Before I get started, I have an announcement to make.
When I started The F Word I knew I was going to need help writing it. I've always wanted to write, but never knew where to start. So, who better to ask for help than my wonderful husband? A professional writer, Josh has been getting his work published in national magazines since high school, and is very good at what he does. Since that first Power Girl article, Josh has been taking my roughs and showing me how to turn them into the stuff posted here. He's taught me how to structure my writing, how to make something interesting, and when to crank the anger down a notch. I've learned a lot from my husband and we both agree it's time for me to take that plunge and do it on my own. Yes, so from this column on, I'm taking the training wheels off and I'm writing solo. I may do great, or I may fall on my ass. I'll leave it up to you the readers to decide. Either way, this article is the raw me.
And what better way to start this than with an editorial that I'm sure is going to have my name added to a few hate lists. First, I am going to get a bit personal and share with all of you something that I've recently had to come to terms with. At the beginning of October, I had what is medically called a hypomanic episode. I was extremely angry and violent all the time. I would say things specifically with the intent of hurting those I loved and laugh at inappropriate moments. I took everything as a personal attack and threw objects against walls. I was spiteful and bitchy, and above all, paranoid. In my mind, I was the stable, grounded one, and everybody else was trying to shut me up, drown me out, or keep me feeling unimportant and useless. This went on for two weeks. And when I came back down to earth I fell straight into a pit of deep depression. I felt horribly guilty for what I had done and how I had behaved to those around me. I mutilated myself by cutting my arms and I had thoughts of suicide. I needed help. I am so lucky that both my husband and best friend love me to look past my monstrous behavior and make sure I got the medical help I needed. Since then, I have been diagnosed Bipolar II. I need to be medicated twice daily to keep these sorts of episodes in check.
Now, why am I sharing it with all of you? How does this relate at all to comics? Please be patient. My point is coming.
About this same time I fulfilled a promise to my very good friend, Jamie, that I would read Terry Moore's Strangers in Paradise (SIP). Jamie had been telling me about this book for years and many guys have told me that they got their girlfriends or wives to read comics with SIP. So what'd I think? Well, the writing quality is good, the artwork is nice and the panel layout is excellent. Terry Moore has a talent for writing realistic women. It's just too bad he prefers to write them all as angry, abusive, bitches or unstable, impulsive dingbats. All of them bash and/or abuse men every chance they get, and rarely are they held accountable for their actions. As for the men, they are either too pussy to be called men, or assholes, brutes and stereotypical sleazebags. This book embodies ALL of the things I hated about 90's feminism, agenda politics, and so-called empowerment.
My friend Jamie told me that he thought that I would really identify with the character Katchoo in this book. And in many ways I do which is probably why I dislike her so much. She's selfish, quick to anger, and beats up on the nice guy constantly. All things that I have recognized in myself. Things that I am not proud of. And yet, this is supposed to be the character we're rooting for. It was as if Moore had taken all the worst aspects of my two weeks of bi-polar craziness, put them in a book, and wanted us all to cheer and applaud this kind of destructive behavior. This book's message to me is that there is nothing wrong with being a mean spirited, angry, irrational, bitch, and men should honor and respect women for acting this way. Oh yeah... and men are scum no matter how nice they are.
Sadly, the only character who I found even remotely close to being sympathetic was Freddie and that's only because he was open and honest to his girlfriend, Francine, about his sexual needs. And since she continually refused to fill those needs he broke up with her and moved on. An honorable move, in my opinion. If your needs aren't being met in a relationship you should move on. The proper and mature thing for the other person to do is accept it or try and fix it. Instead, Francine makes a public spectacle of herself and makes Katchoo believe that Freddie had beaten her. So, Katchoo, kidnaps Freddie, ties him up, tortures him, threatens castration with an electric turkey carver, and leaves him naked and tied up in a store window for public humiliation. And we are supposed to find this hilarious.
Which brings me to another reoccurring trend, the constant male bashing. From lines like "I find your entire gender to be a letdown, I only ask that you strive to rise above your inherent deficiencies..." uttered by a rich woman named Darcy, to Katchoo blaming Freddie for having her arrested for kidnapping and assault, the man-bashing is epically gratuitous. It's as if Moore had a rule that a male had to be physically assaulted or verbally torn down every two pages or so. Even the "nice guy", David was constantly getting ripped on and physically attacked. Sometimes he's assaulted by little girls, for comedic value. Others he's letting Katchoo beat the crap out of him to the point that he's bleeding, because he loves her. No matter what the circumstance, the message to the reader is always that he deserves it because he's male.
When I was going through my mania I said and did some really terrible things. And I especially did things meant to hurt my husband. So what if I hurt others? So what if I hurt Josh? I was angry damn it! I was going to take it out on whoever I damn well pleased. And the sick thing was, I had women at my day job telling me that somehow this all was Josh's fault. That I wasn't sick. That my anger and rage was justified and in some way (which I would surely figure out later) it was all my husband's fault that I was missing time at the day job, picking fights with everyone, and repeatedly taking a pocket knife to my arm. To these women, Terry Moore, and anyone who thinks this way I say, Get Over It!
