Wait…you’re not that young

Though not always the case whether in fiction or in the real world, one of the drawbacks of calling such a character a girl/lass and/or infantilising her is that it makes her harder to take her seriously as an adult. To put it this way in the comics, Barbara Gordon/Batgirl and Supergirl/Kara are in their early-mid twenties, already past adolescence and such.

But when it comes to being called girl, even if they’re adult women it does make them seem younger than they really are that deageing’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. At least sometimes but it kind of makes you wonder if there’s some kind of ageism going on. Not that the other characters are any better but given an age-neutral name would be enough to take them seriously as adults.

(One might wonder if in this regard, Jean Grey and Susan Storm grew up by ditching the girl-codenames altogether and even the latter’s now known as Invisible Woman.)

I still think it’s a kind of ageism in the sense that some characters are doomed to never grow up for good from being called boy/girl that it’s practically a self-fulfilling prophecy at times. Maybe not always the case but if you’re an adult yet called boy/girl, you’ll always seem younger than others. Same with infantilisation.

Not that young but…

I still think, whilst not always the case, one of the pitfalls of calling some characters boy/girl/lass/lad (often some female characters at that) is that it gives the impression of being younger than they really are or intended to be. To put it this way, Power Girl might be way past adolescence but being called girl gives the impression of her being at her mid-twenties at the very least.

Or in the case with Beast Boy, he’s older than Tim Drake and Superboy and should be so. But it doesn’t help that some writers infantilise him or even make him younger than intended at least in the earlier Teen Titans stories. (I guess that’s one of the big problems with ageing up Conner Kent, as he’d have to become Superman.)

Or in the case with Barbara Gordon, even if she might be intended to be adult being called girl and sometimes presented as such makes it harder to take her seriously as such. (Maybe why it might be why it might not be a stretch to deage her and why she only seemed more adult under the age-neutral moniker Oracle*.)

One might wonder if some writers have a sexist habit of infantilising some female characters to the point where they might actually be rather young. A character could be in their late twenties but if infantilised in some way or given a codename that betrays their age, it’s going to be a hurdle in actually making them grow up.

*As for Marvel’s Jean Grey, by forgoing Marvel Girl for her own name and sometimes Phoenix that it’s easier to take her seriously as an adult. Same with Invisible Woman who was known as Invisible Girl.

She’s a girl

Though not always the case, calling some female characters girls can sometimes give off the impression of being younger than they actually are. I could say that whilst both Batgirl/Barbara Gordon and Supergirl/Kara Danvers might probably be in their late teens-early twenties, thus they’re legal adults. But it seems with calling them girls that it comes something of a self-fulfilling prophecy in some cases.

(In all honesty, before I read a lot of comics I thought that Barbara’s much younger than Bruce.)

Possibly even so with the Legion of Super-Heroes where even if they hit their forties (at least in the earlier stories) but with being always called boy, girl, lad, lass (at least in the Anglophone edition) that they’d end up remaining this young in later reboots. Though it’s possible for a character called girl to be an adult woman (I even said that Supergirl and Batgirl are probably legally adult).

But it sometimes does give off the impression of being younger than they really are. To the point where they’d seem to be in their late teens and early twenties at the least. As for characters who’re called woman or have age-neutral codenames, it’s easier to accept them as adults and possibly get away at any age.

Whereas being called girl/boy/lass/lad implies that even if they’re legally adults, they’d seem younger than they really are.

She’s into younger men

To be fair, even comic books themselves are no stranger to depicting relationships between younger men and older women. This happened before in Legion of Super-Heroes where this heroine Ayla Ranzz briefly hooks up with a younger hero. This also happened several times over in the X-Men stories especially with one heroine Rahne Sinclair being in hot water for dating a younger man. Then you have the centuries old Mystique going after younger men.

But I suspect this is going to be dwarfed by stories about younger women going after older men in some fashion or another. The younger Jean Grey sometimes falls for the older Wolverine. Rogue fell for Magneto. Kitty Pryde fell for Colossus, though it seems vague given their actual ages. Susan Storm married Reed Richards. Heather MacNeil fell for the older Vanguard. There are certainly superhero couples where the characters are in the same age group or so.

