Saturday, January 02, 2010

Buffy: Scott Allie's response to criticisms of the art in Buffy the Vampire Slayer season 8

Morgan Stewart, from Memphis, Tennessee, sent in a letter to the Buffy comic questioning the homogoenous body shape of the women in the drawn Buffyverse.  She does say that the 'gorgeous actresses from the show appear leggier, busier and even thinner'.  She also writed that 'the story itself has done so much to empower girls across the globe that I hate to see it take even the tiniest baby step backwards.'  She doens't criticse the qaulity of the art, she names the art beautiful and cool.
Scott Allie first turned the letter over to the artist, Georges Jeanty who provided a response, then Allie added a few more lines.  I reproduce it for you here:
Emphasis is mine.

--------------------------------------------------

[Georges Jeanty]  - I'm kinda surprised that Buffy is receiving criticism for unrealistic body shapes.  This is something that I have paid particular attention to from the beginning.  I strive to make sure that Buffy, a book about many different types of girls, has a diversity not normally seen in comics.  Given that the majority of books published today have little or no regard for how females - or males, for that matter - actually look, Buffy is drawn with a sharp eye for the individual form.
That said, most of the lead actors of the show do have amazing figures!  It can get difficult to promote diversity when many of the characters have been in the pages of Maxim.  It's no secret that society and television tend to favor really good-looking girls for lead roles, and women like Sarah Michelle Gellar and Eliza Dushku have a certain body type, which you're going to see frequently drawn, because they are the leads.
But there is diversity.  You'll notice that Buffy and Dawn have different body types.  None of Joss's characters are particularly chesty, and I think I've stayed true to that.  Whenever I'm drawing these characters I use reference photos to make sure I'm not getting not just actor's faces, but also body types.  As for the other Slayers, I have tried to include girls of all ethnicities, shapes and sizes.  Now, if these distinctions aren't readily visible, that's because most of the Slayers are either dressed for battle or too far in the background to really be defined by their form.
I agree that more ofen than not in comics girls are objectified and aren't true representations of the female form, but I know in Buffy I am making a conscious effort to keep the girls diverse.

[Scott Allie] - There you have it.  Again, I'm sure those who have issue with the book remain totally unsatisfied with our answers - How'd you put it Morgan? "You can talk to me about how it's in the tradition of the art form, and a distinct style, and blah blah blah.  I don't care."  We do care, and we've strived to be respectful.  Recently a piece of art came in from another artist and Georges pointed out to me that a main character's breasts were too large.  All of this is very subjective, very much in the eye of the beholder, and we let our conscience guide us, but in the end, the high concept has always been a beautiful blond who fights monsters.

-------------------------------------------------------

Where to start eh?

Jeanty claims he has paid attention to this issue and strived to include different body types.  He points out that Dawn and Buffy are drawn differently and that none of the characters are particularly chesty.  In this he is correct, and this is good.

He points out that most comics draw women with no regard for real human women and he also mentions men.  Why mention men?  This isn't about men.  To bring unrealistic depictions of men into this is to ignore and push aside the specific problems facing women in comics, as linked in with the issues facing women in wider culture and society.  In a word, derailing.  He should go have a look here for an example of why women in comics face different issues to men in comics.


Then he says that most of the actresses 'do have amazing figures'.  This ignores Ms Stewart's criticism that the 'gorgeous actresses from the show appear leggier, busier and even thinner'.  It also ignores her point about the other Slayers.  At the end of the day it doesn't matter if 'society and television tend to favor really good-looking girls for lead roles', because the letter was a) about the other Slayers and b) about how the actresses are depicted in the comics.  His comment is a non-answer and doesn't address the problems.

Jeanty claims that Gellar and Dushku have certain body types.  If he is implying that they have similar body shapes, I disagree.  I think Dushku is more athletic.  If you watch season 7 you can see quite clearly that Buffy and Faith look very different - no one could seriously state they have the same body.

