Archive for homophobia

Feminist Comics Starter Pack: How Graphic Novelists are Subverting Patriarchy and Gender-Normativity, Buffy and Beyond

Posted in anthropology, art & music, celebrities, comics, feminism, politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 21, 2009 by Sunshine Superboy

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Lets talk about some badass anti-sexist comics & characters! Buffy! Runaways! Y-the last man! the Young Avengers!! American Virgin!!! and so many things written by Grant Morrison (esp. the Invisibles)!!!! I flaked out on posting some of these thoughts a long time ago…

Oh, if this isn’t the era of making good on old promises, I don’t know what is. As I’m fond of doing whenever we tread dangerously close to the annuls of geekdom, I’m hereby warning you that its gonna get priiiitty-darn geeky in a hurry, so suspend your usual aplomb,if_i_had_a_hammer check over your shoulder for nosey co-workers who might report you to the nerd Gestapo, and if you’re an insider, check your self-reproach at the search window- cuz we’re going to feminist nerdville, population, nosotr@s!

We’ve alluded previously (“we” ya know, royally speaking), to emergent feminisms withinBUFFY2-23-FC-01mic/ graphic novel genre, and I’ve been angling to give that theme a little more exploration…

The veritable 10,000 lbs gorilla in the room of course is Ms. Buffy Summers, since she provided such a crucial opening. So lets just get that out of the way before airing any reflections on new challenges to male supremacy, gender normativity, and heterosexism (and believe me, we’ll only manage to barely tip our hat to that iceberg on this post).

[I should warn you of spoiler alerts, even though I’m not writing on any super recent content on any of the titles. Just, if you don’t wanna know who’s transgender or who has a gay crush on whom, or any major plot arcs, then you’d best skim for the recommended titles and not read this till después]

Buffy the Vampire Slayer (the project, not just the character), both on the television, and most certainly beyond in the season 8 comics, has been bold, imaginative, and inspirational, (even if a bit 2.5 wave-ish, IMHO), in its championing of a popular feminism. That last attribute, its accessibility and high public profile, are perhaps its greatest contributions. Anyone who’s taken the time to listen to the commentary on seasons six and seven of Buffy (dorks!) understands how explicitly the writers (and especially creator/ writer Joss Whedon) set up sexism/male supremacy as the villain for the prime time show (groundbreaking, obvi), and the totally awesome seachange of women sharing power with women, embodied by the army of slayers from the TV finale and season eight.
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Whats awesome, is hearing some of the female-identified writers from the show speak about this explosion of Whedon’s original idea of a single heroine with tons of latent power, to an organic realization of a truly feminist ideal, when every ‘potential’ slayer is given full slayer powers through the goddess-like witchcraft of everyone’s favorite red-headed lesbian witch, Willow. Fucking righteous.

Okay, lets not get too abstract. What was Whedon’s initial anti-sexist set up? A reaction to the unavoidable paranoia of women alone in the dark in the city… their vulnerabilities, the objectification of women as objects (specifically vampire dinner), and the bizarre displacement of men’s fucked up/ violent/ entitled-feeling desires as the fault of women who “dress like they want it” (that line in particular was used in the show where scantly clad femmes are blamed for attracting vampires- WTF). Right, so that was Joss’s reaction.

By season eight, Buffy transcended patriarchy not only making men yearn for the kind of power that women so ferociously wielded on the show (from Anya, to Ms.Calendar, to Faith, Tara, Glory and Kennedy, not to mention the original Scoobies themselves), such that by the end of the television run of the show, the entire paradigm shifted from “how do we show women being defiant of men’s power and violence” to “how do we envision women sharing the power they build through relationships as a community of anti-sexist feminist praxis”? buffyarmy

Okay, the feminist praxis bit is my own cherry on top, but you get the picture. By time there are thousands of slayers being trained up in Buffy’s European castle, we’re in a different world from the predatory un-dead men of the hellmouth. I can’t believe I have a blog where I can write a sentence like that, and where people like you can read that. Some corners of this world are just it seems (:

and we live in world where comics that were being written post 2003 have that as a pop-feminist foundation, beyond which we get all kinds of serious (by which I mean totally badass-ferocia).

