In case you haven’t heard, there’s an attempted gang-rape in Sword of Sorcery #0. While I’d warmly welcome an intelligent superhero comic that deals with rape, rape culture, and the treatment of women; this is not that comic.
Another ham-fisted inclusion of a sexual assault in a superhero comic shouldn’t surprise me, but for a second DC actually had me convinced that this book was targeted at bringing in new readers. I should have known that instead, they would just keep appealing to the same people who think that rape in comics make them edgy and mature.
But I’m not here to talk about what could have been. Rather, I’d like to talk about the fan’s response. There’s been a lot of buzz about the issue since it was released last week. Before we go any further, here’s the scene that started it all.
A lot of people have defended this scene. They’ve made arguments like ” rape happens in the real world,” “the attempted assault does NOT happen to Amethyst,” and “isn’t it possible that the scene is included as perhaps a warning to young girls.” But the one I keep seeing over and over again is “what an stupid overreaction did you even knew that there was also an attempt rape, Gang rape scene BY MONSTERS, in the original Amethyst.”
It is true that there’s an attempted rape in the original Amethyst: Princess Of Gemworld #1 (1983). Here’s it is:
I admit that I have not read the original run of Amethyst. But looking over these pages, there are a few things I’d like to say.
1. Context is everything, not only within a work, but also within an greater societal context. Limiting the discussion to a side-by-side comparison of Amethyst: Princess Of Gemworld #1 and Sword of Sorcery #0 does not tell the whole story.
When viewing Sword and Sorcery #0, we must consider the time we live in. Right now, using sexual assault, rape, and hyper-sexualize violence against women for cheap shock value in comics is the norm. It’s unfortunately, but true. The insult that is the attempted rape in Sword of Sorcery is compounded by the fact that it’s helping to perpetuating this horrible, lazy, and misogynistic practice.
2. The attempted rape isn’t any better simply because it’s against a secondary character. If anything, it just makes it an even worst example of Women in Refrigerators because Beryl’s primary role in this book is to get sexually assaulted. Her character was literally made so that she could have three guys team up against her and try to rape her behind the bleachers.
But it’s even worst than that. Our title character doesn’t just happen upon this by chance; she expects this to happen. I thought it came out of nowhere, but the fact that Amethyst saw it coming suggests that Beryl could have too. After all, Amethyst had less information about the situation than Beryl did. This seems to suggest that Beryl is stupid at worst or naive at best. Then, to top it all off, the writer uses the deleterious woman trope when Beryl freaks out and gets mad at the person who saved her while yelling “Don’t touch me! Stay away!”
So this issue gives us a deleterious and naive female character whose main role in the story is to be almost raped.
3. At the end of the day, it really doesn’t matter how Sword and Sorcery parallels to the original Amethyst. The standard of what is acceptable in a progressive society should not be dictated or limited by a comic book that’s nearly three decades old.
By that logic, it would be perfectly fine for Captain America to be racist. In All-Winners Comics #5 “The Vampire Strikes!” (Summer 1942) after defeating a Japanese vampire, Captain America sends the following letter to a group of Japanese leaders:
Your vampire…has been taken care of! This is just to let you know that 130,000,000 Americans are beginning to march toward Tokyo! We’ll be seeing you soon! Our slogan for Japs: Keep ‘em dying!
Captain American and Bucky”
The inclusion of something negative in an original work is not a good justification for it’s inclusion in a work today. I do not want a racist Captain America, nor do I want a poorly handled rape, attempted rape, or sexual assault in an Amethyst comic.
4. Finally, the attempted rape in the original Amethyst isn’t a good thing! Just because it’s there doesn’t make it OK.
One of the good things about a reboot is that you get ignore the mistakes made in the original. I just wish writer Christy Marx would have known this.