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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, September 10, 2014



...it's the nature of all [literary] constructs to be more unreal than real.  Their relationship to reality, then, is always more a matter of common cultural consent than of any objective measure of realism.

I return to this topic because the topic of verisimilitude in fiction is a complex one.  There's a widespread tendency in all criticism-- be it that of the hoity-toity elitst or the unambitious populist-- to critique fiction in terms of reality. "That's not realistic" may be the most fundamental of all complaints. It can take in representations of factual conditions, as when Carol Strickland's essay, referenced here, complains that the "rape of Ms. Marvel" story mishandled basic facts about pregnancy without even some sci-fi hocus-pocus as an explanation. It can also take in the subject's interpretations of factual conditions, which the subject is likely to deem as fact, and we see this in the fannish assertion that if superheroines existed, they'd never jump around in high heels because they'd break their necks.  In a similar vein there's also the frequent complaint about comics' "brokeback pose," in which a female character's body is twisted so as to put both boobs and butt on display.

I've done some 'reality-testing" complaints myself, as in the essay CARICATURE ANALYSIS.  I stated that although I did not deem Eisner's "Ebony White" character to be a racist creation as such, I did fault Eisner for "his inability to consider how the 'negative stereotype' of blacks was used as an indirect rhetorical tool by which real people were consigned to second-class citizenship."

Yet I've also demurred on some topics where I believe certain forms of  "common cultural consent" have become, in Emerson's phrase, "the hobgoblin of little minds." In GENDERIZATION GAP PT. 2
I wrote:

Janelle Asselin's complaints about "an underaged teen girl being drawn with breasts the size of her head" may be entirely sincere, but they are also in the JOURNAL's tradition of bear-poking. Unlike MacDonald, I don't think Asselin's comments "shed light on matters that are not discussed enough;" I think they're no more than preaching to the choir, though a bit more cogently than some of the critics I've assailed here.  No one but the members of that choir are going to care about Asselin's carping at unnatural breasts on a teenaged girl...

So again we have differences of interpretation. I'm aware that it's almost impossible for women to have boobs as big as their heads-- almost, given the example of Chesty Morgan-- but I feel it's basically a harmless male quirk, not a device to keep women down. OTOH, I validate the idea that "minstrel-show" physical distortions of Negroid physiognomy have been used in this oppressive manner.

Since no one ultimately has an infallible "take" on reality, it seems logical to me that in fiction-- which is not meant to be a true representation of reality-- reality takes more the position of "counselor" than that of "Supreme Court judge."

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