I absolutely love Jamie Noguchi’s webcomic Yellow Peril. It’s smart, funny, damn good art, and unlike nearly every other webcomic I follow, doesn’t ever make me go “Oh. Ick. That’s not really funny if you’re a girl.” (Looking at you, LICD.) Seriously, go into the archives and start this one from the beginning. You won’t regret it.

I love this February’s story arc especially much because, well, girls. Kissing. What’s not to love?

I really should know better than to read the comments. I don’t know how this happens, but every time Noguchi posts a strip that I am particularly happy about, some asshole in the comments shits all over it. For instance, this strip about telling your boss to fuck off drew out a particularly creepy dude who figured it was totally okay to stalk your boss, learn where he (obviously he, no women ever run companies or oversee employees) lives and works, and then subtly drop threatening hints about his wife and family. I’m not kidding.

So why, then, should I be surprised that a commenter on the girls-kissing story arc had this to say?

I’ll be annoyed if she cheats + becomes bisexual because of this incident. If she’s not happy she should break up and I’ve already been through a few webcomics where a character becomes gay/bisexual almost out of nowhere enough times to be nervous about how this will play out. Hoping the next comic is a rebuff.

Right. Sooo annoying when characters that have clearly had a thing for each other for quite some time end up being the same gender. Or, uh, wait. I guess it’s more annoying when you miss the clues and are blindsided by this development because you’re hell-bent on assuming everyone’s straight?

(And, yes, she may be cheating on her boyfriend – does that make her a completely bad and unsalvageable character who we now must hate? Or would you rather the comic just be cleansed of everything that makes you uncomfortable?)

… It is not unreasonable to assume, until stated otherwise, that characters are straight. It’s not Disregarding bisexuals or homosexuals, it’s simply that typically characters are straight until it’s said so in a story. If she was bisexual the whole time and it was stated at some point before hand and was just monogamous and dating a man I wouldn’t have had any problem with this scene at all…

Actually, yes, it is unreasonable. The reasons here are twofold:

1) It is unreasonable to assume that everybody is just like you. That is, in fact, disregarding everybody who is not like you. It is assuming that there is a “default state” to being a human being, and that it is safe to expect that everybody, real or fictional, adheres to the default unless they specifically tell you they do not.

2) It is unreasonable to expect an artist or storyteller to hold your hand and gently lead you through exactly what her or his intentions are for his or her artwork. In this case, you are asking the artist to explicitly state to the audience, at some point, “Hey, folks! This here character is bisexual, and even though she’s dating a guy she could just as easily be dating a girl! In fact, I plan to do a story arc that covers exactly that scenario. Stay tuned!” That would make for some really shitty art. It is up to you, as the reader, to pick up on what the artist is putting down. And, as I pointed out with the linkspam above, it wasn’t exactly a subtle story thread. If you missed the fact that this girl was into that girl, it’s because you’re overlaying your own heteronormative narrative on top of the one the artist has actually written.

Why are characters “typically straight until it’s said so” in any media? What gives you the right to make that statement? How do you look at any given character and know 100% for sure that they’re straight, and not just currently in a hetero relationship?

Also, why the hell isn’t there more queerness in the media? (Because, Penny, it gets attacked the way Yellow Peril did. Oh, right. Good point, Anonymous Imaginary Reader.)

Unless it’s a “special interests” movie like Kissing Jessica Stein or Brokeback Mountain, LGBTQIA people barely get a nod in mainstream media; I was thrilled when the tech girl who was onscreen for five minutes in Mr. And Mrs. Smith mentioned her girlfriend. Media enforces heteronormativity in society, and in return society enforces it in the media. It’s this ridiculous self-supporting cycle that totally erases the experience of “non-normative” people in every quarter.

If am reading Harry Potter would it be considered odd for me to assume that Harry won’t be asking out Ron or Seamus or that Hermione won’t be asking Luna Lovegood out until something in the novels indicates it’s a possibility? I am taking the stance of assuming, until proven otherwise, that a person is the most common sexual preference (straight).

Um, yes, to me that’s odd. Maybe not from the standpoint that, I assume, many artists default to heteronormativity because they know what’ll happen to their sales if they don’t… but I still think it’s odd, yes. It’s the same weird “default state” assumption that leads people to thinking that being straight is normal, but being gay is a choice. And since when is “the most common sexual preference” straight? And if it really is the most common preference, why did you have to immediately qualify that statement with “(straight)” ? Why wouldn’t Hermione be interested in Luna? What’s stopping Harry from being into Ron? Did you know Dumbledore’s gay?

I’ve lived in Chicago all my life and met many gay people, but I’ve met a lot more straight people. That and most films and novels and games having a majority of straight people makes me expect to see more straight people in a story. Is this also odd?

Ye – oh, no. Actually no, that’s not odd at all. Of course you see heteronormative stories in the heteronormative media of a heteronormative society. What’s odd is that you look at those stories and assume that they’re all real and true to life.

I see superheroes all the time in the movies. Does that mean I can expect to move to Gotham and meet Batman? Should I try to get a job as a writer at The Daily Planet? Or maybe apply to work at Stark Industries so I can sue Tony for sexual harassment and comfortably retire on my millions?

Oh, and hey – have you actually met a lot more straight people? Or did you meet a lot of people you assumed were straight because they didn’t explicitly tell you they weren’t?

Obviously, this is just one commenter – who has already been roundly debunked by several others – but I am tired of this circular-logic merry-go-round. “This is normal because the media depicts it this way” + “The media depicts it this way because that’s what’s normal” is bullshit. So is “I’m annoyed with this story line because it doesn’t reinforce my narrow view of the world! The artist should change it!”

And the worst part of it all is that artists with integrity and vision, like Jamie Noguchi, are not only caught in the crossfire but are actively discouraged from making art. Actively shamed for not reinforcing the kyriarchy. Dude, he’s not making them gay AT you; he’s writing the storyline he wants to write. One that’s clearly been planned for several months, and is not an “ass-pull” or a “sexual deus ex machina.”

(Although, good job on the use of “deus ex machina.” Seriously. You even spelled it right.)

We need Yellow Peril. We need Annie kissing Ally, precisely because it surprises us out of the “everybody is straight” narrative. (Well, some of us.) Let the dude make some friggin’ art already.

 

As an afterthought: Who cares if she is a spontaneous bisexual? Does discovering your sexuality post-puberty somehow make it less valid? Because if so, I’m a big ol’ spontaneous queer, myself. Shame on me for… uh… stuff.

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