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Category: Feminism

Rosemary for Remembrance

I guess it was early April when Steven I went to see V for Vendetta and I managed to hold off on buzzing my hair until late May, though I’d wanted it well before I saw Natalie Portman pull it off. I don’t talk about fashion and haircuts just to be frivolous but because I think the movie’s frivolity is key. Back in the 80s when V for Vendetta was written, dystopia looked dim. Recession would give way to civil war and ethnic cleansing (though that wasn’t a term yet, then, right? Not until the next decade and Yugoslavia’s demise?) and grim cement-block dormitories that would drive a girl right out on the streets to take a chance on prostitution when it could hardly be worse than home. Nowadays, I think we imagine it more like the movie does, although now the Fed’s this week stopped moving up interest rates, et c., et c., and who knows? But yeah, the “first they came for the Pakistanis and I didn’t speak up because I was too busy watching tv, plus don’t you have to be suspicious of them anyway?” approach seems like a plausible enough one to take. Unfortunately removing the squalor means removing some of the motivation. Here, Evey’s looking plenty fashionable by our standards and is sort of coddled by our fascist dictatorship, sure, but that’s what happens in the book too.

When Evey sets out from home at the start of the movie, she’s not exactly hoping to sell her body, or not so directly. She’s got a date with her boss (of some sort; like I said, it’s been months and the details are hazy) Gordon, who we later learn is gay and only dating girls for cover. Not only that, but he’s got a secret archive of Korans and Mapplethorpes. (I’m making that detail up because I don’t remember what the pictures of frolicking male nudes in the movie actually were, and because it lets me add the bitter footnote that I haven’t ever recovered from my anger that my parents wouldn’t let me see the Mapplethorpe exhibit that was subject of an obscenity trial here in Cincinnati. I listened to the details on the news every night and wanted to go judge for myself whether, as I suspected, the child nudes were in fact non-sexual and the adults appropriately so. Apparently the fact that I was 10 was enough to keep people from taking me seriously when it came to this request. I see their point, but, like I said, I still resent how it made me feel so left out, like history was passing me by.) So okay, it’s in Gordon’s best interests to have these beards so that he doesn’t raise enough eyebrows to get his place searched, but for that reason it’s in his best interest not to be encouraging young women with his business card from sneaking out after curfew to be caught and questioned by the secret police, so I don’t in fact think this was a good translation from book to screen, but it gets Evey out on the streets and lets V become her savior.

So the movie prettifies dystopia, but more interesting I think are the ways it erases some of the messiness around gender in the original. Here, when Evey’s thrust back into her corrupt world, she finds Gordon again to be her hero who’s keeping it real while living a lie. In the book, though, she lives with a rather different sort of character, a middle-aged man who wants her to share his bed. I think Steven thinks she’s legitimately fallen in love (whatever that means), but I think love isn’t even an issue at that point. She knows she’s nothing but a pawn and yet her body gives her an edge up, the only sort of power she can have. Living with V, like living under the tyranny outside, has taught her to comply with anything without protest, to easily readjust her worldview to let her survive inside the new power structure. So Evey learns to live out there and she survives, and then gets pulled back into the secret world and survives there too. She’s really not a very exciting protagonist, although I think she’s supposed to be.

More interesting, at least in the book, is the character I found most sympathetic, Rosemary Almond. She doesn’t show up in the movie, like the other major woman among the minor characters, Helen Heyer. Dr. Delia is there, in about an equivalent role, and the mysterious martyred Valerie, but none of the women who actually act like women. Of course, in this world “acting like women” means they are able to create roles for themselves based on those of the men they’re married to or otherwise fucking or at least implying they’d be willing to consider fucking. Helen, whom I do find sympathetic and more interesting than V or Evey, is a conniving bitch who gets her comeuppance, but she’s also in some ways the only woman with any sense of agency we get to see in the story. Sure, Evey takes on a mantle, but that’s some mystical transformative thing and a necessary unbelievability if you want a hopeful future for humanity after the final page.

Rosemary, though, has something else going on. By my reading, she seems like the solidly middle-class wife of a civil servant who doesn’t appreciate her (claiming he’d want to fuck her if she were more like the glamorous Helen, excuses for erectile dysfunction being more than common in the book) and yet whom she loves and accepts as loving her as much as he can. Then he gets offed by V and she learns quickly that even her bitter husband provided for her better than the state will, and she eventually does decide it would be in her best interests to accede to the propositions of one of her dead husband’s friends since it’s the only way she can maintain the standard of living she barely wants. V eventually gets him, too, and poor Rosemary ends putting on makeup like Evey at the beginning of the book to become a chorus girl at the cabaret the political leaders (formerly her social set) frequent. Unwilling to accept such an ending, though, she buys a gun and shoots The Leader of the fascist regime. In the book she does, at least.

In the movie, there is no Rosemary. It’s V and his awesome fighting skillz that come into play in the Matrixy assassination sequence, no “hell hath no fury” sequence needed. And yet while they’ve written out this Evey-parallel character in making the translation, there’s more to the Evey parallel than I’ve already said. See, in the book when Evey learns about the trademark rose V leaves with his victims, she asks if there’s one for The Leader but V replies that he has a different rose for that job. By this part in the story, Rosemary has been going by Rose for quite some time, a switch that’s not botanically sound but does sometimes seem to happen in namings though I’m rather particular about being a Rose plain, and now we learn that instead of being a woman out for vengeance and truth and power, she’s just another domino. In the most charitable reading, perhaps V’s just kept up with his surveillance and happens to know what she’ll do, but that hardly seems like him, does it? No, Rosemary/Rose is just like Evey, who’s guilted and manipulated into becoming exactly the woman V wanted her to be, giving him his perfect send off. Each has her heart ripped out by V until she can learn to be violent in a way that’s useful to him and his precious cause.

None of this is to say that I don’t sympathize with V, don’t think an evil, racist, fascist, misogynist government shouldn’t be overthrown. It’s just a bit creepy, if honest, to show the sexist, megalomaniacal tactics he uses to do that in the book. It’s equally creepy, I find, to edit that out in adapting it to movie form. While the movie avoids the “Evey, I am your father!” scene for seduction, neither story has much to show about truthful or healthy relationships, which I suppose is a rather obvious statement. It’s hard for me to watch Evey being abused even when V’s on good behavior and not locking her up with a rat for company. It’s hard to watch Rosemary pull a trigger that she knows will ruin her life with the hope that it might save others, though harder still with the thought that she’s just doing this for V and only thinks it’s for herself. But maybe all I’m saying is it’s just hard to sympathize with a crazy fascist who wants to overcome crazy fascism. There’s got to be a better way and I hope we find it soon.

seeing darkly

Steven and I saw A Scanner Darkly 10 days or so ago and then I read the book on Saturday. I have a lot to say about them, but I’ve already written a version of this post on the livejournal I’ve been keeping. I want it here because it’s more this kind of material than what I’ve been writing there and also because I have very similar things to say about V for Vendetta and it will be easier to say them if I can just link back here.

