Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Sex, Sexism, and the Clockwork Angel

One of the things that I found interesting in our class discussion of Lea Hernandez as a comic book/graphic novel writer was the fact that she was so frustrated and appalled by her creative contemporaries and the genre in general. Her frustration stemmed from her belief that the medium had too strong of a sexually-driven concentration. In addition to the gratuitous focus on sex, she felt that the industry consistently degraded the status of women, objectifying the female body and role in society.
I was surprised, however, not that the comic book industry is fueled by raging hormones (how many times have we heard the tired advertising strategy, “sex sells”), but instead that the material in Clockwork Angels did not seem to be too far from that with which Hernandez had become concerned. It might make sense that Lea’s approach would be very conservative, an opposite focus on empowering and promoting women and their respective place in comic culture. Instead, however, Hernandez’s graphic novel is extremely sexually-charged and in some places, downright explicit.
The Victorian style dresses, which Hernandez researched and wrote about in her acknowledgements, are indeed an interesting topic at which to look. While the clothing of the girls might not be as outwardly graphic as the scantily-clad behind in the picture on Hernandez’s website, the girls are by no means strangers to deep-plunge necklines and ample cleavage. I know my mother would never let me go out of the house like that, but then again, Temperance and Amy’s maternal situations were not exactly ideal.
The real issue for me, however, was the subject matter. I’m not saying that I find the material offensive; instead I am merely surprised by the fact that Lea would choose to include such a bizarre, sexually-charged storyline involving a love affair between two girls, complete with a climax in a less than innocent bedroom scene, if she wants to be taken seriously by her chauvinistic male colleagues. Is this her best attempt to de-objectify women? Is this her way of trying to assert girl power?
Of course, an argument can be made that maybe this was written before Lea Hernandez got fed up with the machismo and sexism of the industry, but I am merely suggesting that before Lea begins throwing stones, she makes sure they won’t fall at her feet.

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