Women in the Squishyverse

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Women in the Squishyverse

Postby Zalee on Sun Nov 13, 2011 12:02 am

I'm probably going to regret posting this, but here goes....

I've been reading this comic for years, and something has always felt not quite right to me. Reading this post: viewtopic.php?f=9&t=3413 helped me to sort of pin down what it was.

I don't think that Squishy does a very good job portraying women.

Over the past 2 days I went through and reread the entire comic from the beginning so that I wouldn't just be basing this off of nothing.

There are only 2 main female characters, Bianca and Helen. Of those 2, one is a secretary and the other was hired for "administrative duties." She got the title "office manager" but throughout the strip we see her doing tasks such as pouring coffee, answering phone calls, leaving memos, and otherwise doing what the boys need her to do. No female has a prominent or creative role in the company. Bianca's entire existence is initially to pleasure Dave.

The female cast is portrayed the vast majority of the time in low cut, tight clothing that almost always shows cleavage. During the zombie arc when they are taken to the nazi space station, Olivia is put in a ridiculously short dress and we are often treated to closeups of her ass. The female doctor (horribly named Weinergobler) is wearing thigh highs and a garter belt, and at one point we literally get a view up her skirt. When Helen gets drunk and passes out, even the artist admits it was likely just an excuse to draw her half naked, and there are closeups of her in her bra.

In this most recent superhero arc, the men all get outfits that make sense or would be practical. The women have a skin tight leotard that is split down to their navel with their boobs practically falling out. For Halloween, Labor Day, and the 4th of July there were pictures of Bianca or Helen dressed in skimpy outfits and posed suggestively. During several different hot spells in LA the strip featured the collection of women drawn in skimpy bathing suits, at one time dripping wet, often with closeups of their asses.

Dave grabs and kisses Helen to show that he's a man (during the "homo person" arc). This is essentially sexual assault. Dave kisses Bianca when she's passed out. Despite the fact that they were in a relationship (at this point in the story - during the zombie arc - they are not together, but it wouldn't matter if they were) this is, again, sexual assault.

When Helen sleeps with Dave, despite the fact that this is the first person she's slept with that we know of (and regardless of that, it was her choice to do so even if she regretted it), Mike calls her a slut.

In every arc with Kimmy she is either dressed very skimpily, drunk/partying, or flirting with a man.

Now I have nothing against women who want to dress in revealing clothing or flirt with men. I 100% support that, but when every female in your comic dresses that way, is in a subservient role, etc, and none of the men are? It just sends a bad message to me.

Sorry if this sounded harsh. Despite what it may seem like, I really enjoy the comic. I just hope that maybe in the future you guys can think a little bit harder about how you portray females.
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Re: Women in the Squishyverse

Postby Dave on Sun Nov 13, 2011 2:55 am

Don't regret your post, Zalee. Paul and I need and want this stuff pointed out to us. I want you to know that I appreciate criticism, and I wish people would leave more feedback, so thank you.
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Re: Women in the Squishyverse

Postby Yino on Sun Nov 13, 2011 3:51 am

I had a long response, with a tl;dr version at the end. But my session expired and now is lost, woe is me.

So as I'm not writing that stuff again.
Yes, there have been some slips, I can particularly agree on the sexual assault to some degree and the Kimmy one. The rest I disagree. And about the heroes one, I'd like to wait and see how the story develops before making any judgement.

The girls being fictional characters allow for safe fan service. They are portrayed in a sexy way, but that is neither story disrupting nor character development disrupting.
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Re: Women in the Squishyverse

Postby MadCat on Sun Nov 13, 2011 3:57 am

I always have a hard time commenting on issues like this, because I feel a little guilty, being someone who draws scantily-clad women on a regular basis and talks about how much I love boobs. >< But at the same time, I would agree with most of your points here, Zalee.

Strong, realistic female characters are hard to find anywhere - movies, books, comics, games.
The world needs more of them. Squishy does seem to be lacking them. I'd love to see the women of Squishy get an upgrade and start taking charge and kicking ass!