It would be rarer to have an older woman go for a younger man and successfully so. This isn’t to say that the likes of John Byrne are necessarily paedophiliac or ephebophiliac but that there’s often the feeling of wanting to be superior to an inferio character. But making the woman much older would turn this on its head. That’s if she’s also rich.

Supposing if most of the Justice League and their (surviving) colleagues are in their 1970s but with Patty Spivot (onetime officemate of Barry Allen) went after a man in his early twenties (in fact he’s even a Balinese gigolo) that it does upend or reverse the usual conventions in superhero comics and maybe the media in general.

Bear in mind it’s actually not uncommon for Western women to go after Balinese gigolos (or Ukrainian and Russian women to marry Korean and Chinese men) that it does make you wonder if Asian men could be desirable or interesting on some level. It’s also not uncommon for gigolos to go after older, richer women too.

The big problem’s that such a portrayal’s not just rare but in the case with Rahne Sinclair and Ayla Ranzz these are often very brief affairs. Or with both Rahne and Mystique, there’s a shady air to it. Patty Spivot’s another matter altogether but because she’s a supporting character and generally nothing shady about her.

At least up to that point should she be caught dead dating a much younger man (the age gap would be all the more significant if she were in her seventies) that would rock the superhero media world. But because it’s so unexpected of her that despite predecents, it’s a tad too controversial for many readers.

That’s not to say I condone May-December relationships but it seems a good number of superhero couples where the lovers are more or less their age or within their age group that it’s not a big stretch or so I think. (I hardly read comics these days.) As for 70-year-old Patty going after a 20-year old Balinese man, it does exist in reality.

But it’s already this rare for a woman to be into younger men, let alone without a shady air to it, that it’s probably why such relationships aren’t commonly portrayed. (I could be wrong but I hardly read comics these days so.)

Men who don’t age well

I suspect there might be many more men who don’t age well and there are likely articles that do point this out. Just not very often due to expectations. It’s not necessarily wrong to want to remain healthy and young throughout senescence. But generally speaking, most men aren’t pressured to.

There are men who do get pressured to stay healthy throughout time but I suspect these are mainly athletes and bodybuilders. Maybe there are men who’re pressured to look in a certain way to an extent today. But it seems the pressure to look young has yet to take hold of many more men.

That’s if it’s due to stress and social expectations that there could be many more men who age badly than one realises.

Booted out of their lives

I think if Patty and the rest were allowed to become old people and with her being into much younger men (in my opinion, Dinah ‘Black Canary’ Lance would go from happily married wife to grandmother and even grandaunt to Tim Drake), it would be really shocking. Comes to think of it, Patty should get away with dating younger men that’s if/when her relationship with Barry didn’t really work out in the long run.

(The fact that Iris West is and will always be Barry’s woman should prove this right.)

But that also necessitates fleshing her out even further to the point of even horrifying some sexist fans should she date younger men at all. Keep in mind that X-Men comics are really no stranger to these. If Mystique is technically a century old and has flirted with younger men, she could be a cougar to some. Rahne Sinclair has flirted with a young lad and got fired for it.

(That’s understandable but it doesn’t help that at least in canon Wolverine keeps on flirting with younger women and he could be just as old as Mystique is, whom he sired a child with.)

There are young men who have a thing for older women. Though for some men, older women and even women their own age (or age group) are too intimidating for them to handle so they go for somebody easier to manipulate (read more maladjusted as to feel superior and unconsciously so). So these kinds of stories don’t happen often.

Let alone unashamedly so where Patty Spivot happily shows her new (younger) boyfriend to her old colleague Barry. (Though if that were to happen, a poopstorm will occur.) Rather than worshipping Booty Spivot, fanboys will boot her out and call her disgusting for the fact that she dates younger men. Whilst Rahne reasonably faced the music, Mystique’s either a villainness or a shady anti-heroine.

