Robot 6

Dave McKean on sex and violence in comics

celluloid“Well, sex is OK. I like sex. Why are there so many books about violence? Why are there so many books and stories about violence? How much violence do you come upon in your daily life? How much sex have you had? It seems out of balance. I think sex is a lovely thing, something to be celebrated and explored in every form — in film, in comics, in all sorts. I touched on it in a book I did called Cages. I had a sex scene, and I was going to do an absolutely blunt, these two people are in love and they’re going to have sex. But I kind of shied away from it because then a great big 500-page graphic novel would be an X certificate book because of three pages. That seemed ridiculous. I always fancied doing a book that was just about sex and exploring the feelings and thoughts going on in your mind when you’re curious about sex. … I really loved doing it, but there were a couple things I didn’t get to, focusing on those little moments. Not necessarily big pornographic scenes, but attraction, a little bit of voyeurism, human play. I think that’s curious. I’d like to do something about that.”

Dave McKean, discussing where the idea for his adult graphic novel Celluloid came from, in an interview with CBR TV

News From Our Partners

Comments

13 Comments

“Why are there so many books and stories about violence? How much violence do you come upon in your daily life? How much sex have you had? It seems out of balance.”

This statement assumes that the primary purpose of fiction is to mimetically represent everyday life, which is, in a word, ridiculous.

Such oversimplifying statements are usually made by people attempting to promote an agenda at odds with popular tastes.

Yes, but sex, in a word, sells.

“Why are there so many books and stories about violence? How much violence do you come upon in your daily life? How much sex have you had? It seems out of balance.”

EXACTLY. I work in a book store for kids & teens, and parents are WAY more concerned about sex in teen fiction than they are about violence. Hello! Sex is a healthy, normal part of any person’s life. A life full of violence is not typically a healthy, satisfying, or happy life.

Wow, Gene, what did Dave do to you? Why do you automatically assume he has an agenda other than stating the obvious? Jeeze.

Go Dave!

He’s right. Sex is good. ;)

I’m right there with ya Gene!

“Wow, Gene, what did Dave do to you?”

He criticized Gene’s pornographically violent comics is what he did!

Jon said:

“Wow, Gene, what did Dave do to you? Why do you automatically assume he has an agenda other than stating the obvious? Jeeze.”

I think that anyone who states his personal tastes as being supported by “the way things really are” has advanced an agenda.

If Dave McKean prefers realistic comics, that’s fine. If he thinks literature is better when it attempts to reproduce real life, that too is fine. Making the statement “what I like is supported by the way real life is”– which is IMO far from “obvious”– that’s not fine with me, even if there’s nothing I can do about it.

Irwin said:

“He criticized Gene’s pornographically violent comics is what he did!”

Not that I think it will weigh in the scales, but I once critiqued Grant Morrison for the opposite offense: running down realistic stories as a form of literature that was no longer relevant.

I’d link to the site where I had the piece published, but I’m trying not to give the site extra publicity. Also, I’m too busy wishing for Anubis’ jackals to gnaw their bones.

You make a lot of bold leaps of assumptive logic, Gene. Just saying. Anyhow, all the man seems to be saying is that how society treats sex is out of whack with how we treat violence. That does seem obvious. Like, blindingly obvious and uncontroversial. Anyway. Sex.

Are there ways that sex could be better depicted, or for that matter, violence? In the sense that there’s always room for new voices, yes. In the sense that one can ever be able to get rid of depictions that one dislikes, or feels “out of balance,” then no. I don’t accept that fiction is meant, whether exclusively or dominantly, to mirror reality. With those who believe this, I can only agree to disagree.

My basic conclusion is that Mckean’s proposition is a false one, because he overlooks the ways sex and violence work in fiction, to wit:

“fiction needs conflict, and violence is a better vehicle of conflict than is sex.”

http://arche-arc.blogspot.com/2013/09/let-freedom-ride-pt-2.html

Gene, I think it’s less about subject matter in fiction *needing* to mirror reality in content but rather that it’s surprising that it doesn’t. Especially when it’s likely that the target demographic for violent content think about sex and feel more conflict from it then violence. And that’s not including people outside of that demographic that would find exploring sex much more interesting than exploring violence.

I think it raises how strange it is that sex is considered more taboo than violence as a subject.

By introducing ‘agendas’, you seem to have only promoted your own. No-one’s encouraging any kind of absolutism in the content of fiction, that’s something you brought to the table. But as a subject of preference and social context, it’s a pretty important point of discussion.

OK, Marcel, taking your objections piecemeal:

“Gene, I think it’s less about subject matter in fiction *needing* to mirror reality in content but rather that it’s surprising that it doesn’t.”

I agree that McKean thinks it is surprising but I don’t find it so. I think that the idea that fiction should be mimetic is of relatively recent vintage– even Aristotle, who popularized the term, isn’t referring to mimesis the way a relative modern like Zola might use the word.

“specially when it’s likely that the target demographic for violent content think about sex and feel more conflict from it then violence.”

I don’t see why you specify “the target demographic,” since it’s difficult to lay down rules for the thought processes of any specific group. Mckean himself is on slightly more solid ground in saying that most people– by which I *think* he means people above the age of consent– are more directly affected by sex than by violent conflicts. But even then it’s hard to say what even the most general group “thinks” about. Violence may not affect the lives of many persons in a direct fashion, but it’s often a vital part of the fantasy-life even for those who have never suffered anything more rigorous than a game of dodgeball.

“I think it raises how strange it is that sex is considered more taboo than violence as a subject.”

Again, why strange? One doesn’t have to agree with all things Freudian to note how sex is more often a subject of societal repression than violence. Is it not precisely easier to write of violence– particularly though not exclusively escapist violence– because it isn’t a regular part of one’s life?

“By introducing ‘agendas’, you seem to have only promoted your own. No-one’s encouraging any kind of absolutism in the content of fiction, that’s something you brought to the table.”

I think agendas appear in the best of us, no matter how fair-minded we attempt to be, and I include myself in that. It’s certainly my agenda when I state in my second paragraph that I find the idea of fiction being primarily representational to be ridiculous. What I inveighed against was the kind of rhetoric that can be used as a weapon in an artist’s war with popular taste:

“Such oversimplifying statements are usually made by people attempting to promote an agenda at odds with popular tastes.”

I still find McKean’s statement to be one that oversimplifies the messy problem (as messy as sex anyday!) of taste. It’s the rhetoric I dislike and suspect, more than the mere fact of an agenda.

Leave a Comment

 


Browse the Robot 6 Archives