The times, they are a-changin' as hardcore punks D.O.A once said. There's a certain kind of joking around that you can't really do anymore if you're a white guy (at least not without some decent context), and it's called slut-shaming. The basic concept here is that it's sexist to attack a woman for having sex, as you wouldn't do the same to a man. A guy who has a lot of sex is commonly seen as cool while a woman who has a lot of sex is seen as a slut*.
David Goyer guested on the Scriptnotes podcast with host The Hangover writer Craig Mazin and they got talking about comic books - you know, since David Goyer is like the godfather of Warner Bros' comic book movies - and somehow She-Hulk came up. They had an... interesting exchange about She-Hulk.
Craig Mazin: The real name for She-Hulk was Slut-Hulk. That was the whole point. Let’s just make this green chick with enormous boobs. And she’s Hulk strong but not Hulk massive, right? … She’s real lean, stringy…
David S. Goyer: She’s still pretty chunky. She was like Chyna from the WWE.
Mazin: The whole point of She-Hulk was just to appeal sexistly to ten-year-old boys. Worked on me.
Goyer: I have a theory about She-Hulk. Which was created by a man, right? And at the time in particular I think 95% of comic book readers were men and certainly almost all of the comic book writers were men. So the Hulk was this classic male power fantasy. It’s like, most of the people reading comic books were these people like me who were just these little kids getting the shit kicked out of them every day… And so then they created She-Huk, right? Who was still smart… I think She-Hulk is the chick that you could fuck if you were Hulk, you know what I’m saying? … She-Hulk was the extension of the male power fantasy. So it’s like if I’m going to be this geek who becomes the Hulk then let’s create a giant green porn star that only the Hulk could fuck.
There's a lot of weirdness here. I want to start with why She-Hulk was created: because of The Incredible Hulk TV show. Stan Lee had been adamant about not creating knock-off versions of Marvel characters, as DC had been doing for decades. But with the TV show he began worrying that the producers would take Marvel's IP and expand on it, and he wanted to beat them to the punch and own the rights to a female Hulk. She was the last character Stan created for comics until the 1990s. She's probably the last good charater Stan Lee created.
And she is a good character! A really good one, in fact. Jennifer Walters is an attorney who gets a blood transfusion from Bruce Banner and thus his gamma powers. But unlike the boy Hulk she is always a Hulk, and she's always smart, and she's pretty cool. Also, she fucks. She-Hulk is one of the few comic book females who fucks a bunch, who has had a bunch of boyfriends. It's pretty great, and it's just part of her character.
Is she sexy? Yeah, she's definitely drawn from the male gaze. Is there sexism inherent in some of what she is? Yeah, I'd say there is, as is the case with so many female characters. But the reasoning that Mazin and Goyer have is so far off-base - not just in terms of the circumstances of her creation but her sexuality - that it's shocking. How shocking? Well, she wasn't created to fuck the Hulk, since she's... drumroll please...
The Hulk's cousin.
It's weird because they're coming from a good place - examining the way comic books treat female characters, the inherent sexualization of them, etc - and they're trying to do it with humor. But there's an ugliness about the conversation, including the bit about She-Hulk being chunky, that rankles.
Goyer goes on to make fun of nerds in the podcast, but who gives a shit? I make fun of nerds. Nerds should be made fun of - that's why we're fucking nerds. I just wrote all of that crap about She-Hulk from memory, man. I should be teased for that sometimes. He has some lame things to say about Martian Manhunter that really reveal why Warner Bros' DC movies aren't great:
He can’t be fucking called the Martian Manhunter because that’s goofy. He can be called Manhunter… The whole deal with Martian Manhunter is he’s an alien living amongst us… So he comes down to Earth and decides, unlike Superman who already exists in the world now, that he’s just going to be a homicide detective… So instead of using super-powers and mind-reading and like, oh, I could figure out if the President’s lying or whatever, he just decides to disguise himself as a human homicide detective. Dare to dream!
That's pretty weird because Martian Manhunter's really cool. Yeah, his human identity is a homicide detective - and he uses his powers to solve murders. He also operates as a costumed superhero in his spare time. That's really great. He's using his abilities for good in all aspects of his life. What a cool hero! Goyer doesn't get it. And his idea for how to work Martian Manhunter into the Warner Bros movies is a nightmare:
I would set it up like The Day After Tomorrow. We discover one of those Earth-like planets… So maybe like… we get the DNA code from that planet and then grow him in a petri dish here… He’s like in Area 51 or something and we’re just basically… doing biopsies on him. Then he gets out and he’s really angry and he fucks She-Hulk.
What a horrible, boring, lame way to bring Martian Manhunter into the movies. Maybe he's just racist against green people.
Anyway, the Martian Manhunter stuff is an insight into the problem with the DC movies, but the She-Hulk stuff is just gross to me. Jennifer Walters is a great character who has been great for like, decades. The fact that Goyer (and Mazin, but who gives a shit about Mazin) reduces her to a fucktoy says more about himself than the character.
Remember, he wrote the upcoming first big screen appearance of Wonder Woman.
* I recognize this is simplistic, which is why context matters. I have complex feelings about slut-shaming and the role that shaming plays in keeping our society from becoming a fucking nightmare. But the gist is correct: treat women as you would men.