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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...

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

BITER BIT: FILM AT ELEVEN

Though this essay still concerns Alan Moore's most recent-- but probably not final-- rant-fest, I'm separating it from the "Elitist Neopuritan" series because I want to make a broader point about the ironies of scapegoating.

Back in 2009 I wrote of one of Moore's rants:

...scapegoating has an indispensable function in both literature and religion. The notion that one can dispense with evil (be it moral evil or mere physical calamity) by dispensing with a representative of evil is well-suited to both of these forms (to use the Cassirer term).

Scapegoating isn't quite as suited to politics. It's true that every political system advances itself by excoriating (whether directly or by implication) an opponent who represents a contrary belief. It's also true that this excoriation can sometimes lend to a process of scapegoating. But political systems inherently require compromise between rival factions. Even Machiavelli, who as Cassirer noted was the first to speak openly of the *realpolitik* that took place in Renaissance versions of the smoke-filled back room, admitted the necessity for compromise between rival powers.

A scapegoat, then, is not the same as an opponent. You may compromise or come to terms with the latter, but the former exists to be sacrificed.
In this essay my problem was with Moore's simplistic-- and badly substantiated-- reading of American culture.  In this 2012 essay, I found his view of Ian Fleming's James Bond no less problematic.  While I allowed that Moore might have valid reasons for his ire toward the injustices of masculinist culture in real life, I found that his satire of Bond was almost purely Moore's own projection, and as such, another example of scapegoating rather than a genuinely thought-out criticism.

Now, neither of these developments is ironic.  What is ironic is that over the past few years Moore himself has become the target of another form of scapegoating.  And golly gee, guess who doesn't like having his work cherry-picked for anti-liberal meanings!


I'm not sure what started the trope "Alan Moore Writes Rapey Comics," though I did find one blog-post from 2009 on the topic.  In the rant-fest Moore blames Grant Morrison for continuing the trope, but I for one have been seeing it for at least the past three years on various forums.  Moore's response to this accusation is muddled and verbose, suggesting that readers have overlooked the number of "far greater prevalence of consensual and relatively joyous sexual relationships" in his work.  Further, what scenes of rape or other violent sexual encounters Moore did pen should be seen in a spectrum of truth-telling about real life: "my thinking was that sexual violence, including rape and domestic abuse, should also feature in my work where necessary or appropriate to a given narrative, the alternative being to imply that these things did not exist, or weren’t happening."

Though I would debate many of the specific political observations Moore makes in the rant-fest, I'm completely on his side in stating that an author seeking to address adult themes should be free to do so without fear of, well, scapegoating.  Yet Moore, offended though he is by being misrepresented as a rape-happy sadist, fails to see that he's been so victimized because the topic of rape itself has become an ultraliberal hot-button issue. In this essay I traced how Mark Millar was pilloried last August for making a simple-- if somewhat obtuse-- statement about the potential use of rape as a story-element. Various ultraliberals-- I define the term here-- jumped on Millar for not having defined rape the way they wanted it defined.  And at heart they are no different than the ultraliberals who have decided that Moore's use of violent sexuality goes over some ill-defined line.  It's a line that suggests the hectoring tone of Susan Brownmiller, co-founder of the feminist organization WAP:

We are unalterably opposed to the presentation of the female body being stripped, bound, raped, tortured, mutilated, and murdered in the name of commercial entertainment and free speech.

If Alan Moore were exposed to this quote, would he perceive that the censorious voices of the comic book world have evolved along the same lines as pundits like Brownmiller?  That, even though Moore is far more esteemed in the comics-world and the "outside world" than Mark Millar is, he has been stigmatized precisely because he has invoked the trope of the raped female at times.  To this mental and political outlook it does not matter how many times Moore has written of "consensual and relatively joyous sexual relationships." I don't imagine Moore would agree that he has used rape purely for mere "commercial entertainment," but he does believe that it was within his rights of "free speech" to write seriously on these and other adult topics as he pleased.


Nor can I see any compelling or worthy reason why I, or any other writer, should restrain themselves from addressing whatsoever issues they feel are worthy of address, if they have the courage to engage with those subjects in the face of the possible approbation and loss of livelihood which may be entailed.


I have always maintained that art-- not just fine art, but also popular art-- must be free to explore all such aspects, whether they represent "real life" or not.  I don't credence Moore's attempt to portray himself as nothing more than the noble teller of uncomfortable truths, especially when one sentence before the one quoted, he tries the old dodge of attacking the commercialization of non-sexual violence:


I genuinely cannot see any reason why lethal non-sexual violence should be privileged over sexual violence, other than a residual middle class discomfort or squeamishness over all matters pertaining to sex, which in this instance has taken on the protective colouration of a fairly spurious appeal to contemporary sexual politics.

But of course the "appeal" is not spurious.  The scapegoating of the hideous anti-liberal icon is intrinsic to both ultraliberal and ultraconservative ends of the political spectrum.   Alan Moore himself is just fine with scapegoating, as shown in the essays referenced. 

He just doesn't like being the one with the teeth in his rump.




 




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