It’s always fun being interviewed by Steven Bergson of Jewish Comics Blog, because he’s so prepared and knowledgeable. Here’s the first few questions from the interview he just posted:
To read my answers to these and Steven’s other questions, head on over to the Jewish Comics Blog.
The latest issue of “AJL Reviews,” published by the Association of Jewish Libraries, includes a review of the second Hereville book! Here’s their concluding paragraph:
Thank you to Aimee Lurie, who wrote that review (and I’ve met her in person and she’s totally nice, too!).
Under Mentions and Reviews
Just saw “Rear Window” for the first time. What a stunning, amazing movie!
Actually – hard as this is to believe – as of a few days ago I had never seen any of Hitchcock’s movies. Now I’ve seen “A Shadow of a Doubt,” which was wonderful (and surprisingly feminist in some ways), and “The Lady Vanishes,” which didn’t do as much for me.
But “Rear Window” was so perfect that I have a hard time imagining any of his other movies will match it, for me. As well as being incredibly cleverly written, it has a lot of elements that I’ve always found appealing: Storytelling constructed around a severe technical limitation (in this case, that nearly all of the story is told using shot angles that Jimmy Stewart’s character could see from his window), a claustrophobic setup, the close urban neighborhood, and the comic-strip like storytelling of the neighbors lives viewed in panel borders (aka windows).
If you’re familiar with “Rear Window,” I’d recommend taking three minutes and watching this amazing version of the entire movie as a single panoramic view.
Bechdel test report: All three movies pass the Bechdel test, although “Shadow of a Doubt” just barely passes (because of a conversation between the protagonist and a grumpy female librarian). I was also struck by the “no one will believe you, you’re a woman!” theme in all three movies – even in Rear Window (where the male protagonist is also disbelieved), the police detective shows a special disdain for Grace Kelly’s testimony, and comments that he’s never heard a theory from a woman that hasn’t been a waste of time.
Under Blog and News
…And the same drawing rotated 180 degrees.
To celebrate Merida of the Pixar film Brave “officially” joining the Disney Princess line, Disney released some new illustrations of her. In the new illustrations, Merida is even thinner than her already-thin movie version (as Alyssa put it, “what appears to be rib-removal surgery”); her dress has been redesigned into an off-the-shoulder number; she has much thicker eyelashes (and in general, her face seems much more stereotypically feminine); her hair has been changed from out-of-control curls to waves; and her attitude is much, well, flirtier.
I’m not sure that Disney’s Merida makeover represents a conscious strategy on their part. At the, er, official coronation ceremony at Disneyworld, Merida’s appearance seemed modeled on the movie version, not on the new illustrations. (See this photo, for instance – note the covered shoulders, and curly wig.) Nor did Disney seem to shy away from Merida’s tomboy aspects – she made her entrance on horseback, and finished the ceremony by posing with her bow and arrow.
But because it (probably) wasn’t conscious doesn’t mean that it’s not bad. It suggests that Disney subconsciously and reflexively turns their female characters into the same dull and predictable flirty, glittery pin-ups without any thought even being required. (Ever notice how impossible it is to find any Mulan merchandise showing her dressed up for war?)
Put another way, for the folks in Disney marketing, the path of least resistance appears to be a very sexist path.
Except that this time, they’ve encountered a lot of resistance. A petition started by girl-power website A Mighty Girl has gathered 130,000 signers (and counting). The petition says:
One really unusual thing about this is that Merida’s creator, “Brave” writer and co-director Brenda Chapman has gone public with her unhappiness about the makeover, calling it “a blatantly sexist marketing move based on money.”
* * *
Although I agree with Alyssa, it’s important to note that Merida’s body type, as seen in the movie, represents only the smallest of small departures from the Disney standard. Don’t get me wrong – I love the movie Brave, and I love the work Pixar did to present Merida as someone who delights in the things her body can do, rather than the way she looks.
But the range between Merida’s body and face type, and that of the typical Disney princess, is pretty darn small. The top of my wish list for Disney princesses – even higher than my wish for a Jewish princess, already! – is that Disney, or Pixar, add a fat character to the princess line.
Seriously, Disney, I’m Trying to Take a Little Break Here– MUST YOU? Peggy Orenstein points out that Merida’s makeover is actually part of what seems to be an ongoing project to make all the Disney princess characters more vapid than their movie versions.
Under Blog and News
If you’ve met me at a comic book convention, you may have noticed the little herd of toy pigs decorating my table. I bought those when I was drawing the first Hereville book, to help me draw the pig character! I took hundreds of photos of those plastic pigs, from every angle and height, and used them as reference while drawing the comic.
You can see a pattern on the pig in the photo above. This was contributed by one of the two small girls I live with, at some point when I wasn’t in the room to stop them. :-p
I didn’t use the models during book 2, since the pig only appeared in one panel. But I still have the little herd of pigs, and when they’re not appearing at cons they stand in my drawing area, near a Peppermint Patty figure.
When kids read my rather depressing and angst-ridden short comic “How To Make A Man Out Of Tin Foil,” they pretty much all react the same way: They make little tin foil people, just as my character Joel did in the comic! Which I think is kind of awesome.
This photo is of my wonderful niece Jemma Andersen. And here are her tin foil superheroes: