September 14, 2004 02:26 PM

Over my end-of-summer vacation (which now seems to be aaaages ago), I finally got round to reading Michael Chabon's Adventures of Kavalier & Clay. It is, as many promised me, the sort of book that seeps into your life as you read it. I found myself referencing it as if the characters were real, the way my high school friends analogised the people in our lives with the characters in Mists of Avalon a gajillion years ago.

So it should be no surprise that I started seeing my own relationship to my own media of choice in light of the ideas in the book - thinking about my own escapism, say (escapism, for the 2 of you who haven't already read this book, is pretty tightly wrapped around the plot, the themes, the people - it is, after all, a book about a comic book about a character based on Houdini and Jewish emigrants of 30s Europe). It is interesting to find yourself splitting a day between watching FoxNews covering the RNC and terrorism and reading Hothead Paisan in bed.

I don't think I got Hothead until this year. Hothead is about little girls. What I mean is. If you're fortunate enough to be able to pop open any random media outlet and see yourself, then there's absolutely no way this comic could make sense to you. But if you've been something like a little girl seeing a million representations of what you should be and few of what you are, or something like a little girl learning what rape is, it makes sense. Like all forms of escapism, Hothead speaks to your capacity for childish fantasy but also to the horror of childhood, the amplification of the great scariness of things. You remember being seven and thinking the world would end, right?

[Brief dance break while I explain the premise of Hothead to those of you who don't know the comic. Others forge on ahead. Hothead is a homicidal lesbian terrorist. She drinks coffee, watches tv, and freaks out, ends up doing things like pulling rapists spines out their asses (and other similar grossouts) and evincing a general loathing of men. Her acorn is some combination of an internal demon and television portrayals of women, her alterego is more or less herself sans gun, and her superhero powers seem to be rage and a talent for evading law enforcement.]

Comics and videogames and all the things we know best as "escapist" media are products of their time. They answer needs for fantasy - whether to dodge reality completely or imagine beating that which attempts to beat you. Grabbing a little bit of that fantasy is, I think, good for you. I've said that before. And the Hothead comics are very much a product of early nineties recognition of homophobia and sexism. They're angry, they're media-focused. They still make sense.

No, I don't mean that it makes sense to go butchering people to establish equality and justice for all (superheroes never make sense like that). But they're still a useful escape, where all the shit we're still protesting (to borrow a phrase from a friend) gets taken out with all the violence and anger you might feel.

It's something - not the only thing, hardly, but something - we need sometimes.

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I also thought it was supposed to, in some measure, make up for the vast amount of hate and vitriol and violence towards women in the media by having just one teensy corner be in the reverse.

I found Hothead when I was about 19. I NEEDED it then. I don't think I understood until I read that comic that I could be angry about all the things that happened.

This is the short comment version, sorry. :(

these are the thoughts of Kim on September 14, 2004 11:07 PM

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