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Posts Tagged ‘Comics

“As names have power, words have power”*…

 

gender1

 

My book club was reading The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss. In the middle of an otherwise unremarkable plot, we found a 35-page interlude about a highly attractive fairy, describing her body in minute, eye-rolling detail.

After slogging through that book, I began paying attention to similarly stereotyped descriptions of bodies in other books. Women are all soft thighs and red lips. Men, strong muscles and rough hands.

I was frustrated by this lazy writing. I want to read books that explore the full humanity of their characters, not stories that reduce both men and women to weak stereotypes of their gender.

Before getting too upset, I wanted to see if this approach to writing was as widespread as it seemed, or if I was succumbing to selective reading. Do authors really mention particular body parts more for men than for women? Are women’s bodies described using different adjectives than those attributed to men?

To do this, I selected 2,000 books spanning Pulitzer-winning classics to pulpy best-sellers, and ran them through a parser that identified sentences mentioning body parts. I then extracted the owner of the body parts and any adjectives describing them…

gender2

It’s easy to dismiss or overlook the differences in the way men’s and women’s bodies are depicted because they can be subtle and hard to discern in one particular book—one or two extra mentions of “his bushy hair” may not register over 300 pages.

But when you zoom out and look at thousands of books, the patterns are clear…

All the details from Erin Davis (@erindataviz) in The Pudding: “The physical traits that define men & women in literature.”

(Via Walt Hickey at Numlock, who observes, “honestly, now I just want to read a book about a women who’s all knuckles and a dude who’s got rockin’ hips.”)

* Patrick Rothfuss, author of the novel that occasioned the study cited above, in a different work, The Name of the Wind

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As we lose the lens, we might send fictional birthday greetings to award-winning journalist Lois Lane; she was “born” on this date (according to the 1976 DC Comics Calendar). She has been wildly differently depicted through the years, as one can see here (among other places).

Superman27

The Golden Age Lois Lane and Superman, from the cover of Superman #27 (March–April 1944), art by Wayne Boring.

 source

 

“Why should anyone be frightened by a hat?”*…

 

Magician hat

The Magician, by Claude Burdele, 1751

 

A telling aspect of the magic hat, as a physical thing, is that its form is often mundane, appearing in the shape of a traveler’s or laborer’s hat, such as a cap or a simple fedora. Described as a “coarse felt hat” in an English play about a wishing hat published at the turn of the seventeenth century, and in a nineteenth-century Grimm’s fairy tale as a “little old worn-out hat” that “has strange properties,” it is similarly defined in many stories.

The magic hat’s association with the commonplace has continued into modern times. For example, the top hat used in the magician’s show, though linked with the wealthy, was a style worn by many men and women who lived on the lowest rungs of the class system. The Harry Potter Sorting Hat, so probing that “there’s nothing hidden in your head / The Sorting Hat can’t see,” was an old, bent “pointed wizard’s hat” that was “patched…frayed and extremely dirty.” The sacred hat, too, in many cultures has been based, like the magic hat, on the commonplace…

On wishing hats, top hats, the Helm of Death, and other mystical headgear: “The Strange Properties and Histories of the Magic Hat.”

* Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince

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As we contemplate caps, we might send mighty birthday greetings to Hippolyta, queen of the Amazons of Themyscira and the mother of Wonder Woman.  She was created by Zeus (in answer to the mischief sown by Ares) on this date in an unnumbered (and unknown) year in antiquity (in the fictional DC Comics universe of which she is a part).

200px-Hippolyta-DC_Comics-All-Star_Comics_No._8_(1941)

Hippolyta as depicted in her first appearance, in All Star Comics #8 (December 1941)

source

 

Written by LW

January 8, 2020 at 1:01 am

“I’ve developed a new philosophy. I only dread one day at a time.”*…

 

Peanutz2

 

Starting [last] month, the very talented Adam Koford, the creator of Laugh-Out-Loud Cats webcomic, started posting these wonderful bootleg Peanuts comics to his Twitter account, and continued almost every day since.

Loose and sketchy, they capture the essence of Charles Schultz’ Peanuts so well: sweet and sad, combining childlike wonder and existential dread. As he went on, they started evolving a unique style of their own, distinct from the Peanuts characters but still recognizable….

Via Andy Baio‘s wonderful site Waxy.  The “Peanuts” panels are strewn through Adam’s Twitter feed; as a gift to us all, Baio collected a bunch of them into a Twitter “Moment.”

Enjoy… and don’t mention it to the Schultz estate.

