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NUM-INOUS COMICS PT. 2

This essay is a very belated response to a " part 1 " published in February 2015. The gist of that essay was a response to a corre...

Friday, March 22, 2013

VARIETY IS THE SPICE OF LIVELINESS

In VARIETY IS THE SPICE OF DEATH I wrote:

The two modes [of the varied and the unvaried] also apply to the other best-known principle whose main appeal to the kinetic senses, that of sex...
 
I hold to the conviction that authors who want to escalate the audience's kinetic tensions more frequently rely upon narrative violence rather than upon narrative sexuality.  Further, the use of violence in the varied mode is much more common than any parallel employment of sexuality.

In the above cited essay I cited two examples of stories in which a villain (or monster) sought to commit a sequence of serial murders.  The two evildoers even shared the motif of doing so for reasons of revenge, though the Joker tended to also kill off even people whom he was simply robbing.  I also pointed out that in the Joker's first appearance-- in contrast to many later stories, like "The Joker's Utility Belt" and "The Joker's Five-Way Revenge"-- the villain's killings were in the *unvaried* mode, while those of Doctor Phibes were in the *varied* mode.  Of the latter mode I wrote:

Thus in the PHIBES films the audience's intrigue may also be escalated by wondering what new death-device Phibes will introduce next.
Now, since I've asserted that narrative sexuality is a kinetic effect just as violence is, the question becomes: what discrete forms would a *varied* sexuality take?

Many, though not all, of the varied forms of violence are highly dependent on man's trademark use of weapons to inflict violence.  But although people do use instruments to facillitate sexual excitement, narratives of sexuality do not show a pattern of using same.  If anything, the use of instruments would probably diminish the audience's belief in the prowess of a professed Don Juan (or Don Juanita, for that matter). 

Narratives of sexuality can use the same pattern of serial escalation as narratives of violence: a serial killer murders victim after victim, a serial lothario brings "the little death" to conquest after conquest.  But the number of victims, or conquests, while it is relevant to the principle of escalation, is irrelevant to the question of whether a narrative employs either a varied or unvaried mode.

Only one close parallel applies.  If the use of multiple weapons is the dominant application of the varied mode in narratives of violence, then in narratives of sex, the closest parallel is that of specific sexual techniques and/or predilections.

But though works like the Kama Sutra and all its modern descendants recommend the employment of varied techniques for sex-partners in the real world, in human art the varied mode of sexuality doesn't occur nearly as often as the varied mode of violence.  Part of this is, as I said, because audiences are used to the idea of warriors or murderers employing varied methods of death-bringing.  But in addition, real sex is a much more private act than real violence, and too much variety can dispel audience identification.  I tend to think that this generalization also applies to fetishization narratives on the whole.  Should an erotic artist try to deal with both, say, incest and flagellation at the same time, the response of particular enthusiasts would probably be along the lines of the famous Reece's Peanut Butter Cup slogan.  "You got your incest in my flagellation!"  "Well, you got your..." etc. etc.

In the Western tradition the most common way to explore a variety of sexual techniques seems to be through an anthology-approach, where one can use different characters to expound different techniques.  Perhaps the best known American film on this theme is the Woody Allen farce Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex But Were Afraid to Ask, in which each story illustrates a different technique and/or manifestation of sexuality in comic fashion, as with the segment that really ought to have been titled, "Attack of the Giant Boob."



Even in many non-Western works, the anthology-approach is favored.  Japan's OGENKI CLINIC is another farce, but a serial one, in that it revolves around the exploits of a sex-clinic doctor-- the titular Ogenki-- and his buxom nurse as they explore their clients' many and varied manifestations of sexuality under the rubric of "medical treatment."  Even so, most stories content themselves with dealing with just one manifestation at a time, as with this rather mild illustration of "superhero cosplay sex."




It should go without saying that in works that follow the general pattern of Sade-- in which victims are subjected to varied torments for the sexual entertainment of their victimizers-- and perhaps of the audience as well-- are still dominantly in the mode of "varied violence," not "varied sex."


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