Tag Archives: gender roles

Sexual Exploitation in Sandy Posner’s “The Sleeping Princess”

© Copyright 2017 Juvian Gonzales, Ryerson University

Since When Did Dreaming of Becoming a Princess be so Scary?

When I was a kid, I dreamt of becoming a princess like the ones I read from fairy tale books. I imagined getting rescued from a locked tower by a knight in shining armor who goes by the name Prince Charming. The prince would ride on a horse with his wavy and suave hair, wearing perfectly aligned, white teeth. In my head, it was very magical and romantic.

Therefore, it did not even occur in my mind that something so small like a pocket book of Sandy Posner’s The Sleeping Princess (The Story of the Ballet) would present to be a bombshell due to its rather problematic content as a feminist text…!

Sandy Posner. The Sleeping Princess. Front Cover. Special Collections Archive. Ryerson University, 2017. Public Domain.
Sandy Posner. The Sleeping Princess. Back Cover. Special Collections Archive. Ryerson University, 2017. Public Domain.

This is the second edition of the picture book published in 1949 by Adam and Charles Black; its first publication date being 1945 established by Newman Wolsey Ltd.

It consists of images illustrated by Joyce Millen. This book was considered to be popular because of the rapid interest in ballet dance throughout the European countries during its publication period (Posner 7). It is based off of “La Belle au bois Dormant” (Posner 20), the French version of Sleeping Beauty: a known classical tale that portrays an enchanting love-story about a prince who wakes up a sleeping princess with a kiss.

Seemingly harmless at this point; a kiss is no threat. However, beyond this book’s manifestation is a latent encouragement for sexual exploitation imposed on young dreamers of females.

In The Sleeping Princess, we will look at how the prince comes to kiss the princess, what role the princess initially has, and how the readers are supposed to perceive their characterizations.

“Of all fairy tales Sleeping Beauty is perhaps the most cinematic in its fashioning of a primal scene for visual pleasure” (Maria Tartar 143)

Formatting the Story Book

Posner tells the story of The Sleeping Princess in the format of a descriptive ballet play. Staying true to its form as a ballet book, Posner incorporates ballet terms like “arabesque” (80), a ballet posture, and “mazurka” (96), a group ballet dance. Instead of saying “they lived happily ever after” which is often how fairy-tales end their story, Posner ends the story with “the curtain falls” (96).

These traits depict The Sleeping Princess as a creative and sensual revision of the classical tale that should appeal to readers who are fans of ballet based on the book’s particularly unique references. It is using a “cinematic” design from how the story is told in motion of ballet dances, while the illustrations act as support with their “visual” effects. 

Figure 1. Sandy Posner. The Sleeping Princess. An illustration by Joyce Millen. Special Collections Archive. Ryerson University, 2017. Public Domain.
Figure 3. Sandy Posner. The Sleeping Princess. An illustration by Joyce Millen. Special Collections Archive. Ryerson University, 2017. Public Domain.
Figure 2. Sandy Posner. The Sleeping Princess. An illustration by Joyce Millen. Special Collections Archive. Ryerson University, 2017. Public Domain.

“Curiosity and the desire to look mingle with a display that is both aesthetically and erotically charged” (Tartar 143)

The Female Gender Role

Note how Princess Aurora is illustrated elegantly with a very slim figure, focusing on her long bare legs (seen in Figure 2). Her bed chamber is also emphasized with royal drapes of crowns but at the same time induces a very inviting look (Figure 1 & 3). Princess Aurora is presented as a sexual object.

In appearance, this book may seem modest but it’s actually an “erotic” depiction of the female lead’s character that subjects her to a case of vulnerability. Based on Leslee Farish Kuykendal and Brian W. Sturm’s outline on role reversal, there is reference to Princess Elizabeth by Robert Munsch from The Paperbag Princess released on 1980, as an example of a female character that crosses literary borders in comparison to Aurora’s conventional character. Princess Elizabeth is the one doing the rescuing in the story by marching to the tower to face the presumed antagonist, a dragon, demanding for the release of Prince Ronald. Thus, she is portraying a strong and valiant female character in “reversal” to how children usually read the depiction of womanly roles (Kuykendal & Sturm 40).

