By Craig Thompson
In which we enter the magical world of Craig Thompson’s Blankets and then mostly manage to not talk about it instead getting into a free-wheeling conversation about “Guardian-bait” comics and the like. Questions include: Can comics do anything? What’s the problem with Universal Basic Income? And what exactly is the difference between Chuck Norris and Wes Anderson?
True story (from back when I ran the Islington Comic Forum):
This middle-aged woman who didn’t speak very good English turned up at one of the meetings. To be honest I think she was lost: but she must have seen all the people and wanted to get involved and take part (all the people who show up at Comic Forums are always so lovely and friendly – I know it sounds silly but it’s true).
Anyway she came in: saw all the people and then sat down at the table.
She looked around. I slowly walked over to say hi and she started gesturing at all the books on the table: “What… is all this?” she said in heavily accented English. “Is this… joke? These things – these are for children – no? Is this joke? Why you read this? What isthis?”
(Her expression was a mixture of surprise and amusement. Like she had discovered a bunch of adults all playing around with toys)
I tried my best to explain: “Well. Yeah. Comics can be for children – but most of the ones we’ve got here – well – adults can read them too.”
She didn’t look convinced.So – I looked around and saw a copy of Blankets sitting near us (it’s hard to miss – it’s a very thick looking book – in fact I think “tome” might be a more appropriate word – but whatever) – I reached out for it and brought it over. “Here,” I said “why don’t you try reading this and see what you think?”
She still didn’t look convinced.
But I very slowly moved it in front of her – and then to give her some space I walked around and spoke to some other people (“What Grant Morrison have you read then?” and all that).
Five minutes I gingerly returned to see how she was getting on. “So – what do you think?”
Startled she stopped reading and looked up at me and then nodded very slowly (not one word of a lie this): “Yes.” she said “This is really good. I understand now.”
(“I understand now” – well. That’s just perfect isn’t it?)
So – yeah – Craig Thompson. Blankets. One of those idiolized comics that gets spoken about in hushed whispers and leads people to say things like “more poem than story” and well seeing how 2016 has been a hellish landscape of a hell I thought that maybe it would be nice to end on something lovely and pleasant and gentle. No?
I don’t think I’ve ever made much of a secret about my comic reading preferences. Like: I mostly tend to bend towards out there sci-fi, horror, fantasy type stuff because (for various deeply buried psychological reasons obviously) that’s what hits my buttons. But then again also: I think there’s a good argument to be made that stuff with big crazy visuals like spaceships and monsters and superheroes and etc is one of the things that comics does best (uh oh: I can feel some people twitching from here). Like: I’m not sure you’re really squeezing all the juices out of the medium if most of your story is just someone walking down the street etc as opposed to: someone lifting a car over their head. And well yeah: I very much like the stuff that makes the most of the medium it’s made in.
Which means that yeah – I didn’t pick up Blankets for a very long time. Because well – it looked boring. Not my kind of thing. Some dopey romance thing: like someone drew a Zach Braff film (or hoped that Zach Braff would make a movie out of it – whatever).
But – shit – yeah I’ll admit it – I was wrong. Because Blankets is – well: not the book that I thought it was. And (full disclosure) the damn thing made mincemeat of my heart.
I think the thing that swung it / the point where I reconsidered my expectations was when his brother pisses on him (or was it the other way around? Haven’t had a chance to reread it yet unfortunately). I mean: I know it doesn’t seem like a big thing and that maybe I’m a little bit crude for mentioning it: but I think it’s interesting in how it helps to puncture the air of seriousness that surrounds the book when you first start it (or when I started it anyway). I know I’ve ranted about this stuff before – but seriousness is basically one of the major blights on the modern storytelling landscape. I mean – shoot: have any of you guys seen Arrival? I mean – that’s a pretty dour movie (with more than a few problems which is a shame because the ideas it’s based around are as cool as hell) but yeah: god – why did it all have to be so serious and bleak and lacking in laughs? There’s a kid in it and it’s all just saying all this plaintive minor-key kinda stuff: which I dunno – I mean: I work with kids and speaking from experience: well kids are pretty funny things you know? I mean my only best theory is: maybe everything is all just the extended DC Universe now? With mirthlessness and sad faces seeping into every single thing we see.
