Sunday, September 7, 2014

Sexy & Comics & Covers

Unless you’ve been living under a comics news blocking rock, you’ll have noticed a series of complicated and heated conversations about a variant cover for the new Spider-Woman comic. It was painted by Milo Manara and could probably be best summed up as Dat Ass. As most outlets said straight away, Manara is a European erotic artist with many decades worth of (often) hardcore erotic comics/art under his belt. There seem to be about 14 covers total that Manara has been commissioned to do so far by Marvel for various titles.

So, what’s the big deal? Well, in a nutshell: a lot of people were wondering about the choice to have an erotic artist do this variant, which was featured prominently in Previews, to represent a book that was recently announced at SDCC during a Women of Marvel panel. The book was promoted as “for a female audience”, is not a mature reader book, and has since had some art choices that left a lot of people scratching their heads about the mixed messaging.

Personally, along with the problems above, I think it’s a weird choice for a #1 and not a super great example of the kind of pinup art Manara is capable of. You can see much better examples of his work with a quick NSFW Google search or just taking a gander at the other Marvel variants he’s done.

While I don’t have an overall problem with sexy images of women (I worked on a Jenna Jameson book and a Suicide Girls comic, in case you need credentials or whatever), and I’m not offended by this piece, I am perplexed at the use of it for this title.  I think how women are portrayed as sexy, whether they have any personality and agency beyond just sex appeal, and whether or not it’s right for the tone of the story, are all pretty important questions to ask in an industry that has a long history of portraying female characters as sex object first, character a distant second. Since Spider-Woman is not, to my knowledge, a mature reader book, having such an overtly sexual image seems like a strange decision. We set the tone with covers, so it matters whether or not that tone actually reflects the story or not.

In case anyone needs actual proof this qualifies, as Kelly Sue Deconnick has often said, as a “sexy lamp” type of image (ie. If you replaced this pic with that of a sexy lamp, would you get basically the same impression of the character, personality, and story from it? If so, time to rethink it.) I offer these points:

1Milo Manara is a world-renowned erotic artist. He was clearly chosen because of that style and genre. That is obviously why it was commissioned. To be viewed as sexy. No one’s debated that that I can see. It simply indicates the intent of the cover pretty clearly.

2. The choice of pose and the focal point of the piece. There is no getting around that we are meant to look at her presenting position. That butt is the main feature over everything else. The compositional reasons this is the clear goal? The pronounced heart shape, in red, against a dark, receding background that is nowhere near as detailed. The fact that the butt is at the top while the head/face at the bottom draws your attention, when viewing top to bottom as we tend to do, butt first. It draws your eye and holds your attention. An artist as experienced as Manara is very well aware of composition, focal points, and how to draw the viewers eye where he wants it to go. This is why I find arguments that the piece isn’t sexual in nature absurd.

3. That choice of pose defines the piece as sexual object first, character second.

4. The lack of any story elements further defines the piece as sexual image, not story image. A generic city and a ledge, coupled with her pose, make it clear that story was barely a consideration.

5. Her painted on costume. Everything is in service to, and revolves around, the extremely defined butt crack.

6. The choice of back view is so that it can be highly sexual and give the impression of near nudity, but avoid the trappings of “full frontal” on what is not a mature reader or erotic comic. That’s not by accident.

7. Yes, it could also be an interpretation of a classic Spider-man pose. But it is executed differently with a focus on sexuality, not heroism, story, or character. And since Spider-Man is a title for a straight male audience, as we have been told over and over, it’s very unlikely any butt definition going on is intended to sexually interest the intended audience. There’s no way you can argue that about the Spider-Woman cover.

8. If you removed the head from this piece this could be any female character. The body language and pose do not convey any characteristic other than “sex”.

9. The face, which has a partial mask, has a virtually blank expression. It also conveys nothing about the character’s personality. It is passive.

10. Compared to his other covers this one is particularly striking for the overtness of the pose and the lack of doing anything else of relevance in the piece. His other covers show characters in mid action, striking with swords, posing with strength, expressions clear on their faces. That they are also somewhat revealing doesn’t undermine the actual character.

Which brings us to: Arguments and Counter Arguments. (cont after break)

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Trolls They Be Trollin

Ah, misogynist trolls. I was wondering when one would crawl out and send me a nastrygram about my pregnancy. It was bound to happen sooner or later, and it says precisely what I expected it to.