In contrast, Aurora represents the conventional female character due to her docile behaviour. She lacks the agency to choose her own destiny by sleeping throughout the tale. Unaware of the things happening in time, she only has one duty which is to wait for the right prince who would save her from the sleeping curse and marry that said man. Looking at the publication year of both texts, it is important to note that The Sleeping Princess was released before The Paper Bag Princess. This is relevant because Posner’s picture book becomes proof to how women were portrayed as idle and useless figures in the past.


The Art of Mocking Women’s Social Class

W. E. F. Britten. Illustration to Tennyson’s “Sleeping Beauty”. Methuen & Co. 36 Essex Street W. C. London, 1901.Wikimedia Commons. Public Domain.

Posner’s book mocks the social status of women by displaying Aurora to be just like any other “trophy wives” whose purpose is to make the prince look and feel good by rewarding his “tough” journey in the form of marriage (Elizabeth Aura McClintock 1101). In the book, Prince Florimond (Prince Charming) is “restless and disgust[ed] at his aimless existence” so he takes it his duty to wake up the princess to achieve something that should claim him as a hero (Posner 69 & 87). There is a sense of disguise from the prince to do something not out of kindness but to doing it for the sake of his own gratification.

Pertaining to the three illustrations above by Millen, in Figure 1, the image displayed is of the prince leaning down to kiss Aurora who is notably wearing a crown on her head. It means that Aurora had to have been from a royal bloodline if the prince were to save her in order for his efforts to be remarkably acknowledged by the town’s people. If Aurora were any ordinary girl, saving her would not have been an option.

Therefore, Posner not only shows support for the conventional female behavior, but also proposes that men regards  the value of women to a bare minimum in terms of their social background. 


A Closer Read on the Story’s Content!

David Nash Ford. “The Rose Bower.” From the “Legend of Briar Rose” by Sir Edward Burne-Jones, Buscot Park, Oxfordshire, 1890. Wikimedia Commons. Public Domain.

 In order to take a closer look on the content of The Sleeping Princess, I chose two other secondary scholarly sources to showcase the indecencies of how Aurora was depicted in the picture book that are offensive to feminist readers.

According to Maria Tartar’s article, by disregarding Aurora’s female agency, The Sleeping Princess is criticized for suggesting the concept of “necrophiliac charms” (153). In the picture book, the prince finds Princess Aurora fast asleep on a “dais” and is surrounded by the sleeping court as he makes his way to give her a kiss (Posner 88-89). This entails the vulnerability of the princess for sexual exploitation where anyone can touch her if they wish. Tartar states that princesses are “swaddled in white serenity, radiating innocence and purity even as they invite desire in the quiet beauty of their features and the soft curves of their bodies (153-4). Princess Aurora as a sixteen year old girl is described to be “radiantly beautiful withal”  and therefore is a perfect representation of Tartar’s princess definition (Posner 78).

Without personally knowing her, Prince Florimond has access to touching Aurora with the way the chamber is opened and the alluring feel the room appears to produce (seen in Millen, Figure 3). Aurora is literally being handed to the prince without fuss that continues to show the princess’ little to no influence on her destiny. The consent on Aurora’s part is given by her parents, the King and Queen, who gives their child away in marriage without talking it over first with the princess (Posner 89). Aurora’s responsibility as a princess and as bride is ultimately not up to her own decision but by the people who take control of her.

Tartar refers to Briar Rose by Burne Jones (1885-1890) that illustrates Sleeping Beauty with “roses and thorns encircling the castle and who incarnates in her stillness the seductive pull of beauty and death” (152) shown in the above image. This presents that beyond literature, artists also sees Aurora’s character as a “seductive” woman because of her “stillness” in the unconscious state.  An art representation like this correlates to the artist’s interpretation of the story. Therefore, as one views Sleeping Beauty as a sexual text, it may provide as a reason for parents not to read this kind of book to their children due to the inappropriate connotations reflected upon it.