But fuck it – I can barely sustain any seriousness in myself. So to ask me to sit down and experience prolonged exposure to it is just – well: you know: I’d rather enjoy the time I have alive rather than spend it all stroking my chin or whatever.
Long story short: yeah – serious comics. Comic for grown-ups. Guardian-bait comics. Whatever you want to call them – I think they’re mostly a lie because well I dunno yeah – I think seriousness is over-rated (why the obsession guys why?) and more importantly – kinda boring. But also well yeah: most of the time the serious comics don’t do that much in terms of their comicness and instead (is this just me?) feel like storyboards for low budget movies. Like there’s that old chestnut about how comics are cool because the budget is unlimitless: it costs the same amount of money to have someone sitting on a chair as it does to have a solar system explode so erm – why not spend some of that unlimited cash? You know – imagination is a good thing and the more you use it the more powerful it gets (hooray for imagination).
And well yeah – back to Blankets. I mean: it seems like exactly the sort of thing that would fall into all of these “serious comic” pitfalls. Being po-faced and boring and a total lack of doing anything compelling with it’s comicness. Except well: it’s the opposite of all of those things. There’s pee and jokes and all sorts of coolness like – well – this stuff right here:
This stuff is good.
Which yeah – I dunno – maybe starts to go some way to explain why the lady from the Islington Comic Forum understood it. You know – a good story well told. The kinda thing that’s hard to get right. But it’s a worth a lot when it is.
All maybe I’m just talking a bunch of nonsense. I don’t know.
What do you think?
Barbican Comic Forum
Confused person in Islington Comic Forum should be recruited to give us fool proof considerations of whether a comic is well told.
What I’m digging about Blankets is the way it’s able to display impossible cosmic imagery just as it can do the mumblecore budget parts of the story. Visually, emotions are magic with Thompson. You know those trippy pattern doodles of shapes people envelop pages in? That’s Thompson but with an obsessive dedication and incredible skill. They in fact look very pretty.
It’s a weird thing – it’s a story in terms that is very minor and quiet in a physical sense, but Thompson also expresses emotion as a grand cosmic opera. Love as a two page spread image – because in our heads, our emotions are bigger than everything else – logic be damned. In a medium know for a casually Sunday apocalypse and limitless budgets it’s a 600 page book about first love and a person reminiscing on how he lost his faith. It is entirely possible I love it because it’s the first thing I read after binging the entirety of 100 Bullets.
Blankets is also far more fun to read than Habibi. I read Blankets in a day and Habibi in a month. Habibi is somehow both a new standard in the kind of stories comics are uniquely placed to tell and impossibly difficult to read. There Thompson insists that he has to emotionally beat the hell out of you for some reason. In Blankets, heartbreak is relatably bittersweet, in Habibi everything is a cosmic inferno viciously destroying our soul and damning us to the pointless inferno that is waking life and whatever else Bebo profiles were used to knowledgeably drone about.
It’s hard to think of a better depiction of what love actually feels like than Blankets.
“Comics can do anything”
I wish I could go back and re-write my opening Blankets email. I mean – it kinda says the stuff that I wanted to say but I could have done with taking a lot more time to get my thoughts into a better order. Because it’s all a bit yes – but no – yes – but no – yes – but no.
But maybe if I take a different tack I can end up in the same place? Or actually maybe a different place altogether?
In what Amir wrote he said: “it’s a story in terms that is very minor and quiet” but then also goes on to note that – yeah – oops: it’s a 600 page book (which may have something to do with the fact that I couldn’t get anyone to borrow it at the last Barbican Comic Forum: I mean – Blankets is a beast. It’s a brick. From the outside looking in – it’s heft says: “Don’t take me lightly baby. I’m a commitment. You won’t have space for any other books in your bag – only me. So you know – choose wisely. etc”
But yeah – Amir’s comment put me in mind of a moment from the first panel of the last S.M.A.S.H. we did: talking about Genre with Hannah Berry, Hattie Earle, Jade Sarson and Simon Spurrier (you can listen to it here if you want): there was a moment towards the end when we were talking about the potential of comics and the whole “comics can do anything” idea popped up (probably best said first by Harvey Pekar: “Comics are words and pictures. You can do anything with words and pictures.”) and well yeah – I mean: while that’s true I think that the thing it misses is that – well: just because you can do anything – that doesn’t mean that everything you do will be good.
