By Nicky Wheeler-Nicholson
If I had my druthers I would mostly live in a Jane Austen world. I say mostly because of course it would be necessary to be wealthy and male, from a proper upper class family with good social standing and white goes without saying. I prefer gentility, good manners and pleasant behavior. I don’t like crass, vulgar, adolescent immature anything. So what am I doing in the world of comics?
Here’s my true confession—I can’t stand most of the overdrawn huge busted female protagonists or female tag alongs with their scanty clothing and overly sexual stances in mainstream and some indy comics. I’m not too thrilled with the pervasive violence and the adolescent need to blow up everything in sight including entire universes. It not only bores me to stone but as a woman, much of it, I find offensive. I worry that it helps to maintain a pervasive anti-woman and violent atmosphere not just in comics but also in the world at large.
However, I rarely take a stand on these issues because I also worry a great deal about censorship. Freedom of the press and the right to express oneself is not just an intellectual ideal for me but a passion. I don’t want my worldview censored and therefore I don’t get involved with censoring others. I just don’t look. I click it off, turn off the device and don’t pay my money. Because I do have somewhat of a platform I also don’t promote or encourage things I find offensive but I don’t say anything against them either. If you can’t say something nice…
However, once something moves into hatred and the stated need to physically harm, rape and kill those with whom one disagrees we’re not in Kansas anymore Dorothy. And that goes for both the right and the left. Physical violence whether it is destruction of property or going to the very limit of humane behavior by harming anyone you disagree with is insane. Attacking people who draw cartoons and killing them with automatic weapons is a show of extreme barbarity. If you cannot use your intelligence to counteract those things with which you disagree and must resort to physical violence then you have already lost.
On January 8, Art Spiegelman spoke on Democracy Now about the recent horrific events in Paris and one of the things he said struck me profoundly. He talked about the visceral comprehension we have when we see a cartoon or visual image. A cartoon tells a story with such immediacy that it crosses all borders and if done well goes to the heart of the matter in a split second. And that is one of the main reasons why yours truly, mostly Mz Jane Austenite, finds herself in the world of comics. I love that sense of the immediate moment of truth whether I agree with it or not.
Honestly, many of the images from Charlie Hebdo are gross and not to my taste. At the same time as much as I try to keep an open mind about different cultural norms I cannot quell the sick feeling I get in the pit of my stomach when I am near a woman in full purdah. As much as I wish I could rip the veil off and kick the guy’s behind who’s ambling along in shirtsleeves paces in front of the poor creature sweating under layers of clothing, I don’t. I have no right to impose my belief. It would be intrusive, violent and a little nuts.
Whatever defamation these cartoons represent to some there is no way in any sane world that these images require the horrible and unthinkable sadness of the death of those who drew them. Time for us all to drop our swords and kalashnikovs and find our pens! Je suis Charlie.
The Elite Beat Staff is a trained squad of ninja masters.