“Everybody bangs me.” She amended that. “Tries to, anyhow. That’s what it’s like to be a chick.” (14)

So I read A Scanner Darkly on Saturday and watched the adaptation the weekend before, and Steven was right that it was a remarkably faithful adaptation (and I’m sure I never doubted him!). Sure, the movie’s been beefed up with more foreshadowing (possibly, as Steven suggested to me, because some of the twists were things Dick made up as he went along) and a few nods to the fact that it’s being released in 2006, not the late 70s. So instead of phone booths there are cellphones. There’s no word about a Communist conspiracy, but there’s also no real surprise in Big Government colluding with Big Business.

Most interesting to me, though, is that while the movie is still about ostensibly straight, white men, that almost doesn’t matter. Sure, as in the book, there’s debate about how to get into Donna’s pants and why Bob can’t manage to do it. As in the novel, when Bob brings home a Donna-substitute to fuck, she wants to know whether he’s gay since he lives with two men. As in the novel, he tells her that he’s trying not to be. But there’s none of the hand-wringing about how Donna’s not going to be able to preserve her current chastity because chicks never do. In fact, in no time at all women addicts seem to slip right into selling sex for drugs. Somehow the men are able to avoid this or avoid mention at least. In the movie, it doesn’t come up much, in part because women don’t exist much.

In the whole movie, I don’t remember hearing once about a woman who wasn’t wearing a bra, but that’s a key descriptor for certainly the vast majority of the women who show up in the book. And while race seems quite incidental in the movie, that these just happen to be a bunch of white stoners, race has in many parts been erased. It’s supposed to be black people from whom Barris buys the bike and a black man who explains to them how the gears actually work, but that’s not how it works out in the movie. The only black character I remember (and I’m pretty sure I’m forgetting some) from the movie is the doctor in the team examining Bob/Fred, and she’s female too. So instead of getting to see how privilege works, why these hierarchical distinctions maybe matter even more to these paranoid straight, white male addicts because inherent power is the only kind of power they can get, we get to see a black woman as the voice of reason, able to correctly assess what’s wrong with Bob. I’m not sure if this was a deliberate choice to contrast the novel’s stance (and I’m not accusing Dick of being a misogynist racist or anything; I assume the biases he gives Bob/Fred and his cohort are just the sort they’d really have) or if it’s a way of supporting it, showing that non-white/female power is just another thing Bob’s damaged brain can’t handle.

There’s more to it than that, of course. This doctor is the one who tells Bob to get Donna some little blue (in the movie version, at least, blue) flowers, which initially made me suspect that she might be Donna in some sort of higher-level scramble suit. She’s the one who lets him off the hook the first time he should fail his perception tests, also the sort of thing a kind-hearted or manipulative girlfriend might do. And yet it eventually turns out that maybe she’s gotten through to Bob’s reptile brain and, whether he realizes it or not, he may do exactly what she asks. Would a white man higher up the hierarchy have been able to get below his skin as well? Beats me.

There’s the whole Donna conundrum, too, that while in the movie she doesn’t get to be the castrating bitch who’s suing a man for $40,000 for grabbing her boob and who carries a well-concealed knife to ward off potential attackers, she gets a major elevation of role in the metaplot. Whether this makes her a conniving bitch instead, especially since as in the book there’s a decent chance that she’s disguised herself as Connie to be Bob’s Donna-substitute fuck after she’s turned him down as Donna, is unclear. I’m pretty sure there was a major difference in the scene where she does turn him down, when Bob asks if he can run away with her if she cleans up her life and leaves the scene, too. In the book, this refusal more than her unwillingness to have sex was the heartbreaking dealbreaker for him. He can’t even have a fantasy of her. And yet I’d thought in the movie she agreed that sure, maybe they’d go together and thus he could dream whatever he wanted (while she knew the truth). I feel a lot of tenderness for her in both versions, maybe gender biases coming into play again, but she’s a bit of a mystery no matter what. I think that’s a good thing, though.

Really, I said that I was okay with not having all the plotlines completely resolved and I still am. I like a certain amount of uncertainty (ha ha) but there’s something a bit unnerving about the cleanup of the nastier bits of story for the movie, just as there would be something unnerving about hearing Keanu Reeves call someone a “spade” the way he’d have to in a literal adaptation. I don’t know how this sort of thing generally does or should get dealt with, but it’s still got me thinking days later. I just don’t think I’m thinking toward definitives, which is typical but also probably good.

“Every woman loves a fascist”

As soon as I’d finished All-Star Superman #2, “Superman’s Forbidden Room,” I had pretty much the same eh, fine I guess reaction I’d had to the first issue. Yet the more I thought about it, the more intrigued I became.

First of all, when people were talking about this as a return to the Silver Age for Superman (a character I’ve never really felt compelled to follow anyway) I hadn’t really thought about how this meant that the “Superman is a dick” factor would be at the forefront. But wow, what an awful hero he is! It’s really kind of fun to watch him shrug off Lois’s complaint that it’s unfair that he lied to her for years and years because he’s too busy trying to micromanage her birthday dinner on his personal recreation (by which I’m not sure I mean “replica” or actual “whole object remade from the broken parts”) of The Titanic. I mean, even when she’s apparently crazy, she’s more reasonable than he is anywhere in the story.

Then there’s the Bluebeard aspect, both in Superman’s secret room and his magical key that only he can use. It makes me more sure that the first issue was an Icarus allusion, since in both cases flying into the sun can kill you but also lets you star in your own story as the guy who tried. I was going to say jokingly that issue 3 is going to feature Superman realizing that he has brothers but they’ve been turned into swans, except that this might not end up being far from the truth. After all, he’s pressuring Lois to slip into a supersuit and I can’t imagine that story’s going to end well! I sort of hope it doesn’t. I like how the cheery covers here are cloaking something darker. I said to Steven that I was going to laugh and laugh if Superman ended up dying, which is probably a lie, at least a little. I wouldn’t mind a Death of Superman done well, but DC has made a world (our world, I mean) where the Death of Superman is necessarily something ludicrous.

