:10 pm said:

    ah, nevermind, should learn to read all the post before commenting!

  3. Seeing this image is disappointing at best.

    I’m a white male who reads his fair share of comics (mostly DC titles) and am often disappointed by the images of women in the medium. More often than not the writing of female characters is fine – there are plenty of strong, independent, real women characters to be found, but the visual side tends to get a bit out of control (it would be nice to see a female character who DIDN’T have enormous boobs and no waist).

    But then I think – wait a minute. Aren’t the majority of guys in the medium chiselled jaw muscle men who pretty much ALL have six-packs of abs?

    The medium is not typically known for it’s subtlety, it’s true. BUT, all that being said, I still have a problem with this image of Mary Jane. When you see Spiderman’s image, he’s generally seen in a pose of action. Why? Because it symbolises who he is. To have Mary Jane bending over with her boobs out, g-string showing and happily washing her man’s clothing (whether it means to or not) marginalises who she is.

    I will come out and say right now that I am not a major feminist. I respect women they way I respect men, and am not typically an alarmist who calls anything even marginally inappropriate ‘sexist’… but this image is poorly conceived, and yes… sexist.

    There’s a difference between showing someone as sexy, and marginalising who they are. I’m not certain that this was the intention, but come on… the people who made this really don’t appear to have thought it through.

  4. Kensan_Oni on April 9, 2010 at 9:25 am said:

    Maybe it’s just me… but I don’t read this as “Mary Jane doing Laundry”. I read this as “Mary Jane Snooping Around Peter’s Laundry”. I mean, really, why the hell would Mary do his laundry? Even when they are married, he’s the one doing all the work, while she is out being a superstar. You can’t HAVE Mary Jane Watson any other way.

    I can see how this can be read wrong, easily, but Mary Jane doing Laundry? Out of Character.

    • Kensan_Oni on April 9, 2010 at 9:28 am said:

      And BOY, I should check the dates before I comment. I’m sorry! I didn’t realize this was an old dead issue. *blush*

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