Gender, feminism, and heroism in Joss Whedon and John Cassaday's Astonishing X-Men comics
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Hero characters and their narratives serve as important sites for negotiating a culture’s values. Informed by sexism in Western cultures, female heroes often construct and perpetuate women’s statuses as second-class citizens. However, female heroes also can and sometimes do work against such representations. This thesis argues for a third wave feminist interpretation of Joss Whedon and John Cassaday’s Astonishing X-Men comic books as a text that brings multiple feminist perspectives into conversation with each other and that opposes certain patriarchal systems. Through narrative and formal analysis, I explore female X-Men Emma Frost and Kitty Pryde as characters who reject gender essentialism and misogynist value systems and whose relationship addresses concepts of difference in third wave feminism. Using similar methods, I also explore an interpretation of villain Danger as a failure to integrate radical feminist ideologies into third wave feminism. I believe that Astonishing X-Men provides an example of how norms of the mainstream superhero comic book medium, which scholars have criticized as sexist, can be reworked for a new generation of feminists.