It sounds awful to say that I’m enjoying the story because Superman is, if not quite abusive, at least a real creep. It’s not that I want to see the mighty fall or insist on the infamous darkening of superhero universes, but it’s nice to see that as a man he’s not all that super at all. He’s got a world of fa├žades — a giant, empty mecha suit and his recreation of the space shuttle Columbia — to complement an emotional world in which he can’t love the woman he loves enough to let her know who he is. His fortress is staffed by robot simulacra of himself, it features a portal where he can converse with Supermen of the future, but how is Lois ever supposed to find a home here? She does realize that the problem is not just that she’ll someday be saggy and worn but that Superman has lied to her and deliberately undermined her self-image by taking joy in keeping this star reporter from ever proving her suspicions about his secret identity. But, he says, “Aren’t you happy your suspicions were right all along?” Aren’t you glad at least that you’ve still got your womanly intuition, Lois, not to mention your looks??

What she doesn’t know, or doesn’t know for sure, is that he’s still lying to her, not just by refusing to tell her he’s dying but by actively telling her that nothing’s wrong when she asks about repercussions from his jaunt into the sun. Oh, sure, he’s got the excuse of not wanting to spoil her birthday, but conveniently that means he doesn’t have to spoil his own control of every situation. I’m looking forward to finding out down the line whether there really was a mysterious gas making Lois overly suspicious or whether that’s just another in this string of convenient lies. Either way, it’s one of those “just because you’re paranoid, it doesn’t mean no one’s following you” situations, and I can’t wait to see whether Lois is more perceptive than she realizes or whether she, like her man, will be willing to accept a life of lies because of the way it easily makes sense of a messy universe. At least we as readers get plenty of glimpses of the mess underneath, and that’s going to keep me coming back. That and a bastardy yet tragic dying Superman!

Now a Tamed Lion

Since I did a health update last time, I’ll add now that apparently the reason I’ve felt yucky the whole last month is pneumonia, but I’m on a new antibiotic that seems to be turning things around. Still, expect a certain amount of radio silence.

We did go see The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe a week or two ago. Steven had read the books in middle school or so, but I got to them much earlier, which I think is why they stuck so deep in me. In kindergarten, I could recite full pages from C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe because I spent so much time poring over it and making sure my pictures of Mr. Tumnus and Lucy matched the descriptions. I’ve probably read it and my very favorite, The Voyage of The Dawn Treader 50+ times, if not far more than that. But I hadn’t read them recently, not since middle school or so for me, when I moved from believing that even if I Jesus made no sense to me I could understand the power of Aslan to deciding that it was all just stories and I was ready to read something new. After the movie, though, I decided to give them another shot. I was reading a book a night last week (in publication chronology) but I seem to have tapered off after The Silver Chair, since I know in my old opinion it was all downhill from there, especially into The Last Battle.

See, that’s where the gender problems get inescapable, or so it seemed to me. The Pevensie children are thrust into Narnia again because they’re dying on earth, but sister Susan is no longer with them. See, she’s now more interested in boys and stockings and lipstick than in the Narnian ideals of righteousness and stuff. (Here and throughout quotes are paraphrased, but correct to the best of my memory. Again, I plead sick and don’t want to have to flip through all those pages.) Apparently so much for “once a king or queen in Narnia, always a king or queen in Narnia” when it comes to getting one last chance! I think it especially bothered me because in the setup to Dawn Treader it’s explained that Susan gets to accompany their parents to America because she’s pretty and not as smart as the other children and thus will gain more from the experience. See, that always bothered me. Shouldn’t Aslan grade on a curve if this is what we already know Susan’s like? That’s all the explanation there is, though, and that always nagged at me even though I wouldn’t say I’ve ever cared about lipstick or stockings or boys.

Nothing before that seemed too bad, though it was there. Father Christmas tells the girls in the first book that wars are ugly when women fight. Then there’s Eustace’s teetotaler, vegetarian parents in Dawn Treader, with his mother particularly singled out for being disappointed when he comes back from Narnia, where he’s had life-changing experiences, because now he’s just like an ordinary boy. In the ridiculous liberal parody school, Experiment House, that Jill and Eustace attend in The Silver Chair, the head of schools who allows bullying to go on in order to study bullies turns out in the last pages to be (gasp!) a woman, although she’s eventually shuffled off to Parliament where she won’t have any more negative effects on anyone. Maybe it’s because these books have been part of my life since before I could read that this comes across as more a cranky old uncle-figure complaining about kids (and schools) these days. I didn’t agree, but I found it easier to ignore those bits and focus on the parts I found less off-putting.

What I did find more off-putting was the way the movie dealt with such issues. This is very much Lucy’s story and there’s a reason, in Lewis’s rigid gender system, that this is a book dedicated to a young girl. It’s not really about the epic battle sequences, although I may just be saying this because they do nothing for me. More important are the personal transformations the children all go through in their adventure, and unfortunately if you’re going to have exciting times hiding from the wolves, you don’t have time for all that. It just seemed unbalanced to me, in a story about children thrown into a situation where they have to become adults, to depict this almost purely by how nobly they toss their heads when sparring or doing archery practice. And that’s not even mentioning the things the movie added. Now Mr. and Mrs. Beaver suddenly play out the smart mom/doofus dad dynamic common in bad sitcoms, and I don’t think talking animals had to be funny in quite the modern way they were. I don’t think the Susan/Peter dynamic was expressed well enough in the movie, either; they weren’t trying to be mom and dad, just to be leaders to the other children as best they could and with varying ideas about what would be best. Father Christmas’s line about why he doesn’t want Lucy and Susan to fight unless they absolutely must gets cleaned up, but then Peter forces Edmund to wear a woman’s coat, because nothing’s more humiliating than being like a girl! Ah, how times have changed in these 60 years!

This is all leaving aside the question of whether there’s a crypto-Christian story playing, which is certainly what Christian groups are being told. I’m not so sure. Yeah, Aslan sacrifices himself and then shows up again, but I think there’s more to Jesus than that. What we don’t hear until the very end of the movie is the refrain that runs through the book, Aslan is not a tame lion. The actors did their best to portray the awesomeness (in both the grand and terrifying sense) of the Great Lion, but the movie didn’t really bother with that. Weirder still is that only Aslan has to make meaningful sacrifices, and all his scarier moments are removed so that he can look better gilded. In one of my favorite scenes in the book, Lucy comes upon her dying brother Edmund as the battle is winding down and she gives him a drop of her healing fire flower potion. For a long, dreadful moment, nothing happens. Then Aslan tells her that she needs to move on to others, and she basically shushes him. He points out (loudly) that others may be dying because of her selfishness and at that she leaps up apologetically and heads out on her task. Edmund’s stern talking-to when he’s returned to Aslan’s camp is fiercer, too, as is the admonition that Peter needs to clean his sword. Maybe there are a lot of Christians who think that individuals don’t matter in the face of a god whose sacrifice has changed everything, but I’m pretty sure most of them go in for the “doing good works” side of things too. That’s the part, not the deeper magic from before the dawn of time, that seems compelling to me as a reader, though not as a viewer since it’s hardly anywhere to be seen.

