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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, July 25, 2014

FEELINGS, NOTHING MORE THAN FEELINGS

In my last essay I cited a recent article on Comic-con 2014 to substantiate the claim that bad real-life behavior does still occur at conventions. That, however, doesn't mean that I agree with every point writer Rebecca Keegan made in support of this thesis. Here's one I reject:


At a “Game of Thrones” panel at the 2011 San Diego Comic-Con, a mix of cheers and groans rose up in the audience when actor Jason Momoa said his favorite part of his role on the HBO show is that he gets to “rape beautiful women and have them fall in love with me.” 

Now, I would sympathize with the outrage here only in one respect: since Comic-con is not an "adults only" function, it was at the very least indecorous of the actor to make an adults-only statement in that venue.  But Keegan didn't object on the basis of grossing out juveniles. The thrust of the article is on the "harassment" of women at the convention.

Harassment, however, does not include "anything that annoys many or even all women," and within a context of speaking to adults about adult entertainment-- which GAME OF THRONES certainly is-- Momoa's remarks do not constitute harassment.

The kerfluffle resembles the one that arose in 2013 when Mark Millar had the audacity to assert that in a story-context the act of rape could be used for the narrative purpose of showing graphically that a villain was a Bad Guy. In my essay CONJUNCTION JUNCTION, MEET VIOLATION STATION, I observed that though I had no use for Millar's work, the writer was just stating a fact.  Much of the criticism directed against his remarks was based not on the nature of storytelling, but on an ideological desire to make sure that the activity of rape should never be used for any purpose but the condemnation of so-called "rape culture."

I haven't bothered to look up earlier responses to Momoa's remarks; though it's the first time I came across this particular issue.  I'm sure the original debate had largely run its course before Ms. Keegan brought it up.  I would imagine, though, that a lot of vitriol came about because of the linkage of rape and "falling in love."

But of course, as I mentioned in this essay, the linkage is not something Momoa made up out of whole cloth: it's a trope that has circulated throughout the genre of the "women's romance" since it erupted from the skull of Samuel Richardson.  I hazarded a few guesses at the reasons why the assocation of rape and love in these genre-works should prove so durable, especially in works aimed predominantly at a female readership. But though I freely admit that there could be many subtleties about the subject to which I, a male writer, am not privy, I don't believe that the trope is syndromic of "rape culture."  On one hand, I regard the trope, as phrased by Momoa, is absurd on the face of it: barring the rare occurrences of real-life Stockholm Syndrome, I don't think the average person believes this to be anything more than a fantasy.  On a second hand, I believe that the same trope pertains no less to the fantasy of female-on-male rape-- even if this is usually accomplished through roundabout means; i.e., drugs, etc.

While I don't agree with the moral opprobrium attached, TV Tropes helpfully provides a list of examples on this topic as it pertains to comics, ranging from Black Canary to Asterix,  

So tosum up::

Real threats of rape to someone, even if intended as stupid "humor"-- no good.

Dumb jokes about rape in a fictional context-- okay.

4 comments:

Marionette said...

Some of the criticism directed against his remarks was based not on the nature of storytelling, but on an ideological desire to make sure that the activity of rape should never be used for any purpose but the condemnation of so-called "rape culture."

And quite a lot of them were probably reacting to what a hackneyed, tired old trope it was. At one point I was keeping a tally of how many rapes occurred in comics (largely for this purpose) a month. I stopped because the whole thing just made me feel ill after a while.

Not only is it one of the worst and most traumatic violations that someone is going to live through, but unlike most forms of violence in comics, it also happens to one quarter or one fifth (depending on your sources) of the female population. It is an ever present fear for women and informs their actions every day.

So, not only is it a horrendously overused trope, it makes the entire female readership uncomfortable. That's two reasons why any half-decent writer shouldn't be using it.

Gene Phillips said...

Thanks for writing. I suspect that we won't agree on the matter, so I'll be brief:

Real rape is a horrible crime, and real harassment can be seen as a corollary to it, a lesser crime that can lead to the greater one.

But rape in fiction is not a crime, not even mediocre depictions of it, as I suspect would be the case with anything by Mark Millar. It's not even a "crime against art," and talking about the subject in art is not harassment of anyone, contrary to Rebecca Keegan's implication.

That's all for now, though I have an idea for an exploration of the topic in works aimed at particular genders, as opposed to those that appear to be "across-the-board," as MAY be the case with GAME OF THRONES.

A. Sherman Barros said...

Holy cow, Marionette,

In a single month you get ill from all the rapes in comic books? I sure am reading the wrong ones!

As for hackneyed, tired old tropes, if you got fiction rid of all of them, what would you be left with?

Gene,

When you say "the linkage is not something Momoa made up out of whole cloth: it's a trope that has circulated throughout the genre of the "women's romance" since it erupted from the skull of Samuel Richardson." you're obviously right.

But as always with the type of talk you're refuting here, you must make a discount for cheer exageration. After all, Momoa's statement doesn't directly link one thing (rape)with the other (love). It was not because Daenerys was raped by Momoa's character that she fell in love with him.

Cheers,

Sherman

Gene Phillips said...

I'm pretty much clueless about the goings-on of GAME OF THRONES, so I just took Momoa's statement at face value: that babes were falling for him because he was such a stud, they didn't care what he did to them.