Thursday, July 29, 2010

Promethea: A Review

Promethea is amazing because it is a story about women, about strong women. There is no husband chasing or love interest (and the one "romance" that appears is positively tragic and portrayed in a negative light). The threat to the women, who have all embodied Promethea, a character made of stories, an idea given flesh, are masculine. There is no Eve syndrome, no Virgin-Whore dichotomy, damsel of distress - none of the typical stereotypes you see in a lot of mainstream entertainment.

As a woman, I found it unbelievably refreshing to have such a breaking of gender roles.

Many of the times when I watch/read a lot of mainstream literature, I feel that women are often portrayed in very simplistic ways, that they rarely achieve the depths of a male protagonist. However, in Promethea, we have different women playing off different aspects of Promethea, making Promethea possibly one of the most complex characters I've ever encountered.

Besides the gender dynamics, I think the story is ultimately about ideas and how they construct reality. Thus, on one side, certain people (usually male) fear that Promethea will bring about the end of the world. Others, usually women, believe that the end of the world is simply the fall of old ideas and old perceptions to new ideas, newer perceptions that forge forward into realms unknown.

One of my favorite images in the novel is when Promethea/Sophie runs into Little Red Riding-hood as she had imagined her earlier: smoking, a take-no-bullshit attitude, and oh, a machine gun. Such a transformation from the origins of the myth as a cautionary tale for young women. It's also very meta in that Sophie created this idea of Red Riding-hood "just after this movie Reservoir Dogs came out. It had you holding a gun, and this caption saying 'Let's go to Grandma's!" Now, it's been a while since I've seen Reservoir Dogs, but I do remember it as being extremely masculine. And it appears that Sophie's applied ideas that are usually seen as a male gender role and applied them to a female, creating not only a new, bad ass version of Red Riding Hood, but a spectacular feat of gender-bending as she breaks down and deconstructs the ideas that shape the world into a new world of "no limits."

I particularly liked Moore's commentary on how women, even when they're thrust into a role of so-called empowerment, are still overtly sexualized from a hetero point of view (ie, women fighting in stilettos and leather corsets).

To the Promethea of the Sword, whose kingdom was usurped by masculine authors under one identity, she was written in a sexualized fashion:

All that drivel he wrote about my taut thighs and heaving bosom...I mean, I don't think I can remember my bosom ever having heaved. Has yours?

Or, from the Author himself:

What a PICTURE you are, with thine flashing BLADE, thine rippling THEWS.

"Rippling thews?" Oh, you ridiculous creature."

I just like that Alan Moore points it out and deconstructs it. He dispels a conceptualized gender role ideal and replaces it with something more real (even though the character he uses to do so is essentially an idea herself, really, quite fascinating).

So because most of the protagonists in this book are women, a lot of the women do things that are typically attributed to men in most mainstream fiction:

They save other women (but even the women they save are not pathetic, doll-like creatures)

they guide and protect and heal people (but that is not their sole function),

(also, note the red poppies) (also note, this is the most "sexualized" form of Promethea in that she is the one that wears the least amount of clothes, yet, no attention is called to it - it is neither celebrated nor denounced - she simply is allowed to be; she also takes on a "motherly"-ish role as she helps guide Sophie and, from that point of view, it's very rare to see the body of a mother portrayed in such a fashion - to me, it acknowledges the fact that women are three dimensional, complex, and full of depth)

and sometimes, the saved becomes the savior.

And I just find that - absolutely beautiful. The gender bending, the empowerment.

There was one little niggle I had - there seemed to be an anxiety regarding lesbianism running through the book. I'm not sure how it'll be resolved, but I thought it interesting that it was there. I look forward to seeing where it goes throughout the later books with fingers crossed.

I leave you with one of my favorite images from the novel and with the sincere hope that you will read it, whenever you have the chance.

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