I complained a little about the battle already and I’m sure in the post-Lord of the Rings era we’re going to get many such showdowns, but this one struck me as almost dull. Again, it’s partly because the girls are absent. In the book, it’s the battle that’s left in the background (a sign that Lewis/Aslan now trust Edmund and Peter to play their roles without oversight?) with the waking of the statues as the key plot point. I loved the scene with Giant Rumblebuffin (not in the least because it brings back Lucy’s handkerchief a third time) and the little Christmas diners and the moment when Lucy finds the stone Mr. Tumnus in a niche upstairs and the other lion who leaps around telling everyone about his brotherhood with Aslan, who speaks of “us lions.” This is drama! This is weeping giants and a reminder that a battle isn’t decided only by those on the front lines (again, I think, a nod toward the Christians). Instead what we got were vaguely realistic falling rocks and charging polar bears, which I’m sure thrilled and excited plenty of viewers but seemed to me to be missing something. As becomes clearer in later books, part of what makes Narnia special is the talking animals, the naiads and dryads and so on. Should the moment of Narnian glory really be represented as one long beastly roar? Sure, we need to see Edmund go for the Witch’s wand rather than her head, but I really don’t care about in what order the centaurs went forth, and the archers and so on.

Then there was the Witch herself, who seemed to me pure sex almost to the point of overkill. She seemed scary because she was so weird, not because she was cold and dangerous. Sure, she would have killed Edmund, but even the moment she slaughters Aslan didn’t seem as intense and final as I thought it should have been. There wasn’t really the primal darkness I wanted to see, just the sense that she had an army of clones without personalities behind her willing to heed her every command. Maybe that’s a place where no movie could touch imagination, but it seemed the onset of spring melted her too instead of leaving her flushed with fury and desperate power.

This is not to say I didn’t enjoy the movie. I thought it was a lot of fun, and the 6 or so children sitting behind us (much quieter than their parents) seemed to enjoy it too. I told Steven just before the movie started, “Knit bloggers are trying to figure out how to make Lucy’s sweater, but I don’t think I’ll want to do that.” I was so, so wrong.

Exile in Guyville

Well, it had to happen someday. Someone’s finally asked about the existence of women comic book bloggers. And while the obvious response is that they’re all over LiveJournal, Elayne Riggs and Laura Gjovaag only name seven, including themselves. I had no trouble coming up with 20 non-pros off the top of my head, but maybe that just means I’ve been paying more attention to the issue. It’s not a community, certainly, but it’s not nothing and we’re not all invisible.

Where am I going with this? Nowhere directly, but it coincided with the first post by a woman at the new Comic Book Galaxy, although author Diana Tamblyn still isn’t listed among the official contributors. I wasn’t surprised to see that the new direction CBG would be taking included lots of writing from lots of white guys, but it was interesting to note that (by my count) 12 of the 25 contributors are also bloggers.

Before I go any farther, I’ll note that I was not one of the women approached by CBG to contribute and I have absolutely no interest in being involved with them anyway. What’s interesting to me is that so many other bloggers feel differently. I understand that many comics bloggers really want to break into comics writing and that there are already plenty of bloggers writing weekly columns (and arguably some of the best ones) for a wide variety of comics sites. I’m perfectly happy to write here and do nothing else because I get to set the rules and the parameters (in my case, in collaboration with Steven) and then write whatever I want to write. I gave up my dreams of writing professionally a decade ago, so this current setup is pretty much my ideal. So what is it that makes some of these new blogger/columnists consider shifting to a wider pop culture focus or confining comics reviews to CBG? I don’t really know beyond what they say there and I’d love to hear more because I’ve always been fascinated in why people write the way they do on blogs and what they think they’re doing with their blogs in the first place. But what do they think they’re doing with their columns and how do those replace or supplement their blogs?

And here’s where things get ugly or controversial, and I’m just going to say what I think with the caveat (which I hope would be obvious to all readers anyway) that obviously this is just what I think and I have no vested interest in whether or not others agree or want to implement my ideas. There’s no good reason I should matter to you, right? I think if CBG were a teaching hospital, I wouldn’t go in for surgery there. It’s a site that requires copious editing, and yet not all the punctuation ends up where it belongs. Sure, it’s a work in progress, but it’s not the second coming of anything. I have a reputation for despairing that there’s not more good writing in comics, a complaint that extends to comics criticism. While there aren’t many CBG columns I think are really badly written, I’m not getting excited either, not hearing new voices, just some guys on the internet. And the real, core problem is that they’re writing as if they’re not on the internet. This is a site that has three different columns analyzing and reviewing Ice Haven in the same week with not only no conversation between them but no links from one piece to another. In fact, if I hadn’t made those links for you, you’d be stuck doing what I did and puzzling through the commentary listing to try to find where the two that aren’t listed might have been. This is a comics site that talks about comics but not in a way that makes discussions readily available to a casual reader. The google search is effective but inelegant, to say the least.

Why give up the conversational possibilities of a blog for a closed system like this? Why write something online if it might as well be mimeographed? Why have three overlapping reviews and nothing synthesizing them, analyzing the connections and dissonances (and nothing to help readers do this for themselves)? And I realize that none of these CBG bloggers have closed up shop and I really don’t expect them to. I’m sure it brings them more prominence than their individual endeavors would and it must be great writing experience to be expected to deliver the same sort of writing on a regular basis (which is yet another reason this would not be the job for me!) and I don’t think these blogger/columnists have made a bad decision in getting involved here. I do think it’s a bad idea to think that this version of CBG is the apotheosis of anything. But I’m not the whole audience, though I’m a reader, and it doesn’t need to appeal to what I think it should be.

But for those keeping score at home, I think it should be more like a blog than a webzine with near-daily updates. It could be an active conversation between all these informed and verbal columnists engaging each other’s ideas rather than writing in a vacuum for an audience in the ether. It could be easily navigable with a link for the title of each referenced comic or creator connecting to any other uses of those names on the site. In short, it could be intertextual in a way that it’s not, and I think that lack is its greatest limitation. It’s not a galaxy with any constellations in it, just a collection of loose stars. And sure, constellations are in part the stories we attach to groups of stars, but it’s a lot of work for a reader to create those stories right now and there’s no way to see whether what I call the Big Dipper is someone else’s Great Bear.