(As for Direman, Tina's pretty firmly in charge there. lol. Although she does seem to be a bit "token female" there. (with a bit of Den Mother/Nagging Wife thrown in.) Then again, this coming from someone with only 1 male character? Sounds a bit hypocritical of me. >< lol.)
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Re: Women in the Squishyverse

Postby Dave on Sun Nov 13, 2011 4:49 am

Zalee does have a lot of good points, and Squishy Comics could stand to improve in how it portrays women, although I don't think it's as bad as you think, especially regarding Helen and Bianca.

Helen was hired as the office manager. Her job is to make sure that the monkeys don't have run of the place. Sometimes she provides them with coffee, sometimes she orders them to do their jobs (in one strip, she provides Arturo and Mike with some much needed caffeine, and at the same time she's bossing Dave to do his job... and Dave's TECHNICALLY the CEO of the company). Helen may not be "the boss", but she's not a peon. With that said, yeah, she could be shown doing more "I'm in charge" things.

Bianca's a whole different story. Her sole purpose WAS to pleasure Dave. She's a succubus, it's kinda their job. But what happened was that she grew beyond that (was always the intention, I swear). Now she's her own person, and she's pretty much an equal with the guys in how she's treated by them and how she treats them. As far as how she dresses... well, she's hot and she knows it, so she plays that up, but she's also gone a long way from skimpy tops and short shorts (her early succubus job attire), to jeans and shirts that show off her figure.

Mike called Helen a slut after he found out she slept with Dave because Mike's an asshole.

Kimmy's a party girl, so yeah, she dresses sexily, and she's flirty, but she's not subservient. In fact, Kimmy has no problem standing up to Mike, her boss (and, as I pointed out, an asshole).

Kimmy and Bianca definitely play up the sexy and revealing clothing, but Helen typically doesn't (Intern #2 doesn't either, but I imagine you excluded her since she's a minor character). The girl's roles aren't really subservient to the guys, socially. Professionally, I already covered Helen and Bianca, and I think Kimmy's appropriate for her age. She was Mike's intern, now she's his assistant. Given enough time, she might get promoted above Mike ;)

I can't argue Dave "sexually assaulting Helen and Bianca"... you got me there. Just glad they didn't press charges.

The bee costumes is just a play on the fact that most super heroines wear such outfits. Even in parody. The reference for them was Dr. Mrs. The Monarch.

The other fan service, yeah, Paul and I do go overboard with those. Still, I'm sure nobody would want to see most of the guys in a sexy pose. Well, maybe Dee... he's pretty cut (Dire Diplomacy strip).

Again, Zalee, thank you for your thoughts. I would love it if more people provided feedback like this.
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Re: Women in the Squishyverse

Postby Zalee on Sun Nov 13, 2011 5:34 am

I don't have time to leave a truly thorough response (darn 13 hour work days), but here's a few thoughts I have on some of the responses:

The girls being fictional characters allow for safe fan service. They are portrayed in a sexy way, but that is neither story disrupting nor character development disrupting.


The problem is that it isn't "safe." It also is very selective fan service. I wouldn't complain if the men were treated equally, but they aren't. It is only the women who are drawn for "fan service." I imagine that the readership is large enough that you likely have a percentage who are attracted to men and not women. Do they not count as fans? Or just not ones worth servicing? (Please don't take those as attacking. I reworded it 5 or 6 ways to try and get the questions to sound neutral but I think I still failed.)

Again, I 100% support showing females who are sexy. I have no issues whatsoever with that. My concern is that ALL the women (at least any deemed important enough to have names or recurring storylines) are treated this way. If you read through the archives the vast majority of plot lines with Bianca and Helen revolve around men and are for men.

Kimmy and Bianca definitely play up the sexy and revealing clothing, but Helen typically doesn't (Intern #2 doesn't either, but I imagine you excluded her since she's a minor character).


Intern #2 hasn't had enough appearances for me to really bother. As for Helen... you can say she doesn't play up the sexy and revealing, but go back through the archives. Look at the number of times she's drawn with cleavage showing. Call me a prude, but if your shirt is low enough for you to have ample cleavage, then it's a sexy outfit.

Still, I'm sure nobody would want to see most of the guys in a sexy pose. Well, maybe Dee... he's pretty cut (Dire Diplomacy strip).


