Tuesday, 09 April 2013

Ironically, she's not doing transwomen any justice. I'm genuinely fond of Gail Simone's work—both in comics and combative internet forums—and I fully support what she says about the addition of a transwoman to the cast of Batgirl: She added that she thinks most superhero comics readers don’t have a problem with increased diversity, but rather with stories that promote sermonizing over storytelling. Alysia will be “a character, not a public service announcement … being trans is just part of her story. If someone loved her before, and doesn’t love her after, well—that’s a shame, but we can’t let that kind of thinking keep comics in the 1950s forever.” Except it's not "just part of her story," because it's just not part of the story. It's an interruption in Barbara Gordon's issue-wide interior monologue. Because in this issue Gordon has quite a bit of confessing to do: You don't even need to enlarge the image to see that the majority of this conversation is filtered through Gordon's interior monologue—those black dialogue boxes speak for themselves. This is Gordon telling you a story about Gordon, which would be fine if this didn't happen: I admit to having edited out three panels of hugging and a close-up of that message-cat, but that doesn't detract from my larger point: Alysia's confession isn't an organic element of the narrative. It's utterly forced. Consider the first set off panels above: it's a series of two-shots emphasizing the bond between Barbara and Alysia that "transitions" to an unnecessarily dramatic close-up on Alysia. Because it's not as if Barbara's confession of having been paralyzed and tormented and stalked lacks emotional weight. Her burden is even indicated, visually, by the purple half-bat that haunts her words. She can't escape what's been done to her and who she is, not even when she's telling her own story to herself. Which, again, is all well and good. I adore the confessional mode so long as it doesn't involve Don Draper talking about swimming. But a narrative written in the confessional mode simply isn't the best place to have someone other than the confessor make a grand gesture. My editorial work above may be a little dishonest, but it's certainly indicative of the issue's overall narrative emphasis. If Simone wanted to have Alysia's moment be hers, she should've placed it in a narrative that didn't belong to Barbara Gordon, because that makes it seem like an afterthought. And that only provides more ammunition to people who think "cis-gendered" is just "another one of those terms invented in universities aimed at eliminating the word “normal” when discussing sexual preferences." Because people who think DC is pushing an LGBT agenda will feel like its being "shoved down their throat" when revelations like this are inserted into narratives so awkwardly. That close-up pushes Alysia into the reader's face in a manner liable to remind readers that the forced intimacy of all close-ups is actually really creepy, and when it comes to rhetorical effect, the difference between "shoved down my throat" and "thrust...

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