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Dark Ecology: Race, Gender & the Environment

English 252 @ Hunter College

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Comics

Anxiety: Balancing work, school, creativity, ambition, and laziness.

Over the past semester I’ve come to a realization that I harbor much more anxiety than I care to admit. Through therapy I’ve learned to cope through creative means, such as writing, drawing, and painting. Another way which I try to cope is through procrastination.

Procrastination is an interesting phenomena, it allows the temporary relief of your anxiety at the cost of experiencing more anxiety down the road. One procrastinates in order to avoid anxiety and in doing so causes more anxiety, so, one must procrastinate to push the anxiety off into the future which causes more anxiety—ad infinitum. This would be an unhealthy coping mechanism.

A healthy coping mechanism would be any sort of creative expression be it writing, drawing, music, or anything else. I’ve been drawing a lot recently. I’ve noticed that my creativity has skyrocketed, I’ve been drawing at any chance I can get, my skill has increased and because of that I’m enjoying it even more. I’ve also really enjoyed writing poetry for my Creative Writing class, oftentimes getting the work done in a timely manner. I work on my poems for quite a bit, I spend time editing them, fine-tuning them, and trying my best to express an emotional truth. I’ve found much fulfillment in both writing and drawing. I’ve also tainted these coping mechanisms with procrastination.

After a while I noticed my other homework has piled up. My readings for my theory class are now waiting until the last minute. My essays are “due later” and I can’t be bothered to work on them now, there isn’t time for this sort of work… but there’s time for drawing and writing poetry? My healthy coping mechanisms have now become unhealthy.

My original blog post was going to be a comic adaptation of The Tempest. That’s not going to happen. The amount of time and effort to create a comic strip is staggering. I love comics, but I have homework. I love practicing drawing and writing, but I have homework. I can create the best comic adaptation of The Tempest that the whole world has ever seen—but that isn’t a priority.

I would say working a job is perhaps one of the toughest things to do while in school. I’ve been at the same job as a deli clerk at a supermarket for 3.5 years. When I wake up in the morning I feel very motivated to do my schoolwork. By the time I get home I have spent all of my working energy on… well, work. Working a low-wage, backbreaking job is draining and it has the potential to discourage even the most motivated from continuing their education and their pursuit of happiness. Just spend time on the priority. The priority is to do what you have to do to the best of your ability. Do not avoid your work, do not avoid your responsibilities, and know that when you rise to the call of action you will find an immense satisfaction which is a million times sweeter than anxiety is bitter.

Saga: Diversity Done Right

Relating to the themes of this class, I decided to post about a new, recent favorite comic of mine: Saga. Written by Brian Vaughan, it’s a space opera. But to reduce it to mere space battles would be a disservice. Plot-wise, it’s pretty simplistic. The main protagonists, Alana and Marko, are inhabitants from two planets at war with one another. In rather stereotypical fashion, the two fall in love and decide to escape the war with their infant in tow. But what really differentiates Saga from its contemporaries is the racial and gender politics that come into play as a result of Alana and Marko’s union. You see, neither of them are white. In light of recent controversies over Iron Fist and Ghost in the Shell (neither of which truly bother me, to be honest), this was pretty interesting and refreshing to read. Of course, I’m behind the ball, because Saga came out a few years ago, but it was nice weekend reading (there’s 42 issues out as of right now). But back to race and gender.

The most noticeable thing about Saga is the depiction of the protagonists. The artist has gone on record to say that Alana’s father was inspired by an Indian man and a yet unidentified mother of another skin color. Marko was inspired by East Asian influences. But the most interesting thing is that other skin tone, other racial markers were not factored into the equation (Asian markers: the eyes, the nose, etc). In this comic, race is a defining feature in the sense that both sides see each other as the “Other”, an exotification of non-Western ideals in literature, as the enemy. But the characters themselves are not defined by their race if that makes sense. Race is merely one facet of their characterization.

The way Alana is shown in Saga is perhaps the most eye-opening for me. The story opens with this:

There’s a reoccurring problem with media in regards to sexuality. And I don’t mean the depiction of actual sex, but that’s where most of this stems from. Things related to bodily functions are considered taboo or inappropriate, and as such, their depictions need to be toned down or rendered completely irrational. Here, Alana is giving birth. There’s no sentimental music playing (logistics aside, because this is a comic book), or unrealistic words. Some might find the words she’s saying crude, but I think that if you were giving birth, the last thing on your mind is a lingual filter.

And that’s what’s compelling about her as a character. The most prominent thing is that she doesn’t fall victim to the “women in refrigerators trope.” She just feels like a real person. Someone I’d have a beer with. She curses, she has interests in cheesy novels, she likes having sex but is never depicted in a sexualized manner, and doesn’t have a filter.

In fact, that’s what’s appealing about this comic as a whole. People aren’t stereotyped in a certain manner just for plot device. Stereotypes are broken. Normal comedic devices are actually taken seriously. Serious moments end up being funny as fuck.

And plus, Fiona Staple’s art is on point.

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Extra Information:

Women in refrigerators

Race in Saga

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