There has recently been a flurry of outrage over a certain statue of Mary Jane Watson Parker from the Spider-Man comic books put out by Sideshow Collectibles. The statue is being called a “cheesecake statue” referring to the Bettie Page styled pinups of the 50’s where you have a beautiful woman in a sexually suggestive situation doing household tasks, such as making a cheesecake, hence the name….you get the idea.
Apparently, there are many feminist websites such as When Fangirls Attack! that have railed against the statue in a very strong voice, as well as those whose ideas don't line up with theirs. Other sites, such as the Eisner award winning website Journalista by Dirk Deppey, have taken a fairly different approach, basically saying that comic books are made by men for men and if women want to change the face of comic books, “make the f-ing comics,” as women have when it comes to manga, making a huge niche that continues to rise on the book charts.
A little bit about my background first. I’m a white, middle class male who had a fairly traditional upbringing. I’ve collected comics since I was a little kid, I’m straight, loved 300, and can imagine I’m exactly the kind of target audience that Sideshow Collectibles has in mind for this statue. The problem for me is, I found the thing incredibly distasteful
The statue obviously has some serious sexual overtones to it. Mary Jane is bent over, her cleavage showing, eyes suggesting, and there is a tear in the rear of her jeans, right next to her pink thong. The whole thing is dripping with sex. I can only imagine what Mary Jane and Peter would think about this statue…
Peter: Hey MJ! Check out this statue I picked up at the comic shop today. What do you think?
MJ: (A look of curiosity, then surprise, then disgust, then disdain shows on her face.)
Peter: Pretty cool isn’t it?
MJ: I tell you what tiger, you can sleep with me tonight, or that …thing.
Peter: (Looks at the statue, then looks at MJ, then back at the statue. He tosses the statue into the trash.) Nuff said.
I really think this statue does not go in the character of the comic book character. It just felt so…sleazy. If a person really wants that kind of thing, there are really places one can go to satisfy those needs.
I see a bit where Dirk is coming from. The lack of women producing comics is a real loss. DC comics is trying to get into the comics geared for girls with their Minx line – ironically most of them are made by men. Marvel is producing comics such as Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane that also taps into that market. There are women producing mainstream comics, and probably much more making indy comics. It seems to me that the manga model shows us that girls and women want comic books geared to them. Maybe the problem lies with the publishers, producing images that objectify women. Maybe another problem is with the comic shops themselves. I know I’ve heard my share of jokes about how the girls that enter comic shops are just there because their boyfriends are there.
Wherever you stand on the women in comics issue, I can imagine, or I hope to imagine that most readers of comics will find this statue distasteful. I can see some people having their fanboy moment and fantasies come true, but where are you really going to put this thing? I doubt the mantle above the fireplace will be the final destination. More likely tucked away behind some other statues or action figures, or better yet, in it’s box shoved in the closet. This statue just doesn’t seem to shout, hey girls comic books are your friends!