Of course I think it would be good if there were more women writing for CBG if they wanted to and had things they wanted to say, but I also know that there are already women writing for readers who are willing to look and pay attention. We don’t all have the same interests or tastes in comics or in blogging and I wouldn’t expect a woman at CBG to speak for me just because we have ovaries, but I’d be interested to see what she’d say just as I’m interested enough to read women bloggers who are writing now. But if there are other women who don’t want to be part of the move to “put more ‘gal’ into the Galaxy soon” (especially given the way contributing editor Chris Allen discusses, views and interacts with real-life women) I don’t think that’s a problem at all. I’m just glad there are other venues where their voices can be heard, and I prefer those anyway.

I’m not wincing alone

This time Ken set me off (you guys do know it’s conceptual art, right?) but this is a post I’ve wanted to write or maybe a better way to say it is felt I ought to write about once a week since at least last summer. I know I’ve asked before where all these rape jokes among comics bloggers come from, but what worries me more is where they’re going.

I was 17 when I was raped, not even a month into my first semester in college. I was Brilliant, Attractive Girl who seems a Bit of a Headcase, though I was dangerously scrawny under my too-large clothes and had lopped off my hair to try to undermine or circumvent any potential attractiveness. And so I ended up helping a dormmate, an international student, proofread a paper he’d written. I wondered what he was doing at the school with the level of English he had, since clearly he couldn’t keep up with even the basics of his classes. I wondered what I was doing there when clearly I would fit in better if I had the money he did and, like him, spent much of it on beer. And when he pushed me to the ground, I didn’t call for help because I didn’t want it, didn’t want anyone to see me being debased, didn’t want any evidence of the most humiliating, horrifying moment of my life. I sobbed and had a panic attack instead so that he had to pry my spasming legs apart. I went back to my room still sobbing and stayed in bed a few days and crumpled those sweatpants, underwear, turtleneck in the bottom of my closet. I threw them away when I withdrew from school not long after, well before he was forced out for failing grades and drug infractions. I didn’t tell anyone until it was too late to do whatever could have been done.

I know that was a long time ago. I don’t cry about it much, didn’t even feel that gnawing ache when the season came around last year. I did my suffering already, a year I don’t remember spent depressed almost to the point of catatonia, relationships where I tried to destroy myself or let myself be destroyed. I went back to my college and did my time making reparations, working as an educator and crafting policy with the administration, supporting others, being a visible face as the out survivor on campus. I did my forgiving pretty early on because it seemed like the only tenable option to me. I can understand (sort of) how sad and powerless he must have been to think that preying on me could give him any satisfaction or status, because I was the only person around who was lower than he was. When I learned at 17 that he’d told the guys on his floor about it, I had a breakdown. Now I wonder if they pitied him too.

And that was a long time ago and I’m over it to the extent that I’ll ever be, healthy, happy, in love and loved. And so it’s not that I feel personally hurt when I read rape jokes or have to hear guys (guys, always guys) talking about the vengeance they would take if the women they love were assaulted. (And by no means do I want to minimize the extent to which men can be victims of sexual assault, especially as children. But I think a lot of the people who make jokes about prison rape do, because sex and power and masculinity are all tied up in a little package that doesn’t allow them to think of themselves as ever being at risk or unsafe.) I don’t feel hurt but just annoyed, because I know when you talk like that you’re not talking to me. Because I know what it’s like, or know what it was like for myself to suffer at least and have heard others’ stories, and I can’t make the same kinds of jokes. But at the same time I don’t think I should be forced to avoid the Fanboy Rampage comments section just because it’s pretty much guaranteed there will be someone else there who clearly thinks he can. I’m not asking for deference or even really an explanation, because I’ve never gotten one before. I’m just shocked or surprised or amazed that so many bloggers live in a world where people like me don’t exist or at least don’t read their blogs, where the constant references couldn’t be seen as hurtful. I think there’s a reason I never heard a female student say, “Oh, that test totally assraped me,” and it has something to do with the education sessions we’d do where everyone who knew someone who’d been sexually assaulted was asked to stand. While few freshman stood up, by senior year it seemed like nobody stayed seated. There’s some line between gallows humor and something that cuts too close or is just plain disrespectful, and I think that’s another reason I sometimes feel left out of the testosterone stew in these parts of the web. It just doesn’t compute.

And I don’t really know why I’m writing this except that I’m sick of having it in my head every time I do read all this casual rape-talk. I’m not trying to police anybody and I pick on Ken because I’ve talked to him about this a bit before and don’t think what I say will hurt his feelings; he likes to be inflammatory and, I think, sees rape jokes as one more extension of that. And that’s his decision and it shouldn’t have anything to do with me and won’t and doesn’t keep me from reading whatever he has to say. This isn’t a situation where first they came for the rape jokes and eventually all we could joke about were elephants jumping out of trees, or at least that’s not what I hope I’m saying. It’s more that I’m jealous of all these people who somehow have the option not to care about it, not to have that word jump out at them, to be able to use it casually and metaphorically. It’s not that I want to live that way as much as that I can’t and I’m amazed they can. The problem is the way those words self-select similar readers. I can handle them with only minor annoyance, but there are plenty of other people with personal stories much worse than mine who can’t or won’t or shouldn’t. And it bothers me that this sort of talk deliberately excludes them from any conversation it infects. But maybe there just aren’t a lot of rape survivors reading comics and comics blogs and maybe I’m completely overreacting. The problem is that none of us have any way to know for sure.

And it’s not that I think my fellow bloggers are misogynists who live in isolation, either. I think most of them who mention sexual assault, especially in this post-Identity Crisis age do so because they think it’s worth reminding everyone of the extent to which it doesn’t belong in a sensical and healthy universe, but it’s easier to do it by joking about how the only way to have a blockbuster comics is on-panel sexual assault than it is to write an over-earnest post about why sexual assault is bad. So I realize I’m upsetting the balance by taking just that tack, but I figured this was worth saying and maybe now I won’t feel I need to say it anymore.

“Careful! It’s razor-sharp.”

So I haven’t been here in a while, it seems. I’ve been sick a lot this winter, but also just completely worn down. I don’t know when either of those will relent for good, but I’ll aim for weekly posting and see if I can work up from there. If I have anything to say (and I do have a big post on identification festering, but it’s not written yet) I’ll try to get it up here somehow. For tonight, though, just a few quick truths with little analysis.

Vimanarama #2 made me cry a little, but only a little. Dig the Taj Mahal interior, though! I’m not sold on the coloring and I read a lot faster when the Fireborn are doing their thing. I wish this were going to be more than three issues long.

