SuperJeb! Strikes Again: Supershero Objectification Edition

Jeb! is super awkward.  We get that.  On the HuffPost you can read a whole article about how super awkward Jeb! is.  This awkwardness probably starts with the very reason I keep putting an exclamation point after his name, you know…this:

Have you ever seen such an original totally awesome logo?

I mean it’s so good he’s been using it for like twenty years.  Okay, look, I’m moving off topic.  I just want us to agree that this is hands down the most idiotic campaign logo ever used by a major candidate.

Anyway.  In the course of his campaign of complete awkwardness, Jeb! was recently asked who his favorite superhero is.  Superheros and the nerds who love them are having kind of a moment, if you hadn’t noticed.  What superhero you most admire says a lot about a person.  If you are unfamiliar with the superhero genre and backed into a corner – especially if you are a Republican – just say Superman.  Don’t try to be clever.  You want clean-cut, all-American (looking…I mean, he is an alien), and totally inoffensive.  Jeb! did actually go with this initially:

In his answer, Bush said, “I don’t know; I’m kind of old school. I like the old-school guys, like Batman. A little dark these days.”

…which makes sense.  I would imagine that any number of Republicans would like to see themselves as Batman.  Or at the very least they like the idea of Batman because he fits with the philosophy that they’re trying to sell the American people.  If you just leave the rich alone they’ll make everything better.  I would argue, though, that Batman doesn’t actually ever make anything better.  He does what Republicans do; he puts band-aids on problems.  He doesn’t address the actually address the source of crime.  He fights the crimes while they’re in progress, and that’s a best-case scenario.  Anyway, this isn’t about Batman.  What we were getting at was the other part because if Jeb! had just said “I like Batman” no one would care.  I wouldn’t bother writing about it because it’s all too obvious.

How Jeb! made it awkward was with this line:

“I saw that Supergirl is on TV. I saw it when I was working out this morning, there was an ad promoting Supergirl. She looked pretty hot. I don’t know what channel it’s on, but I’m looking forward to that. …”

While listening to the Slate Political Gabfest on Friday I listened to Emily Bazelon, John Dickerson, and David Plotz try to figure out whether there was anything wrong with what he said or if it was creepy.  The general consensus seemed to be that if Supergirl or the actress who played her is under 18 (they aren’t) then the statement was creepy and if so then it would be.  So it’s not creepy to say she’s hot because she’s 18 and – as John Dickerson pointed out – that outfit, right?  No really, John Dickerson – who under most circumstances I really enjoy and agree with – actually pointed out that probably it’s okay to be skeevy about Supergirl because she is wearing a super tight, sexy outfit.  I hold onto the hope that he was being sarcastic.  In the scheme of superhero outfits, though, Supergirl’s isn’t really all that risque.

It’s maybe the least sexy superhero outfit I’ve ever seen, which isn’t a bad thing.  I mean, yes it’s form-fitting, but it also covers almost every inch of her body.  It is – except for the skirt, which I’m ambivalent about – pretty utilitarian.  We’re not staring at her outfit trying to figure out how her boobs are staying in.  We can’t even ogle the muscle tone in her arms.  This is not sexy by the standards of superhero outfits.  So, on a side note, I’m pretty disappointed in how the Political Gabfest discussed this issue.  Although, in fairness, they gave me a pretty good preface to one way that you can talk about how weird and awkward this moment was while totally missing what I think may be the more pertinent point.

What’s that point?  What other time have you heard someone answer the questions “What’s your favorite superhero?” with an answer that involved saying how hot that particular superhero is?  Probably never.  You like superheroes because of their cool powers.  Maybe there’s something about their backstory that resonates with you.  The worst, most sexist reason to like a superhero is because of how hot she is.

Yeah, she.

It’s bad enough that so often women have to deal with depictions in comic books like this:

That’s the Black Canary.  I have literally know idea how she gets anything done with that leotard up her ass not to speak of the industrial strength double-sided tape that must be required to keep her boobs from falling out the top.  It’s female superheroes…fuck it’s that I’m saying female superheros…but cliched poses like this that help make it okay for Jeb! to admire Supergirl, a character he apparently knows next to nothing about, for her looks.

It’s not about her age.  There’s no age that magically makes it okay to ignore a woman’s undeniable skills, be she ever so fictional a character.  Supergirl is fantastic for many reasons, not the least of which is that being a “girl” isn’t a detriment to her heroism.

I don’t really know how to end this because I don’t actually expect better of Jeb Bush.  This is who he is.  There are certainly male politicians of whom I expect far better who have disappointed me in recent days.  Jeb! isn’t one of them.  Jeb! is a guy who has posited that if single women want to get off welfare they should get married.  That was in 1994.  More recently he questioned whether the $500 million per year spent on women’s health was worthwhile.  Jeb! doesn’t have a great record on behaving as though he thinks women as a category are actual human beings.  So yes, I expect this shit from him.  What I want, I suppose, is for us to hear about this and not just shrug our shoulders.  I want us not to spend our time trying to figure out how it is that Supergirl, the actress who plays her, or the people who created her latest incarnation have made her in a way that begs her eventual objectificatoin. I want us to value supersheroes for their cool powers as much as superheroes.

When you think of Supergirl, I would just rather that what you think of is a little more like this…

Hopefully, that’s not too much to ask.


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