Monday, September 3, 2012

Welcome to the Sinfest

I said that I wanted to talk about webcomic I enjoy. Tatsuya Ishida, the author and artist, recently began incorporating feminist themes in his work. This strip in particular appeals to me because its message is multifaceted and ultimately dependent on the reader's position and understanding of the larger issues of male gaze, male privilege, and feminism in general.

In discussion of the inclusion of feminism in the comic, some commenters have suggested that Tatsuya is demonizing sex in general - the inclusion of Demon Slick in panels 9-14 in this strip is one citation made in support of this point.

Now the origins of Demon Slick date back to his separation from Slick, which results from Slick's lust winning out over his ability to reason, his frankly creepy urge to throw himself sexually at any available woman via, as noted in the title of this strip the most recent to that point of his attempts, free hugs.

Demon Slick, quickly enters the world proper after eating of the fruit of the tree of knowledge and then blowing wide the gates of Paradise, having consciously chosen to use his knowledge in the pursuit of evil. Slick begins his recovery as he recognizes that his behaviors have crippled his empathy and his ability to form meaningful relationships. And even while Slick has made efforts to better himself, his prior record is still working against him.

So Demon Slick's presence here follows very naturally from his being - Demon Slick is wanton lust personified, the dark side of sexual attraction. The whole concept of the Friendzone, originated by people like Demon Slick who cannot abide the idea of women being anything but sexual objects and who see all relationships with women as worthwhile only if they lead to sex, is being repurposed by feminists in the comic. Here the Friendzone is a safe space, where nobody is pressured regarding sex, where even romance can flourish based on mutual respect and friendship.

Our romantic example above is Criminy and Fuschia, who are looking through the telescope and painting, respectively. Fuschia protects Criminy and Criminy encourages her to grow as a person. They are in love, and it is good because it is founded in respect and friendship, not on stalking, or sexual harassment, or other unhealthy expressions of sexuality.

Now, this strip focuses ultimately on the devil girl in the first panel - her job is to play herself up to the male gaze. Her pay is garnished to support the system that supports her exploitation, she is harassed on the streets, and the revelation of the Friendzone here is eyeopening. What could be better than a space of respect, where harassment doesn't happen? This repurposed Friendzone is good for everybody.

So so far, Mr. Ishida, you're doing great. Keep up the good work and fighting the good fight. Your comic is to the benefit of humankind.

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