Tragicomedy and the Aesthetics of a Finale

[Warning: This post contains spoilers]

Image credit: Amctv.com

In my last post I defined “Breaking Bad” as a tragicomedy. Though the series was suspenseful, it maintained its comedic touch through visual elements. Successful tragicomedies are ones which constantly maintain their equilibrium: neither becoming too humorous, nor too dramatic. Because of this balance, there is something to the tragicomic work that gives it a certain fullness, a sense of having lived a complete life. To this end, there are a few visual scenes from “Breaking Bad” which I would suggest are representative anecdotes; images which serve as microcosmic summations for the series at large.

The Politics of the Sexy Pose

The Amazing Spiderman comic book cover. Mary Jane sits pouting in a sexy pose on a couch

Image Credit: Comic Book Resources 

 

What's so amazing about Spiderman? Setting aside the superpowers and the solid-gold heart, his greatest talent appears to be marketing. On this 2009 J. Scott Campbell cover, Spidey appears in three different ways: swinging away in person from his on-again-off-again love interest, caught in an action shot on the cover of a newspaper, and staring out at the viewer from an impressive vantage point on Mary Jane's t-shirt. If we think of “amazing” in terms of “eyecatching,” which Spiderman lives up to his full hero title? From a framing standpoint, it's the front-and-center shirt version, the version showcasing Mary Jane's ample breasts. On this cover, The Amazing Spiderman, much like The Amazing Spiderman, draws focus away from the hero himself and onto an idealized female form.

"Boy" Cuts: Part I

Compiled from www.madewell.com

Fall clothing lines are out, which means the online window-shopper in me is happy as a clam. I’ve been scrolling around, looking for new sweaters or jeans or blazers that would be appropriate for the drastic change in seasons we collectively imagine here in central Texas.

And here’s what I’ve noticed: all the things I like right now have names with the word “boy” in them. Tomboy jackets, boyjeans, boyfriend shirts. Perhaps this is just indicative of a (never-ending) androgynous trend at the places I shop; as the image above shows, just one store—in this case, Madewell— capitalizes on the boyish qualities of their women’s clothes four times in their fall lookbook. Menswear-inspired women’s clothes are nothing new, but they’re definitely on trend in the retail world this fall, in a very self-aware way. Dressing across gender lines can be cool and even a means of subverting traditional gender roles or images. But labeling these styles “boy ____” has, I think, the opposite function.

It got me thinking about some of the strange, patriarchal, normative, and bizarrely long-lasting differences between men’s and women’s clothing design. In particular, one of the most basic differences: how they’re cut.

The Tragicomic Aesthetics of “Breaking Bad”

[Note: This post contains spoilers, please click on the title to proceed]

Image credit: mbmg-media.com

Starfire Revealed At Last: A Prelude to the Politics of Sexy Poses

Comic book cover from 1982 featuring Starfire flying and shooting a beam of energy from her hand

Image Credit: dc.wikia.com

In future posts I would like to delve into the ongoing conversation in the comic book world about the hypersexualization of the superhero women who fly, strut and kapow their way across the industry's glossy pages. Before reaching out to this debate in abstract terms, I would like to present one of the key images that catalyzed the explosion of feminist rage, feminist approval, and, quite frankly, some sexist reactionary defenses. In 2011, DC announced the New 52: a complete relaunch of their comic book line including, surprise, 52 titles all starting, or starting over, at issue #1. DC followers set the internet aflame with reactions, thoughts and feelings about the ensuing comics, and a particularly impressive inferno sprang up around Red Hood and the Outlaws #1. Why? Here's a hint. It's the reason this post is tagged Not Safe For Work.

Graffiti that Annotates

"Where Do We Grow From Here?"

My favorite genre of graffiti is work that comments on its immediate surroundings. In east Austin, this type of graffiti tends to refer to the seemingly unending gentrification of neighborhoods further and further out. Remember the fancy convenience stores I mentioned last time? Ones where you can buy $6 ice cream sandwiches? The image above is a defunct gas station that appears to have been purchased recently, so I think we can all imagine what's coming next. This graffiti artistin their own, special, nostalgia-soaked waywants to encourage visitors to the area to be critical of this expansion. See also: the time Hillside Farmacy's sign was edited to read "Hipster Farmacy." 

What a 21st-Century Western Looks Like

Like many of you, I am still mourning the loss of “Breaking Bad.” I’m not going to spoil it for you. So whether you’re one episode in, zero episodes in, or on the verge of completion…read on without trepidation. Also, this is going to be the first of two posts on our dearly departed “B.B.,” because I’m just that into it right now.

One of the first things about “Breaking Bad” that hooked me (and I have a feeling many of its viewers) was that the desert landscape in the show was so overwhelmingly beautiful. Nothing I say will do it justice, or to cop the style of “B.B.”’s reigning poet W.W., one might say “New Mexico, what is this I see in your landscape of saguaros and meth labs that is beyond all compare?” So here, bask in the glow of your computer screen reflecting this image:

Image credit: pri.org

Superhero Footwear Part 2: Do Stilettos Have a Point?

 Black Canary performing a flying kick in stilettos with blood spattered on the heel

Image Credit: TV Tropes Wiki 

 

Look closely. There's blood spattered on Black Canary's stiletto. The splash of red suggests that immediately before launching herself into this flying kick she put the heel of her fashionable shoe right through some villain's skin, intentionally using the deadly-looking point to her advantage. Juxtaposed against the Batwoman cover I used last week, it's difficult not to notice a few things about this action shot. For one, Black Canary's trademark fishnets are in full-throttled evidence, drawing the line of sight away from the kick itself and down to her immaculately posed, well-endowed torso. I had to look at this image several times to even notice the blood on her shoe. Batwoman, comparatively, seems a bit more clunky, more roughshod, more loyal to the demands of physics. Black Canary, here, is idealized, positioned in an anatomically unfriendly, spine-twisting way in order to showcase her breasts, hips and legs. The stilettos, perhaps, add to that sense of idealization: the very pinnacle of what's possible for the female body appearing in toto with Black Canary's pose. Neither the idealization of the female body or superhero high heels, each exemplified in this image, can be considered an isolated incident. The TV Tropes Wiki examines the popular trend of “combat stilettosin superhero fiction, and a future blog post will discuss how the female body has been traditionally represented in comics.  The heels, however, demand our attention today.

 

The Hidden Perils of Q&As.

Junot Diaz TILTS

Image from TILTS.

If you attend enough talks and readings, you start to get pretty familiar with the basic elements of the Q&A session: the rambling question; the non question; the irrelevant question; the already-answered question; the indecipherable question; the adoring fan question; the tiny soapbox disguised as a question. If you’re cynical like me, you’ve realized by now that most questions are asking something very different from what they claim to ask. Q&As with contemporary writers always contain at least one version of the following: What’s your writing process like?/How often do you write?/Where do you write?/What do you wear whilst writing?/What snacks do you eat?/How productive are you?/Do you wear socks? You get the picture.

Part III on Political (In)action and Memes: Preserving History

Image credit: Know Your Meme

In my last two posts, I suggested that internet memes carry a precarious relationship to history because a general principle of most internet memes is their detachment from an original setting (see: Casually Pepper Spray Everything Cop and Nina Gouvea em Desastres). In this post, however, I’ll explore an instance in which an internet meme became one of very few access points to a nation’s history.

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