If you search the picture of “an African,” “an Asian,” “a European,” similar images come up. For Africans: black and sometimes scantily clad people, for Asians: more East Asian looking people than Filipinos or Indians, and for Europeans: almost exclusively white.
But something interesting happens with Americans. There is not a single picture of an American–at least not a homogenized, or individual picture. Search “Americans” and pictures of whole groups pop up with white, black, and brown (Asian, Hispanics, Arabs, etc.) in the mix. That speaks to the American ideal that all races can be part of this country irrespective of race.
“Page 77 helps one realize that Racism, Poverty, and War have worn on white people too.”
“Blood on the Leaves,” is an old song about lynching. Nina Simone’s rendition is my favourite, regardless, it conjures up certain images. Gory, brutal, horrible images. Bodies strung up, blood dripping on the leaves naturally–as if it was just the dew that sets in in the morning. Racism is sometimes like that, it seems to come naturally and its evidences are strung up for those who notice, to see it.
Common symptoms of Racism
- White Progress
As long as unarmed black men, teenagers, and young men are being shot in the streets the “lack” of lynchings is still not quite progress in my opinion.
Are heroes born or made?
“March” by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell centers around the life of civil rights icon John Lewis. As with most racially involved literature, a few things need to be mentioned.
Black & White Imagery
The use of black and white is interesting too. Lewis’ face becomes darker in his more intense moments.
It’s almost as if his darkness gives him power, intensity, focus. I found it interesting on page 27 (above), that he was completely blacked out but the writing on him was white. Maybe it’s symbolic of the Bible being the “white man’s word,” or it is meant to replicate a chalk-board (due to the font style). Either way, it will interesting to explore the art style–but as usual I’m drawing a blank.
Religious Imagery [Chickens]
The ending to Maus II: And Here My Troubles Began is very..um, unsatisfying.
Mainly because the characters stay trapped, and even death is not a release from them.
Vladek is still (mentally) trapped in the Concentration Camp
He saves everything…
Maus II – God help me!
For most readers the Holocaust is outside of both their experience and understanding, which makes for a sort of morbid curiosity into the tragedies that befall Vladek, all the while forgetting that he is an actual person NOT a mouse.
Maus is fuelled by Morbid Curiosity
A difficulty with documenting the Holocaust is avoiding kitsch.
Kitsch: art, objects, or design considered to be in poor taste because of excessive garishness or sentimentality (google)
Sentimentality is not always bad, but it does eclipse the reality that people suffering is not enjoyable, ever. Now, sentimentalizing suffering is not necessarily disrespectful IF one has experienced the event, but usually when suffering is used as a mass marketing technique then it borders on fantasy and ends up almost disrespecting the people whom it sympathizes for. The desire to be sympathetic to another’s struggle is not altogether bad, but when it wounds that individual, or depreciates the honest pain of a person’s struggle, then it’s not okay.
Popular Examples of kitsch
Maus I: My Father Bleeds History
..is the epitome of Amplification Through Simplification.
As discussed in the post on Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud, sometimes stripping the details from faces, events, scenes, etc. Usually, people jump to insert themselves into the “blank,” but in this case almost no one wants to. Partially out of respect, but also because most people cannot relate. If this is on purpose, it’s brilliant.
One many see cartooning such a tragic, major word event as disrespectful, BUT because the Holocaust is such a unique–in all due respect–experience, no matter how “blank” the characters are it only opens space for those who were personally affected. It’s hard to articulate how inclusive and yet exclusive this book is, but either way it’s pretty cool.
Having talking mice–a cartoonish element–sterilizes the otherwise gruesome acts of violence being committed, repeatedly.
To Go Along with “How to be Happy,” AND for those modernists with a particularly Chekhovian admiration, a quote from Katherine Mansfield, another modernist lover of Chekhov.
“Ah, what happiness it is to be with people who are all happy, to press hands, press cheeks, smile into eyes.”
― Katherine Mansfield
Just Something Heartwarming Before Maus I & II by Art Spiegelman…
Happiness is not a physical place one can be.
No matter how many times “How to be Happy” switches between stories and settings, no one says that they are explicitly happy. The only time characters mention happiness is to say that they are unhappy, or “were unhappy.”
See? In the city, country, woodlands, imaginary land, etc. No one is happy. Read More