This is another actual point I was trying to make earlier but couldn't think how to word it. Maybe it's because the men in your story are based on people you know in real life (at least, this is my understanding), but the men all have varying physiques - all of which are realistic. All of your women have similar body types made to appeal to a specific demographic. I'm not saying that you need to purposely draw ugly or obese characters, just saying that your women (aside from intern #2) tend to look similar body-wise.

As far as the superhero costumes go, I'm actually a pretty avid comic reader, and I would think with the recent DC kerfuffle that this would have been a little easier to avoid. I can get that it's parody, but it still ties in with the greater theme. It is always the women who are portrayed in skimpy outfits and "cheesecake" poses. It is the women who use their bodies to get ahead (Bianca has attempted to seduce Dave in the past to get an outcome she wanted) or as a weapon (both women do this in the first roleplaying arc).

Ultimately, you don't have to agree with me, it just was something I felt I needed to point out.

Oh and Madcat, I considered mentioning your comic, but the skimpy outfits are more than balanced by the fact that you have strong characters with character progression (something I obviously feel is lacking in Squishy). I'm not against sexy women, I'm just against one-dimensional or objectified women.
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Re: Women in the Squishyverse

Postby trebuchet on Sun Nov 13, 2011 7:36 am

Zalee, thank you for being such a dedicated fan. I always appreciate it when someone takes the time to really study something that I've had a part in creating to offer up constructive criticism.

First of all, I'm going to write about Squishy as fan because I was a fan -- just like you -- before I was tapped to write the strips.

I think it's important to view Squishy in the context of juvenile male fantasy humor. It's juvenile because, lets face it, none of the characters in Squishy act like mature, thoughtful adults. Their resolutions to interpersonal conflict often involve violence (I'm thinking of the Womp Stick here), they're bluntly abrasive with each other (Mike, Mike, and...Mike), the idea that these schmucks are trying to run a business is laughable at best (remember where Arturo got the sign for the Squishy building?) and downright dangerous at worst (they summoned a demon from Hell to do their bidding). I've always felt that, within that context, the characters were lovable idiots trying to make something of themselves in this world.

Now, as to the intentions of each character and their individual role in the Squishyverse, I can't speak to that from this early period. I wasn't there when they were created so I can't give you a fair assessment of what the creators were thinking at the time of their inception. What I will tell you is that, as a fan, I liked the characters and what they were doing and I wholeheartedly supported it.

Sexual assault is a very serious accusation. It involves physical contact of a sexual nature from one person or group of persons upon another where the recipient does not desire such contact or the recipient is physically unable to deny or is mentally unaware of such contact. So the question arises: did Dave sexually assault Helen? It looks like Dave forces himself on unsuspecting Helen, kisses her violently, then walks away. If that's the case, then yes, it's sexual assault. I just don't think that's what happened. I think, in the context of that time period in the Squishyverse, Helen had a secret "thing" for Dave as evidenced later by her desire to sleep with Dave. The implications to Bianca were much deeper as a result. It wasn't just a drunken fling, she actually did it twice with Dave. It also looks like Helen assaults Dave on the roof of the Squishy building the night they had sex. She wasn't suffering from some post-sexual assault Stockholme Syndrome. She really had some deep seeded sexual desires for Dave.

Now, as a writer for Squishy Comics:

To be dismissive of Bianca's role in the Squishyverse is not quite accurate. At the end of my first arc (Zombie Apocalypse) she heroically sacrifices herself for her friends and her true love. I thought she was a goddamned hero! And what about the aftermath of all that? The Squishy gang die and go to Heaven to bring her back -- that's how loved and important she is. You also forgot to mention Bianca's very VERY strong mom. So even though Bianca started out as some demonic sex toy for Dave (of whom he was infamously oblivious) I think she's come a long way in her character arc in the most unconventional sense. Truth be told, if I had a gun to my head and forced to choose one character to write for for the rest of my Squishy career I'd choose Bianca in a heart beat (sorry Dave). And, I'm sorry, but Dave giving Bianca a kiss was TOTALLY in the spirit of the whole Prince Charming mythos. Are you seriously saying that Snow White was raped?

I beg to differ on the sexy clothing issue. Dave has made a conscious effort to cloth the characters in season-appropriate clothing since my stint as Squishy writer began. If you'll notice, all the characters wear lighter clothing during the hotter months of the year and bring out the heavier stuff during the colder months. Also, I just went through all the strips since the end of 2009 and I really don't see all this cleavage you're talking about. The only ones that specifically, intentionally show a lot of skin are the recent ones with the interns going crazy on the roof.