Further, There is no dialogue written in the picture book. Everyone is described through a third person’s narration and by actions. The “stillness” not only comes from how Aurora is illustrated by Millen (Figure 3), but is also accompanied by muteness. The combination of these two themes signify a presentation of a bound, voiceless female and a sexual predator male in sight. Thus, it is unsuitable for writers to deem Aurora’s and the prince’s relationship as something happy and appealing to children.

Similarly, Martine Hennard de la Rochère discusses about the production of “La Belle au bois Dormant” and the depiction of this play in theater as being erotic while also trying to maintain an innocent image regarding marriage for young children to believe in. De la Rochère states that marital happiness is associated both in Perrault’s text and Carter’s translation “with the intimacy and privacy of the bedchamber (143). When Prince Florimond wakes Princess Aurora up in The Sleeping Princess, the members of the castle are put to sleep so no one may interrupt (Posner 88). This shows the community’s involvement to repressing the agency of the princess by providing a space where the prince can do anything he wants to the unguarded princess. This is scarring for children since the story is possibly promoting the act of marriage through means of rape since the wedding was prompted only after the prince had kissed Aurora who was in an unconscious state (Posner 89).

Sandy Posner. The Sleeping Princess. An opened up page from the pocket book. Special Collections Archive. Ryerson University, 2017. Public Domain.


Its Shape of Disguise

Based on the class visit to the Osborne Collection of Early Children’s Book, the librarian discussed about Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit and its pocket-sized shape which is deliberate to fit the hands of small children who may choose to read alone sufficiently. Lambert notes the same claim where one important feature of picture books is that “they are sized to comfortably accommodate a shared reading audience, as opposed to a solitary one” (4). This pocket-sized book, however, opposes this preconceived idea due to the high level of vocabularies printed on the pages that does not accommodate for the intellectuals of very young readers.

The Sleeping Princess requires the intellectuals of adults to be the set story-teller in order for a child to know about its story. So it is important to note that for a child to perceive this picture book, the adults have the agency to tell it in a way that could or could not be harmful to the,. However, since the content still strongly implies the “stillness” in Aurora’s position in bed that gives access for the prince to sexually explore her body, and how marriage is taken lightly that disregards its sacredness in nature, it is not recommended for parents and children to pick up this particular book.

Overall, my exhibit focused on the misconceptions of a romantic and heterosexual love, and the theme of feminism in The Sleeping Princess that presents the suitability of child readership as being problematic. Princesses are to be depicted as docile figures under vulnerable conditions. So the main question remains. Is it still a great dream to want a knight in shining armor like Prince Charming? Even when it means that your existence is to be downgraded as a mere tool for sexual exhibitions?

Works Cited

  • De la Rochère, Martine,Hennard Dutheil. “‘But Marriage itself is no Party’: Angela Carter’s Translation of Charles Perrault’s “La Belle Au Bois Dormant”; Or, Pitting the Politics of Experience Against the Sleeping Beauty Myth.” Marvels & Tales, vol. 24, no. 1, 2010, pp. 131-151,185, International Bibliography of the Social Sciences (IBSS); Research Library, http://ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/docview/503524442?accountid=13631.
  • Kuykendal, L.F & Sturm, B.W. “We Said Feminist Tales, Not Fractured Fairy Tales!: The Construction of the Feminist Fairy Tale: Female Agency over Role Reversal.” Children and Libraries, 2007, pp. 38-41.
  • Lambert, Megan D. “That’s About the Size of It: Trim Size and Orientation.” Reading Picture Books with Children: How to Shake Up Storytime and Get Kids Talking about What They See. Charlesbridge, 2015 Nov.3, pp.3-14.
  • McClintock, Elizabeth A. “Support for Beauty-Status Exchange Remains Illusory. ” American Sociological Review, vol. 82, issue 5, 2017,  pp. 1100 – 1110, doi:10.1177/0003122417725175.
  • Munsch, Robert. The Paper Bag Princess. Illustrated by Michael Martchenko. Annick Press, 1980, pp.1-32. Print.
  • Posner, Sandy. The Sleeping Princess. Illustrated by Joyce Millen. Newman Wolsey Ltd, 1945, second edition by Adam and Charles Black Ltd, 1949, pp.1-97. Print.
  • Tatar, Maria. “Show and Tell: Sleeping Beauty as Verbal Icon and Seductive Story.” Marvels & Tales, vol. 28 no. 1, 2014, pp. 142-156. Project MUSE, http://muse.jhu.edu.ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/article/546501.