Or to put it another way: comics are better are telling certain stories over others.
I mean: I guess I feel like that’s kinda obvious but just to flesh it out a bit – I think the same is true for all mediums. There are certain things that films do well and certain stories that work best in films (eg films are really good at doing things like action and car chases and etc: because well – films are immediate and visceral etc). Boring No-Picture proper books are good at depicting internal states: getting down thoughts and how people think and feel. Plays are good with stories with people talking a lot all in the same location. And so on and so on.
Yes – I’m sure you can probably think of counter-examples to all of the above (maybe the best car chase you ever saw was in a theatre sometime or whatever). But I think my main point is pretty uncontentious: different mediums have different strengths and weaknesses – right? Watchmen makes a good comic. A film? Not so much. (And the other way around: I mean – Alien is one of the best films out there. The comic adaptation is… well… less so . But maybe that’s an argument for another day?)
And well yeah: (this isn’t just me right?) but the last few years have seen an increased rise in “Guardian-bait” comics. Comics that are all about the humdrum lives of well to do white people *yawn* And I mean – not only are most of these comics kinda boring and tedious but more importantly (in my tiny little subjective view): they’re not really making the best of what comics can do? (Ooops – am I repeating myself?)
But yes there are books out there that buck this trend and actually open up and show us what the possibilities are: and well yeah – Blankets.
Barbican Comic Forum
You’re talking about him right? I mean. That’s his entire thing – humdrum lives. A guy goes on a bus and remembers a thing that didn’t happen. And what, last year, everything seemed to suddenly insist I love Adrian Tomine. Which was weird.
Because, I really liked him (and he does feel at least emblematic of those daily slice of liberal life works that permeates the Guardian-bait genre.). The stories he excels at, the crushing quiet he uses as atmosphere, those quiet almost-moments – when has that ever been casually produced for TV? How can you advertise “a bus ride” that doesn’t involve bombs or “a person you will divorce sooner than expected”. He’s casually aware that there are no cameras and that he doesn’t have to wonder about 24 frames per second. Cinema only just managed his kind of story with Paterson (Which is absolutely fantastic by the way. It’s like Jarmusch saw all the advice in every “how to screenwrite” book in Waterstones and treated it as a dare.).
It’s not Kirby or even Charles Burns surrealism, but comics are able to explore minutia that even Mumblecore can’t see – I’m pretty down for that. It’s a big part of what makes Blankets so good, treating the quiet as dramatically as it does the loud.
Guardian-bait as a whole though, yeah, it’s not interesting. I picked up this 24 hour comic thing a while back and while there’s a fun cartoon sweater look to the whole thing, it was just a really standard visit to someones parents and there wasn’t much about what the characters were thinking – if they were at least like “god I hate everyone here but I need to keep pretending”, then there would have been something to popcorn to. Nope this was – it’s interesting because it’s boring.
The deliberate lack of conflict is cool but the genres inclination to continue pushing a depiction of something you likely didn’t care enough to remember without any actual thought or insight is just silly. It’s anti-dramatic, in the boring way.
But back to stuff like Blankets and Adrain Tomine, they may depict our forgotten every day lives, but it’s a combination of deep insight and really engaging looks that make these stand out. The artistic styles of both naturally support the ideas and emotions the artisry is striving towards.
As Hank Scorpio once said “You can’t argue with the little things Homer, the little things are what make up life”.
Comics are good at the little things. Why else were we supposed to give a shit about Watchmen?
Oh so it’s not too late for my devastating analysis?
Blankets? More like wet blankets!
Scathing, Dan. I bet he’s regretting calling it “blankets” now. I wish your take-down could be more broadly applied – “Watchmen? More like wet Watchmen!” doesn’t quite sound the same. 🙂
I read “Blankets” a couple of years ago, and thought it was quite good – IIRC I read it through in one sitting, so it must have gripped me to some extent. The bits that stand out for me now are his depiction of the narrow-minded small-town mid-West (the teacher warning his parents that kids who go to art college end up gay), and the girlfriend’s disabled sibling. The art’s pleasant to look at on the whole, with occasional attacks of really good expressionism (based as much on the pages Joel & others have posted, as on direct memory of reading it).