As far as the Nazi space station arc goes I feel that the the attire being worn by the entire cast was period specific. Albeit the sixties were not a great time for women's lib but the pop culture reference is what I was going for (James Bond). Also, at the risk of beating a dead horse, you have to look at things in context. Olivia didn't pick her outfit, it was Hitler. I'm not going to apologize for making Hitler out to be a lecherous, dirty old man. In the same context, Doctor Weinergobler is a full blown, no excuses, I'm-not-following-orders-I'm-GIVING-the-orders Nazi! I didn't give her that name because she's a woman, I gave her that name because she's a NAZI. Also consider that Olivia was the only one of the heroes who really knew what they were doing the whole time. She was smart, sexy, and professional. She also got those Squishy chuckle-heads out of a real jam later.

And to the issue of the most recent superhero arc I must say that it's an appropriate parody of a certain sub-sect of Japanese pop culture. It's a spoof on cosplay and general otaku sensibilities. Also, this arc has yet to play out completely so I would ask that you be patient with it for a little while longer.

Again, I would like to point out that hot weather brings out bikinis and various activities centered around water. I understand that you're offended by depictions of hot women in bikinis dripping with water and/or sweat. I'm not. I am also not alone in this. Several Squishy fans have commented in highly positive tones to Dave for his skill at depicting such beauty. I feel that it was done in good taste, that none of the images were obscene in nature. I'm just going to chalk this one up to "You can't please everybody."

I am in total disagreement with your remark about Kimmy. Your statement is categorically false. I don't know any other way to say it. She's young and inexperienced but she's Mike's go-to intern -- the one intern who shows great promise. When I took over as writer I felt that her valley girl voice was forced so I toned it down considerably. Ever since then, I think she's really started to emerge as a permanent fixture in the Squishyverse. Consider her role in the recent Joel Noir arc. She was a lead detective running a dangerous undercover sting operation out of the DA's office...in the 1940's! I don't know about you, but she wasn't flirting with a man, or drunk, or partying, or dressed in skimpy outfits in that entire arc. You're also forgetting that she has Timmy wrapped around her little finger. Poor guy would snap in two if she just looked at him funny.

Looking at the big picture, I think we at Squishy have tried our best to be fair to all the characters in the Squishyverse. Have we failed at times? Of course. Have we succeeded on occasion? I'd like to think so. When one is engaged in a creative endeavor it behooves the creator to listen -- really listen -- to one's inner muse. It's a struggle because there are so many differing voices that warrant our attention on any given day that, sometimes, that small inner voice is drowned out. Dave and I struggle to give you entertainment that's true to who we are as individuals and as a team. That means that we constantly better ourselves by learning from our mistakes. Will we make those mistakes again? Probably. But it's that battle with ourselves as artists -- he in drawing and I in writing -- that makes it all worthwhile.
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Re: Women in the Squishyverse

Postby MadCat on Sun Nov 13, 2011 9:52 pm

Speaking as a Squishy fan,

I tend to disagree with your Kimmy rebuttal, Treb. I've never really been a fan of Kimmy... she's cute, but I don't like her personality. She has no real depth, and just uses her appearance to get people to do things for her, for the most part; however, she has shown some intelligence and character lately, like when she gathered "everyone" for the meeting at the Squishy building. So I'm glad to hear you're toning down the vapidness and giving her some smarts, and that she's starting to become more of a competent person and less of a party girl.

But in the 1940's arc, that wasn't really Kimmy, that was a character Kimmy was playing. Doesn't count as Kimmy herself being something other than a party girl who gets what she wants because she's pretty. If she starts to act more like that in standard modern-day Squishy canon, that would be great. I want to see her start using her brains, not her other "assets."

Same with Timmy - not a good example. He's falling all over her because she's sexy and flirty, and she takes ridiculous advantage of him because of it: making him do her work, etc., and only noticing him when he refuses to just capitulate to her desires. I can't remember what strip he did it in, I'll have to check. But I wish he'd continued to do that, instead of just using it as a ploy to get her attention. I want to see Timmy move beyond Kimmy. ><

I think your description of Squishy as "juvenile male fantasy humor" is accurate, and makes the events within make more sense in that context. I'm just guessing here, but I think maybe Zalee's criticism (and mine as well) comes from wanting to see Squishy move beyond just that. There's far more than enough juvenile male fantasy humor out there in the world. Now, we could use more stories with well-crafted, mature characters that can appeal to all people, not just juvenile males.

