One of the most fascinating things about pop culture is how fans of a genre make the object of their affection into their own possession. Such acts of “poaching” mass culture and remixing it into your own creation can take many forms. This is, for example, the same principle behind sampling in hip-hop.
For a comic book fan one of the highest expressions of devotion is to dress up as your favorite character. However, you don’t have to be a comic book fan to be aware of the fact that the majority of superheroes and villains are male, effectively closing off some of the best characters from authentic representation in “cosplay” – the fan term for playing dress-up. What’s a lady fan to do?
Enter “Rule 63” a term used to designate gender-swapped cosplay. This is not the same as being in drag, where a man dresses as a woman or a woman tries to pass as a man. The spirit of Rule 63 is to reimagine the character as if the gender were switched in the original.
And lest you think Rule 63 is something reserved solely for women, men can get in on the fun too and portray female characters as if they were male. This may be even more subversive because the costumes of female superheroes are much more revealing. Rule 63 versions of The Huntress, Wonder Woman, and Power Girl (below) were part of a gender swapped Justice League and can be interpreted as a cultural critique through performance. The objectification of the female body in comics becomes clearer (for a male audience, anyways) when men portray women characters.
Looking at Rule 63 is part of a larger interest of mine examining what happens when female pop culture consumers enter into traditionally male dominated realms. How will the Geek Girls carve out a place for feminism among the gamers, comic nerds, and sci-fi fans? Perhaps not surprisingly this is an area of considerable friction within fan communities.