But before I get into why I’m so annoyed with Marvel and it’s representation of people who are fat, I will say that none of my ire is directed Ariela Barer as a person. She is a talented extra, and I don’t begrudge people taking a job they earned.
That being said, I’m pretty disgusted that one of the major parts of Gert’s personality is the fact that she is overweight and doesn’t give a fuck… in fact, no one does comment on it unless they are clearly being portrayed as a villain in the series.
For those of you who are not familiar, she is usually drawn with varying amounts of weight, but this to me is the best representation of Gertie:
What bothers me is that Ariela Barer is not even a little overweight… and it offends me that a casting director would cast someone of her stature as Gert. So many chubby teenage girls could have a role model in her, and I feel like we’ve been robbed of that.
I’ve gone over my reasons why “fat representation” is important in my article about Hugo “Hurley” Reyes, so I’ll let those who want to go more in depth about my feelings, do so by clicking on the link.
For everyone else, the TLDR is this: too often, overweight people are made to feel inferior because they have a different body type. They don’t see themselves represented, and when they do, it’s more often than not in a very negative light (they are portrayed as lazy, greedy, and over-eating, which is frankly not really the case for most). So when I see an overweight character get cast as a clearly thinner person, I feel like I need stand up and say “What the hell?” because seriously… what the hell?
I may never understand our society’s gross relationship with body image, but I do know that the best way to fix it is through representation. So, hey! Marvel! I don’t want anyone to get fired or anything, but maybe let’s think about that next time when you cast a person to play one of your overweight characters. Oh, and maybe have more body types in the comics too while you’re at it, that would be cool. If comic books are supposed to make your everyday, average Joe feel extraordinary, maybe start with actually giving us actual everyday, average Joe characters instead of feeding us impossible standards.
Okay. Okay. A quick disclaimer. I am aware that Runaways is over, and has been for quite some time. But with Nico Minoru and and Karolina Dean coming back for the A-Force (allegedly), I just don’t think it’s out of line to be like “Bring back Gert Yorkes already”.
It’s a problem. We keep getting characters like Captain America back from the dead, even though we have about decades and decades of material to enjoy, yet we won’t bring back characters like Gert, whose tenure in the Marvel universe is pitifully small, and comprised of two deaths.
That’s right. Two deaths. And not the fun oh-we-brought-them-back-to-life-so-they-may-come-back-again kind of death. Basically, future-Gert (leader of the future Avengers, I shit you not) goes to the past to warn present-Gert of the danger of Victor Mancha before she dies in her teenage lover’s arms. Then present-Gert dies in the alternate timeline created by past-Gert changing things because fuck everything, Marvel hates us.
Frankly, I have a lot of Runaway feels, and most of them are “WHY IS THIS SERIES CANCELLED?!”. Which, if you’re curious, is roughly about the same as my feels for The New Mutant Academy and The Young Avengers.
Oh. That’s right. I forgot. The comic book industry is laboring under a false impression of who their audience is. If you are young, and like something with a little more diversity, sucks to be you. You comics will always be cancelled. Like the things comic book lovers always have liked, and you won’t have a problem.
Though, I think I should probably mention here that Runaways is coming back in May 2015. Except, and get ready for this punch to the crotch, it will not feature any of the original characters… which includes Gert Yorkes.
Anyway, my point is we’re getting more enlightened so it’s time for the Runaways we love to return. Ms. Marvel, my favorite comic on my pull list at the moment is getting critical praise, and is selling additional printings. Hawkeye is a decidedly less super-hero super hero comic book without going into the realm of The Dark Knight, and it’s doing incredibly well. For god sakes, he gets a dog.
So, I’m sitting here going… does that mean we can bring back Gert and her crew?
Runaways is a great Marvel comic started by Brian K Vaughn (a writer I have enormous respect for as he was the story editor of the best season of Lost, the creator of Y The Last Man, and my current favorite Image comic, Saga) about a group of teenagers who find out their parents are all super villains. It’s drawn largely by Adrian Alphona, whose art style many of you may recognize from Ms. Marvel.
The series itself is an interesting critique on super heroes, as the children often save the world, but believe that all adults (including superheroes) are corrupt and cannot be trusted. Therefore, their lack of faith in anyone except each other (well, and the largely forgotten Cloak and Dagger, apparently) translates into a mistrust of everyone, and a dynamic we don’t often see in Marvel comics.
Add in representation for minorities (both in the Marvel world –what with aliens, robots, mutants, and witches- and our world- what with different ethnicities, and LGBTQ characters), and you pretty much have the perfect comic. It embraces what is different about us, finds the story in it, and shows us a whole new world to super powers.
Gert was my favorite of the cast, which included glowing lesbian aliens, immensely strong mutant twelve-years olds, self-destructive witches, and sort of Manchurian Candidate-esque robots. She didn’t have any powers, and knew it. I mean, she did have a pet velociraptor that she was psychically connected to, but that was kind of a by-product of super evil, but over-protective parents. But she didn’t really have any powers. In spite of that, she felt it was her responsibility to make sure people with power were held in check.
She was overweight, and no one made a big deal out of it (something very important to me). She dyed her hair purple, and wore whatever she wanted. She also was in a weirdly healthy relationship with a dumb jock, who surprisingly was perfect for her. She was interesting, and different, and so unlike the characters we are usually treated to with Marvel women.
Not only that, she was a well-rounded character who was snarky, and sometimes motherly, but always interested in doing what was right, even if she felt that she should expound on how bad of an idea it was.
And … she’s freaking dead.
We don’t get characters like Gert very often (or any of the other Runaways, to be frank), and we don’t get comics like Runaways very often either. So why do we off them before they even have a chance to get a following? Why don’t we bring them back when we’ll bring back every other superhero under the sun?
I don’t have the answers. I only have my bitterness, and my comics to console me that at one time Gert was there. What I do have is money that I will throw at comics that cater to the same sort of audience Runaways does, and I guess that’s all I can do for now. So.. hello, Ms. Marvel. Please don’t get cancelled.