What’s up with the (potential) total depletion of other Kentucky comics bloggers? To make up for the gaps in my pseudopeer group, I’m pushing for a clique of comics bloggers who read manga in the bathtub. It looks like there may be some overlap with the comics bloggers who enjoy gin (a more casual grouping that exists only in my head, as far as I know) which suggests some clear options for socializing that I’ll bet we’ll never try.

Steven is on spring break and thus did a Wednesday comic run, which still seems sort of weird and obscene to me, but I hoped it would net us Project Superior, which the store had not ordered. They should have one for us next week, and I do realize that if we weren’t so passive and uncomfortable talking to people we would have had one now. So there was none of that and no manga for my bath, so I resorted to feminist essay collections. From Feminism Beside Itself, I liked Elspeth Probyn’s piece, “Perverts by Choice.” She writes of belonging/be-longing as “a loose combinatoire of being and longing, becoming and nostalgia, as composed of lines of desire that run along the singularities of sexualities, bodies, spaces and places.” (264) I quote this not to scare anyone off from drinking gin or enjoying bathtime manga, but because it’s something I’m going to be thinking about off-blog and possibly but probably not on-.

I know not everyone liked I ♥ Huckabees, but I think the mud sex scene was one of the most emotionally realistic portrayals I’ve ever seen in a movie. Anyone who disagrees is wrong, but that’s ok; I know beauty when I see it. I got the double-disc set as a birthday present (thanks!) and am looking forward to rewatching the film itself this weekend. I got very close to finishing a major in philosophy before dropping it, in large part because I hated so many of the other students, so I’m not sure if that means I’m more sensitive or less sensitive to dopey philosophy stuff, but nothing in Huckabees bothered me.

And continuing my trend of no real segues, I’m probably going to be teaching a class on sock knitting, so I’ve been doing a bit of it myself. I have a really hideous pair I made to test some techniques and a cotton/wool yarn (I’ll have to teach on larger than sock yarn, though, because apparently size 0 needles terrify new knitters) and I should probably put a picture of them up here so that the ugliness will be a good incentive to post something substantive to get it off the top of the page. The plus side is that they fit me perfectly and keep my feet warm when it is too, too cold in the apartment, which has definitely been the case over the last few nights.

I haven’t yet done any blogger interviews because I haven’t really done much of anything except work ridiculously long hours and try to sleep (well, and knit socks). I think I’m getting close to having my research done for the first, though. I’m hoping I live in enough of a shame culture that my commenting on this will push me to do it, but past performance has not been a positive indicator, to use work-speak. Maybe soon.

“How can you be so shallow at a time like this?”

I think you can probably take it as a given that I’m going to remain a bad blogger for a while, but I’m not actually giving up. Instead I’m going to rant a bit (at least tonight) and that’s making me really excited. Rant!!

Steven and I got Vimanarama last week, since it was one of the few comics that needed to be bought the day it was out. Of course, it’s taken me almost a week to talk about it, but at least I’ve got an angle. Grant Morrison and Philip Bond have created the first segment of a three-part story about a young South Asian British guy, Ali, who meets his betrothed, Sofia, as they set off what may become the end of the world. I think the idea is sort of a Bollywood manga with Muslim leads, which was enough to have me sold on the story, but I’m afraid it may be just too alien for some readers. Even Jog, in an otherwise excellent analysis didn’t notice that the characters were in England, not India. Of course other readers didn’t notice that soccer is played with the feet and a black-and-white ball (I tease, Johnny! But is youth soccer not huge in your part of the state?) so maybe I shouldn’t write it off as cultural disconnect issues. Anyway, I very much enjoyed the book, but that’s not quite what I’m going to talk about.

Still, there’s one thing that’s getting to me, and that’s the issue of hijab, or Muslim dress (I use it here to mean specifically women’s headcoverings, but it’ll go a little beyond that). I’ll be quite open in saying that I’ve never been to the UK, but I think I can speak with a fair amount of certainty about young Muslim women in the American Midwest, and so that’s mostly what I’m going to do. Now, this is only the third mainstream comics story I’ve even read that involved veiled women to any major extent, the most recent previous being Morrison’s introduction of Dust in New X-Men. I know Dust is still an active character in the spinoff Mutant Academy X stories (or whatever the official title is now; it had two colons when I was reading it) but I haven’t kept up with those, despite being interested in what becomes of her, since what became of the rest of the characters didn’t mean anything to me at all. I was a little annoyed by the outfit she wore, since she’s from Afghanistan, which was certainly a topical locale, but where the blue burqa has taken on an almost mythical symbolic status, and yet she wears all black, scarf, gown, and face scarf (niqaab) which is a look I associate with Saudis or women from the Gulf states. It’s visually different from the Iranian chador, which generally includes a blanket-like rather than self-closing headcovering and no face-veil. So Dust was dressed this way because it made a good visual counterpoint to Fantomex, who had a similar amount of skin showing beneath his white helmet and bodysuit. I was just never convinced there was a good cultural justification and kept waiting for it to show up. I know modesty and self-respect are issues that are playing out for her in the newer X-Men book, but I’m not sure how well that will work.

The prior instance was a story written by Brian K. Vaughn for the JLA Annual #4, in which the JLA meet Turkey’s defender, young humanitarian doctor Selma Tolon a/k/a The Janissary. Her costume incorporates the Turkish flag and includes both a face veil of sorts and a red hijab. This made me laugh a lot, since part of Atat????rk’s secular revolution involved outlawing headcoverings for women in public schools or civil service positions. So Turkey’s great defender is a scofflaw! But this is an interesting point that ties into Vimanarama, because women who think that exercising their religion means covering their hair are stuck in a situation where they have to either leave the country or get some sort of religious schooling. So the Turkish women who study in the U.S. will disproportionately wear headcoverings, because they don’t have options at home. In case you haven’t picked up on this yet, I don’t have anything against hijab and actually can understand the appeal. It’s really empowering to be able to make yourself un-sexualized, to force people talking to you to look at your face, but of course there are practical drawbacks both in the Midwest and, I assume, in Britain, where Vimanarama is set. I do think it’s only a good choice if it is a choice, though, if there are legitimate and legal options (e.g. not Turkey and not Iran, pre- or post-Islamic revolution) .