Fair warning: This comment might upset people who know me or who are just generally not awful human beings. It has some pretty graphic language. So, feel free to skip it or scrub out your brain after.

“Holy shit. Sweetheart, you are seriously too fucked up in the head to have kids. Please, think about the children and get an abortion like now. Yup, stick the scissors in the skull and put that kid out of his misery before it's too late. With someone as neurotic as you for a mother, that kid is going to be seriously fucked up. And no, just because you're able to identify and acknowledge and blog about how fucked up you are with body image problems, panic attacks and obsessive compulsiveness and your tendency towards a perpetual persecution and victimhood complex, that doesn't make you any less fucked up. I'm pretty sure your kids will be gay whether it's a boy or girl. But I feel particularly sad for a boy if that's what you give birth to. You're going to be so obsessive about making sure he chooses his gender identification "wisely" and you'll most likely buy him both girl and boy clothes and make him alternate wearing them on a weekly basis no doubt. If you have a daughter, I'm sure you'll spend many hours reassuring her that being a cutter is perfectly natural and how it's not a parents place to judge. Although I imagine a daughter raised by you, as soon as she was old enough, would make a beeline to the porn industry simply to distract her from how she was raised. Wow. You. Breeding. That is fucking mind blowing. Society's only hope is that your pregnancy goes horribly wrong and you will lose all ability to have children as a result. Of course there's always adoption. But at least an adopted kid has the chance of already being fucked up in the head by being abandoned by his drug addicted crack whore mom. That would be a far better fate than imprinting on your stunning brand of pathological narcissism and hilarious levels of dysmorphia. Word of advice: it's called the morning after pill. Look it up. I hear it's come down in price.”

My general response:

Then this:

And then finally this: 

As you would expect, the above was sent anonymously as a comment on a blog post that’s well over a month old and has nothing to do with anything he’s commenting on. Which means he A. checks in on my Twitter every so often because that’s the only public space I’ve announced my pregnancy B. read through at least enough of my posts to familiarize himself with some of the things I’ve discussed (like BDD) so he can C. further waste his time telling me I’ll be a terrible mom because feminism. I guess that’s like being dedicated, only in a really disturbed way. It’s also a LOT of time to spend on someone you don’t like. But since I suspect the only way he sees anything he’s written published is when he pulls stuff like this, I guess it’s his idea of having a “craft”.

One thing I will say about the above: I feel like the public school system really failed him if he thinks that’s how the morning after pill works. I mean, if you’re going to bother trolling at all, at least try researching what things are. Also, why are trolls so allergic to paragraphs? It’s called the return key, use it.  A giant wall of text isn’t so much a “style” as it is a cry for editorial help.

The purpose of all of this is 1. To be very unpleasant, obviously. 2. To get my attention. Every time I’ve encountered this troll they are VERY put out that I don’t find them particularly noteworthy or engaging so, every few months, they pop back up, wave their arms, and I guess feel accomplished if I acknowledge that they exist? I can’t really express how sad that is as a life goal. If that’s your idea of an accomplishment, you need better hobbies.

Now, of course, by commenting on this and acknowledging it I’m giving him what he wants: a smidgeon of my attention. And I know the “don’t feed the trolls” advice, although I often don’t agree with it. Mostly because forcing me to be silent while they get to be awful without repercussions isn’t really a solution. They still send these messages. They still get off on it. It’s like bullies in school. They just escalate because they feed as much off of you having to deal with them at all, even silently, as they do attention. I’d rather call them out and not let it fester. I’m not any more responsible for what they get out of it than I am their choice to troll in the first place. He can sit around cheering for all I care, trolling is still the most useless way to spend time there is.

And yeah, this person is sad and pathetic and not worth my time. I’m not taking any of this to heart for all the obvious reasons.  Not to mention the fact that none of this is particularly new, imaginative, or interesting. This is the same dreck countless misogynists say. So it’s not even about this one dude and his laughably erroneous view of what a feminist mom would be like is. It’s, at best, an object lesson in absurdity. They couldn’t come up with anything more “scathing” than that my potential child will probably be gay (uh, why is that a bad thing?) and that old chestnut that feminists turn boys into girls or…something. It’s a little too obtuse and silly for serious analysis. As for their “thoughts” on my mental health…trolls commenting on any one’s psychological status is beyond hilarious.

