The amazing Xaime Hernandez. Widely considered one of the world’s greatest living cartoonists.
I’ve just been reading one of his collections, The Education of Hopey Glass. One of the stories in it is about Maggie’s old flame Ray and his burgeoning relationship with Viv, AKA Frogmouth. It’s told from Ray’s point-of-view for the most part and it evokes such an incredible cocktail of feelings familiar to many adult relationships. The mixture of lust, confusion, petty irritation, sweetness, uncertainty and trying to decide how deeply we want to be in another person’s world as well as let them into our own. It’s a very grown-up story.
Another thing that interests me is about Xaime’s art in general. He draws some of the most stunningly beautiful women in comics, while at the same time writing them as among the most fully-realized and complex characters in all of fiction, let alone comics. This brings up something intriguing. Are Xaime’s women objectified?
The answer for me is, in some cases, yes. Look at Viv (middle row). She’s stunning. Obviously anyone attracted to women would find her beautiful. It’s part of the way we are that we see certain body types or other visual cues and respond to them with desire and even lust. This is not, in itself, wrong. Or if it is, you might as well blame people for salivating when they smell apple pie. It’s an automatic response. There is, however, as with anything involving human behavior, more to it than that.
Xaime doesn’t show you a beautiful woman for a moment’s titillation and then move on to tell us about all the important man stuff that’s going on. Xaime is interested in who this woman is. What makes Viv, Viv? Why is she so difficult and infuriating?
Most of the Frogmouth story surrounds the events at a party where Ray runs into Viv. A half-seen altercation and the weeks-long fall-out. Ray never really gets the full picture, but rather than write Viv off as some flaky woman with sketchy friends, he stays with her and sort of makes peace with not understanding everything. Viv is complicated. She’s people. Like with most people, the more layers you peel back, the more interesting she becomes. Yes, Viv is desirable on the outside, but that’s not the sum of her parts.
So, something to think about. Just because a character can be objectified doesn’t mean they can’t ALSO be complex and fascinating. This is not a black-and-white issue. It’s an area for thoughtful exploration.