Sunday, September 23, 2007

Ban the Soul, Eh.

In recent readings. I've seen some people declare their blogs to be places where they just spew out personal thoughts as they happen, without editing, the implication being that criticism of what they say is pointless and overkill.

Well, why not use that for myself? If you disagree, I'm just sharing my thoughts!

Meh. I typed the above mostly because I was intending to foreword this post with a notice that it may meander a bit. I'm searching for something, not sure if I've found it yet. But rather than apologize if this one doesn't actually go anywhere, I figured I could JUSTIFY it, and make it all criticism-free! (He said, trying to avoid biting his cheek-planted tongue.)

Anyway.

A few years ago, I was rummaging through some stack of old magazines somewhere, I forget where. Secondhand store? Library castoffs? Whatever it was, I happened across an article about some feminist-oriented media watchdog group. The magazine was dated somewhere in the late 80s or early 90s, and the article was about this group and the things they were criticizing, and what caught my eye was their critique of ads for Bain De Soleil (I think that's how it's spelled, maybe) tanning lotion.

I vaguely remember the TV ads, with a sexy tanned woman in a black bikini luxuriating at some pool while a woman's voice sings "Bain De Soleil, for the San Tropez tan..." What I didn't know was that there were print ads for this stuff, too, I'm guessing they appeared in women's fashion magazines. And the watchdog group was against these print ads.

Here's what the ads depicted, and the group's reactions, as best as I can dredge up from memory. (Wish I had the article, but if I actually acquired the magazine, it's probably long since lost/thrown away.)

The first ad was of a woman very much like the one shown in the TV ads, a tube-top bikini, stylish and glamourous, reclining by the side of a pool. Bright sunlight, deep blue sky. The picture is taken from the side, showing her nearly lying down on the concrete or tile, knees bent a little, resting on her elbows, her back arched a bit, her head tilted back, eyes closed, as if she's drinking in the sun's rays. Very sexy.

The watchdog group's statement called this a depiction of a lifeless, dead woman. Their analysis of the woman's posture was that the woman was supposed to be unconscious or dead, a helpless victim to whatever person wished to assault her.

Hmm.

There was another ad shown, from a later campaign. The overtly sophisticated sexy model was replaced, this time with a similar model in the same bandeau swimwear, but one with a more active posture and expression. (Or it might've been the same model after all, I dunno.) My guess is that they were aiming for a more general, family-appeal look. Now the woman was not on her back, but on her side, facing the camera, smiling pleasantly. And also in the picture, also smiling at the camera, was a young girl of maybe 6 or 7, decked out in the same style of bikini, also fairly tan.

The watchdog group's statement was every bit as harsh as before: now the ad depicted a woman offering up her daughter for the viewer's sexual use.

Oh....kay. So first they're marketing tanning lotion to necrophiles, then to pedophiles. So says this group.

That was as far as the article went (I don't remember seeing any third ad campaign featuring dead 6 year olds or something).

Now, here's what goes through my head first when presented with this: is that really how it works? The ad agency is showing a woman that some might interpret to be dead in order to appeal to people and make them want to get tanned and buy lotion? Or presenting a young girl in a bikini is going to inflame the passions of pedophiles, who I suppose must have lots of disposable income?

The next thought that comes up is: now, wait, who's going to think that's a dead woman, anyway? There's no ad copy going, "yup, once they've reached that San Tropez tan stage, that's the best time to throttle them to death." If it's just a woman laying down limp and still, well, that describes a lot of real live sunbathers I've seen in my life. And there's no sign in the other pic reading "juvenile hooker for rent". To get these messages, you kind of have to be reading meanings and symbols into them that probably aren't intentional, if they even exist in the first place.

And after that, I have to think: and who is that going to appeal to, anyway? Unless you actually are a pedophile, are you really going to get all aroused by a 7-year old in a bikini? If you see a picture of a reclining woman and think she looks dead, is that going to be sexy for you unless you actually are a necrophile?

Does the fact that a pedophile could get turned on by the image of a young girl in a bikini mean that we should never show the image of a young girl in a bikini? Should we forbid girls of certain ages to wear swimwear that reveals X percent skin because it might excite a pervert? Should women always be depicted in action, so as to avoid any scene that might have some necrophile fantasizing about running a hand over room-temperature flesh?

If so... why?

Setting that aside for the moment, my thoughts turn to the watchdog group, and what kind of mentality they must have to be looking at things like this and seeing the most depraved interpretations in every last thing that catches their eye.

And then I think...

What good is this going to do, anyway? Let's suppose for the moment that they're right about these ads. And the ads get changed or removed.

So?

How does this improve society? What harm were the ads causing anyway? Do they think the ads would generate an increase in pedophiliac or necrophiliac tendencies? Is someone going to look at them and, out of the blue, think, "hey, that's hot, think I'll go rob graves and hang around the schoolyards in a white van now"?

Or perhaps they think that the people who do have these desires will be "worked up" by the ads to the point of committing some crime? Maybe they think that taking that kind of ad away will somehow calm perverts down?

I dunno.

A few posts back, I mentioned Stephanie Brown's death. In response, "Lexi" said this:

"Oh, certainly there are people who would find the sexualized brutal murder of Stephanie Brown hot.

Statutory rapists (she was only 16).

Necrophiliacs.

Snuff film enthusiasts.

You know, sexual criminals."

