The first day, and I am already saying "There's Too Much!" Which is kind of wonderful. So; what did you go to today, kaffyr? (ETA: this got so long, that I'm going over only one panel in this post. Christ, woman, you're not at work, you don't have to write a damned news story....)
Strong Vs. Kickass "Can the two ever be the same thing? Are they always the same thing? What characteristics make for a strong female character other than sheer physical strength? Does she have to be a genius or show her vulnerabilities in order to be fully fleshed out, or is it okay for a female character to merely be tough, witty, and attractive..." Partial panel description. Panelists, Rebecca Holden, Alex Bledsoe, Julia Dvorin, Holly McDowell and Caroline Pruett.
This was a good way to kick off the day; an enjoyable, well-rounded discussion that delivered on the description's promise. Some high points for me included some ways the panelists offered as differentiations between strong and kickass; for instance, "kickass" being prone to sexualization, used on imagery of girl-sprites with physically impossible guns - and about whether kickass women could be expected to grow into maturity. (Someone - I can't remember who, it might have been Caroline Pruett - said "The difference between Buffy the kickass hero Danaerys Stormborn, is that Danaerys knows enough to come in out of the rain." I liked that, although I love both characters.)
We talked about whether terms like "babe" could be reclaimed from infantalization and sexualization. There were also some other discussions of reclamation of such characterizations by readers and consumers of the imagery, who then invest two-dimensional characters with back story and reality, in a way the original creators never did. That, of course, veers very close to a discussion of fanfic, which pleased me. People talked about how fanfic and fanart can really transform the characters' imagery. Dvorin pointed out that this type of reclamation/investment/subversion is possible because of a sea change in the culture that allows consumers to become active and do this sort of thing, rather that simply consume.
Rebecca Holden asked what the definition of hero was, and one young audience member impressed the hell out of me by pointing out that the perception of readers can be at odds with the intentions of writers, and that our discussion may well be formed by the former rather than the latter. She also later said she wanted to see more relationships - real relationships - between women in literature and media.
The discussion veered around during its examination of the idea of "strength", from looking at what constitutes strength in a woman to comparing it with what, culturally, constitutes strength in a man, and the different battles that creators give strong women, vs. those given to strong men. (For instance, Bledsoe pointed out that male superheroes are allowed to save the world, but female superheroes tend to be expected to save their families, or their boyfriends, as if they aren't allowed to to the "big" saves. Of course, someone turned that on its head and say "I'd much rather watch Sarah Connor save her son than James Bond save England", which was an equally valid observation.)
People brought up books, movies, comic books (like "Y, The Last Man", which examines a world in which something kills all but one man in the world, from the youngest male infant to the oldest man, leaving only women.)
And all in all it was ... uhm ... real good stuff.
The second panel I went to was "Dispelling Trans Myth" which was fantastic for me to go to. But that's a post for another day, when my brain is more organized than it is now.
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