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America's Captain 

Location: Bayville New Jersey
Member Since: Sat May 17, 2008
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Member Since: Sat May 17, 2008
Posts: 3,665
Subj: Re: What confuses me is...
Posted: Fri Feb 23, 2018 at 05:49:17 pm EST (Viewed 31 times)
Reply Subj: Re: What confuses me is...
Posted: Fri Feb 23, 2018 at 04:36:08 pm EST (Viewed 32 times)

    If your definition of child abuse only means sexual abuse of children you could have made that clear from the start.

You'll notice that in the next paragraph I talk about severe power imbalance; I.e., oppression. That would cover any other forms of child abuse.

    A bit strange really, since the superhero genre very often is about severe power imbalances. (And I think some aspects of this are relevant, especially when I reflect on how differently we've come to assess e.g. the actions of certain powerful telepaths etc. Back in the 1960s and 1970s readers and fans would probably not have used a term like "mind-rape", which nowadays is used quite often to label the unethical use of telepathy etc. (as you do further below with reference to the Purple Man).

But a superhero is rarely helpless and without hope. That's the whole point of superhero stories. I see Captain America chained to a concrete slab while the building is burning down, and I know he'll come up with something. I hated the Jessica Jones story precisely because for most of the story she very pointedly did not come up with something and it really seemed like she never would. Helpless and hopeless... bleak. I never want that in a superhero story, or any story. I empathize too deeply. If the protagonist is helpless and hopeless, then I feel as if I too am helpless and hopeless, and this is a very unpleasant feeling.


      Oh definitely. But Spider-Man surely went decades without ever referencing rape, child abuse, or prostitution.

    But that was mainly because the Comics Code prohibited it and many other things (e.g. vampires, zombies, and stories involving drugs, even if they had an overt anti-drug message).

Nevertheless, such tales were not told, and were not missed (by me, any way). I never said to myself, "Man, these Marvel comics really need to depict people shooting heroin."

    Although Stan Lee did have a story of spousal and child abuse in Charles Xavier's and Cain Marko's origin over in X-Men and one might have to analyse closely from what point on Norman Osborn's relationship to his son Harry could be seen as psychologically abusive. And of course you may also have to look at the not exactly infrequent trope of a powerful male supervillain menacing a weaker or even non-powered female character to check in every case if there wasn't at least an implied threat of rape present (although that may have been more obvious in pre-Code comics).

I never really liked any of that. I tolerated it but would have preferred it to not be there. But also, most of those stories had hope in them. Xavier went on to become a powerful force for good (and I already knew this to be the case when I was reading his origin). Usually, any villain who was menacing some female character would very soon be unconscious on the floor or otherwise subdued. Villains lose. This, to me, is a fundamental element of the superhero genre. Villains lose. So when they menace the helpless, there is always hope, in fact pretty much a certainty, that the villain will get what's coming to him. There will be justice. IMMEDIATE justice.

The whole point of a rape story is that the rapist gets away with it - at least for the time being. The child abuser gets away with it - at least for the time being. The villain wins - for now. There is no immediate justice. Instead, injustice reigns for a time, perhaps a long time.

    And why can't you accept the appearance of rape, child abuse or prostitution as episodic in comics?

Because there's no reason for them to be there at all. The most common TV show to depict episodic rape, child abuse or prostitution would be the cop show. Cops deal with such things. If you're going to depict cops, you're going to have to depict such unpleasantness now and then in order to be true to the genre. Superheroes, by contrast, save the world from Galactus, or save the city from the Green Goblin. The superhero genre could proceed with complete integrity for the next thousand years without once depicting rape, child abuse, or prostitution.

    The question is: can good stories be told which feature any of those three, or indeed of all seven subjects you regard as taboo? And the answer is of course: yes, they can and have been often enough in the past, in comics, in literature, in films and on TV. If it's a good story, I can enjoy it or at any rate derive artistic satisfaction for it

Finally - thank you - an explanation of what possible value there could be in such stories as we're discussing. You see value in any story that is well illustrated and well written. You can derive artistic satisfaction from any well crafted comic book storytelling regardless of subject matter. That I can understand. I've encountered this perspective while discussing a wide variety of topics. Usually the comment will be something like, "Is it a good story?" By which is meant, a quality story, a manifestation of excellence, regardless of subject matter.

    (some of these stories can be a little too intense for my comfort).

There! There at last you're entering my head space. The quality is there, presumably - the excellence is there - yet despite that, or in fact more probably because of that, the experience is a little too intense for your taste. You don't LIKE how it makes you feel. Not for any intellectual reason. Not in keeping with some theoretical underpinning. You simply don't LIKE how it makes you feel.

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