Anonymous, who appears to be BrokenPorcelainDoll, who wrote one of the first "not taking your sexy away" posts I read, also offered this:

"If I'm taking you correctly, then that "nymphet" manga- the one about the preteen girl who tries to have sex with her teacher- is all well and good? What about snuff? Is sexualising rape and murder okay?"

Somewhere in the Bible, Jesus says:

"But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart."

Interesting quote, that. A lot of times when you see it referenced, the last "in his heart" has been dropped, so the message presented is, "If you think about adultery, you are actually committing adultery." But, the actual quote straight from the Bible keeps things in the realm of thought, a temptation to be resisted.

Lexi's quote, as I pointed out in the comments section where it appears, presumes that the ones who look upon Stephanie Brown's corpse with lust are by default criminals, that is, they have committed real crimes.

Anonymous/Bunny/BPD implies, in her quote, that presenting a work about a sexually precocious girl, or a work that links sex and death, is wrong. No crime is actually committed, but images and thoughts are presented that deal with things that might very well be crimes if they were real.

The battleground would seem to be over other people's thoughts. Because think about it: When the scene of Stephanie Brown lying on the floor, post-torture, is discussed, I've seen it mentioned that she's been drawn in a "sexy" pose. I'm not sure how many ways there are to lay on the ground that absolutely could not EVER be described as "sexy" in SOME way, but okay, let's say it is somehow "sexy". When YOU look at the scene, do you think it is sexy, do you find it "hot"? No? Do you assume that someone else finds it sexy? How do you know someone else thinks it's sexy? And if someone else does find it sexy, what does that matter to you?

I just read a post about the anime-style DC superheroines figures. The writer gripes about the sexualization of the characters, and later, replying to a comment, says it "represents a larger problem".

What problem is that, exactly? That someone might get a little too frisky, alone in their room, with some statue?

Why are so many people so concerned about what goes on in the innermost reaches of other people's heads?

What do people really think will happen?

Which is more correct: What Jesus actually said, or what a lot of people think he said? Is a fantasy every bit as criminal and evil as a real action?

Will it be enough that less actual crime and nastiness occurs in real life, or must thoughts be regulated, filtered, and sorted into appropriate categories to appease people disturbed by what gives other people some sort of thrill? Will everything be judged by a panel of experts in order to ensure that no offense is ever given and no bad thoughts are inspired?

Who will be first to join the forces of the Thought Police?

24 comments:

James Meeley said...

Why are so many people so concerned about what goes on in the innermost reaches of other people's heads?

Because people are sad and pathetic creatures who, rather then take the time to fix the issues within their own lives, would much rather tell others what they need to fix, because it's much easier to tell someone else they are a problem, over taking a hard look at one's own failures, shortcomings and personality quirks.

Add to that, the seeming need for everyone to believe everything they think about the world and society is "the gospel truth" and anything that falls outside of that is just going to bring chaos and disorder to the "well-organized" way they think things ought to be, you begin to see that most people are nothing more than frustrated little tyrants, who only don't cause much real harm, simply because they don't have the power base to do so. So, instead, they shout at the world in the only way they can, with verbal tactics of fear and intimidation.

Despite people talking about wanting "equality" and "fairness" for all, it is only if the terms of that "equality" are set by them that they feel it will be acheived. Anything less is just another form of oppression, from their viewpoint. Because it is not equality they truly want, as much as superiority over those who they feel have "wronged" them, whether the wrong is actual real or only perceived within their own cluttered and troubled mind.

This is why people have to stick their noses into other people's thoughts (and then try to control those through threats of intimidation and fear). Don't expect any radical changes to this anytime soon, either.

And hey, remember, you ASKED why. ;)

universalperson said...

Hmm...I have disjointed response to you here, but I'm going to think about it a bit, because its not Stephs sexualization that irks me. It's more of how she's been basically forgotten by everyone, including the characters in the story.

Not to mention the double standard you get if you compare her to the death of Jason Todd. (Don't say different time periods, different standards, how many times has Jason's death been redrawn?)

Lexi D said...

I am most certainly not in favor of any thought-policing, and I too am skeptical of any claims that sexualized imagery will cause certain sexual thoughts/actions in people not already inclined to them. My point is that I just don't see why such imagery is necessary in superhero comics, of all places. I am fine with pornography of all stripes--as long as anyone involved has consented, and is of the legal age to do so. Someone wants to make a line of underage snuff comics? Fine. Seriously, fine. At least it's honest about what it is and no real minors were involved. But to take a teen superhero-- a member of the Bat-family no less-- and showing her being tortured to death, drawing her in a way that draws attention to her breasts and butt-- It just seems so unnecessary. There is simply no artistic imperative there.

James Meeley said...

I am most certainly not in favor of any thought-policing, and I too am skeptical of any claims that sexualized imagery will cause certain sexual thoughts/actions in people not already inclined to them. My point is that I just don't see why such imagery is necessary in superhero comics, of all places.

Because the fan base of these iconic characters, who still buy the work, are an aging one. They don't have the same worldview and entertainment expectations they have when they were 12 and younger. As such, the material has shifted along with that demographic. And while you might not see it as "necessary," that really isn't your call to make.

We can sit here all day and bomoan that sorry state of affairs, say why we think it's wrong/stupid/a mistake, and suggest a move more towards the "old days" of what superhero comics used to be is in order. heck, I'd probably even agree with a lot of it. But the simple fact remains that the fan base who is the current target audience of these icons are the ones who are buy the work. And they will continue to do so, despite what anyone else tells them. They are enjoying it and no one gives up what they enjoy. Nor should they.

