It’s not exactly a secret that comic books, video games, and other bastions of nerd-dom are visually geared toward male fans. It’s endemic, right down to the giggly girls of post Final Fantasy VII RPGs, wielding impossibly huge ‘swords’ and twirling around after every battle. Even Link, that paragon of manly virtue, gets no fewer than five swooning maids throughout Ocarina of Time (isn’t that… all of the eligible women in the entirety of Hyrule?) And don’t even get me started on Katniss – much as I love a strong feminist heroine, it’s inevitably a huge plot point that every man ever must love heroines like her more or less unconditionally.
So let’s just say for a second: that’s ok! Really, it is. Stereotypically, men have their comic books and women have… romance novels? Twilight? But what if you’re more (R.R.) Martin than Meyer? More Merlin than Time Traveller’s Wife? More… ok, I’ll stop, you get the point: what if you’re a girl who just can’t stomach the sweetness?
Well, comic books and movies have their fair share of shirtless men running around, although they’re of course treated much differently. The men are the men you want to be, the women are the women you want to want. Which makes sense, given the target audience. But even more than that, there’s an interesting phenomenon: men are universally uncomfortable with Man Candy.
I don’t care how feminist you are, or how much you think you like women who are cool with gravity-defying boobs. As soon as someone says, “Ooh, let’s watch Thor. The story isn’t great, but the actor is delicious,” every guy I’ve ever met starts acting exactly ‘like a woman.’
You know the routine, popularized by hundreds of romantic comedies, standup comedies and gags of all kinds. “Oh. I guess you like impossibly big muscles? I didn’t know you were into steroid infused CG. He’s not even that good looking. I mean, I guess … if you’re into that kind of thing.” If they say anything at all. Sometimes it’s just an uncomfortable shift in the mood and a hurried suggestion to pick something else.
Think I’m wrong? Well, I think of myself as a pretty down to earth girl. Boys will be boys, and why should I care about the fanservice? Until I caught guys doing it to me. Then I started noticing my own reactions to conversations about sexy elves, etc. Turns out I’m pretty bad about it – the sharpened tone, the prissy posture, the whole nine yards. Funny thing, human nature.
The good news is, feeling awkward and defensive about an overly exaggerated character isn’t exclusively a male or female thing. And it might be possible – and even enjoyable – to sit down and indulge in a little fanservice with your significant other or friends now and again, regardless of gender.
The other good news is, it’s really funny to watch a group of guys squirm as you make them uncomfortable about their favorite macho men.
But really, I guess the lesson is we should all be a little more tolerant of each other, sit back and enjoy the Mancandy. And Womancandy, too.