His next point is laughable:
if these distinctions aren't readily visible, that's because most of the Slayers are either dressed for battle or too far in the background to really be defined by their form.

Really?  Does he really want to pull that one?  Does he want to claim that the characters are out of his control  and chosoe to be in the background?  That battle armour hides fat girls, tall girls and short girls?  Who is he trying to kid?

His closing comment of  'I am making a conscious effort to keep the girls diverse' leads me to suggest that he needs to take a step back, reappraise his work and not come up with half assed explanations.  I believe that he is trying to address the problem of overly sexualised women in comics, he has just failed to address the problems that Ms Stewart brought up.  My guess is he is too wrapped up in how priviledge to see these issues.  I'd be pleased to explain further to him.  On the plus side, his is capable of drawing characters from different ethnicities.  Pity that wasn't relevant to the letter.

Now, for Scott Allie's response.
How'd you put it Morgan? "You can talk to me about how it's in the tradition of the art form, and a distinct style, and blah blah blah.  I don't care."  We do care, and we've strived to be respectful.  
Well you're not being remotely respectful now.  I know, he doesn't have to be, but it does seem like bad form to be rude to a fan when they have politely raised some issues with your comic.




Recently a piece of art came in from another artist and Georges pointed out to me that a main character's breasts were too large.
That's great! But that doesn't absolve Jeanty of all problems!

His closing comment, of: in the end, the high concept has always been a beautiful blond who fights monsters simply dismisses the letter writers concerns and all efforts at response that have already been made.  If that was the high concept, and I would argue that it is more complicated than that, it doens't make the criticisms go away.  In fact, it reinforces them.  Just because he's admitted something may have sexist elements, doesn't make the sexism ok.

6 comments:

Ultimate internet store said...

This is a very informative blog.
I have never see like this before.
Please keep it up.
I think you should visit my website because i have some paintings from france and some from peris they are really very good.I have an art work shop on internet. I have some photos of my last vacation. Thank you.

Boudica said...

Great post. Jeantty's response seems along the lines of 'I'm not the most sexist artist out there, so you have no right to criticise me, besides I'm also less racist than some others so give me a cookie.'

You're absolutely right that he speaks from privilege. He has made some small concessions and seems offended and angry that more is asked of him.

I do love Buffy. But it's laced with stereotypes and beliefs so ingrained that they are hard to verbalise. Prejudice/privilege/isms are like an onion. The most egregious (the first layer) are much less prevalent than they were, though really not gone. Often the sexism we're trying to draw attention to is in the second layer - more subtle, more covert, much less understood.

I think that's where the comments about lack of diversity in body shape are coming from - and are spot on. Buffy and Faith are both tiny - if different. Where are the tall slayers, the muscular slayers, the heavy slayers? I don't think 'peak physical condition' looks the same as 'current ideal of feminine beauty'.

londonkds said...

Since the last complaint about the depiction of female bodies in the letters column of "Buffy" I've been keeping track, and I'd love to ask him to point out these allegedly non-bikini-model female bodies in the crowd scenes. Because I haven't seen any in Jeanty issues.

bellatrys said...

"It could be worse" is *never* a good defense. NABA FTW!

morgiepoo said...

Hello! I am the girl who sent in the letter and I've been searching the internet to see what other Buffy fans think. The truth is I sent in that letter TWO YEARS ago, got a snippy, short response from Scott, and have stopped keeping up with the comic. I don't know if the body type diversity has increased since last I read it, but if the cover issue of Willow naked is any indication, I'm guessing it hasn't. I believe that Jeanty thinks that he is trying, and his illustrations probably aren't as bad as others, but he is probably desensitized to it and can't see it from a teenage girl's perspective. And did it really take them two years to come up with something to say?

Saranga said...

hi morgiepoo thanks for stopping by!

2 years ago eh? the level of fail just increased 10 fold. the body type hasn't increased, at all, altho last issue's cover at least wasn't about the naked sexyness.

It appears neither scott, nor jeanty understand any woman's perspective, teenage or not.