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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...

Monday, November 23, 2015


I'm sure I'll have more to say on HU's lynch-happy attitudes in future, but this should be the last time I respond to Ng Suat Tong's hubristic advice to the late Frank Frazetta. Maybe if I'd known that Ng would only answer one question, I would have asked why scenes of interracial sex would cause the writer to think, even sarcastically, of the "light under a bushel" aphorism. I would think that an ideologue like Ng would be glad that Frank Frazetta didn't conceal from readers-- either during his life or thereafter-- his supposed mammoth racial complexes. If these Frazetta drawings had not surfaced, Ng wouldn't have had an excuse to compare interracial erotica with actual slavery (cf. his Thomas Jefferson hyperbole).

Here, I'll address only the subject of "non-ideological" art, which I brought up in opposition to all of the completely ideological interpretations of Frazetta's oeuvre. In my addenda to my comment-preservation, here's what I remembered saying before NB deleted it:

It's been a couple of days since I checked back, but the remark that probably scored the deepest hit in that post had nothing to do with bad faith; it had to do with interrogating the defenders of Ng Suat Tong's essay in the way that they pretend to interrogate purveyors of mass entertainment. (Author Ng chose not to defend his own essay.) In essence, I asked one of the defenders-- not NB-- as to whether he liked to think that all of his personal inclinations were entirely determined by ideological factors, since that's the complexion all of them choose to place upon Frank Frazetta. I didn't even directly mention any individual's leanings toward sexy entertainment, though of course that too would fall under the heading of such personal inclinations. 

 Another thought: since one of the defenders said she found Frazetta's work boring, I remarked that were Frazetta alive, he might find her (performance art) boring, too, but why would either opinion be a matter for ideology? Why couldn't both opinions be purely a matter of personal taste?

Now, in earlier ARCHIVE essays I've already expatiated on the subject of the non-ideological elements in art, though in this essay I used the term "non-political," meaning essentially the same thing. At one point I cited this essay to NB when he wanted to know my stance on something-or-other, and he refuted just one aspect of the essay. So even if NB doesn't agree with anything I've written on these matters, he certainly does know pretty much what I mean by "non-ideological." Thus, an angel dies when he claims not to understand my position:

Gene, are you saying that pornography is not ideological? Or that pleasure is nonideological? I think both of those things are really not the case. Saying that these are racist images doesn’t mean that someone who takes pleasure in them is evil. It just means that the images are racist. Not because Frazetta hated black people (we can’t see his soul), but because reproducing racist stereotypes means you’re reproducing racist stereotypes. Sometimes, some people reproduce racist stereotypes in order to undermine them, or to think about them, or to critique them, or reclaim them. Frazetta doesn’t seem to be doing any of that. He just thinks racist imagery is sexy and funny. That doesn’t make him a monster, but it does make him, (a) boring, (b) dumb (c) in these particular drawings, racist (and hey, sexist also, as Nix points out.) If you dont’ think the drawings are racist, you need to do a bit more than say that the characters are enjoying themselves. The black slaves in Gone With the Wind enjoy their servitude; that doesn’t mean it’s not racist. In lots of rape fantasies, the fantasy is that the woman enjoys the rape, so the fact that the woman here seems to enjoy being reduced to little more than the marker sexy-white-woman doesn’t change the fact that these are sexist either. There are various ways for artists to deal with their control of the art too. Frazetta is pretty straightforward; his presence in the art is pretty much always, “hey, I”m a badass”. In this case, that comes off meaning, hey, I’m a badass because I can take this black guy and this white woman and bang them together for my pleasure. It’s interesting that you don’t actually have an alternate reading, Gene. It’s just, “oh, porn, that can’t mean anything, la-dee-dah, sex is just sex, black men, white woman, means nothing.” If the pairing doesn’t matter, why is it repeated obsessively? If sex has no meaning, why represent it? Keep telling yourself that dollar signs aren’t symbols, though, if it makes art easier to bear for you.

He feels it easy to make all of these wild accusations and associations even *after* I've repeated my stance that art can have aspects that have nothing to do with the political and ideological:

If you’re saying that the material is not totally reducible to ideology, as Ng did, then that’s not contrary to my basic position. I’ve stated above that I can see *some* ideological content in certain scenarios, like the “white goddess” trope mentioned earlier. I don’t think simple pornographic drawings are automatically implicated in whatever ideological content *may* be present in Tarzan narratives though, so that really would be a “contra.”

Since I clearly said in my first sentence that ideological content could appear in 'certain scenarios," clearly I'm not saying that art as a whole-- be it in the form of pornography or with respect to the many pleasures art generates-- never has ideological content. NB does answer the question I posed to another poster: that he can't countenance what he deems "racist stereotypes" unless they're serving an ideological purpose (critique, reclamation, etc.)  It's pretty amusing that he tries in his opening sentence to make me the mirror of his own ideological obduracy.

It's also ironic that NB cites GONE WITH THE WIND; a work that strongly appealed to a racist audience within the U.S (though not only to them). The racists in the overall audience would have been outraged by the consensual white-black sex Frazetta depicted, but of course that can't be allowed to matter. NB's trying to draw a parallel between objectionable stereotypes in the novel and in the drawings, but his whole case for the Frazetta drawings being objectionable is based in an unsupportable interpretation. One minute NB says we can't know if Frazetta hated black people; the next he mind-reads the artist to say that his only reason for drawing this erotica was because he Frazetta found it "sexy and funny," as well as taking pleasure in being an artistic "badass."

To answer one of NB's few coherent questions, I haven't said that depictions of interracial sex "mean nothing," I just don't think their meaning inheres in passing a political purity test; that they're good if they're used to "subvert the dominant" and bad if they're primarily for pleasure. I think it's possible Frazetta, being an artist, undertook the project just to see if he could pull off (in a technical sense only; ha ha) a set of erotic images involving black and white pleasure. It's even possible that, even if Frazetta never intended the drawings to "go public," that he took some pleasure in imagining how such images would have scandalized Middle America; the same Middle America that might have called him a "wop," or so it's been alleged.

To do my own mind-reading act again, I think what's really at issue here is that Frazetta validates the fantasies of white males, whether he shares them all or not: hence the shots Ng takes at Frazetta's jungle comic books (about sixty years old at the time of Frazetta's death). Is that what NB means black-white imagery being "repeated obsessively?" Who knows? With most if not all HU people, it's "sentence first, evidence not at all"-- especially if it's a white male who dares to play with racial (not racist) imagery without having it vetted by ultraliberal sensibilities.

In closing, I'll note that one of my other deleted remarks responded to NB's wacky reference to Jung, asking me if I thought Jung was a capitalist. I didn't directly respond to this nonsense, except to say that though I'd critiqued his affections for Freud and Wertham on other threads, on this one I hadn't brought up anyone's ideological influences and that I'd only responded to things posters had said, so he ought to do the same. Maybe that's the real reason that last big post got deleted.

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