Next up is Runaways, which is awesome for many reasons (chiefly, the superb writing by creator Brian K Vaughan, and the astounding & witty character development), but is worth mentioning here for a couple reasons. First, taking a cue from Whedon, the Runaways quickly settle on Nico Minoru as their leader, one of very few super hero (anti-hero?) teams that is fronted by a woman of color. She’s a fierce fashionista of substantial power, who has a goth-streak and who struggles very realistically with her sexuality. Totally crush-worthy… karolinaimage5vol2iss7

which is why Karolina Dean spends part of volume two coming out, through exploring her crush on Nico. Ultimately though, its not Karolina’s chronicle of queerness that proves the ulitmate stroke of subversion (this arc was published after the L-word had already broken ground- although it was still unique in the world of mainstream comic books).

More groundbreaking was the revelation that Karolina’s betrothed, Xavin (a shapeshifting skrull, who initially appears as a black teenage alien- wait thats redundant… a skrull is a type of alien), comfortably changes genders and pursues their feelings for Karolina as a transgender lesbian. This was just five or six years ago, all playing out in Marvel comics so- Wow! Xavin’s friends switch which pronouns they use for hir/them as their gender expression/presentation shifts from comic issue to issue, though Xavin mostly interacts with Karolina as a fem lesbian once she (Xavin) realizes that Karolina prefers women (sexually speaking).
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Brian K Vaughan moves past the quotidian politics of generation Y teens by taking a feminist bend to the apocalyptic crisis of September 11th, 2001 in his other graphic novel, Y the Last Man, which was published by the edgy DC/Vertigo Comics.
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Here, Yorick Brown and his magician’s assistant/ pet monkey, Ampersand are the only surviving mammals with a Y chromosome. I can do the novel no justice here, buy its worth skipping around to some feminist touchstones that come up in the witty writing of Y the Last Man, including militant Amazon feminist separatists (who ritually cut off one of their breasts in political solidarity, and who burn all the world’s sperm banks), a planet of ubiquitous/normalized F-M transgenderism (and the sexwork that comes with it!), a little S&M rite of passage stuff, queer/co-parenting, a secret all female-run spy network (dating back to the Revolutionary War), and a whole lot of girl-on-girl lovin.7-1

Basically, Y the Last Man is a realistic take on the “what if” concept of a gendered apocalypse, where virtually all the power-hoarding men (ie, all men) die out overnight, and the world wakes up to a dystopia where: 1) the American highways don’t work cuz all the truck drivers are men and they all died on the highway, leaving the wreckage of sixteen-wheelers everywhere, 2) the highest ranked woman in the entire US Government is the secretary of agriculture (anyone else having Laura Roslin/ Battlestar Galactica flashbacks??!) who then assumes the office of the presidency, oh and 3) the strongest military in the world becomes that of Israel, which, as you know, is the only army where women are fully 50% of trained harbingers of destruction. Shit makes for an interesting read! No super-heroes here!

avengersscreencapea3Young Avengers. Not much to say. The hot leading men are gay lovers. BFD. Its a welcome change, but we were ready for that ceiling to be shattered like 30 years ago. Still, Hulkling and Wiccan are key-yute together!

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Jumping tracks, Vertigo’s American Virgin “follows the life of Adam, a teenager who is a born-again Christian preacher, and his struggle with issues of his sexuality and faith as he plods step by step toward a lascivious world of desire, temptation, and cultural taboo. In exploring such faux-pas of protestantism, American Virgin whisks readers along a non-stop journey that takes us everywhere from homo-social groups in southern Africa to Phallic worship ceremonies in Japan, the Gay Games in Australia, and an Indian marriage ceremony where Adam and his girlfriend learn about the traditional roles of intersex hijra in sexual rites of passage.page81_2 Throughout the whirlwind tour, Adam’s near constant companion is his stepsister, Cyndi, who is sexually liberal”, which is to say she’s a sex worker, and super-not ashamed of it, who ends up dating a sketchy Australian guy, who turns out to be trans and maybe not that sketchy? I dunno, I stopped working at a comic shop reading around then and don’t quite know how the story panned out, but shit was cancelled last year which is a huge bummer since writer Steven T. Seagle was taking American Virgin and its readers to new and unexplored levels. Le sigh…