I've been thinking recetyl, that maybe it's not the industry or publishers who need to adjust their viewpoint, but those online doing all the complaining. Maybe they need to walk away from these icons and help create new ones, that speak to them and what they want from a comic publisher. Instead of trying to force the monolithic giants, who are more bound to what their corporate masters and stockholders say, than parts of the reading audience, to become something they aren't and haven't been in some time, maybe they'd all be better off starting fresh with someone else. After all, Marvel and DC didn't become "the Big Two" overnight. It was longtime support by the reading audience that attained them that staus. Perhaps it's time to look for freshness from soemwhere other than the same old places. Maybe all those who have so many issues with Marvel and DC's superheroes, need to be the ones to crate a changes within themselves, instead of trying to force from without on the publishers.

It's never easy saying goodbye to something you once enjoyed. But if it no longer gives you that thrill, if all you can do is find fault in everything they say and do, maybe it's not them who needs to change. Maybe it's us.

Anon, A Mouse said...

Universalperson:

The issue of Stephanie vs. Jason is completely irrelevant to the issue I'm discussing in this post. I could have chosen, say, the Heroes for Hire cover as an example. (I didn't because I think it's been talked to death elsewhere.) However, just for the record, I have absolutely no objection to her having a memorial in the Batcave like Jason does. If she was indeed a Robin in Batman's eyes, give her a memorial. Otherwise, memorializing your returned-from-the-dead-and-now-kills-people Robin but not the other, actually-dead-and-probably-staying-that-way Robin makes you kind of a dick (and I don't mean Grayson).

Anyway.


Lexi D:

"My point is that I just don't see why such imagery is necessary in superhero comics, of all places."

Superhero comics, strictly speaking, are themselves not necessary. Working out from there, any of the trappings of the genre are also unnecessary - the brightly colored, skintight outfits, the impossible powers, idealized human forms, and so on. It's all a matter of choice what you add to (or leave out of) the mix.

"There is simply no artistic imperative there."

Maybe. That's a judgment call, in the end, and something people sometimes forget about art is that art does not require any real reason to exist beyond an artist going "hey, I wanna do this thing."

But here, look at it from a different angle: You say that picture draws attention to Stephanie's boobs and butt. Maybe it does. There's a subtle but significant difference between having a picture where some things become prominent due to quirks of composition, and a picture deliberately engineered to go "Hey! Boobs and butt RIGHT HERE!" Which is this? I'm unsure. I admit I haven't read the comics where all this happens, and most of what I do know comes from other people's reviews and the occasional panel posted (like this one).

BUT, all that aside, is there really any reason (or artistic imperative, if you like) to CONCEAL or obscure Stephanie's body parts? If your normal mode of dress is a skintight bodysuit, there's not many ways to draw you where your breasts or butt are not on display to some extent. I suppose the artist could simply have never drawn any part of the character below the shoulders.

But, after thinking about THAT for a few minutes, I can see that even that would be perilous if someone is bound and determined to see things in the worst light. Suppose the artist(s?) had been very discreet in the torture scenes, and had never shown anything but her face. Picture a dying, exhausted girl, a bit of blood on her face, breathing raggedly after having been tortured, and if you're the artist who has to portray this, you had better do it just perfectly, or you'll be accused of giving her a "porn face" or something. You can see gratuitous filth of all sorts in nearly everything if you try hard enough.

Scott (The Mad Thinker) Anderson said...

As you might imagine, I’ve thought much the same as what you’ve posted here. I remember someone complaining that the death of Phantom Lady was sexualized, and I asked him if he thought it was sexy and he was incensed that I’d even suggest that he might find it sexy. So if it’s not him who said it was sexualized, who are these people who find that kind of thing sexy? I know there are people who get off on these kinds of images but are we really worried about what some tiny percentage of people are thinking? Are comics really being marketed to this tiny niche audience at the expense of larger groups or is it possible that we are reading things into the images that aren’t really there? For instance, I know the porn face exists, but it seems that whenever a woman has her mouth open now, it’s called a porn face. I saw one blogger complain that she didn’t want her little sister to see a porn face, which is pretty much indistinguishable from any number of other faces. And was her little sister watching porn so that she’d even know a porn face when she saw it?

Lexi’s argument here seems more of an aesthetic argument than an ethical one, but what you seem to be tackling are the ethical arguments where people suggest there is something “wrong” with this or that image or the thoughts he image might produce. If you don’t like those images, you don’t like those images. It’s an aesthetic argument that can’t be argued against. But the “unnecessary” argument leaves me cold. Comics themselves aren’t necessary so nothing in them could be necessary either. If something had to be necessary to be in a comic, I’m not sure we’d be left with anything. The “unnecessary” argument only seems to come out when someone wants to bolster their “I don’t like it” argument. “I don’t like it” is enough. It doesn’t need these other meaningless arguments. If a reader doesn’t like some element of a comic, it would behoove both the comic companies and the reader for the reader to make that known, but these other “unnecessary” arguments or pedophilia or necrophilia arguments are seem pointless and display a really strange bias against other readers and comic creators.

James Meeley said...

If a reader doesn’t like some element of a comic, it would behoove both the comic companies and the reader for the reader to make that known, but these other “unnecessary” arguments or pedophilia or necrophilia arguments are seem pointless and display a really strange bias against other readers and comic creators.