And that brings us to Vimanarama, where seemingly secularized Ali wonders about God’s plan for him while threatening to kill himself if the girl he’s supposed to marry is ugly. He’s bringing a prayer rug to his injured brother, even though I think we can safely assume that traumatic head injuries are the sort of thing that exempt you from required prayers. And somehow Ali’s father, who is traditional enough to be arranging a marriage for his teenaged son, isn’t traditional enough to require that he change out of his tracksuit. It turns out Sofia’s parents are equally lax, letting her travel unaccompanied in capri jeans and a midriff-baring top beneath her hooded sleeveless sweatshirt. This strikes me as a little odd just because I think it’s not a culturally specific situation for parents to press their children to dress up for high-pressure situations like this, but we’ve still got 2/3 of the story to go and I won’t be sad if this point is never explained. As it is, I think it’s meant to set up Ali and Sofia as something new, both aware and accepting of their South Asian heritage while not keeping all the markers of Muslim identity, which is going to create a nice triangle with what seem to be Hindu god-beings they’ve roused. But I want to get back to those markers of identity, because while I realize there’s a re-veiling movement going on worldwide (not unlike the Turkish example above, in part as a way to mark the wearer as separate from secular society, to make a political statement) but, at least in the area I know, it’s not big among the Pakistani population. That’s why I was a little surprised that Ali’s home looks like this:

Ali's family, featuring two differently veiled women

The woman with the white headscarf is his sister Fatima, but again her outfit is just a little odd. In my experience, South Asian women who wear headcoverings wear loose, colorful scarves that may not even totally cover their hair (or they may have another tight hair cover beneath that) and often a salwar kameez, or loose pants with a tunic. But anyway, not only is she wearing some sort of jilbab (long coat) with her white scarf, but it’s a black one. And the other woman, potentially Ali’s mother or Omar’s wife or someone else entirely, has a face veil as well and in all black. I don’t know if this is common among British Muslim women who veil, but it is not the standard here and struck me as odd. I wouldn’t think it was all that strange for this one family to be more formal about covering or even to be part of a group that keeps stricter than standard dressing requirements, but I’m not sure how it fits into the story and what exactly is being portrayed. Is this a literal representation of the clothes women in a family like Ali’s would be wearing, or is it supposed to be symbolic of the roles they play as Muslim women? It’s because this is such a powerful symbol that there are arguments about veiling and control of veiling in post-revolutionary Iran and Turkey and the recent school legislation in France. It’s an issue of personal choice, but also more, and I’m interested to see what the “more” in this case will turn out to be. Of course, there’s good reason to disagree and say that Vimanarama isn’t set in a world that’s like ours but for the magic stuff, but in one that’s fundamentally different in many ways.

Ali meets Sofia

Wrapping things up a bit, Marc Singer already noted what I was going to comment on, that the Adidas-like logo on Ali’s jacket approximates the shape of the magical lotus. I do still want to point out Sofia’s first appearance, above. Covered in darkness, her hair and upper face are covered as if by a veil, her eyes pupilless slits. And so the focus is on her mouth and neck and shoulders, a sort of anti-hijab that at the same time draws Ali to her face, although he definitely later gets around to checking out her body. Her still face seems like an allusion to the masks Morrison so often uses, a reminder that all of these women are bodies onto which things are being projected. Ali’s eventual task is not just to find Imran (and wow, “Looking for a baby?” is some pickup line!) but to find the real Sofia beneath her collected facade and, along the way, to find himself. But beginning with this scene, Sofia is in control, the more secure and active of the two. Until that point, Ali had been the go-to guy in his family, the one who could be depended on to take charge (even if with some sighs) and do whatever needs to get done. And yet as the world shifts, Sofia is the one who finds the clues to get to Imran’s location, despite being new to the region, not to mention this magical area. Yet with the appearance of the Ultra-Hadeen, there’s another shift, and both Sofia and Ali are unsettled, among strange beings who are not their God, and ready to embark on something very, very new. I know I’m right with them.

Grotesque Anatomy?

I am having a sick day today and while I’m tempted to use that as an out if I later need to claim I was not in my right mind when writing this, it’s something I’ve been thinking about all weekend. The title of the post is my way of apologizing to John Jakala for mentioning the problem with Bombaby he brought to my attention without actually seeking out the link (here I do plead sick), and also because “grotesque anatomy” is an awfully good title he’s not using anymore.

While it wasn’t my inspiration here, we saw The Aviator Friday night and basically enjoyed it (though I thought the ending especially was needlessly heavy-handed) and also bought the first volume of Sgt. Frog. One thing leads to another, and I found myself buying and devouring volumes 2 and 3 before the weekend was over. It’s a book practically everyone had recommended and I found myself just as charmed as many other bloggers have already been, but on returning home with the first book I saw that Lyle had qualms about the portrayal of sexualized women. This made me curious since plenty of posts on this blog have been me complaining about just such things, and so I am surprised to say I’m not going to do so here. Sure, there are a lot of panty shots (what’s up with Natsumi’s basketball uniform?) and weird breast things going on in Sgt. Frog and they just didn’t bother me. I’m not sure I can explain why this is and it’s all going to be very idiosyncratic and probably won’t translate well to your experience, which is fine with me. That’s as far as I’m going to go with a disclaimer, but it seemed worth noting that I’m not trying to recreate the scene from The Aviator where the poor professor has to measure various “mammaries” to convince a skeptical ratings board of the acceptability of their prominence in The Outlaw.

Instead what we’ve got in Sgt. Frog is the Hinata family, where 14-year-old Natsumi and her slightly younger brother, Fuyuki, reveal and capture Keroro, a charming little megalomaniac from the planet Keron’s expeditionary invasion force. The head of the Hinata family is Aki, the manga editor mother often absent for weeks at a time, who cements Keroro’s place in the household.

first appearance of Aki Hinata

This is Aki’s first appearance, but is characteristic of her depiction as an editor throughout the first three volumes. While this is clearly part of the exploitative representation Lyle and others talked about, it struck me as less objectionable than, say, the scene in Mean Girls where Tina Fey accidentally removed her shirt in front of her students and a coworker. Here, Aki is even dressed in what seems like a work-appropriate outfit and her fervor for manga manifests itself in sexual double entendres, which is a consistent pattern. Because they find this a turn-on, her male subordinates become obsessed with pleasing her, since her professional praise is invariably sexualized. I have to admit, my first thought was that this is a pretty effective system for her, since she gets the results she wants and isn’t necessarily aware she’s a sexual object (and there’s no real textual evidence, since there are no adult romantic roles, that she’s a sexual subject in any meaningful way). The setup reminded me more of something like Groucho Marx’s verbal/sexual jabs, although generally less witty and more obvious. Because this is a light-hearted PG-level comedy, I’m not expecting any sort of examination of the effects female sexuality has on straight male geeks, although it’s something I think about and watch online, even if I don’t often talk about it here. At some level, though, Sgt. Frog is raising those questions, although in a superficial way, and I appreciate that enough that it doesn’t seem ridiculously exploitative to me.