Ya know, next I was gonna grapple with Marjane Satrape, whom you have prolly either read first-hand, or seen a film adaptation of Persepolis- but I decided its not even worth a whole spiel here. Long story short, the implication that liberation for Persian women can only come from accessing an escape valve to the West is a dangerous concept, (ooh la la, I’m in France, now I can be a strong feminist artist with political clout), even if those aren’t her real politics and its just her own story and not a world-view she espouses. 6a00d834515c2769e200e54f2826e88834-640wiWhich is not to say I shun the work entirely. It was very worthwhile for me and is for most people- I just want to append it with some critical thinking (which the film does not entreat). From what I hear from friends who’ve seen her, Satrape is an engaging thinker and speaker, and has pretty good politics, so lets just leave it at that…

Great. So last, and possibly my favorite is The Invisibles, where legendary characters like Lord Fanny explode gender, identity, race/ ethnicity, fucking witchcraft and of course sexuality in myriad dimensions (often literally). There is no effing way I can do the Invisibles justice in a paragraph or two, so I may just have to blog about it more fully on another occasion, but but but, a cursory mention of the fag-identified, super tranny ferocia, Lord Fanny is in order.
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Lord Fanny may be my favorite comic book character of all time. Of the 5 members in the invisibles cell that form the core of the graphic novel, Lord Fanny embodies Grant Morrison’s project of anarchistic destruction of all normativities. She is a brazilian witch (of mexican ancenstry), who was supposed to be born female. Coming from a long line of witch-priestess women, Fanny’s grandmother takes matters into her own hands and insists that fate-be-damned, this baby boy will be raised as a girl and continue the lineage of family witches. Dude. fanny_drawBadass Granny even slits Fanny’s inner thigh in order to fool the gods into believing that Lord Fanny has finally menstruated and become a woman worthy of their blessings and powers!

Like Xavin of the Runaways (only 10 years earlier), Lord Fanny unapologetically oscillates between male and female pronouns, can be seen trying on silicone tits in a London sex shop, and beyond simply sporting butch or femme clothing, she splashes the pages with cameos of fallatio in almost every city the Invisibles visit. Her nonchalant confrontations with homophobes is reason enough to read the Invisibles, but stick around for the invisibles crew as a whole: feminist power-sharing, leather fetishes, über dyke combatants, san francisco sex parties, and a grand scheme to sabotage the US Military’s attempt to hide the AIDS vaccine deep underground in the American Southwest!
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I think the main theme in these graphic novels is not only who these writers and protagonists are, nor what they do or represent, but the ways in which these characters and plots provoke new relationships within the comic book universe. Who these women, trannies, fags, and dykes are in relation to their team mates, their enemies, their world, and the reader is the real feminist push behind books. We are forced to see things relationally, and not just follow a bunch of jacked up men from battle to battle kicking each other’s asses.

oh boy. now I’m all excited about re-reading all of these gems! Check ’em out! Let me know what you think! And next time, I’ll try and highlight some of the great contributions of independent comics to our bold feminist world…

This post would not be complete if I did not address the obvious elephant in the room: serialobjectification of female bodies in comic books. Voilá:

Fangrrl Power,
Sunshine Superboy

Love & Marriage Go Together Like Peanut Butter and Spaghetti

Posted in maps & mapping, politics with tags , , , , , on February 14, 2009 by Sunshine Superboy

Happy Valumtimes Dayz!!!

I’m gonna go have a ridiculous date with my special-special and a bunch of friends who are even more ridiculous than we are (I mean, limo car-share, fancy dinner, and gay bingo?! None of them are even gay!), but all this love stuff reminded me of a thing I’d like to keep circulating fresh in people’s minds.

Ol’ St.Valentine was infamous for defying the church and marrying all sorts of people who weren’t “allowed” to be married. Well and good, I suppose, but remember this awesome perspective brilliantly articulated by Dean Spade and Craig Willse back in the post Nov 8th blues of prop 8’s outcome in California?

