A bunch of people have asked me about the comic book class that I’m teaching this semester (no surprise, since I talk about it here all the time). So, I decided that it might be fun to borrow a page out of Chris Gavaler’s book (err… well, blog) and turn my blog over to four of my best students this week so that you can see the kinds of things they are thinking and talking about in the class.
All four are responding to the same assignment:
One thing the internet is good at is extending its favorite media in new directions. In particular, perhaps because of the relative lack of queer representation, queering of characters from mainstream comics often happens in fanfiction and art. I would like you to find some. Find a queer representation of a mainstream character or characters. This can be a piece of fan fiction or fan art. It can be a piece that takes a normally heteronormative character (or characters) and turns them homosexual (common in slash fiction or “shipping”) or it might be a piece that reimagines a character in a shifted gender either by completely reversing their gender presentation (changing male characters to female characters or vice versa) or by breaking normative rules of gender performance (portraying male characters in traditionally female poses or outfits or vice versa).
Give me a link to the text or image your select (or just paste the image into the Word document) and then write a journal close reading the text or image and explaining the effects of the changes. Use anything we’ve learned so far. What has the artist/writer done and why? Is there some sort of statement made? Is it a positive or negative effect? Does it make sense? How does this change aspects of performativity? Is the male gaze at play? What about a female gaze or a queer gaze? Can they be reconciled together? Is this even art? Is it perhaps an attempt to just provide pornographic fantasies? Are those mutually exclusive? Is this just silly?
I asked the students for permission to repost the journals here. They’re all watching. I think they’d appreciate any feedback you have on what they wrote. Agree or disagree. Things that you found interesting about what they said. Recommendations. Etc. Hopefully they’ll even answer back.
The first student is Dana Mitro. She is a junior, majoring in psychology and communications. Dana chose to write about Roadhog and Junkrat from the video game, Overwatch.
The picture I chose to analyze is a genderbend created by “Mist XG” of the characters Junkrat and Roadhog from a popular game, Overwatch. This example of genderbend in my opinion was executed poorly, especially when comparing it to the original character designs. Both Junkrat and Roadhog are extremely sexualized in the genderbend, and are not wearing bras or any support for their chests other than straps. The worst of all is probably Roadhog’s depiction, as he is an overweight character, yet the artist chose to slim him down considerably, purely to fit the female Roadhog into the stereotype that only thin women are sexy. Road hog in the game is a tank, and generally depicted as a very strong character, going so far as to hooking characters. However, this female Roadhog looks weak, and probably would be incapable of the same task. It is interesting that though the original character is perhaps arguably ugly or unattractive—though in my opinion he is more of a tough guy and not perhaps unappealing— that when an artist tries to create a genderbend they feel they cannot give a female the same treatment. Another problem I had with this piece is that both of these characters are dirty, since their background is set in a post-apocalyptic setting, yet in this genderbend, both characters appear clean. Ultimately, I would say that this image was made with the male gaze in mind. The image is unquestionably making two characters that are not necessarily handsome in their canonical forms very sexual to appeal to perhaps someone’s fantasies. I cannot say the art style or craft itself is badly done, in fact the artist is very skilled, but how they chose to depict the characters was not done as well as it could have been.