Scott:

Well, the simple reason such arguments like that are used is one simple thing: To create fear and intimidation.

See, if someone doesn't like seeing certain materials to be shown to them in a comic, simply telling the publisher that isn't going to be enough to get it stopped. They know that, even if there are other who feel the same, they are probably a minority (of a minority niche audience, no less). They have to make the majority (i.e. other pets of the reader base and creators) side with them. If explaining their "feelings" isn't enough to sway them, then tactics of fear and intimidation will always be brought into play.

As I said, "equality" for these types only works, as long as they are the one dictating the terms of what "equality" means. Anything that falls outside of those expectations is a threat and must be stopped. And as much as they despise sadistic and unfair tactics to be used on them, it seems that, for many of them, they are perfectly fine for use when THEY deem it "necessary."

"Necessity" isn't just the mother of invention, she's also the godmother of scoio-political zealotry.

Faith said...

Which is this? I'm unsure.

The picture LexiD linked to - Steph is shown from three-quarter rear, but her breast is drawn in full profile and her butt is twisted slightly towards us. Her back is arched, her butt is thrust out. Her cape falls aside to expose her butt. Her upper body appears to be hanging by the wrists, her rear appears supported by her right leg - the other leg seems lifted slightly to reveal the curve of her buttock. (The combination of the leglift and the hip twist makes this an uncomfortable and tricky pose to hold, but possible) If she's kneeling, the pose becomes a little less uncomfortable, but it means she's kneeling up, leaning into the hang of her wrists, and twisting her hips.
The figure's anatomy has been made wrong to show off her body, and the pose chosen is a truly ridiculous pose for someone in her circumstances - to show off her body.

James Meeley said...

The figure's anatomy has been made wrong to show off her body, and the pose chosen is a truly ridiculous pose for someone in her circumstances - to show off her body.

Unless, she was hung in such a way to put her into that pose, against her own wishes, to create the very discomfort you say such a pose would bring, as well as the humiliation, which, now that I think about it, is something that someone who'd tortue a young female would probably do.

See how easily I put using that pose into a context that actually fits within the circumstances of the story? Something that has nothing to do with making her "look sexy for the sake of sexy." As Anon has already shown, if someone wants to take issue with something, if someone wants to be truly offended, it is very easy to do so, especially if you put things into their worst possible context.

This in not an indictment of lexi or yourself, per say, but merely the illustrating of a very important point. There are those within this movement, who are trying to look at everything through the worst context they can. To find offenses, even if none turly exist. Making mountains out of molehills. Turning a minor thing into a major headache. And it really needs to stop.

Anon, A Mouse said...

Faith:

While James has a point in that everything in the picture can make some sort of rational sense if you interpret it in some particular ways, and while you also have a point in that the picture SEEMS like it could be intending to make a sexual display of Stephanie's body (and seeing both sides of it is why I said I was "unsure" in the first place), I think the more serious issue is actually:

Even if it is, so what?

Let's assume for the sake of argument that the picture is deliberately making a sexual display of some sort out of Stephanie Brown's torture/death. So what then? Do you think it's "hot"? Do you think someone else thinks it's "hot"? Do you think anything should be done about it, either regarding the production of the material, or regarding the people who might find it "hot"? If so, what? And how far do you think it should go?

Faith said...

Well, I suppose it's possible that the Red Skull surgically removed her breast and reapplied it to her chest so the it could be seen in profile from her three quarter rear. It's possible that her waist is clamped into a vice to hold it it that odd angle, and that vice is carefully concealed by the draping of her cloak and the angle of her body. It's possible her knees are clamped to hold them at a flattering pose from that same angle, and that the Red Skull periodically goes and stands over there and says "From this angle, very sexy! Wow!" You'd think if that was the case it would have been mentioned somewhere in the text, or actually appear in the pictures somewhere.
I really do not think that is a "rational" way of interpreting her pose. Convoluted and totally unsupported, more like.

Anon, a mouse: Your orginal post said "Does the fact that a pedophile could get turned on by the image of a young girl in a bikini mean that we should never show the image of a young girl in a bikini?"
One could similarly say, does the fact that some person could find a tortured woman hot mean we should never depict them?

And the answer, of course, is no. A more sensible question is, should we show a child in a bikini, or a tortured woman, in a sexualized pose? "Should we be associating "sexy" with "child" or "tortured woman"? Unless there is a damn good narrative reason, for a "sexy" child, (Claudia from Interview with the Vampire, Lolita) or a "sexy" tortured woman (a villain who does, canonically and for valid reasons, like to sexually humiliate his victims) I think it's a bad idea. Even if you do have a good narrative reason, it should be used sparingly.

James Meeley said...

Well, I suppose it's possible that the Red Skull surgically removed her breast and reapplied it to her chest so the it could be seen in profile from her three quarter rear. It's possible that her waist is clamped into a vice to hold it it that odd angle, and that vice is carefully concealed by the draping of her cloak and the angle of her body. It's possible her knees are clamped to hold them at a flattering pose from that same angle, and that the Red Skull periodically goes and stands over there and says "From this angle, very sexy! Wow!" You'd think if that was the case it would have been mentioned somewhere in the text, or actually appear in the pictures somewhere.
I really do not think that is a "rational" way of interpreting her pose. Convoluted and totally unsupported, more like.