I Still Think Marriage is the Wrong Goal

Dean Spade and Craig Willse

A lot of stories are circulating right now claiming that Black and Latino voters are to blame for Prop 8 passing. Beneath this claim is an uninterrogated idea that people of color are “more homophobic” than white people. Such an idea equates gayness with whiteness and erases the lives of LGBT people of color. It also erases and marginalizes the enduring radical work of LGBT people of color organizing that has prioritized the most vulnerable members of our communities.

Current conversations about Prop 8 hide how the same-sex marriage battle has been part of a conservative gay politics that de-prioritizes people of color, poor people, trans people, women, immigrants, prisoners and people with disabilities. Why isn’t Prop 8’s passage framed as evidence of the mainstream gay agenda’s failure to ally with people of color on issues that are central to racial and economic justice in the US?

Let’s remember the politics of marriage itself. The simplistic formula that claims “you’re either pro-marriage or against equality” makes us forget that all forms of marriage perpetuate gender, racial and economic inequality. It mistakenly assumes that support for marriage is the only good measure of support for LGBT communities. This political moment calls for anti-homophobic politics that centralize anti-racism and anti-poverty. Marriage is a coercive state structure that perpetuates racism and sexism through forced gender and family norms. Right wing pro-marriage rhetoric has targeted families of color and poor families, supported a violent welfare and child protection system, vilified single parents and women, and marginalized queer families of all kinds. Expanding marriage to include a narrow band of same-sex couples only strengthens that system of marginalization and supports the idea that the state should pick which types of families to reward and recognize and which to punish and endanger.

We still demand a queer political agenda that centralizes the experiences of prisoners, poor people, immigrants, trans people, and people with disabilities. We reject a gay agenda that pours millions of dollars into campaigns for access to oppressive institutions for a few that stand to benefit.

We are being told marriage is the way to solve gay people’s problems with health care access, immigration, child custody, and symbolic equality. It does not solve these problems, and there are real campaigns and struggles that would and could approach these problems for everyone, not just for a privileged few. Let’s take the energy and money being put into gay marriage and put it toward real change: opposing the War on Terror and all forms of endless war; supporting queer prisoners and building a movement to end imprisonment; organizing against police profiling and brutality in our communities; fighting attacks on welfare, public housing and Medicaid; fighting for universal health care that is trans and reproductive healthcare inclusive; fighting to tax wealth not workers; fighting for a world in which no one is illegal.

The World, and all the love therein, is Yours. Truly,
Sunshine Superboy

ps- oh yeah. maps! check this out:
http://maps.webfoot.com/RaceOverlays.php

oh and take this, Michigan!
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Desolation Cinema

Posted in art & music, maps & mapping, politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 12, 2009 by Sunshine Superboy

Hold onto yr hats, its about to get a little bit gay in here…
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A few friends and I recent re-watched Brokeback Mountain, and I’ve been jonesin to post some reflections about it ever hence. What I need to make clear from the get-go is that this movie, as most folks who’ve seen it have proclaimed, was never about gay cowboys in Wyoming. But neither was it about tragic hate-crimes or marital infidelity. What people seem to forget is that this movie has everything to do with the mountain, and the open spaces of wilderness to which good ol Jack (“Nasty”) Twist, and Ennis Delmar retreat over the many years of their long conflicted romance. I think of Brokeback as some kind of desolation cinema, which, far as I know is not an actual term, but I’ll explain more what I mean. And besides, the propensity to make up words is why God (or Al Gore) invented blogs in the first place.

Frak. I still don’t know how to embed music, so y’all are just gonna have to play this youtube track to set the mood while I continue (you may want to hit play again and mute the sound for the first of the two videos below. not Mariah’s best work…)

I first saw Brokeback several winters ago in the theaters with one of my bestest friends. It was a matinee show on a Friday, and we were among a handful of people in the vast dark theater, seated smack in the center with a gigantic screen stretching from what felt like the Ben Franklin Bridge to the Walt Whitman (Bridge). Something about the vastness of the empty theater, the sweeping landscapes of the silver screen, and the booming acoustic riffs from the action-movie-gage speakers fucking pummeled us emotionally beyond what was already bound to be a pretty tragic film. When it ended, I squeezed squer hand and we meekly wept through the credits.