Patty Spivot’s another matter where she’s a mere supporting character. If she starts hitting on younger men, Rao help if fanboys lose their marbles when that happens.

Appeal in pathology

I think I recall somewhere that the reason why black men get objectified and sexualised is also because they’re appalling in some way. In the sense of a perceived strong racial difference never mind that even black men become insecure with their penis sizes and that in several, if not all, white depictions of black men they often become headless and expressionless.

If not, then there’s an overemphasis on certain body parts. No wonder Ajamu X and Rotimi Fani-Kayode take issues with these. Logically this is what women as well as those with deformities or other sexualised demographics get. They’re appealing because they’re appalling. No really, that makes much more sense.

Women get shamed for looking old but also shamed for attempting to look younger/better. Women get shamed for having too many children and/or lovers, they also get shamed for having none at all. Shamed for menstruating, shamed for not menstruating. They also get judged a lot for having the wrong body parts and the like.

In fact, you can make a better argument for women being the uglier sex if because they tend to get shamed a lot more for not fitting into standards. That and the never-ending mixed fetishisation/disgust with pregnancy and the like. The ironic obsession and expectation of women having to look better (than men) leads to an obsession with ideals.

The irony being that their looks may change. Their bodies may not change much at times but the standards will. So much so that the equation of women with beauty has resulted in constant futility for many other women and even those who do fit the bill sometimes get shamed by the time they start acting contrary to expectations.

Juvenilisation and the lack of reverence

It’s not that Christians have stopped being cynical (or compassionate for another matter) but rather the need for self-fulfillment has replaced the need for self-restraint and self-awareness. It’s actually an on-going juvenilisation even when secular culture becomes increasingly sensitive to ageism (which makes sense as more and more people live longer, they also get to retain their jobs more even if that may’ve been the case before especially in hunter-gatherer and ancient societies where they’re beloved for their wisdom).

The lack of reverence or at least awareness for the past has made it harder for Christians to stop having a self-centred faith. In the sense that rather than being taught to study about Christian history more extensively (which includes the Catholic parts), there’s a stronger sense of wanting their needs and wants fulfilled. That too isn’t a bad thing but this has to be tempered by a stronger awareness of not only social vices but also history as to give insight. Not to mention there’s also a tendency to expect God to do a lot of emotional labour.

But when he does get tired, it seems Christians fail to realise that he can get angry or stressed out. There’s again a lack of regard for the past that makes for a rather abysmal present and future. It seems wisdom and reverence for tradition gets replaced by immature narcissism and why this is a problem.

Mixed feelings, ambivalent prejudices

Like I said, ambivalent prejudices does help explain mixed feelings and vice versa. I understand paternalistic prejudice to be in the sense of distrusting somebody/something but also pitying it. Whilst with envious prejudice, it’s admiring somebody/something but also distrusting it. Weird as it sounds, it works that way. When it comes to paternalistic prejudice, to elaborate it’s distrust mixed with compassion.

When it comes to women being subjected to paternalistic prejudice, there’s undoubtedly distrust aimed at them. That’s being emotional, incompetent at what they do and needing protection or guidance as there’s suspicion at what they could do. Which’s often not very good. Same for disabled, poor or old people (or sometimes ethnic minorities). They’re helpless out of the feeling of distrust over at what they could do.

Thus a need to patronise or overprotect them as they can’t always be trusted with what they can/could do (I know from experience in a way). Envious prejudice’s a matter of distrusting what they’re (already) doing, especially if it’s actually good. It’s like with the Rothschilds being highly successful bankers, businesspeople and aristocrats. But they’re often distrusted for being too successful at what they’re doing.

While not always exactly the case, I suspect that paternalistic prejudice’s a matter of patronising or overprotecting people out of a fear of what they could do, especially if it’s not good (women, disabled people, old people, some ethnic groups). Envious prejudice’s a matter of distrusting people at what they’re already doing, which’s often good.

At least how I understand it to be from research and introspection.