First of all it was Black Mask who tortured Spoiler, not the Red Skull. Not a very important mistake on your part, mind you, but the "comic knowledge geek" in me just had to get that corrected for the sake of accuaracy. ;)

As to the rest of what you say, it sounds more and more like it is less about the toruture of Spoiler looking sexy and more about the poor use of anatomy and design by the artist. Now see, that's something I can get behind. It was some poor graphic storytelling and anatomy issues with the artist who drew that scene. Based on a purely technical standard of comic art, that panel fails and I'd fully support that.

The problem comes in when you (or anyone, really), then try to use the anotmical ineptitude of an artist to launch into a morality champaign of what is and isn't acceptable to be shown. That's where you lose me (and a lot of others, one would assume).

If a writer tells a story full of plotholes and you say the story fails due to that, that's fine. If an artist uses poor anatomy in a cover drawing (ala the Michael turner Justice League cover with Power Girl) and you say it ruins the image and flow of the story because the poor visual storytelling takes you out of the moment, that makes sense and I would support.

But these are criticism of skill on the part of the creator's ability to make the story and art engaging. There is not call for them to be seen as morally repugnant for using imagry or story concepts you find unsavory. There isn't a judgement being made against the reading audience of the work, that their own enjoyment of the work you fialed to enjoy is some kind of indictment of some dark and disgusting fantasy they would love to engaging in outside of the world of comics.

It is tactics such as those described above, which is why you and others find such resistance to seeing more stuff done how you would like. It's why some of the very significant part of what yopu say are ignored or glossed over, when it might be better to listen more closely. Those tactics do more to harm the goals you want to see accomplished more than anything "the enemy" could ever hope to do. And yet, many of you continue to use them and hide that behind the vaunted "right to vent." Yes, you do have that right, but I'm guessing you don't fly off into moral tantrums at people out in the real world very much, because you know the kinds of reactions you would get wouldn't be very favorable to you. So then, why do you think you'll get a different result doing so online? Because the people on here are the same ones who walk outside in the real world, when such tactics and behavior is frowned upon.

I'm not saying you don't have the right to be upset. I'm not even saying you don't have the right to "vent like mad," if that's what you want to do. But there is a price to be paid in doing so publicly (and writing on blogs online IS public). It all comes down to what matters more to you: your right to get mad and vent publicly, or seeing things changed in a way to make you less angry. Because doing both obviously is hurting the latter, through use of the former.

It's time to stop the public venting and masking that as rational criticism. It's time to stop morally judging others whom you don't agree with and calling it enlightening people. If true change is what you are looking for, there are better and more effective ways of getting it. They may not be fast, but they yeild better results than these type of tactics tend to do. And they just might help make you see that your "enemies" aren't really as bad as you want to believe. In fact, they might just be closer to what you want than you think.

Anon, A Mouse said...

Faith:

"And the answer, of course, is no. A more sensible question is, should we show a child in a bikini, or a tortured woman, in a sexualized pose?

Unless there is a damn good narrative reason [...] I think it's a bad idea."

Fair enough. Now, WHY is it a bad idea?

In the simple mechanics of writing stories, depending on the kind of story you're presenting, yes, some things should not be overdone. This can be applied to many aspects of a story, not just potentially offensive or controversial components.

Apart from that, however, is there any particular reason why these specific ingredients should or should not be used? Do you think something will happen? What?

To put it a different way: in the Bain de Soleil ads, the watchdog group was concerned about the images for some reason. They described a negative interpretation of the images, but they were not (as far as I can recall) very specific about what they thought the results of having such images out there in the public eye would be.

If these images are inherently bad, and should be "used sparingly", there must be some detrimental effect that is being anticipated.

I've seen some conversations like these here and there that wind up with someone saying something like "well, if you don't see how having a necrophiliac comic is bad, I guess there's just no talking to you," but I think that's kind of a cop-out. A lot of people seem to be unwilling to come right out and say "I think having a necrophiliac comic would encourage necrophilia", since then that would open up that claim to things with actual facts attached, like studies and statistics (which aren't always absolute, mind you).

Likewise, not many people seem to be willing to come right out and say, "I don't think there should be necrophilia in comics because I think someone would 'get off' on it and it really, really bothers me that someone else would find it 'hot'". That takes it into the realm of differing opinions, fantasy vs. reality, and basically the issue of whether people should be getting worked up over what SOMEONE ELSE gets hot and bothered over.

And that, I think, is what the original entry is all about: should people be trying to filter what gets put into comics and other media on the basis of whether SOMEONE ELSE has some naughty thoughts? Is this what is happening with some of the outcry over what goes into comics? How much of it is honestly personal distaste, and how much of it is a desire to deprive others of "bad" fantasy material?

These are questions I think should get asked more often.

Faith said...

I do believe it has an effect.
A person's sexuality is not a hardwired binary thing. It's a spectrum, and people move about on it. It's also cultural - the Greeks and Romans weren't paedophiles as we understand it, but men having sex with boys was a part of their culture at various times. If your culture tells you, regularly and often, from a young age, that kids are suitable sex objects, yes you might come to believe it.

So one sexy child, one sexy tortured woman - not a problem, especially if it's placed in an appropriate story context. A barrage of images can alter belief. For studies on whether pictures or words can alter someone's behaviour, I recommend looking into advertising studies - it's not quite the same, of course, but there's been a lot more studies on advertising than comics.