If I don’t get round to a more thorough take on the book, let it be recorded here that it wasn’t for lack of interest, just Christmas (and two daughters’ birthdays) getting in the way.
Interesting points about “Guardian-bait” autobio comics. There’s certainly a knack to recording the minor ephemera of life while keeping the interest of the reader, which not everyone’s got. I think Blankets kept me interested because of the real otherness in the everyday – the glimpses into a markedly different culture that happens to speak broadly the similar language as I do, but is utterly foreign. Other readable autobiography stuff works for me by showing some sort of extreme – Eddie Campbell’s Alec McGarry springs to mind as working best when he was really showing his unpleasant side. And some, like Michael Hill’s “Doctor Comics” stuff, works only at the level of playing with the form – the stories themselves are completely unremarkable.
Joel, I agree with what you say about some forms being better suited for some kinds of stories (prose for introspective, cinema for action, etc.), but my first response to that rule is to try to break it – how to go about making a comic that does introspection or whatever else, in a way that works? I’d argue that “Blankets” is a signpost along the way there.
Oops. Ok. Going to do a bit of a word splurge. Sorry / not sorry. I mean yeah at this point that I kinda feel like – maybe I should just get a blog or something? (Or write a Brain Teeth maybe?) but then well (have I said this before?) I feel like there’s something much more healthy in writing stuff in the Book Club here. You know: you’re not just writing in a bubble where you can say anything you want. And there’s a feeling that well – everything you do write can be replied to. Someone can take issue with it or say something or approach it in a different way. They can agree with you or they can tell you that you’re full of shit. I mean – hell – a bit like the feeling I get at the Barbican Comic Forum where it’s like: oh yeah. Right. Humans are social animals. This all sitting around one table and everyone talking and sharing their thoughts and ideas / starting off strangers / ending up as friends – you know: this is how society is supposed to work. (Also – erm: who here likes Scott Pilgrim? LOL) etc.
Amir re: Adrian Tomine. I mean – LOL. Actually no. I mean – I totally get that he seems like just the type of person it seems like I’m talking about. But well yeah: every Adrian Tomine thing I’ve read I’ve actually liked and I’ve had to put me hands up and go “well – even tho this is the dead centre of the things that I despise and want to rail against – this is actually good.” Which you know: makes it complicated. Because it would be easier just to tar everything with the same “this is shit” brush: but – damn it – it turns out the closer you get to stuff and turn it over in your mind and try to examine the different angles and the way of seeing it: the more you notice the cracks and the imperfections: and how basically there’s an exception to every rule / to every thing you think you know.
Like: me and one of my oldest friends had an argument / disagreement conversation thing on New Year’s Eve which involved (amongst other things) us talking about the idea of Universal Basic Income. You know: the idea that everyone just gets money from the government so that they can live their lives and not go to work if they don’t want to. I mean – I think that’s an obviously brilliant idea. Yes to free money. Yes to getting rid of the idea that we all have to work all the time and instead – well – we can just live and be free and hang out in the library all day right? Only my friend disagreed and said – well – actually: it’s not a perfect idea – because only people who are recognized as such by the state would get the money and anyone outside that (aka “illegal immigrants” – aka the most marginalized) – wouldn’t benefit. Plus – you know: what about people in other countries as well? Where’s their money?
And oh my god – this has kinda been running around my head ever since because damn it – I’ll admit it: she’s right. Universal Basic Income isn’t the solution to everything and her criticisms make sense and are real. But yet still: it pisses me off that she makes them because it feels like an idea that could benefit so many people in so many ways that shouldn’t we all just throw our weight behind it and support it unconditionally?
Like I guess I’m just not used to being basically out flanked on the left as well – ha – that’s usually my whole thing. But then shit – it made me realise what it must feel like for other people. I mean: for reasons that it’s probably best I don’t get into here – I thought that Hillary Clinton was a terrible candidate (hashtag Bernie would have won) but obviously – she would have been a better choice than the nightmare that is Donald Trump: but man – it felt wrong to draw the line with her. In the same way that it seems my friend (I could be misunderstanding her) thinks that Universal Basic Income doesn’t go far enough as you know: it doesn’t help all the people and leaves the State intact and etc.