But to be honest, I think a big part of it has to do with the fact that while Aki Hinata has the largest breasts in the book, they’d look positively tiny if she showed up in a standard superhero book from Marvel or DC. Her breasts are large for her slim frame, but not extremely or unrealistically so. And that ties into the reason I’m not disturbed by the focus on shots of young teen Natsumi in her bra:

Natsumi laments her increasing bust size

Natsumi is at an age where her body is changing and, like many girls, she sees this as a betrayal of sorts. In the last panel (reading right-to-left for manga) she says, “I just hope I don’t turn into a mutant like Mom!” While being spied on by a froglike alien isn’t a normal experience, I think discomfort with becoming physically/sexually mature is, and it was refreshing to see it. While Natsumi is often seen as a sexualized creature, whether caught in the panels changing her shirt or in the several instances her underwear makes an appearance, she has no interest in this role. When she has to “age” into an adult body in a later volume, rather than flaunting her physical assets she has to be brainwashed to agree to enter a bikini contest. Though she may look almost physically mature while she manages to capably run the household in her mother’s absence, she clearly still thinks of herself as the sort of person who would prefer to be playing basketball with her school friends. I don’t know how well Sgt. Frog sells with people who aren’t comics bloggers, specifically with the young teen girls who do read lots of manga, I would think that despite the cheesecake aspects of her presentation (and perhaps because of it) Natsumi would be a good object for identification. With fashion standards being what they are now, a lot of girls and young women have to balance the trend to look sexualized or provocative with their own actual sexual interests or lack thereof and the ways they want to present themselves. I know when I was younger I dealt with this basically through denial, cropping off all my hair and wearing huge clothes that cloaked the parts of my body I found awkward, among other less healthy means. I imagine it’s more normal to do what Natsumi does, look a bit sexy or at least be aware they’re being viewed sexually while trying to subvert this through the strength of pure personality.

Would it be better to keep all of this breast-anxiety off-screen? I don’t know. It’s there in Judy Blume books and I assume most young teens see the kinds of bodies on display on MTV or the magazines targeted to them. It’s not a new insight to notice that men’s lifestyle magazines typically have “hot” women on the cover, and that the same is true for women’s magazines. I think that’s something akin to what’s going on here, that Natsumi is definitely being portrayed for the audience that finds a view of a B-cup bra exhilarating while also passing on the more subversive message her own ambivalence toward her body portrays (which I don’t think you’d find as easily in either Maxim or Cosmo Girl). And again, I’m going back to breast size a bit, but since the proportions aren’t so insane, this is not as disturbing to me as finding out that real people find J. Michael Turner characters attractive, even if the character in question is a mere year or two older than Natsumi. It’s also sort of hard for me to believe that these shots of covered, proportional breasts are really so titillating (and I really couldn’t come up with a better word; sorry) in the world in which we live and read.

However, it’s easy to build bad breasts, and that was much of my reaction to Bombaby. I’d considered not buying it because it collects the first three released issues of the series along with the fourth issue, which wasn’t released separately, but I had been planning to buy the book in TPB anyway and figured that the publisher (Amaze Ink, though I’d somehow thought until I looked that it had been Slave Labor) could use the reminder that people will buy collected versions of books, so it’s worth treating both groups fairly. While the covers had been lovely and tempting, I didn’t especially enjoy the interior art and the story was weak, especially in its concluding chapter. I’m sort of sad that there weren’t any endnotes or explanations of what the creator was trying to do with the story, because I really couldn’t tell from the story. Also, isn’t the tutelary deity of Mumbai Mumbadevi, not “the Mumbai devi?” I’m sure they mean the same thing, but it bothered me. Actually a lot of things bothered me, but since it’s that kind of post we’ll focus on the art and the bodies.

Sangeeta wears an unflattering minidress

Here is protagonist Sangeeta, and while writer/artist Anthony Mazzotta clearly wanted to show her as curvaceous (to suggest something about Indian beauty standards? Again, notes might help) she just looks like she’s pregnant and weirdly shaped on top of that. She has no waist and her torso is frighteningly small. Her clothes look painful and odd. Who wears a microminiskirt with a turtleneck? And she seems awfully happy and calm for someone who avoided being attacked by a gang of thugs only moments before.

Sangeeta dances

And the above shows what happens to Sangeeta when she dances. Apparently her breasts are just two compartments of some sort of bag filled with liquid, since bulk seems to be able to move from one breast to the other when she moves. She still seems unnaturally happy, but I realize it’s a comic convention to avoid reference to the sort of pain swinging breasts of the size many female characters display would cause. Still, this seems pretty extreme to go unnoticed.

Sangeeta wears a t-shirt in bed

This is my last example, but it shows how after changing out of her miniskirt outfit into a t-shirt that is basically the same color (another bad art choice, in my opinion) Sangeeta’s breasts seem to have changed shape yet again, hanging down like separate bags barely attached to her body. Perhapps if I’d been more interested in the story I wouldn’t have spent so much time thinking about how odd and uncomfortable her breasts looked to me, but it’s also possible that’s part of a chicken-and-egg thing. What I’m getting at is that I was willing to give Sgt. Frog some extra slack because it did show off its characters’ breasts (a lot) but did so with breasts that were consistently sized and not unrealistic. Bombaby, while not using Sangeeta’s breasts as explicitly sexual objects, was more objectionable to me because the breasts made no sense in a story that made no sense.

And on that note, I’m going to go to bed so I can get up in the morning and go to work like a healthy(-ish) person and then probably not talk about breasts in this much depth for a very, very long time.

Mr. Solid Citizen and Rose

Well, the election’s over and only 75 percent of Kentucky voters thought we needed an amendment saying that the only marriages in these parts will be between one man and one woman (and that’s already in the commonwealth constitution) and that domestic partnerships of any sort are unacceptable in that they’re in marriagelike situation. I hope the wording is bad and overexpansive enough that this will get overturned quickly, but the county breakdown shows that it’s pretty much only in populous, urban/suburban counties that more than 25 percent of the population is opposed to such a measure. We’re in Campbell County with 12,133 like-minded individuals. I’m trying not to say more about this, because it’s just saddening, but I assume only some of the majority are aware of all the implications and still support the amendment. For the rest, there’s still hope.

And while I’m complaining about politics, I had a minor problem with both the concession and acceptance speeches I wanted to mention. Kerry talked about the message he gave to “President Bush and Laura,” while Bush’s later parallel-structure speech expressed good wishes for “Senator Kerry and Teresa.” What is with the weird title imbalance? Did it not sound goofy to the speechwriters? Can we blame Kerry or his people for both and say that Bush was just following suit, or do they both just really respect their opponents and their little women? Or were the honorifics a subtle irony when they’d both have preferred to be more unkind? I don’t know, but it was awfully annoying no matter what.