Sunday, January 22, 2012

The most beautiful woman on two planets

I've been waiting for years for Hollywood to get around to John Carter. At last, it's coming. Disney has reached the point they're willing to commit themselves to a release date and a trailer. The technology is there: If Cameron can do Avatar, Stanton can do Mars.

I just did a Google search for Dejah Thoris, looking for a suitable kick-ass image of the Martian princess who wins the heart of John Carter. The only one I found is this out-of-print $99 action figure. All the rest -- all the rest -- are pin-up models.

In the books, Edgar Rice Burroughs tells us (though he doesn't belabor the point) that Martians don't wear clothes. They wear, at most, weapons. They'll wear the occasional bauble and bangle to indicate their social status and brighten up an otherwise drab leather sword belt, but that's about it. The infamous Slave Leia costume is incomprehensibly modest compared to Martian custom.

So if you go searching for images of Dejah Thoris, you can guess that you're going to find as few clothes as possible, to cover up the naughty bits that the artist was unwilling or unable to show. A lot of people seem to have no idea what a naked woman looks like.

(Whose idea was this floor-length loincloth they seem to like so much?)

What surprised me was not her wardrobe, but her demeanor. Mars is depicted as a brutal, hostile place: Everyone is armed, everyone knows how to use weapons and everyone is prepared to use them at a moment's notice, because the alternative is getting dead. Depictions of John Carter reflect this. Depictions of Dejah Thoris indicate that a Playboy photographer is in town taking applications for the upcoming Girls of the Red Planet pictorial.

Some, OK, I get that. I'm a red-blooded male, after all. We're pigs. *shrug* Most, well, I kind-of get that too. Burroughs struggles to give Dejah Thoris much to do beyond being beautiful, inaccessible and/or threatened so that John Carter can win through to her side. But all?

I guess what I'm saying is that if Disney / Stanton want to make a fully rounded... er, fleshed-out... er, three-dimensional... Dang it. If Dejah Thoris is going to be anything more than a macguffin, they've got their work cut out for them. Burroughs is no help.

(If one wished to be a literary purist, one could consider the implications when Burroughs tells us that almost no Martian animals actually have hair -- and those humanoids that have hair have it only upon their heads. And some people do observe that since Martians lay eggs, that Dejah should not have a belly-button.)

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