* Charlie Brown

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As we ruminate on reality, we might recall that today’s a relative-ly good day for it, as it was on this date in 1900 that German physicist Max Planck presented and published his study of the effect of radiation on a “black-body” substance (introducing what we’ve come to know as the Planck Postulate), and the quantum theory of modern physics– and for that matter, Twentieth Century modernity– were born.

Planck study demonstrated that in certain situations energy exhibits the characteristics of physical matter– something unthinkable at the time, when energy was thought to exist only in wave form– and suggested that energy exists in discrete packets, which he called “quanta”… thus laying the foundation on which he, Einstein, Bohr, Schrodinger, Dirac, and others built our modern understanding.

220px-Max_Planck_1933Max Planck

 

Written by LW

December 14, 2019 at 1:01 am

“A crust eaten in peace is better than a banquet partaken in anxiety”*…

 

advice

 

What should a woman do when her husband chooses to spend time with his new pet monkey, rather than sleep with her? How does one counsel the mother who is so concerned about her daughter’s girlfriend that she’s considering casting a spell as a last resort? What about the wife who walks in on her husband of 23 years having sex with her brother? And what of the more mundane issues? Say, family squabbles over coarse behavior, or an ambivalent heart?

For more than half a century, Dear Abby—America’s longest-running advice column, first penned by Pauline Phillips under the pseudonym Abigail van Buren, and today by her daughter, Jeanne—has offered counsel to thousands of worried and conflicted readers. Syndicated in more than 1,200 newspapers at the height of its popularity, it offers an unprecedented look at the landscape of worries that dominate US life. The column has been continuously in print since 1956. No other source in popular culture has elicited so many Americans to convey their earnest concerns for so long…

The good folks at The Pudding have pored through 20,000 letters to the advice columnist tell us about what—and who—concerns us most: “30 Years of American Anxieties.”

For another fascinating example of the work at The Pudding, see “A brief history of the past 100 years as told through the New York Times archives.”

* Aesop

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As we agonize over anguish, we might recall that it was on this date in 1933 that Blondie Boopapdoop (her surname derived from the 1928 song “I Wanna Be Loved by You”) and Dagwood Bumstead were married in Chic Young’s comic strip, Blondie.

The strip had started in 1930 as a chronicle of the adventures of Blondie, a carefree flapper who spent her days in dance halls along with her boyfriend Dagwood, heir to a railroad fortune.  Dagwood’s parents strongly disapproved of the match, and disinherited him, leaving him only with a check to pay for their honeymoon.  Thus, the Bumsteads were forced to become a middle-class suburban family.  As the catalog for a University of Florida 2005 exhibition, “75 Years of Blondie, 1930–2005,” notes:

Blondie’s marriage marked the beginning of a change in her personality. From that point forward, she gradually assumed her position as the sensible head of the Bumstead household. And Dagwood, who previously had been cast in the role of straight man to Blondie’s comic antics, took over as the comic strip’s clown.

Blondie source

 

Written by LW

February 17, 2019 at 1:01 am

“What, me worry?”*…

 

mad_magazine_alfred_1050x700

When Tales Calculated to Drive You MAD—Humor in a Jugular Vein first appeared in 1952, it was like nothing ever seen before. The comic book parodied comic books, which were then under assault as purveyors of violence and degeneracy that contributed to delinquency, homosexuality, and, of course, the spread of communism. Mad made fun of all that, too.

Within three years, the publication became Mad Magazine, a name change that allowed it to flaunt the prohibitions of the Comics Code Authority. The CCA was an industry effort to tone down comics and hold state censorship at bay. Soon television, movies, advertising, and politics all joined comics as fodder for Mad’s mordant humor. Indeed, the takeaway of Mad was that all of the above were forms of advertising.

Nathan Abrams argues that Mad’s non-partisan critique of Cold War America had more effect than the more famous New York intellectuals working for DissentCommentary, and Partisan Review… No icon was safe: Mickey Mouse, Khrushchev, Joe McCarthy, Superman, George Washington, Norman Rockwell, Madison Avenue, and psychoanalysis all become grist for the writers and artists working in the gap-toothed Alfred E. Neuman’s mill…

How Mad Magazine Informed America’s Cultural Critique

* Alfred E. Newman

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As we honor our elders, we might recall that it was on this date in 1939 that one of Mad‘s targets– Superman– went wide into the culture: the daily Superman comic strip premiered. (Superman, the character, had debuted in the comic Action #1 the prior year.)  The strips ran continuously until May 1966; at their peak they were run in over 300 daily newspapers and 90 Sunday papers, with a readership of over 20 million.

superman source

 

Written by LW

January 16, 2019 at 1:01 am

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