That's why it's not as simple as a 'ban' and comes down to authorial and consumer responsibilty. A sexual child - Lolita, or Claudia in Interview with the Vampire - can be placed in a story context in a way that is interesting, thought-provoking. A sexual tortured woman could be, were it not so vastly overused it's barely seen as worthy of comment.

Anon, A Mouse said...

"A person's sexuality is not a hardwired binary thing. It's a spectrum, and people move about on it."

I have to say I'm skeptical about that. There may be some play here and there to some extent, but it treads a little too close to the idea that, for instance, being gay is a choice and that homosexuals can just choose not to be homosexual anymore if they just try hard enough. (And as far as I know, what really happens in such a case is that one's true feelings get heavily repressed.)

Ancient Greek culture may have instilled a cultural paedophilia, but yet in today's society where it's anathema to most, it still persists in the face of cultural intolerance. I think there's a distinction to be made between genuinely feeling a desire and having easy, ready access to fulfilling that desire.

I am, in addition, opposed to the notion that any author has any particular "responsibility" to, well, anything besides putting their best effort that they can manage into their craft. Aside from that, the fluid nature of societal standards (which you illustrate yourself by bringing up the Greeks) makes "responsibility" a transitory thing.

"Responsibility" implies an obligation to live up to some ideal, some set of standards, and it can mean speaking out against the cultural norm, or endorsing it, depending on which side of the fence you sit on.

James Meeley said...

If your culture tells you, regularly and often, from a young age, that kids are suitable sex objects, yes you might come to believe it.

Our culture tells us murder is wrong. People still commit it. Our culture tells us stealing is wrong. People still do it. Our culture tells us prson is supposed to be an undesired place to be. Yet, many released criminals commit new crimes simply so they can go back inside of prison.

It seems that despite what culture or society tells people, the desire of having free will leads people to make their own choice on the matter. If the societal pressures from Government and authority figures (like police and smilitary men) isn't enough to make people conform to what is seen as a "cultural norm," I fail to see how preventing or limiting what a comic book creator can write or draw will change things one iota.

Someone who will tortue another human being, isn't getting the idea that it is "okay" from reading it in a comic. They either have deep mental problems that have been unaddressed or have deep psychologic scars from being abused themselves (usually by people society says for you to trust, like your parents, clurgymen, doctors, ect.).

These arguments you've been bringing up are not something new. Comics have faced all this before back in the 1950's, with everyone's favorite "comic book" villain... Dr. Fredrick Wethem. His whole point was that comics were causing the ills of society, by making people who read them think murder and other evils of civilization were "okay", because of them being depicted in the comics. But he failed to take into account many other factors that were either unknown or ignored at that time.

Things like the frontal cortext of the brain, which regulates impluse control and is why we humans are able to resist our more base urges that are a part of our genetic makeup from our less evolved anscestors. There is the positive reinforcement of strong family values taught by our parents, who will always be one of the largest influences in anyone's life. It's not simply a matter of "monkey see, monkey do."

Many a serial murderer has never picked up a comic book, yet they had no problem killing other people. Just as many of us who've read comics with murder in them, could never imaging ourselves ever doing any such thing (except, perhaps, in a case of self-defense). Outside stimulis, like a comic book, has simply never been proven to be some major factor in someone's desire to do harm against the will of society.

I think back to an old stand-up comedy piece from Dennis Miller, from his special titled "Black & White." In it, he utters this joking line: "If you kid will driven over to the dark side by anything Gene Simmons has to say, you're just not doing your job as a f***ing parent, alright?" While he said it to get laughs, I fully contend there is a lot within that which is true. Rock music, horror movie, comic books... all of them have, at one time or another, been taken to task as a major contributor of society's ills. Yet even when such artforms are repressed by law enforcement and private organizations, these evils still happen again and again. This tells me that there is something much deeper to these ills, than a simply banning or limiting of certains written and visual stimulis can ever hope to compensate for.

This is why I am against people who try to say a comic book creator shouldn't be allowed to show certain things. I agree the publisher has the responsibility to make sure certain materials are labeled so retailers and parents know who the intended audience for this product is and can keep it out of the hand of the wrong one. Other than that, any "responsibility" for how someone takes said material or what they allow themselves to believe from it, is a personal thing which they themselves are completely responsible for.

We don't need Government, law enforcement, well-meaning citizen groups, or irrate fangirls dictating the temrs on what is and isn't acceptable material for comic cerators to have access to and show the viewing audience. And they certainly need to stop masking attempts at "thought policing," as some kind of noble calling to protect people. It is nothing of the kind. It's simply their own lack of impulse control in their attempts to become "little dictators" towards others. Nothing more, nothing less.

Faith said...

Meely, it would be easier for me to carry on a sensible discussion with what shows every sign of being a sensible person without your paranoid rantings blocking up the page.


Anon, a mouse - Sexuality is obviously very complex. I do believe plenty of people who identify as 'straight' or 'gay' are bisexual to greater or lesser degree. (There's often a degree of prejudice in GLBT communities towards the bisexual, which can cause people to pick gay rather than bisexual, just as homophobia can cause people to stick to straight despite an interest in their own sex.) There's also a difference between child molestation and paedophilia, (although of course there's a crossover) which is often not addressed.
In Thailand, it's fairly easy to get access to child prostitutes. But most of their customers are Western. It's not just availability, it's cultural conditioning. Now, of course it doesn't always work. There are always individuals who, for inbuilt reasons or odd circumstances, go against the herd. That doesn't mean cultural conditioning doesn't happen, it just means that it doesn't work in all cases. (Unfortunately, it often means free and innovative thinkers don't believe in it - after all, it didn't work on them!)

