Pretty, Fizzy Paradise

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Saturday, January 06, 2007

On Dixon and Politics...

This is an interesting interview and well worth reading. Both Steven and Mary have interesting responses to it.

I know personally I like Dixon's work. Usually, at any rate. I don't agree with his politics, but in general I think he's got a good knack for character work.

I am however leery about his work once politics come into play though. I am thinking specifically about his work on the pregnant Spoiler storyline. In general that was a very good storyline, a very powerful story. But one scene forever stands out in my head when I remember it.

Steph Brown is basically "shopping around", visiting different clinics and adoption agencies to examine her options for dealing with her baby. One of the places she visits is an abortion clinic.

The abortion clinic's representative is portrayed as very pushy. She's trying to convince Steph that abortion is a good idea. She's this close to emotionally railroading her, until Steph gets pissed off and tells the woman off, declaring loudly her intention to give birth.

I have no problem with Steph's decision. It was a decision that was right for the character. I don't have problems, even, with her revulsion toward the idea of abortion. It's a very real reaction shared by many people, after all. Even many people who are pro-choice on principle would not make that decision for themselves.

My problem is in the portrayal of the abortion clinic personnel. Now, I will freely admit that I have no personal experience with abortion clinics, but the attitude of the woman as portrayed makes no sense. She's portrayed like some sort of salesperson, selling the idea of abortion to an uninterested person like she'll recieve some sort of commission for every person that signs up.

Abortion clinics are not hurting for business. One only needs to look at the statistics on abortion before Roe v. Wade to realize that. There are countless horror stories of women undergoing very dangerous and risky procedures (of varying quality and sanitation) in order to rid themselves of pregnancy. The demand for this service is very high. There is absolutely no reason for an employee of an abortion clinic (a job that usually requires a great deal of empathy and gentleness on behalf of the patients) to behave in such a manner.

I remember being disappointed by this part of the comic. I don't begrudge Mr. Dixon his politics, but I'd felt that he'd cheated his own message. By making the abortion clinic employee so cartoonishly callous, he essentially made "the right choice" unmistakably obvious. There was no real decision or soul-searching here. Stephanie could immediately see that this person was insensitive and a bully and thus this choice was clearly the wrong one.

How much more powerful would Steph's declaration have been if the abortion clinic person had been portrayed quietly and with empathy? If instead of emotional railroading, the woman had merely explained what it is that they do for the women who seek their services? If Steph had been able to make that decision without ANY sort of external influence revealing any one choice as the obvious "right one"?

A shame Dixon resorted to the sloppy cheap trick instead.


  • At January 06, 2007 9:14 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Oh, dear...I actually never got to read this part of Steph Brown's history. I actually work for Planned Parenthood and, believe me, our staff do not rush women making such a difficult decision into making that decision. We offer counseling and give people enough information so that they can make that decision for themselves. But, you're absolutely right. The common misconception that right wingers try to spread is that abortion is a big money maker for health centers that provide abortion services. In fact, many would be surprised to know that abortion is a very small percentage of what Planned Parenthood does. Probably the smallest percentage of what we do. Most of the time, we focus on prevention of sexually transmitted infection, unintended pregnancy and the need for abortion...which is a lot more than any anti-choice group does.

    Sorry...didn't mean to get on my soap box...but, I'm appalled.

    That said, about the interview itself, I am glad that Chuck Dixon is acknowledging that Midnighter is gay. I do admit that I had pegged him as a homophobe and, I think, to a certain extent, he is. But, I see it more of a generational thing for him. However, now having read your entry about Steph, 1) I have to go back and see if I can find those stories and 2) I think it's ironic that Dixon is against modern day messaging and "soap boxing" in comics, yet wrote this story.

  • At January 06, 2007 1:20 PM, Blogger Tom Foss said…

    I've only ever been to a Planned Parenthood once. We were planning a pro-abortion rights event at my college last year, and we went to them for pamphlets and information and whatnot that we could distribute to clear up misconceptions and whatnot. Pun most certainly not intended.