Images in this online exhibit are either in the public domain or being used under fair dealing for the purpose of research and are provided solely for the purposes of research, private study, or education.

Feminist or Fractured Fairytales? Comparing Perrault’s Cinderella or The Little Glass Slipper and Munsch’s The Paper Bag Princess

Copyright 2017 Keyola Welch-Rhooms, Ryerson University

Feminist Vs. Fractured Fairytales

Fairytales are often where children first look to learn lessons about the world and society around them. The ways in which women and men are presented in most classic fairytales often differ, and the roles that both genders presumably play are very different. In popular children’s folktales and fairytales rewritten by Charles Perrault and the Brothers Grimm, there is often an underlying idea that the female protagonist is weaker or less capable than her male counterpart. In Cinderella or the Little Glass Slipper by Charles Perrault, Cinderella is incapable of saving herself and must rely on the prince to come and rescue her from her evil stepmother. In the article “We Said Feminist Fairy Tales, Not Fractured Fairy Tales!”, by Leslee Farish Kuykendal and Brian W. Sturm, there is a quote that accurately describes the two roles of a woman in popular tales like Cinderella: “there are two definitions of woman [in fairy tales]. There is the good woman. She is a victim. There is the bad woman. She must be destroyed. The good woman must be possessed. The bad woman must be killed, or punished. Both must be nullified” (Kuykendal and Sturm 39). Cinderella is the victim in this case and her stepmother is the so-called “bad woman.” Both roles are not nearly as favourable as the prince. Although he is not the protagonist, he is the one who saves Cinderella from her dreadful family, resulting in both the prince and Cinderella living happily ever after.

Perrault, Charles and Errol Le Cain. Cinderella or The Little Glass Slipper, Faber and Faber Limited, 1972, London. Ryerson University Children’s Literature Archives. Public Domain.

In classic children’s fairytales like those of Perrault and the Brothers Grimm, princesses are seen as dainty and almost clueless. They are expected to be enchanting yet still submissive to the male. In contrast to the classic damsel-in-distress tale, Princess Elizabeth, in The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch, is responsible for saving her prince from the dragon. Unlike Cinderella and many other princesses in children’s literature, she saves the day. After she saves her prince, he decides that he no longer wants to marry her because of her appearance. Although a very simple story, this tale is an example of a female not only taking the lead role, but also being in a position of power and authority. It can be assumed that because certain gender norms have already been set in place, it is harder for a child to see Elizabeth as a true hero. According to Kuykendal and Sturm, in studies where children were asked about this particular story, the children “admired strong female protagonists, [but] these were not the characters they wished to emulate” (Kuykendal and Sturm 40). Parsons writes “In many traditional tales, being rewarded with the prince and the security of marriage is the result of the heroine’s submission and suffering, along with her beauty, rather than her agency” (Parsons 137). This ideology directly contrasts a book like The Paper Bag Princess where the heroine is not rewarded with a prince nor marriage. Instead she gains independence and self-sufficiency which by the end of the book proves to be more valuable.

Children Interacting With Feminist Fairytales

In a study done about feminist picture books in their relation to children, the children did not quite understand the significance of the books, but the young girls did appreciate the idea of a strong heroine as the protagonist (Bartholomaeus). Unlike popularized tales, feminist picture books for kids teach lessons, or “upside down” fairytales, that attempt to reinvent a child’s way of viewing a traditional tale. In her article, “Ella Evolving,” Linda T. Parsons makes the point that “we tend to accept the gendered discourse embedded in [fairy tale storylines] as natural, essential, and conclusive” (Parsons 136). Parsons is reinforcing the point that it has become acceptable for us to see male characters and dominant and female characters as submissive making it even harder to reimagine these roles.

