February 16th 2013
An Open Letter to the Creators of Sexist Fantasy and Comic Book Art
Dear Creators of Sexist Fantasy and Comic Book Art,
I could try to talk to you about the problem of objectifying women, the concept of the male gaze and the detrimental effects of this kind of thing on real-life women. But other people have done that already, at great length, and it doesn’t seem to have made much of a dent. So I’m going to try an argument that might be more persuasive to you:
Your sexist art is boring.
It’s indistinguishable from all the other sexist art out there. Oh, yawn, another butt shot. Another woman attacking her enemy ass-first. Another distortion to get both T&A in the same frame. More active men and passive women; more pictures that aren’t even trying to be something other than softcore pinups. It’s gotten to the point where we have an entire taxonomy of tedium: boobflounder, centaur women, neverending pelvis, swivel waist. All your shitty, sexist art blurs together.
If you want to stand out from the crowd, there are two ways to do it. You can try to violate reality so badly I lose sanity points every time I see your art, or you can do something more interesting.
Give me a character, with actual emotion. Give me a story. Give me actual dynamic poses, not static poses gussied up to look dramatic with weird positioning and flyaway props. Make sure I can tell the women who flaunt their sexuality apart from the ones who don’t.
Does that sound hard? Gee, I’m sorry. But if you want to be good at this, you’re going to have to work for it. Learn anatomy, so that when you distort it you do so for effect, not because you don’t know how to do it right or have been brainwashed by all the other shitty sexist art around you. Learn to draw expressions other than pornface. Give your women different faces, and different bodies, too: I can ID Wendy Pini’s elves based on a half-inch silhouette in the background of a panel, which is more than I can say for most artists. Ask yourself what that picture is supposed to be doing, and if the answer is not “looking sexy for my presumed hetero male audience,” then make sure there’s something going on other than looking sexy for your presumed hetero male audience. Make the art tell a story.
Your reward, should you follow these steps, will be a larger and more diverse audience. (Larger because more diverse.) And, you know, you’ll also improve as an artist. So sharpen your pencils, charge up your tablet, and do better.
An Extremely Bored Viewer
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Marie Brennan is the author of more than forty short stories and seven novels, the most recent of which is the urban fantasy Lies and Prophecy. Visit site.
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