    The people there were universally friendly and helpful, even the sorta-gruff police officers manning the front room with the metal detectors. Heck, the only point of friction was that I used the terms "pro-" and "anti-abortion" rather than "pro-choice" and whatnot. "-abortion rights" was a compromise, but it's actually more accurate, so I continue to use it. And even that was just a matter of small rhetorical disagreement, not like a fight or anything.

    For a decent depiction of abortion in comics, look to "Icon." Rocket, Icon's sidekick, is pregnant. She goes to a government clinic, and though the doctor legally can't talk to her about abortion, she shares her own story and advises her to make the decision quickly if she wants to end the pregnancy. She even offers to make Rocket an appointment, if that's her choice. She goes to Icon, a conservative, and asks his advice, expecting him to tell her to keep it. Instead, he shares his own experience with abortion, and tells her he'll support her whatever her choice is.

    McDuffie treats the issue as a complicated series of decisions, paying respect to both sides of the issue, and making everyone involved appear like decent, complex people. That's tough to do, especially over the course of a single issue. And it's a hell of a lot harder than Dixon's soapboxing.

    Of course, I don't see why comics shouldn't champion progressive social issues. Ever since Superman went after crooked politicians and fatcats, that's been a cornerstone of comic storytelling. Dixon's supporting an era of comics that never really existed, and using it as a reason to disinclude minorities and push a conservative agenda.

  • At January 06, 2007 3:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    (this is kind of a completely tangential post, sorry)

    Of course, I don't see why comics shouldn't champion progressive social issues. Ever since Superman went after crooked politicians and fatcats, that's been a cornerstone of comic storytelling.

    I'm not so sure that that's a progressive social issue. The thing is, no one nowhere, except bad people, like crooked politicos and fatcats. I'm willing to bet that the average person is 100% in favor of getting rid of every crooked cop, politician, and business owner. They're easy villains, and safe ones, too.

    Real progressive social issues, be it police brutality, abortion, same-sex marriage, integration, or class warfare, have varying (by that I mean "more than two," not "constantly changing opinions") sides with varying degress of right and wrong attached to them.

    You can please everyone when Superman deposes a crooked governor. You will either please a few or no one when he comes down for/against abortion.

    Am I making sense? Late night last night.

  • At January 06, 2007 3:35 PM, Blogger Seth T. Hahne said…

    Funny story (that I can only relate secondhand). A friend of my recently had her first child and so, recently visited a number of doctors in different "styles" of birthing traditions.

    She ended up going with a midwife and a homebirth simply because she couldn't stomach the sheer number of suggestions that abortion was a viable option for the pregnancy that she very happy to have. She related that every time she visited a doctor, she was handed abortion literature and met with the suggestion that "it's not to late to safely abort."

    She, wanting the baby, quickly grew appalled and that caused her to seek out other, "stranger" methods to birthing.

    Of course, this was a story related to me by a person who would have been disgusted at the first suggestion of abortion as a viable option for the surprise pregnancy she was happy to have. So her tale may be coloured, but I know that at least from her perspective, the doctors (not clinicians) were pushing abortion against her wishes. Whether it happened exactly as she related it or not, her experience of it was very real.

    With that in mind, I think the pushy abortion doctor is a very viable storytelling device - especially if the author has perceived such an experience himself (perception being, of course, distinct from reality despite its relation).

    Still though, if he wanted to present a fair picture for evaluation, your suggeation, Kalinara - that he make the clinician pleasant - would have been more valuable.

    Still again, I don't like the idea of asking authors to present things fairly. 1) "Fairly" is pretty damn subjective and your fairly could very well be my biased. 2) If we demand fairness in an author's presentation of a subject, we sacrifice authenticity - and between the two, I vastly prefer authenticity. For instance, Craig Thompson's heart-breaking work of staggering genius, Blankets, is an amazing graphic novel. But it's not even close to fair; and, I'd suggest that it would be a far lesser work if it were. The power of Blankets is that it is perspectival. It wallows in its subjectivity. Thompson has an agenda with the book and to accomplish that agenda, he has to sacrifice fair play. And though I could whine about him not treating his subject matter in a detached manner, I won't - because the emotional involvement in the issues he presents are the point of storytelling.

