Repression, Oppression, Suppression: A Life of Domestic Routine

jeanneSomewhere in the middle of Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles, the eponymous Jeanne eats a sandwich in her kitchen. We have, by that point in the film, seen quite a lot of Jeanne’s kitchen. We’ve watched Ms. Dielman cook in that kitchen, peel potatoes, wash dishes (shot from behind her back so we can’t really see what she is doing), dry forks and knives, and polish her son’s shoes.

By the second hour of the film (just under four hours long in total), Jeanne Dielman’s kitchen has become an intimate space for us. Within this intimate space, we watch a woman eat a sandwich. The most remarkable thing about the scene, to me, is that we see her eat the entire sandwich. [Read more…]

Wonder Woman, Flying, Part 2: Beauty and Sacrament

Continued from yesterday.

wonderwoman2In this scene from Batman’s first meeting with Wonder Woman in Trinity, you can feel the writer Matt Wagner’s personality trumping the artist; though it doesn’t really add much to the narrative, Wagner can’t help but let Bats make a crack about her costume.

Superheroines’ costumes are perpetually controversial, it seems (perhaps because few artists have done much to better protect their heroines), and I sympathize with those who critique the way women are often overly sexualized in ways men are not. I don’t agree that the antidote is more sexualized male bodies. That strikes me as the kind of capitalistic, individualistic, hedonistic thinking that led to the hypersexualization of all bodies at the magazine racks. But at the same time, I also don’t believe we need more realistic bodies or body armor in all cases.

Take Wonder Woman flying, for instance. Yes, it stretches the suspension of disbelief to breaking to put her in a strapless one-piece “armor” (and yes, it is frequently referred to as armor; if you look, you’ll see the chest-piece and waistband are, in fact, metal). Some newer series and geek blogs have tried to re-imagine her costume in more realistic terms with some success, but increased realism comes at the cost of bringing Diana closer down to earth. [Read more…]

Wonder Woman, Flying, Part 1: Transcendent Hope

wonderwoman1It’s one of my favorite images of Diana of Themyscira, a.k.a. Wonder Woman: her proud, bold body fills the page as she soars across a pink sunset, arms spread wide like a diver, her legs not straight but slightly askew as if skipping on the air.

As someone who never had much use for comics, I’m still a little surprised that I even have a favorite image of Wonder Woman, or that I prefer to call her Diana. Now she intrigues me for many reasons, but it was this image that helped me to “get” her and, indeed, to fall in love with her character.

I’ve read probably a hundred comic book titles in the six years since I really started to get into them—and I mean full-on novels running several hundred pages as well as the volumes that collect five to eight issues of a series—but I still tend to think of them as lighter fare, the medium I looked to for mental stimulation those early nights of parenthood when my newborn needed rocking, the medium I still prefer when my children, now six and three, are playing by themselves but I’m not confident I’ll be able to focus for long.

Yet for all their blatant dialogue and over-the-top action, I find that the good comics really do reach beyond entertainment status to become serious, thoughtful stories about morality, justice, and even the violence so central to many of them. And like any good story, the best comics develop these themes through the tools of their medium and not merely through a few key lines of dialogue. That’s what this image from George Pérez’s 1980s reboot of Wonder Woman does for me. [Read more…]

Sexist Assumptions and the Difficult, Dirty Work of Grace

IMG_7501My husband was deep into a bathroom remodeling project when he asked me to stop by the home improvement store to grab a faucet connector. He had purchased the wrong size on his previous trip, and I was out running errands anyway.

A young female employee met me in the plumbing section. I tried to decipher the details from my husband’s text but couldn’t figure out what the succession of measurements meant. The employee didn’t know either, so I called my husband to confirm.

After I hung up, the employee shook her head: “Don’t you love how men send their wives out to do their dirty work?” [Read more…]

My Mother, My Daughter, Myself

6091832360_c140db4ca7_mMy daughter Anna Maria was born on Orthodox Easter Sunday—Pascha—six years ago. That year, the date fell on April 19. While her brother had blasted his way into the world at the very bottom of the night, in a delivery that was swift and surreal and un-medicated, my daughter arrived in the late afternoon as the sunlight was just beginning to dim. I latched her to my breast and asked my husband to run go get me a hamburger, fries, and a gin and tonic, as well as a big cup of coffee.

I was forty years old. Among the number of reasons we named our daughter Anna Maria was the teaching of Holy Tradition that the Virgin Mary’s mother was named Anna, and that she and her husband Joachim had long prayed for the little daughter who had been born to her when she was of an advanced age for the era. [Read more…]


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