Sadly, all of this isn’t random, it’s deliberate, and it's a choice. And it’s how trolls in general operate. They don’t choose to do anything worthwhile or useful. They use up precious lifetime to just be petty and shitty on the internet for like a hot second of sad, fleeting, mean spirited glee. They could have used that time to start a short story or invent a new kind of sandwich. But for trolls, the entire purpose is to inflict shittiness. As far as goals go, that is really...aiming kind of low. I can’t imagine thinking so little of my own existence that I’d ever waste that kind of energy.

So what does it say about my time that I’m addressing it?  Well, for one thing, that clearly I say things some folks REALLY wish I wouldn’t, so much so that they waste time trying to silence me with personal attacks rather than any kind of reasonable argument. Which signifies to me that, for all that comments like this suck for a minute, I’m clearly having more of a positive impact than they are a negative one. And I get the added benefit of not being human scum. It’s win/win for me, really.

I also think it’s important to tell other people who deal with this that they aren’t alone. That’s it’s ok to feel crappy if you receive messages like this, and it isn’t your fault. You haven’t done anything to deserve it. You just got targeted by someone whose life is so small and so utterly void of purpose that this is all they could think of to do. You could post nothing but cat pics all day, every day, and you’d be adding more value to the world than they are.

As for this troll, I'll let Bilbo and Theoden take it away:

Monday, September 1, 2014

Blorpy The Spudlet

I'm just about 11 weeks pregnant now and my last blog post, sometime in July, with a series of random thoughts, had one that simply said "Sometimes I feel guilty for not having kids". I find it obviously ironic since, when I wrote it, I was unknowingly pregnant. At the time I was pretty sure kids were not going to happen to us for a variety of reasons. So, you know, happy surprises.

Being pregnant is definitely weird. I'm not showing yet or anything, but I can feel a lot of changes. I'm tired a lot and nauseous pretty much all day (all normal, but still). Heartburn, which I've never had before, had been an experience. Oh, and gas. Lots and lots of gas. Those parts are not a lot of fun, although I'm happy otherwise. Naps help a lot. Crackers and tea have become my favorite things.

My doc had me go off of my anxiety medication cold turkey, which I do NOT recommend. My meds are actually considered "safe" during pregnancy, and then you taper off in the last trimester. But German docs are not super fond of brain drugs. I get it, but I would rather have been able to ease off. And the promise of acupuncture in the last trimester? Not really doing anything for all the sickness feelings now. It was also probably the first real example of people deciding things for you because you're pregnant. I'm sure it won't be the last.

Body-wise, I won't lie. Being pregnant is hard when you have BDD. And I haven't even started the major body changes yet. I haven't been having an issue with eating, except for the nausea making it so I have to eat less but more often. The result so far is a happy fetus that's progressing perfectly, swimming around and growing parts.

I don't feel like glossing over the difficult parts of all this. Women in general are expected to never complain, I think pregnant women get this pressure 1000x more. You're expected to be in bliss land, loving every second of the experience. And for some women it's like that and to them I say: thppppt. Well, not really. Mostly I say: you are SO lucky! For the rest, parts of this process are difficult and we don't feel that great.

Admitting that being pregnant isn't a thrill a minute doesn't mean you want it any less or aren't happy about the eventual result. It's just that, like most human experiences, there are ups and downs. I have friends who had truly miserable pregnancies and are great mom's. It's no reflection on anything other than whatever your personal hormone cocktail is doing.

I have, as I expect most pregnant women do, lots of worries big and small. Worry that everything will continue to go well. Worry about all the potential things that can go wrong. Worry about how I'll be as a mom. Annoying, superficial worry about stuff like weight gain. Frankly, I think anyone who isn't worried about what kind of mom they'll be or what the world will be like or the rest is a little weird. Of all the experiences, I should think pregnancy would make you just a little more concerned about...everything. Keeping calm and reminding yourself that billions of people do this is, you know, pretty helpful, honestly.

Anyway, I'll be painting my little versions of what we are affectionately calling "Blorpy" until such time as there's an actual gender involved, a few months from now. Most of the descriptions of embryo's and fetuses involve comparing them to fruit. So naturally it ended up as a blueberry with arm buds. And a cutlass. Because, uhm, being an embryo is probably pretty weird?