Saturday 24 July 2010

Feminist Superhero of the 1980s

The 80s: the decade that almost cost us the ozone layer. But there were some great things about it: the ZX Spectrum, the mainstreaming of gay subculture, the raising of the Mary Rose ... and the golden age of kids' TV.

Okay, I am biased. My formative years belong to the 80s. But there seemed to be something about the must-watch telly of the day. Advances in computer technology brought us
Knightmare. A jobbing Peter Jones of Manfred Mann fronted Beat the Teacher. And bestriding the decade like a cartoon colossus was The Mysterious Cities of Gold, perhaps the finest animated series children's TV has ever seen.

But there was another trope that got a lot of airing. As the USA and Soviet Union duked it out on the frontlines of the Cold War, a ridiculous number of Manichean cartoons were churned out of American studios. He-Man vs Skeletor. Autobots vs Decepticons. Thundercats vs Mutants. MASK vs VENOM. Good grief, even Teddy Ruxpin, the Care Bears and Rainbow Brite had to thwart their own set of baddies in every episode.

This was an innocent time. There was evil out there, but at least you knew who your enemies were. But it was also a hyper-masculine time. It was the blokes saving the world/Third Earth/Cybertron/Eternia with their might-is-right philosophy. By whatever means the baddie was eventually overcome, it rested on a solid foundation of guns and swordplay.

But still, one woman slipped through the net. She refused to play by their rules. Sure, her show had the odd dodgy subtext, but for 16 episodes it was her rescuing the men and saving us from megalomaniacs and aliens. Step forward Jessica Drew, AKA Spider-Woman!

This sister really did do it for herself - and truth, justice and the American Way. With the web weaving and venom blast, this was a torch she carried alone until Buffy spearheaded California's global cultural offensive at the dawn of the 21st century. So as a tribute to Spider-Woman, unsung feminist icon and standard bearer for kick ass women in boys' own TV, here she is defending London from an invasion of alien pyramids.


SamG said...

I think her father would be on some government register today and she would have be taken into social care! Also the security surrounding the laboratory would be greater!

That is the hidden cost of security!

And her spider sense would make talking to her rather awkward! "Aunt Jessica you have such sexy legs!".

Phil said...

If you think your aunt has sexy legs, you don't need a spider sense to tell you that's very wrong ...