Profile: Sue Dibny
First appearance: 1961 in The Flash.
Current status: presumed dead.
Was subjected to the following acts of discrimination: In the Identity Crisis miniseries, she was first shown being murdered by a strike to the brain, supposedly by Jean Loring, the ex-wife of the Silver Age Atom, then, she was shown being raped in flashback by Dr. Arthur Light (who didn’t actually use any of his own sci-fi powers until the Justice League showed up to deal with him). If she was shown in a happy state, it was only within the mind of people like her husband, Elongated Man Ralph Dibny, as a male-projected version of an idealized woman. Other than that, whenever shown, it was in nigh-nauseating scenes of being violated, fatally wounded or in misery, such as one part where Dr. Light himself shows a flashback projection of his own to the League.
What’s wrong with how this was done? It’s notorious by now. She was depicted as unable to defend herself against a male attacker, but the really corrosive death knell to the script is that there was no female viewpoint in the Identity Crisis miniseries, not even her own. She was not a character in her own right, and was there for otherwise just one purpose – to die. And worst of all, her death and violation were trivialized and made irrelevant. She vanished from the proceedings almost immediately after being shown in a heap of misery upon the floor, and beyond that, there was nothing to let the audience know how she felt about being violated. These were but a few things not even mentioned in many of the reviews of the miniseries.
Do I need to point out just how sad and offensive this is when here, after all these years, when one would think that there’d been plenty of advancements for female characters in development and as players in the stories being told, we get something most incredibly backwards? Nope, didn’t think so. And regardless of whether the damage to Sue gets repaired in time, it will not erase the fact that she too has joined the doubtlessly long line of female characters who’ve been exploited by the companies that own them to use as nothing more than one-dimensional plot-devices.