It seems like it’s all a question of where do you draw the line?
Because yeah – the Guardian-bait genre is awful and rubbish and you know – just isn’t good for comics in general I’d say godamnit – but still: well – Blankets (altho wet yes) is still damn good and Adrian Tomine well yeah – the stuff I’ve read of his = also good. And yet still I feel very strongly that the wave that they’re a part of should be resisted and fought back against.
Like shoot – at the risk of just having the LGNN trumpet itself I really love (and urge you all to read) Emma’s latest article: Crown on the Ground / the Physical Impossibility of 2017 in the Mind of Someone Living in 2016 which says a lot of stuff really well but ends on this: “So the question, to me, that comics criticism has to pose to itself in the year that we’re on the doorstep of is whether it’s more interested in being political or pursuing the appearance of being political.” and “Pointing out the existence of oppression or oppressed people isn’t activism, and has no real inherent value unless it’s paired with direct action of some kind, as mentioned above, and it becomes further meaningless when the ideas put forward aren’t articulated properly. Superheroes, the axis around all popular comic book storytelling revolves around, are inherently politicized and have been since their genesis. They’ve always been used to project a set of values. It’s contingent on critics to interrogate and challenge those values meaningfully.”
I mean – I love this even tho (oops) from our conversations in the past – and reading the things she’s written – I think that me and Emma probably disagree on a lot of stuff: most especially – what political means and how best to fight back against well – the forces of darkness that want to destroy us all. And yeah – like I said at the start – part of me feels like maybe that disagree is what it’s all about / while (LOL) another part of me feels like: actually I’m right and everyone should just listen to me.
And shoot: I feel like all I’ve done is muddy the waters of my thoughts and whatever it is I’m trying to say: but in the end – I mean: maybe I guess it’s this – Mazin wrote this (really good) thing about Rogue One which I feel like stole most of the ideas I had about it – especially especially this bit –
Those fanatical militants that get wiped out wear turbans and listen to oud music, and your problem with the film is that it’s too Woke? The female lead is almost entirely passive / reactive, and your problem with the film is that it’s too Woke. Jyn’s crucial plot function is not something she does but something she is: she’s ‘Stardust’, the nickname (from her dad) that lets her and Diego Luna find the secret file in the data library. (Earlier on, it was who she was (her father’s daughter) that granted the Rebel Alliance an audience with Saw). Other than that? She fixes an aerial and gives some speeches while everyone else does most of the fighting. She’s almost protagonist in name only (in nickname only). Call it the Katniss Problem.
I’m saying this is bad, I’m saying that her character is confusingly drawn and in the end cosmetic in a way that is sexist (all the more damagingly so for being taken as empowering). All of which makes the frame of the reception of the film, as pop culture liberals versus alt-crybabies, a sort of phantom conflict. It’s real inasmuch as the rage is real, but it’s a conflict about something that doesn’t exist. It’s like some men on the internet said, Boo Downton Abbey is anarchist, and instead of saying, No it isn’t (if only it was!), people have automatically let their defence of the film be defined for them by their dumb or bad faith opponents.
Which is the bit that I posted up on facebook and then (ha!) started to get replies that seemed to amount to “shut up and let us enjoy our film!” (or then again maybe my friends were taking the piss? You know – it’s hard to tell…).But yeah – the connective tissue is: please let’s stop our passive compliance and mindless acceptance of our culture (comics or not). And instead – interrogate it and pick it apart and see what works and what doesn’t and how it’s affecting our minds and let’s resist the ideological underpinnings. You know – it’s not just a comic, it’s not just a film, it’s not just a story – it’s a way of seeing and feeling and understanding the world you know?
Or whatever. LOL.
Re; the need to combat ‘Guardian -worthy’ graphic novels.
I’ll reach for a metaphor.
There’s a bloke has been running a shop for forty odd years, selling nothing but Chuck Norris films.
Chuck Norris films, Chuck Norris books, Chuck Norris memoribilia and merchandise, everything a Chuck Norris fan could possibly desire.