I am, in addition, opposed to the notion that any author has any particular "responsibility" to, well, anything besides putting their best effort that they can manage into their craft.

That's pretty much it though, isn't it? Odd opinions about hidden and never-mentioned restraints forcing her into that position aside, Steph's pose was not appropriate for her circumstances. The need for her to be sexy overcame the need for the picture to make contextual sense, and that's not putting a lot of effort into their craft. And if every other author on their block has killed the hero's girlfriend to motivate him, maybe his brilliant story of girlfriend death is going through the motions plot-wise, and could use a little more effort.

James Meeley said...

Meely, it would be easier for me to carry on a sensible discussion with what shows every sign of being a sensible person without your paranoid rantings blocking up the page.

Well, I'm sorry you feel that way. I've been doing my best to keep this above petty insults and snide comments towards you. I'm sad to see you don't feel the need to do the same.

Anon, A Mouse said...

"And if every other author on their block has killed the hero's girlfriend to motivate him, maybe his brilliant story of girlfriend death is going through the motions plot-wise, and could use a little more effort."

That much I'll agree with. I'm certainly not against the notion that imperiling/killing the hero's love interest is something to be used carefully or sparingly, since it has been used from the dawn of literature.

I would cock an eyebrow at this phrase appearing in conjunction with talk about Stephanie Brown, though... she wasn't dating Batman, was she...?

But I may be a bit more forgiving about this, since each person's "best effort" varies. Some writers are just better than others, and the fact that one writer can come up with better plots and use of tropes doesn't mean that another, inferior writer isn't trying just as hard, they may simply be unable to come up with the proper magic.

Plus when the person drawing the book is different then the one writing the book, that's a whole new set of variables...

"I do believe plenty of people who identify as 'straight' or 'gay' are bisexual to greater or lesser degree."

I don't have any objection to that. In fact, it dovetails with my own opinion on the matter: That sexual desire sets itself pretty early on (or is inherent), and what cultural conditioning does is merely determine to what degree a person is honest with themselves or others about what it is they truly desire, whether that's straight, gay, some permutation of bi, and including any number of fetishes or perversions.

You mention pedophilia being prevalent in ancient Greece due to cultural conditioning. What we really can't know is how many people actually were pedophiles, and how many simply went along with the trend because it was "the thing to do". In a more modern scenario, how many people were pretty much gay, but got married to the opposite sex and had kids and a "normal" family life because that was what was expected?

"In Thailand, it's fairly easy to get access to child prostitutes. But most of their customers are Western. It's not just availability, it's cultural conditioning."

That actually buttresses my own point a bit. If it's relatively acceptable to have child prostitutes in Thailand, but the locals aren't patronizing them so much, that's a cultural factor that isn't affecting someone's baseline desire. The ease of access does not make someone who isn't a pedophile become one...

(Assuming that the percentage of people who are pedophiles remains more or less consistent between various populations, the fact that more wealthy Westerners who have freer traveling ability would dominate the local child prostitution scene is hardly surprising.)

Faith said...

Then your best isn't very good, Meely.

Anon, A Mouse - No, the 'dead love interest' was a just reference to a common misogynist trope - and it's misogynist because it's common, not because of the trope itself. Same as hot women - it's not the fact that women are hot and we like to look at pictures of them that's misogynist, but the idea that a woman has to be hot to the exclusion of everything else, even her agony when tortured.

I'm not going to give a writer a pass on misogyny because he's a bad writer. If he can't think of anything to motivate a woman other than being raped (for example) he probably should consider another career - and his editor should have a few words to say to him.

I think a problem here is the difference between behaviour and orientation. Because to a certain extent, gays can be "cured" - they can be bullied or guilted or pressured into sex with women. Social pressure can change behaviour - it just can't change orientation. And people's behaviour can be modified so effectively they never really know their own orientation. Thus, I believe a person's sexuality can alter radically in behaviour than their 'natural' orientation, if such a thing could ever be determined. So I do believe that a constant social example of heterosexuality can pressure people into be heterosexual. A constant social pressure of girls in pink being rescued can persuade women they come second in life. And a constant social pressure of women in pain being sexy, violence being sexualised, and violence leading directly to sex? It can mess up people's sex and violence urges.

Most pressure to conform, unsurprisingly, comes from the prevailing culture. So I find it rather difficult to believe that a lot of the people who had sex with children in ancient Greece were only doing it out of conformity. More likely, it was just an opportunity to get off - the age of the body surrounding the orifice was irrelevant, and it was social conditioning that made age irrelevant to them.

James Meeley said...

Then your best isn't very good, Meely.

Maybe, but it is obviously better than YOUR'S, so I have that much going for me.

And it's Meeley, not Meely. If you intend to insult someone, it's good if you can at least get their name, which is written right in front of you, correct.

James Meeley said...

Thus, I believe a person's sexuality can alter radically in behaviour than their 'natural' orientation, if such a thing could ever be determined. So I do believe that a constant social example of heterosexuality can pressure people into be heterosexual. A constant social pressure of girls in pink being rescued can persuade women they come second in life. And a constant social pressure of women in pain being sexy, violence being sexualised, and violence leading directly to sex? It can mess up people's sex and violence urges.

