Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Let's Talk About "Assumptions".

But, alas, this is how the male gaze works. The artist makes the assumption, consciously or no, that everyone looking at the image is a het man, a het man who objectifies women just like him.

Or does he? Or does she?

To talk about the male gaze and objectification in comics is all fine and dandy, but it is somewhat telling when someone complaining about the assumptions of an artist drawing Power Girl makes a number of broad, sweeping assumptions themselves.

Assumption 1: The artist is male.

Did anyone read either the Power Girl or Terra miniseries drawn by Amanda Conner? Plenty of cheesecake, plenty of shots from angles that serve to draw focus to women's body parts. She has the advantage of being a great artist, with a solid grasp of anatomy, but she's not afraid to play up the sexy, even at the risk of contributing to this 'male gaze' thing.

The examples Crowfoot brings up may have been all drawn by men, I didn't check. But I did check enough to see that many of the images she links to are on a Power Girl fansite with a whole gallery of images from both professionals and (seemingly) amateurs. It seems a little disingenuous to me to broadly smack a brush on the professional comics industry using fanart to bolster your claims. (And I like how the one example cited as being "good" has Power Girl folding her arms over her breasts, concealing them. Bad breasts. Stay hidden.)

Assumption 2: The artist is obliged to make art that appeals to every last cranky person on Earth.

"You aren't serving MY needs as an audience member, therefore you fail art!" You know, I realize it can be frustrating when it's hard to find the kind of comics (or other media) that you like to read, tailored to your personal preferences, but what is with this recurring idea that people making this stuff are somehow obligated to appeal to everyone, or avoid hurting anyone's feelings, or any of that stuff? Is there any reason this should not be called entitlement?

Assumption 3: The artist makes any kind of assumption, conscious or otherwise, about their audience.

Oh, I'm sure some do, but I'm also sure some people drawing Power Girl do it simply because they want to, and whether they think anyone else viewing the picture shares their particular viewpoint enters into the equation not one bit. How can you tell who does and who doesn't? Why, gosh, you can't.

And finally:

Every time I see female characters drawn this way I want to grab the artist and shake him “stop fantasizing jackass and draw me some awesome comics!” I feel like I’ve just been unwillingly brought into his porn fantasy. I mean, ew! Dude! Put it back in your pants! We don’t want to see that, or know it!

...You know, if there were scenes in a comic of a homosexual couple being affectionate, or (as has happened) a male superhero were to be portrayed with prominent "bulging", and I freaked out with disgust and went "ew, I don't wanna see your gay fantasy stuff", I could easily be called a homophobe. Is it heterophobia when someone has a spasm over heterosexually-appealing material, particularly what they perceive as someone else's sex fantasies?

I think you could make that case.