For a while he does alright, but over the decades, year after year, he can’t help but notice that his business is dwindling, and does everything he can think of to combat it. Norris laser displays, Norris key rings on the counter. Norris cardboard cut outs in the window.
If anything, business goes downhill.
At a loss, and at the urging of a young member of staff, he allows a small display, at the back of the shop, of a couple of shelves of Wes Anderson movies.
Nobody seems to notice, and not much happens.
He decides to close the shop, and is bewailing his state with a regular customer. The customer asks him – ‘so what do you think ‘s gone wrong?’
He waggles his hands towards the back of the shop.
‘It’s all these fucking Wes Anderson films!’ he says.
As to Blankets, he draws like a dream, and it’s a bit lovely, but there’s about 200 pages too much of it.
best. metaphor. of. the. year.
Nicely played, Mark, had me laughing out loud when I read that. 😀
The Chuck Norris / Wes Anderson example is funny but at the risk of being Mr Humourless I’d argue that it misses the point. Or reinforces it maybe. Or both. Or something in-between?
(God – I am so not looking forward to ever re-reading all the stuff I’ve written here: feels like I’ve been super sloppy in everything I’ve typed down. Like I’ve been drunk or something. Or maybe I’m just flattering myself?).
Like: I mean – the finger is on the scale right from the start. Because we all share the same “common sense” ideology that Chuck Norris films are “bad and cheesy and a little bit rubbish” right? While Wes Anderson is cultured and refined and smart and clever and good. It’s the classic low art / high art thing. Guilty pleasures and refined dining or whatever.
And well yeah – if I have a point (do I have a point?) then part of that point is that this common sense actually starts to fall apart when you start to examine it closely. I mean – shit: your example is good because well yeah – I like Wes Anderson and I think his films are good and well made and emotionally affecting in lots of cool and weird ways. But it’s good because of the things that it does. It’s not just good because it’s – I dunno – what’s the cinematic equivalent of Guardian-bait comics? Sight and Sound catnip. Or whatever. While Chuck Norris (oops: confession: I’ve never seen a Chuck Norris film. My bad I know) is just dumb mindless action. Only well – again: it’s how it’s done isn’t it? I mean – shit – I saw Train to Busan this week. And yeah ok. It’s basically zombies on a train. But also: holy wow – it’s the best film I’ve seen in forever because it’s just fantastically well made and smartly put together – only well – I could imagine lots of people sticking up their noses at it because – yes – it’s basically zombies on a train (the snakes on a plane sequel no one knew they wanted).
And that’s the messed up thing: a lot of the time we can only understand the goodness of something by it’s obvious qualities. Who directed it? Wes Anderson. Who stars in it? Chuck Norris. What’s it about? Zombies on a train. As opposed to – uh oh – examining it deeper and getting under the skin and actually take the time to get into it.
I mean – yes – fuck yes: comics as a medium has been dominated for years by Chuck Norris mindless style stuff BUT (yes) some of the Chuck Norris is really good and should be celebrated and shared and praised. And yes it’s good to widen the net and get the Wes Anderson Guardian bait stuff in there – just so the medium can expand it’s palette a little. BUT well (this is completely obvious maybe): not all the Wes Anderson Guardian bait stuff is good (in fact – I’d say the majority of it is terrible and poorly thought out and boring comics and boring art) expect – yes I’m an idiot – I’ve confused things further by talking about this when we’re talking about Blankets – because: erm Blankets is actually pretty damn good (altho yes I haven’t got even close as to talking about why).
And also – sorry Mark just to disagree with you a little more (I hope you don’t mind! We’ve met in person so hopefully you know I’m not trying to be a dick or anything!) I’d even go so far as to say that the 592 pages it takes to do is job is a big part of what makes it do so good and work so well. Because yeah: if you’re telling a story where it’s just “real people” doing real normal boring human stuff like falling in love: I think you need that sprawl in order to make it work and to flesh out the people so that they’re real. 392 pages isn’t enough!! LOL
Ok, I need to dig the book out (I read it over Christmas) think up a thought about it and write that thought down.
