Worth Her Weight: Amanda Waller in the New 52

A column article, The Squeaky Wheel by: Kyrax2

Just in case you missed it, the latest character to fall victim to DC's often ill-thought-out redesigns is one Amanda "The Wall" Waller. She's gone from being a "wall of a woman" to...looking like every other woman in comics. In other words, she's svelte, with high cheekbones, big breasts, what some have termed "fuck-me lipstick", a blouse unbuttoned far enough that you can see her bra peeking out, and-- especially infuriating for many-- straightened hair.

Waller as seen on the Justice League Unlimited animated series

There are a lot of words one can use to describe characters who carry a few extra pounds on them. "Overweight". "Heavyset". "Hefty." "Obese." Sometimes, if the character is female, "Rubinesque." No matter what word is used, what people mean is "Fat."

Deeply entrenched are the stereotypes associated with being fat in today's media. Fat people are portrayed as lazy, as having no self-control, as being slow, and stupid, and weak. Fat people are viewed as less worthy of respect, simply because of how they look. In extreme cases, they're viewed as something slightly less than human. The fatter a person is, the less respect they are deemed worthy of.

Or as one person on tumblr more succinctly (and sarcastically) put it: "Everybody knows it’s not okay to marginalize people of color, or disabled individuals. Fatties, on the other hand, continue to be disgusting and useless to the human race and should be mocked, shamed, and/or made to disappear."

The wonderful thing about Amanda Waller was that she didn't play into any of these stereotypes. She wasn't lazy. She didn't lack self-control. She wasn't stupid, and she sure as hell wasn't weak. She wasn't ashamed of who she was or what she did. She wasn't pathetic. She wasn't comic relief. She wasn't there just to be someone's jolly friend and wingman. Waller was one of the very, very few fat characters in any media whose weight was not portrayed as a handicap. It was simply a part of her character.

Some people have argued that Waller was a "bad role-model" because she was fat. So...all the other women in comics, with their anorexic super-model bodies and breasts that cannot physically exist in nature, are better role-models? Harley Quinn, with her half-unlaced corset is a better role-model for today's young women? "Sexy, dirty, thief" Catwoman is a better role-model? Should female comics readers starve themselves and get breast implants to look more like these excellent "role-models?"

Some have suggested that it was necessary to change Waller to match her portrayal in Smallville or the Green Lantern movie. I wasn't aware that comics were in the habit of changing to match the movie portrayals of their characters. Perhaps we'll be seeing a blonde Barbara Gordon and learn that she's actually Alfred's niece in the next issue of Batgirl, to match her portrayal by Alicia Silverstone in Batman and Robin. Perhaps more pertinent is the question of why the actresses chosen to portray Amanda Waller on TV and in the movies didn't match her comics portrayal?

So far, there's only been a single image of the new Amanda Waller released, from the final pages of Suicide Squad #1. Adam Glass, the writer on Suicide Squad, has stated that the image shows Waller earlier in her career, and that Waller isn't defined by her weight, but by her attitude.

This is all well and good, but the only "attitude" the image of the new Amanda Waller conveys is, "Bend me over a table right now, big boy. You know I want it." Everything - the straightened hair, the unbuttoned blouse with the outline of a nipple showing through and the edge of her bra peeking out, the wet, red lipstick, the arched neck exposing her cleavage-- everything about the picture screams "sex."

So, if this younger, more sexually-available version of Amanda Waller is just Amanda "earlier in her career," what does this say about her as a person and her career track? That Waller achieved her position, not through her uncompromising determination and iron will, but by sleeping her way to the top? That's certainly what that image conveys to me. If nothing else, she looks unprofessional-- and unprofessionalism is not a quality that should ever be associated with Amanda Waller.

DC claims that they support diversity. They claim that they want to appeal to a broader audience. They claim that they want to use the most "iconic" versions of their characters in this rebooted universe (and anyone saying that this version of Amanda Waller is more iconic than the original misunderstands the meaning of the word "iconic"). But actions speak louder than words. The fact that DC found it necessary to hypersexualize one of the few female characters in mainstream comics that wasn't overtly sexual is sad and telling. As dcwomenkickingass put it, "Men are powerful. Women are sexy." When a character comes along that doesn't fit this mold, she must be reduced-- physically and as a character-- to being a sex object. The fact that this also reduces the diversity and richness of the DC universe is apparently irrelevant. The fact that the woman in question was one of the few portrayals of a fat woman in any media that didn't shame or mock her is equally irrelevant to the higher-ups at DC.

Apparently, "diversity" means a world where women are young and sexy and men are powerful and handsome. Anyone not fitting this mold need not apply.

The Final Squeak

I came across this on tumblr the other day, and I wanted to share it with you. I thought it put the whole debate into perspective rather nicely, and highlighted an interesting double-standard to boot. The original author (paskettiwestern on tumblr) has kindly given his permission to include it here:

You can listen to the audio version of this post below:

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