Bartholomaeus studied how young girls identified with upside down fairytales in her study on six-year-olds to eleven-year-olds and feminist picture books. Her research in conjunction with the research of other scholars proposes that for both young girls and boys to avoid seeing traditional gender roles, the characters in these stories should be involved in activities that are not gender based. The books that Bartholomaeus chose to read to her participants, the children, to were visibly feminist books with titles such as Cinder Edna by Jackson and O’Malley, William’s Doll by Zolotow and Pène du Bois and A Fire Engine for Ruthie by Newman and Moore. For certain books like Cinder Edna, when it came to distinguishing between “girl” activities and “boy” activities, the children did not categorize the books based on gender but rather on how the characters in the books were treated or the qualities that were attributed to these characters. They described them as different or happier as opposed to being a boy or a girl. In the story of Cinder Edna, two princesses, Cinder Edna and Cinderella, marry two princes. Cinder Edna and her prince live happily ever after, presumably because Cinder Edna is more is less reliant on her husband and is interested in other non-domestic activities. The children were able to identify that Cinder Edna and her prince were happier than Cinderella and her prince (Bartholomaeus 940). In the case of the other books, where gender reversal was more evident, the children initially could not identify what gender each character was because they were not used to the reversal in gender roles like girls playing with ‘boy toys’ in A Fire Engine for Ruthie and boys playing with ‘girl toys’ in William’s Doll.

Cinderella pictured on page 4 of Cinderella or The Little Glass Slipper doing housework which is expected of her. Found in the Ryerson University Children’s Literature Archives.

Feminist Fairytales Redefined

Parsons explains that “a feminist text deals with issues of freedom, choice, and expanding the subject positions available to women and men, and it makes visible the fact that the tales have functioned historically to reproduce social values” (Parsons 139). She references Jack Zipes study on the evolution of folktales. He uses the word contamination to describe the changes in the literature over the years and how it can be used for the betterment of the evolution of literature. Feminist folkloric texts in a sense are trying to contaminate historical literature and reorganize gender norms to create different ideas and reshape the way society views classic fairytales. Parson also brings up the point that fairytales for children have been retold and popularized by Perrault and The Brothers Grimm but actually belong to and are ruled by women seeing as most of the dominant characters, both princesses and villains, are women. The feminist re-visions of fairytales popularized by Perrault and The Brothers Grimm aim to break down the gender binaries that the favoured editions of these stories have constructed.

Princess Elizabeth and Cinderella represent two different views of what it means to be a true princess. From what the revised folktales tell us, princesses are expected to be saved by a prince and are only useful in domestic settings. When determining whet, it is important to note that the objective of feminist fairytales are not simply to switch gender roles. The protagonist should be empowered despite its gender. The Paper Bag Princess is an example of a typical damsel-in-distress story that turns into a feminist tale because by the end of the book the main female protagonist is empowered. Fractured fairytales slightly differ because their objective is not necessarily to prove what gender is dominant but is rather focused on simply reversing the plot or character roles to alter the story. Feminist fairytales and stories are very useful in constructing different ideas of gender and exposing readers to different views that can possibly change the way that male and female protagonists are seen.

Works Cited

Bartholomaeus, Clare. “‘Girls can Like Boy Toys’: Junior Primary School Children’s Understandings of Feminist Picture Books.” Gender and Education 28.7 (2016): 935-50. Web. 31 Oct. 2017.

Kuykendal, Leslee F. “We Said Feminist Fairy Tales, Not Fractured Fairy Tales!” Children and Libraries, 2007, pp. 38-41.

Parsons, Linda T. “Ella Evolving: Cinderella Stories and the Construction of Gender-Appropriate Behavior.” Children’s Literature in Education, vol. 35, no. 2, 2004, pp. 135-154.