Men are people just like women are, and this kind of sexism, YES SEXISM, really makes me sick whenever I see it revered and encouraged.
The only person who cared enough to wrestle the knife out of my hand was Josh. The only person who cared enough to hold me tight when I went into my blind rages and screaming fits was Josh. And he loved me enough to not simply "put up" with my bull shit. He always tried to talk me down and get me to hear reason. And he was the first one who got me to the medical help I needed. He wasn't going to wimp out and accept my destructive behavior, just because he loved me or I was female. NO! He recognized it for what it was. Sickness.
I hear a lot of people sing the praises of this book and what strong female characters it portrays but I didn't find a single one. They're all unstable, spiteful, and abusive. They're ruled by their emotions and prone to irrational acts that usually end in violence. They never take responsibility for anything and there is no indication that they have any desire to change. To me, this does NOT indicate a strong female. This in fact lends strength to the outdated claim that women are too emotional to "think" and "function" outside the home.
I believe the story would have been a lot stronger if these characters were held accountable for their actions or learned from their behavor. If Francine had gone to the jail and told Katchoo that Freddie really had NOT assaulted her. If Katchoo had recognized that it was her own violent actions that had landed her in jail. If David finally told Katchoo off for beating him up all the time (or at least admitted that he was into that kind of thing.) Or, if Francine realized that the break up with Freddie really was her fault, stopped eating for comfort and reassessed HER choice in men. Accountability does wonders for a character. I thing I could have gotten behind the characters if they had learned from their actions and grew up a little.
In my next column, to balance out from this one, I will cover a book that succeeds where Strangers in Paradise fails. A book that covers all the same issues, same range of emotions, same types of characters, and gets it right, that is The Maxx.
For now, I will leave you with a list of all the things Strangers In Paradise tries to teach it's audience. Agree with me or don't. This is my opinion.
What I Learned from Strangers in Paradise
Violence towards others is okay if you are a woman with relationship issues.
A man who is honest about his sexual needs is an evil scumbag who deserves to be ridiculed, abused, and/or tortured. He also has a little dick.
An Angry woman is perfectly justified to scream at any man she wishes, accuse him of whatever strikes her fancy, and physically harm anyone she "feels" has wronged her...even if she is incorrect in her assumptions. Also, women should be loved, honored, and respected for acting like emotional basket cases.
If a woman has just gotten out of a relationship, it's okay to pretend like you were abused. Even better, make a public spectacle of yourself! It's not your fault. He left you!
It's okay for a woman to completely ignore her husband/boyfriend's needs. And if he confronts her about it, it's okay to accuse him of all sorts of things that aren't true. It's okay. You're a woman. It's his fault... in some way... that you'll figure out (make something up) later.
Eating Disorders are always HIS fault.
Women who make themselves attractive to men must be mindless bitches who should be ridiculed, abused, and even physically harmed. They deserve it.
It's okay for women to treat all men like shit. Even nice guys who don't deserve it. In fact, the nice guy should sit and take endless streams of verbal/physical abuse until the woman decides to show him mercy. In Terry Moore's world this is called dating.
Prostitution is bad, unless they're gay.
It's funny when a fat dyke beats up a call girl who services men.
No good deed goes unpunished, if it's done by a man.
If you perceive a piece of art to be sexist in any way, go ahead and vandalize it.
There is always going to be that one, overweight cop who will try and rape you.
When the "nice" guy professes his undying love to a woman, the appropriate response is for the woman to beat the ever living shit out of him. Only after he's been beaten to a pulp, smeared in mud, and sobbing can she truly "trust" his evil male desires.
It's only a matter of time before the nice guy turns on you.
Men are terrible vile creatures for not finding the cute fat girl attractive.
Any man who ogles the cute fat girl is a sleazy scum bag.
Men are terrible vile creatures for not finding the mean tough girl attractive.
Any man who ogles the tough girl is either a slimy creep, a rapist asshole, or possible a metro-sexual pussy -in any case, they all deserve beatings.
The audience needs to be reminded that all men are scum every two pages or so. This can be done in the form of physical violence, verbal abuse, or a painful stereotye.
Kat Rocha is a comic book artist currently collaborating artistically with writer/artist Josh Finney on the acclaimed sci-fi series Titanium Rain from Archaia Studio Press. She lives with her husband in San Diego, collects knives and enjoys drawing pin ups of strong, buxom women in her free time. Issues 1 and 2 of Titanium Rain are now available in your local comic store. As well, the first Hard Cover will arrive in stores December '09 and can be preordered from Amazon.com for $13.
To read more of Kat's rantings, visit, http://kat-a-pult.blogspot.com
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