That's fine if you believe that. But others, like myself, don't buy it. I think that is purely the egotism of man (mankind, that is, not just males) thinking they are so much more powerful than nature.

Can societal pressure cause one's natural tendancies to be repressed? Yeah, that can happen, especially if the person themselves is of a "weak-willed" type. But the thing about repressed natural urges is, they always will resurface at some point. No kind of pressure mankind or society does to someone's natural tendacies will keep them down forever. Nature is stronger than mankind and society. This has been proven time and time again.

This is also why I have always felt that nothing one sees in a comic, or on television, or hears in music, is going to make them act in a way that is contrary to their own nature. A truly gentle and caring person isn't going to become a misogynistic thug listening to "gangsta rap." Just as someone who isn't already into S&M type sexual stimulis is going to suddenly crave such, from seeing something similiar in a comic. Our natural tendancies will overpower any outside stimulis brought about by mankind.

So, if someone "got off" on seeing Spoiler tortured and put in a slightly sexy pose while it happened, then they already had the natural tendacy for that behavior within them, even if they didn't know it at the time. Reading the comics won't suddenly make someone crave it, if the desire is not already a natural part of them.

To keep all this on the comic level, I go back to an old episode of Batman: The Animated series, where Batman is put on trial by the inmates at Arkham, as they claim he is the one responsible for their creation. Batman's defense laywer ends up stating that isn't ture. It is them who had created HIM. And that if he hadn't existed, maybe the gimmicks the villains used might be a bit different, but their criminal tendacies would still have remained a part of them, whether Batman existed or not. This is no different.

Reading a comic with sexualized torture, or extreme violence, or misogynistic overtones doesn't make you crave that behavior, unless you already have such leaning to it naturally. And if you wouldn't have seen the comic, maybe the way you let it out might have been different, but you still would have had that desire and tendancy within you all along.

I'm not going to give a writer a pass on misogyny because he's a bad writer. If he can't think of anything to motivate a woman other than being raped (for example) he probably should consider another career - and his editor should have a few words to say to him.

Then make a critical analysis of his skill as a writer. Explain why the way he used those elements fail in the story.

It is not up to you, however, to make a moral judgement of said creators character, or the that of the reading audience who enjoys said creators work. Just as it is not up to you to decide who belongs in what career. If you think a creator's work is sub-par, then don't support that creators work. Make critical analysis of their skill (or lack thereof), without the need for moral judgements against their personal character.

After that, the rest is up the viewing audience and marketplace. And if they support that creator enough that your analysis doesn't produce the effects you hoped for, suck it up and live with the fact that just because you find fault with a creator's efforts, doesn't mean everyone will, or that there is something wrong with them if they don't. Your personal tastes, sensabilities and moral code, in the end, matter to NO ONE, except you. And other people not grabbing onto it and believing what you do, isn't a flaw within them. It just means they aren't like you. And that's a GOOD thing.

Anon, A Mouse said...

"I'm not going to give a writer a pass on misogyny because he's a bad writer. If he can't think of anything to motivate a woman other than being raped (for example) he probably should consider another career - and his editor should have a few words to say to him."

Well, that would be a matter of opinion and personal aesthetics, then. But that last part - now, why is it any more an editor's function to scold someone over misogynist tropes than it is the writer's job to resist them in the first place?

"And a constant social pressure of women in pain being sexy, violence being sexualised, and violence leading directly to sex? It can mess up people's sex and violence urges."

At this point, this is where I bring up Mad Thinker Scott, and his pesky posts here and there that state that despite what seems like an upswing in media violence, and sexualized violence, to boot, the overall crime rate (according to FBI statistics) has been going down.

If these stats can be believed (and why wouldn't they?), then regardless of how media has been messing up people's urges or not, acting on those urges has not been dramatically increased. If anything, it's been lessened.

I'd also point out that seeing (for example) a movie with a woman in lingerie firing off automatic weapons (and even being shot in return) is a somewhat different scale of influence and imperative than (for example) a homosexual fearing directly for the loss of his job and even his safety if he reveals his gay feelings.

In other words, and to kind of sum up, I'm not going to say this kind of thing has absolutely no effect, but I would venture to say that the effect is not nearly as pronounced as some people fear, and might even have a beneficial effect.

"Most pressure to conform, unsurprisingly, comes from the prevailing culture. So I find it rather difficult to believe that a lot of the people who had sex with children in ancient Greece were only doing it out of conformity."

Er, well, except that as I understood it, that WAS the prevailing culture.

I knew a guy once that actually studied ancient Greek literature and culture to the point of getting a degree in it, and he'd talk my ear off over various aspects of this stuff, and, granted, most of what he told me has evaporated, but from what I do recall, the Greeks had a kind of life-stage sexuality system in place, where as a young boy you were expected to have sex with older men; as a young man, you'd have sex with women, marry, start a family; and then as a more mature man you were expected to give up women (my acquaintance said the Greek phrase was "set aside childish things") and go have sex with young boys. I have no idea how that kind of system gets put in place to begin with, but that's how the society was, and it would be the society that people would be pressured to conform to.

I'm certain that without the same kind of anathemic cultural rejections of sex with (what we today consider) minors that permeates modern Western society, having opportunistic sex with young boys was indeed more commonplace. But I'm also fairly certain there was a great deal of pressure from the prevailing culture to go alongside that.

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