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Women's Work and On the Prowl

So for obvious reasons, people have been comparing these two vids. There are a lot of differences between them just in terms of the intent of the creators, and the POV in the way the vids were constructed. Additionally, this may be really obvious, but I hadn't seen it mentioned so...

In terms of their content relative to canon, to me the fundamental difference is that Women's Work is about anonymous women - disposable female characters, most of whom appeared in only one episode, for the purpose of dying bloody.

On the Prowl, though, is about the heroes. I didn't recognize all the sources, but I think all or at least most of the men are the main or at least significant ongoing characters in their shows, and their suffering and pain is the focus of considerable narrative and character development - in canon as well as fandom.

Which feeds into why I like always-a-girl stories. Because we tend not to get that kind of woobie!heroine character in canon. Women characters have their own strengths and attractions but they tend not to have the particular woobieness that fandom loves (which usually includes a sort of self-destructive recklessness that goes hand-in-hand with injury). In fact, one of the best examples of a canon heroine who has that male-woobie-ness that fandom loves is BSGs Starbuck - who is, herself, a genderswap.

ETA: Oh, Faith. You could probably put Faith in this category as well. And this is probably why I've always loved Catwoman, particularly the Michelle Pfeiffer incarnation. - And, nicole_anell points out in comments - Cara, from LotS. No wonder I love her too :-).

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Also all the women in Women's Work are from *one* show.

I need to finish rewatching Canterbury's Law now I have it on DVD. The Crowning Moment of Awesome in the pilot has Canterbury, in defense of her client, provoking the actual murderer into punching her in the face in open court.
Women's Work are from *one* show.

Heh, true enough. It's a whole balance thing - Sam and Dean are tortured but only in select episodes; women die like that routinely (although, to be fair, as much as the show got really really worse on some metrics, I got the feeling after WW came out there seemed to be more balance in the "random bloody death of the week" thing).
the particular woobieness that fandom loves (which usually includes a sort of self-destructive recklessness that goes hand-in-hand with injury)

So what is it, then, that women in fandom -- as well as apparently the rest of book/media-aware society that provides ratings and best-seller lists -- find attractive about the woobie? I'm sure this has been meta'd before, but I may have missed it.

Hurt/comfort I understand. Courage and saving-the-day I understand. But in real life, self-destructive recklessness gets old very fast and isn't conducive to stability. I wonder why it is different in our fictional heroes -- because they are fiction and we don't need them contributing to the household paychecks and emotional environment of whatever family unit they are in?

BTW, thank you for all your vid recs lately, they've been wonderful.
I don't recall seeing meta about it - except that I've seen classicists talk about which midieval texts feature "woobie" heroes except that traditional scholarship doesn't have a name for it. Which only goes to show that the woobie is really something of an archetype - fandom didn't invent him.

You're right, of course, that in real life such a person would be intolerable. I tend to think the appeal is just part of the general fantasy of being loved back to health - your character is reckless because he has deep pain and self-loathing, and then someone loves him and shows him he's actually wonderful. Feels like a very classic romantic sort of fantasy.

But not everyone's after the "comfort" part of hurt/comfort, so I can't speak for their tastes - only mine :-).

I'm very glad you've been enjoying the recs!
As someone who likes torturefic, I don't think recklessness features much in it except insofar as that such behavior can function as a device to get a character into situations where he is hurt. And I associate "woobie" more with the comfort part of h/c, because of the "woobie"=security blanket.

As for hurting a character. It's just enjoyable to see a character hurt and broken down. Why is any kink a kink? I don't really get what people get out of the comfort part in h/c, because to me it's mostly boring to follow how character A nurtures character B back to health or hugs him. The comfort part seems to linger on how a character is incapacitated and needs help, and often there is infantilization too.

Whereas I like to see my favorite character suffer and endure somehow, and cope with a situation on his own, before they get help. So the hurt part is interesting to explore a character rather than some relationship. To explore how much a character can endure, what his essence is when things are stripped away, mentally or physically, how he might react to the psychological stress or injury, whether he will bend or break or adapt etc. whether he will become twisted and torture in revenge. All those things. Not whether he can rely on other people and accept help while being nursed or healed through sex.
Yep so so true. And man I reeeally wish there was more women woobies in this world especially ones that work for me.
I can't wait until we have female James Kirks for realz, instead of just over at st_genderswap.
This is a great point! I hadn't thought about that.

Edited for female woobie icon.

Edited at 2010-08-12 02:13 pm (UTC)
Also I'd say Cara from Legend of the Seeker (TV) fits the model. Sooo rare though.
Oh right! Yes, totally - which is another character I love, is pretty much the reason I was watching the show. So, yeah, I am very consistent in my woobie love :-).
I don't know if this has already been mentioned elsewhere, but I've been wanting to say that the footage from both of those vids originally had a male intended audience - that there's significant work being done by shifting that expectation in On the Prowl to a desiring female gaze - just like there's work being done in Women's Work shifting the expected audience from a desiring male gaze to a horrified/angry female one. Both the phenomena of disposable women and main male characters who survive violence are the result of the same male-oriented media apparatus. Which is why the critiques go in opposing directions - Women's Work critiques that system of disposable women you aptly describe, while On the Prowl does not necessarily indite the industry for making male torture-porn - I would argue that it asks how we turn "suffering hero" moments *into* male torture porn. Which leaves me a little torn, because I don't think we're going to see Hollywood stop making female torture porn any time soon, so yay us for turning the tables by getting off on men in pain? maybe? OMG not the fingernail!
Well, yes, I agree that both have male creators, and women are reacting differently to the women's suffering versus the men's. But my point was a little bit more narrow - i.e., in the source text, the suffering is different, because in the source text, the suffering is part of characterizations of the hero, whereas in the source text, the suffering is the defining characteristic of anonymous women.

So yes, the vids are about fandom and fandom's reaction to things, but as I said ... oh, I think at Dreamwidth - if you didn't know TV or anything about this stuff, on a surface level you could see "oh, there's torture of everyone." And I saw some comments to the effect of "yeah, there's lots of violence" - but really the vids illustrate (if you know the source) how the violence is used differently in the source itself, even though the vids are mor about the fannish gaze and fannish reactions.
Oh - I wasn't trying to disagree with what you said - just add to it. To agree that this isn't a case of "there's a lot of violence" both b/c, as you wrote, the violence is used differently, but also because there are different audience expectations (is the violence sexy or not - for whom).