Squishy has some nifty characters with the potential to become really interesting, and tell some great funny stories. It would be nice to see them achieve that potential, and become more "mature, thoughtful adults"... who can still have fun wacky office hijinks.

I don't really think of the two as being mutually exclusive, but I dunno... maybe they are? It's possible that having the ability to introspect and realize the consequences of their actions might mean they don't do the things that make them 'funny' anymore... hmm. This may require more thought. Anyway, just wanted to add my 2c. (Although as much as I've rambled on here, I'm probably up to like, $1.50 or so by now. lol)
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Re: Women in the Squishyverse

Postby trebuchet on Mon Nov 14, 2011 5:17 am

Okay, you make an excellent point about the Joel Noir example. She is playing a character, not herself.

I still think she's been doing things of value other than partying and just lazing about being sexy all the time. I'm thinking of the time when they busted Timmy out of Dan's office when Dan was off his rocker. I'm also remembering her as being a capable team player during the whole paintballing arc. I'm just saying that certain positive examples were left out of Zalee's original argument.

Now, we could use more stories with well-crafted, mature characters that can appeal to all people, not just juvenile males.


Yes, we could use more of those. But as a fellow writer I have to ask you this: do you think there are any characters in Everwas that appeal to all people? What about Direman for that matter, or any other comic strip that is currently out there? I'm just saying that Squishy is what it is and that it will grow in time. As its creators grow and mature so will the comic strip. It may take a while, and it may not grow in the particular direction that you want it to, but it will grow.
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Re: Women in the Squishyverse

Postby MadCat on Mon Nov 14, 2011 9:10 pm

trebuchet wrote:I still think she's been doing things of value other than partying and just lazing about being sexy all the time. I'm thinking of the time when they busted Timmy out of Dan's office when Dan was off his rocker. I'm also remembering her as being a capable team player during the whole paintballing arc. I'm just saying that certain positive examples were left out of Zalee's original argument.


I can agree with that. She's starting to show some initiative and competence. I like that you've started taking her in that direction, and I'd like to see more of her maturing as a character like that. Rising to the occasion, as it were.


Now, we could use more stories with well-crafted, mature characters that can appeal to all people, not just juvenile males.


Yes, we could use more of those. But as a fellow writer I have to ask you this: do you think there are any characters in Everwas that appeal to all people? What about Direman for that matter, or any other comic strip that is currently out there? I'm just saying that Squishy is what it is and that it will grow in time. As its creators grow and mature so will the comic strip. It may take a while, and it may not grow in the particular direction that you want it to, but it will grow.


Hmm... as a fellow writer, I don't think it's any one character that can appeal to all people; rather, there should be a variety of types of characters in the strip that can appeal to many different types of people, so everyone can find someone they can identify with.

In the case of Everwas, I'm particularly focusing on character types that don't get seen very often in other places, and trying to give people who can't often find characters to identify with someone they can appreciate. Basically, sacrificing some broad appeal in order to fill a much-needed niche.

Direman also seems to be focusing on a particular market: gamers, with a leaning toward young adult males. It would be nice to see a little more variety there as well; it might detract from the appeal to the target market, but could also bring in other types of gamers. Overall it's a genre strip, by gamers for gamers.

Squishy probably got the most attention on this issue because it's the closest to a real-world situation with a varied cast of characters. So it gets held to a higher standard for realism, if that makes any sense? It's an office situation, following the daily lives of people. It deals with business, romance, interpersonal drama; real things people deal with all the time. So people are more likely to look for someone who resembles them, since it's the situation they can most easily imagine themselves in.

I agree, everything grows and matures with time. I guess that's all we're saying... that we want it to grow. There are certain things we see as 'lagging behind the maturity curve' that we'd like to see move forward. Squishy is a really good strip, and we enjoy it. That's why we bring this stuff up. We believe in Squishy. We want to see it be all it can be.
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