In case you haven’t ever seen the film, here’s a typical post from the IMDB

What an extraordinary accomplishment! Ang Lee presents us with something we’ve known about but we’ve never seen. Profoundly honest, stunning to look at, superbly acted. I could go on with the superlatives because I feel lifted by the experience. You’ve all heard the ins and outs of the subject treated here. Well, forget it, the words used are used words and do not apply here. “Brokeback Mountain” introduce us to something utterly new, daring you and me to be indifferent. The film is about us, really. Love as an unexpected blow that makes you find and confront yourself. Jake Gylenhaal gives a performance that you’ll never forget. Michelle Williams and Ann Hathaway are incredibly good but the film belongs to Heath Ledger. I’m not going to talk about revelations or Oscar buzz, I’m just going to let you know that what he does in this film is so courageously beautiful, so truthful and so transcendental that his Ennis del Mar is bound to become a point of reference not just for us but for generations to come.

Meh. I mostly agree.

Anyways, by time my friend and I were halfway home in my car we were sobbing and carrying on (and laughing at how ridiculous we were being) at every red traffic light. (for added affect we were listening to the Weakerthans Left and Leaving which I had taped from vinyl to cassette on playback with the volume pretty high). For those of you who aren’t famils, its pretty up with with the roster of saddest albums God & Al Gore ever co-invented.

I continued to listen to sad folk/country, depressing alt/country, and more Rufus Wainwright than I care to admit, for the duration of the weekend, not cuz I was in a funk, but because I was savoring the beauty of the film, meaning, both the plot/character development, and the breathtaking cinematography. So this is where cinematography meets cartography. Not only was Brokeback not about a coupla two-beer queers (a pair of “deuces” as the Brokeback ranger dude dubbs them) from Wyoming, rather, the movie eloquently maps the saga of two bisexual sheepherders in Absaroka (pronounced “ab-SOAR-kah”). So where the frak is Absaroka?
absaroka Just a little slice of northern Wyoming and South Dakota with a shaving of southeastern Montana. A territory with its own regional culture, and a failed bid at being the 49th State of the USA! (ps-You gotta check out this multi-media NYTimes piece about the state that never quite made it).

hmm. that song might be over by now. Try this:

Okay, back to my point about desolation cinema. The magic wrought by Ang Lee is that he managed to stretch a short story (what is it like 60 pages or something?) into a 3 or so hour long film, without really adding that much extra dialogue to the screenplay. I mean, all that extra space in the film is taken up by having us (the audience) gape at bears, and streams, and mountains for a few hours while the characters themselves retreat into their own wilderness of a heartfelt man on man love that the social web around them is unprepared to accept. Brokeback, simply put, is two men, in love, in the Mountains.
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If you’ve only seen the movie once this is probably not what stays with you. For many folks the film seems to be saying “don’t be gay, people will kill you” or at least “itsn’t it just terrible that some people are so hateful and intolerant?!” For me however, the movie is a nod to the way in which two similarly gendered people, given space away from societal bullshit, were free to fall in loves. The tragedy in my mind wasn’t so much the loss of Jack, but the fear of Ennis to follow his libido heart as it were, and shack up with Jack Twist as homos for life.

The first video highlights how Jack and Ennis were totally crushed out, like sittin in a tree K-I-S-S-sodomy… (forgive the harsh Mariah Carey overture. Go play that Weakerthans song while you watch this video. The times basically coincide)

This one drives home the pain that is cultivated from harboring fear and regret:

At the end of the day I think Brokeback is about courage. We should see it as a call to get over our internalized normativities and march fourth as badass champions unafraid of speaking out or consensually smooching.

the world is yrs,
Sunshine Superboi

here, listen to this as you continue surfing through the blogosphere:
the last last one

ahem. Courtesy of my Hollywood insider connections:

yo, why the black girl gotta have the black hat on?!

yo, why the black girl gotta have the black hat on?!