Friday, March 14, 2014

"Strong Female Protagonist" Web Comic Features Strong Female Protagonist

I once heard someone say they were paraphrasing Mark Twain as saying, "The sign of a gifted intelligence is the ability to be ironic and sincere at the same time." By that standard, Strong Female Protagonist is a seriously smart comic--and funny, too.
Writer Brennan Lee Mulligan and artist Molly Ostertag spoof on the superhero genre while exploring the everyday struggles of female adolescence, as protagonist Alison Green, a.k.a. Mega-Girl, struggles to make a difference in the world beyond fighting and violence while negotiating celebrity culture.
Looking at what makes Alison/Mega-Girl different from most comic book heroes presents an opportunity to learn about the limitations of typical superhero comics. For a quick introduction, there's a great overview of the plot, characters and style of the comic by Mey in her "Drawn to Comics" column over at the Autostraddle blog ("News, entertainment...and Girl-On-Girl Culture"). I think this comic would make a great addition to any study of media constructions of heroism in high school or college English/Film/Media classes, particularly in relation to superheroes in comics or film genres where relatable "Strong Female Protagonists" are few and far between and questionable to downright sexist portrayals of women characters masquerading as good role models are the norm. More images and ideas after the jump.
[The comic includes some profanity and sexual situations, including same sex and transgender themes; as always, preview the content for your learning community to assess appropriateness].

As a teacher, I love this comic for introducing a character who calls attention to how the rest of the genre constructs heroism, strength, problem solving, and beauty/sexiness--especially because it does so without reproducing those norms. It gives me a much needed alternative to focusing solely on exploitative images of women superheroes when discussing female representation in comics. Strong Female Protagonist includes the typical "girl power" moments of superhero comics, as in the panel below.
However, as in the opening pages of the comic, Alison also struggles to fit in and make a difference at protests and in school without relying on her super strength, physical imperviousness, and ability to fly. She even tries to reason with and understand her enemies.
What do you think about using SFP for media literacy and studying comics? I'd love to hear about it if anyone gives this comic a try in your educational setting. I'm a fan of traditional superhero comics myself, despite (and sometimes because of) their sometimes ridiculous and upsetting gender portrayals, but I love this one, too; I wonder how young folks who like mainstream comics would respond to this one?

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