Perrault, Charles, and Errol Le Cain. Cinderella or The Little Glass Slipper. Faber and Faber Limited, 1972.

Under-representation of Women in Whiz Wallace

© Copyright 2017 Ashlyn Good, Ryerson University


Women have been misrepresented for years in comics, especially during the second world war. They were underrepresented within comics because they were not given credit for everything they did do during the war effort, and should be able to at least have a better depiction of themselves within media if they do not get the credit they deserve in real life.
This exhibit will be exploring the portrayal and interpretation of gender roles in comics during World War 2 in Wow Comics No. 9. The story of Whiz Wallace will be analyzed to demonstrate the struggles between power among the gender roles, the language used to describe and differentiate between characters and their roles, as well as the illustrations used which help to depict the discrimination that is implied within the comic.

 Language and Interpretation of Character

The language used within this issue of Wow Comics is very discriminatory especially during that time period. It is important because it affects the way we interpret and perceive women in the text. In Whiz Wallace, the language that the author has used implies that Elaine is evidently weaker than Whiz and seems to be dependent on him to save her. This allows the audience to interpret her as the lesser gender which is unfair to women because during that time period in real life they were actually quite useful and sometimes even more useful than men. According to the book, The 10 Cent War: Comic Books, Propaganda, and World War 2, “part of the traditional cultural structure placed men as protectors and women as protected” (Kimble, 39). In Whiz Wallace, Elaine is the more vulnerable character and depends on Whiz to save her most of the time.  Elaine is portrayed as this weak woman whom can not seem to defend herself while Whiz is depicted as strong and masculine. This means that gender roles were significant during this time and it is clearly depicted in the story of Whiz Wallace that Elaine was meant to be protected and not the protector because of her gender.

C.T Legault. Panel from “Whiz Wallace.” Wow Comics No.9, Bell Features and Publishing Company, pg. 57. Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives.

In addition, another character who is also a woman is portrayed as slightly vulnerable even though she plays a powerful role: the Cobra Queen. She is a very powerful female character in this comic but unfortunately even she ends up depicted as vulnerable and more feminine rather than a strong female character. In the comic, the queen is introduced to readers as sad and void (Legault, 60) and as you continue to read on to the next page, the language used to describe the queen begins to change simultaneously. First she was a queen, then she was “queen-like”, then she became a “beautiful princess”(Legault, 61) and later on, she becomes a queen again. The change in description is significant because this means that the author gradually takes power away from this character and by doing so, exerts power onto the opposite gender almost automatically. Since this character was made more vulnerable because of language used to describe her, it proves that during this time period, men were automatically seen as the heroes or the protectors and labourers. Men are the ones who put in the most work according to the train of thought of other men during that time period and the language used within this comic is used deliberately to create an interpretation about a certain character(s).

Fig. 2: C.T Legault. Panel from “Whiz Wallace.” Wow Comics No.9, Bell Features and Publishing Company, pg. 60. Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives.

Illustration and Interpretation of Women

The depiction and illustration of women within this comic is very significant because it adds to how readers interpret their character, especially women. Women are usually highly sexualized within media and it has been this way for a very long time because of the patriarchal society that has impacted it. In Whiz Wallace, the Cobra Queen and Elaine both wear more slim-fitting clothing which exposes more skin creating a more sexualized, alluring appearance which creates a sexualization which brings about the interpretation that women are sexual objects that are portrayed in order to visually please men. During this time period, women were out doing manual labour on the homefront while men were at war. This meant that a change in roles would mean a change in style as well. According to an article written about women during the war, “this change of dress is symbolic of the change in American women’s roles during the war. This adoption of masculine dress, by literally wearing the pants, is an outward expression of the cultural shift in women as homemakers to women as worker”(Hall, 237). Even though women were of great use to the war effort at the time, they were still portrayed as sexual objects with a vulnerable and feminine touch within the comic, especially in Whiz Wallace because even at the end of the comic, the Cobra Queen is clearly attracted to Whiz, even though he is merely an Earthman. Overall, “there are fewer women than men… portrayed as interested in romance or as less-powerful adjuncts to male characters, the women are shown in skimpy clothing and in poses that accentuate their curves while male characters are portrayed as athletic and action-oriented” (Cocca, 7). This demonstrates that women will be seen as lesser than men and the author of the comic has depicted that women are sexual beings which are created in order to please men.