I’m more tempted to talk about basic income, just because something can’t fix everything doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do the thing that fixes some things. Though of course the amount of effort we put in should be approximately proportionate to the outcomes. Your friend’s argument sounds a little bit like saying that just because some countries don’t have good health systems we should shut down the NHS. We need to to do the good we can do, which means starting in our own country (and donate to Oxfam and sign 38 degrees petitions against TTIP if you are really upset about the international inequalities, or even if you are mildly upset).
I’d love to see a lottery for basic income for a small number of people to then research how to get the best results. (Oh look people are already working on that: Turning money into hope? Subjective survival after a positive income shock [giving poor Native Americans on reservations wodges of money], Speaker: Tim Bruckner (University of California –Irvine), Kings, Wednesday 25th January 2017)
For example a boss can be really useful if they are better at big picture thinking than you are. And I think I really thrive at work, I’d never get that stuff done on my own, but then I’m glad I did the work, which is fairly useful. (Sometimes I imagine how I would explain my job if a caveman came up to me at work and asked what I was doing. I wasn’t really convinced that assembling folders for staff with each health and safety procedures was adding that much to civilisation). So just because you have a basic income doesn’t mean you wouldn’t work, and even if you didn’t have a formal job but you might still benefit from a boss and you could quit the really harmful jobs, like advertising. But we can also figure things out, before we start on big scale changes, with research and learning.
OK Blankets, well, I was a bit shocked on behalf of the characters at the amount of horrible abuse that is bullying, and the sexual abuse by the baby sitter, (tucked away into one or two little panels). That’s not a sign of good mental or emotional health, which supports my prejudice that people in the US have less ‘social capital’ that people in Europe (probably all wrong and perhaps not quite the right phrase) the idea that we can either learn a lot from our parents and communities, or not. Making our lives better or worse, making us able to branch out and try things and become our best selves, or making us hunker down, suppress whatever might be a target for bullying (everything) and nearly miss out on a career in comic books.
As regards the actual book, I really liked Blankets, the story was great, the characters felt so real (what’s Raina doing now?) the art was gorgeous and did such a good job of getting their feelings across, how something that might be considered bad could be transformed into something redemptive. (The thing had happened but you could remember it in various ways and our remembering self can be more important than our experiencing self, certainly it’s around for longer than the experience).
I couldn’t work out whether the bit when Craig has a bonfire of stuff was good or bad. Was this master, Marie Kondo level, decluttering of things that don’t bring joy? Was it a good way to move on and get closure. Or a sad, needless destruction of something precious??
The thing about Joel’s point about:
“please let’s stop our passive compliance and mindless acceptance of our culture (comics or not). And instead – interrogate it and pick it apart and see what works and what doesn’t and how it’s affecting our minds and let’s resist the ideological underpinnings. You know – it’s not just a comic, it’s not just a film, it’s not just a story – it’s a way of seeing and feeling and understanding the world you know? ”
Is that it’s quite hard. I pretty much learnt about agency when I read a criticism about the Hunger Games. It does make it tricky to realise a character is completely lacking in a thing if you have never heard about it. It sounds a bit silly to not know about something so important, the link is below if you’re in the same boat I was, we should start kids on this in primary school, never mind picking it up randomly long after growing up, thought of course you will also learn about agency in your lived experience. But you might not know WHY your childhood/life/hunting colleagues to death in an orgy of violence is good or bad. (Obviously agency isn’t the only factor there).
“That’s why The Hunger Games is such a diabolical head fake. Forget about it being entertaining, which I concede it is. It has managed to convince everyone that a passive character whose main strength is that she thinks a lot of thoughts and feels a lot of feelings, but who ultimately lets every decision be made by someone else– that is a female hero, a winner.”
I think the answer is, more comic clubs? more of these book e-mail groups? Read more of the blogs linked above? More focussed talks/classes on how to pull stories apart? (which we’d have more time for if we had universal incomes). We’d have a greater appreciation for the really good stuff, at the cost of not being able to watch all the mediocre stuff. Which would actually save quite a lot of time. I’ve read/watched and enjoyed several critiques, reviews and parodies of twilight without ever reading, or thinking I ought to read, the actual books, or seeing the films. I probably saved a week right there (I’m a fast reader). I do debate whether training yourself up to not like most stuff is a good thing. I’d argue, for stories: yes, wine tasting: no.