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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...

Saturday, August 23, 2014

DIVORCE HERS, DIVORCE HIS-- SOMETIMES

In this essay I referenced Dave Sim's GLAMOURPUSS writings, which reflected, in part, on the career of Margaret Mitchell. I pointed out that Sim's conclusions about Mitchell and many other female celebrities could be valid only in terms of the concept of intersubjectivity. I'm reasonably sure that Sim would not agree with this perspectivist take on "truth:" at most, he might admit-- as he does in an essay I'll touch on later-- that as he is not God he can't be absolutely sure as to what is or is not true.

While I've dismissed some psuedofeminist complaints about the "old boy's network," in GLAMOURPUSS #25 (May 2012) Sim made one remark on Margaret Mitchell that left me nonplussed.  In a printed exchange between Sim and his interlocutor Eddie Khanna, Khanna remarks on the disparity between Mitchell's first beau Clifford West, a decorated war hero who died in battle, and her first husband Red Upshaw, an alleged drunk and wife-beater. Sim replies:

It's one of those sad instances, I suspect, where a woman gives full vent to the extent of her heartache-- going completely "over the edge" as an expression of her darkest emotions and her extreme sense of loss-- and thereby does a grave disservice to the memory of a genuine hero who has paid the ultimate price.

To back up slightly for context, Mitchell certainly used aspects of her own life to provide the dramatic pattern for GONE WITH THE WIND.  Clifford West, whom Mitchell never actually married, provides a loose parallel to Charles Hamilton, the man Scarlett O'Hara marries out of spite when Ashley Wilkes rejects her. Mitchell's first husband, who sounds like a reprobate, is transformed into the rather more charming scalawag, Rhett Butler, who becomes Scarlett's third husband.  Rhett, in contrast to the alleged acts of Red Upshaw, never beats his wife. Rhett does rape Scarlett, but this, as mentioned earlier, is something less than a punishment.

To some degree I could understand Sim's polemic if Mitchell had been actually married to Clifford West.  Though divorce hardly if at all carries the social stigma that it once did, there are some persons who believe that even after one spouse dies the remaining spouse is not free to re-marry. Sim's negative feelings about divorce are expressed to some extent in this essay on the MOMENT OF CEREBUS blog, though they are not apposite to the subject of re-marriage after one spouse's death.

BUT-- of course, Mitchell was not married to West; God never "joined them together." So I cannot fathom, either from the specific essay in GLAMOURPUSS or in any other Sim essay of my acquaintance, in what way Mitchell did a "grave disservice to the memory of a genuine hero."

(I note in passing that though Khanna describes Upshaw as a "debauched, violent, alcoholic bootlegger," Sim says nothing in issue #25 about Upshaw, who, according to this post, not only married again after his divorce from Mitchell-- just as Mitchell did-- he also left his wife and child to fend for themselves. I'm not sure why Upshaw wouldn't make just as good an example of "going over the edge" as Mitchell-- except that his example would weaken Sim's ideological concentration upon the supposed greater emotionality of women.)

Anyway, the question arises: is Sim imparting this special privilege, that of a woman being somehow bound to a beloved even sans marriage, to all men? I don't think so; this seems to be a special case, due to the fact of West's stellar military performance. Prior to Sim's remark about Mitchell, he contrasts West's "genuine heroism" to that of Alex Raymond, who was *potentially* heroic in that he refused a "natural deferment" but did not end up making a "similar ultimate sacrifice."

The odd thing about Sim's remark is how much he sounds like certain characters in the Atlanta of Margaret Mitchell's GONE WITH THE WIND-- namely, the generally female gossips who castigate the widowed Scarlett for a host of cultural offenses. But again, within the novel's fictional context, all of these castigations make some sense: Scarlett is an actual widow, seen as doing a disservice to Hamilton's death by dancing with, and keeping company with, scalawag Rhett Butler.  In contrast, Sim is apparently perturbed because Mitchell made herself "a public disgrace in Atlanta;" because she did not don "widow's weeds" and remain chastely unmarried for the remainder of her days. Amusingly, this goes further than even the fictional old biddies of GONE WITH THE WIND would have gone, even though they "existed" in an Atlanta of over a hundred years ago.

This, in conclusion, supports my earlier statement that emotion is not opposed to reason, as Sim has claimed. Rather, emotion "provides a lens through which everything, including rational cognition, is colored."  Sim's focus upon "haughty women brought low" indicates that he has chosen his examples of irrationality in a fundamentally irrational fashion.

A side-note: Sim also calls Mitchell's novel "a precursor of today's feminist 'victimology.'  I don't agree with this assessment, though I've found myself opposed to many other manifestations of false victimologies, particularly those of Kelly Thompson and Gail Simone. But in making this irrational attack on the character of Mitchell, Sim practices his own male-oriented form of victimology, and so pokes holes in his own polemic.

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