  • At January 06, 2007 3:59 PM, Blogger notintheface said…

    To his credit, Dixon is usually professional enough that he can write against his politics when called for in order to stay true to the character's integrity. The only big thing I took issue with is his description of "left wing rage", as if there was little reason for it. Chuck, buddy, have you seen what's been going on with our country the last few years? If you AREN'T pissed off, you haven't been paying attention!

  • At January 07, 2007 8:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I dunno... I stopped taking Chuck Dixon's political opinions seriously after the infamous "Batman gives a pro-gun speech" in Nightwing that he specifically wrote to counter the "Batman: The Way of the Gun".

    And the less said about American Power - the book that killed CrossGen - the better.

    Any chance we could lock him and Judd Winick in a room togehter, sell tickets, and then stuff and mount the head of the winner? :)

  • At January 07, 2007 10:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Keep in mind that anti-choice folks generally *do* rely on aggressive, pushy behavior and misleading information. There are many instances of "pregnancy counseling centers" that exist only to keep women from having abortions, they do not offer a full range of information about their options. Planned Parenthood or other pro-choice organizations do not generally seek to limit the range of information that women can get. Similarly, on one side you have abstainance-only sex ed and on the other side you have comprehensive sex ed (which includes abstainace as well as birth control methods). I think there is a fair amount of projection going on with depictions of pushy people trying to coerce women into having abortions. In reality, its the anti-choice folks who rely on coercion.

  • At January 08, 2007 1:17 AM, Blogger Seth T. Hahne said…

    I think it might be helpful to broaden Anonymous's statement. Something like, People with strong opinions are often pushy about those opinions.

    Honestly, and I don't think it matters the stance, I've met so many people (each with their own distinct ideology) who are so steeped in their self-righteousness and convictions that an adjective like "pushy" would be considered to only scratch the surface of their inconsiderations. And to limit this to the abortion question, I spoken with enough "pushy" choice-advocates that I couldn't say for certain whether the pushy life-advocates outnumber the pushy choice advocates or not. The two groups seem pretty even-steven so far as unattractive members go. I've also met completely fair-minded members from both parties.

    So yeah, Anonymous's statement sounds a little funky.

  • At January 09, 2007 1:03 AM, Blogger Tom Foss said…

    Well, I see two problems here:
    1. Giving information in and of itself isn't pushy.
    2. There's a very big difference between being pro-choice pushy, and being pro-life pushy.

    For the first matter, there are a lot of myths and misconceptions about abortion, specifically with regards to the dangers involved and the methods employed. A steady and effective stream of disinformation and artificial hysteria has spewed from the anti-abortion crowd since long before Roe v. Wade. The fallacious beliefs that abortion can cause sterility and any number of cancers run rampant in the public consciousness, and I don't think it should be considered "pushy" for doctors to try to counteract that with real information. These myths can color and change a person's decision, and they should be provided with the opportunity to make their own decision based on all the available information.

    As to the second point, the thing about being "pushy" for choice is that there is no one (except maybe fringe Zero Population Growth radicals) who advocates mandatory or enforced abortion. Much though I dislike the rhetoric of the term "pro-choice," that's exactly what the abortion rights folks are pushing for: the right for a person to make his or her own choice. They're being "pushy" in order to give you greater freedom.
    Whereas anti-abortion folks want to make the choice for you. And that's a whole different sort of "pushy." That's someone pushing their beliefs, their morals, and their decision onto others. That's a pushiness in order to limit freedom.

    So, somehow, I doubt anyone has encountered a "pushy" abortion provider in the same way they'd encounter a pushy anti-abortion activist. "Here's some information, and this is still an option if that's what you want" vs. "do this or you're a murderer"...not much competition.


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