“Mansel in Distress”: Power Struggle Between Genders and Characters

In the comic, there is an interesting power struggle among gender roles within Whiz Wallace, because of the differences and similarities between Elaine and the Cobra Queen, in contrast to Whiz, and his more masculine role. According to the book, Superwomen: Gender, Power, and Representation, “the superhero genre in comics… underrepresents women in position of power, both as real life creators and as fictional characters” (Cocca, 1). In this comic, the Cobra Queen is a strong female character in the sense that she is the one to save Whiz and Elaine from the army of dwarves that were ready to kill them. The Cobra Queen is introduced as a vulnerable character, who is sad and who seems to have a void as though she is missing something, but then she becomes this powerful character who takes charge and gets rid of the dwarves in order to save Whiz and Elaine. She is an interesting character because she is still portrayed as more vulnerable from Whiz even though she saved his life because near the end of the comic, she seems to be attracted to Whiz and it seems as though there could be a sort of love triangle or even a conflict because there is Elaine who also depends on Whiz for protection and potentially attraction. She calls him a “handsome earthman” (Legault, 63), which means that she must be attracted to him in some way.

In contrast, Elaine is portrayed as more dependent on Whiz to protect her because in the comic she does not seem to be able to take care of things on her own without referring back with Whiz. For example, when the couple was getting attacked the army of dwarves, Elaine was not able to handle it and had to wait for Whiz to save her because her character is depicted as weak and vulnerable and clearly unable to handle herself (Legault, 57). They are referred to as a couple in the comic which means there must be some sort of relationship between them and since Elaine depends on Whiz more, this clearly demonstrates that Whiz is the one with the power between the three characters.

Furthermore, Whiz is depicted as masculine and strong which men usually are within media, especially during that time period, which exerts a type of power which is clearly demonstrated throughout the entire story. Even though Whiz is sort of a ‘mansel in distress’ in this comic, he still contains a significant power of the women in the story. He attracts both female characters with his looks which sexualizes the women within the comic proving them to be more vulnerable than men, making them lose their power almost altogether. The characters in this comic struggle metaphorically with power in relation to who is the more dominant gender.



Overall, women are misrepresented within comics as well as during the war effort at that time. In this comic, even though there was more stronger, female character, she was still depicted as vulnerable with very feminine qualities. Then there was Elaine, who was depicted as the typical damsel in distress, awaiting Whiz to save the day. According to the book Superwomen: Gender, Power, and Representation, “the underrepresentation of women… and the repetition of inequalities in fiction… are unacceptable and can and must be changed” (Cocca, 5). This means that women should have been given a chance in real life as well as in the media to show how useful they really were as opposed to weak and useless.

Works Cited

  • Legault,​ ​E.​ ​T.,​ ​et​ ​al.,​ ​editors.​ ​​Wow Comics: No. 9.​ ​Bell​ ​Features​ ​and​ ​Publishing​ ​Company, 1942
  • Hall, Martha L., et al. “American Women’s Wartime Dress: Sociocultural Ambiguity Regarding Women’s Roles During World War II.” The Journal of American Culture, vol. 38, no. 3, 2015, pp. 232–42. Scholars Portal Journals, doi:10.1111/jacc.12357.
  • Bloomsbury.com. “Superwomen.” Bloomsbury Publishing, www.bloomsbury.com/us/superwomen-9781501316579/.
  • Goodnow, Trischa, and James J. Kimble, editors. The 10 Cent War: Comic Books, Propaganda, and World War II. University Press of Mississippi, 2016.

Images in this online exhibit are either in the public domain or being used under fair dealing for the purpose of research and are provided solely for the purposes of research, private study, or education.