First I should mention that this hyperlink is courtesy of Webcomics Nation, and clicking the comic will take you to the series. WCN briefly went down, and I had thought this might have something to do with Joey’s untimely crossing over, which I’d mentioned previously. But they’re back and I have no further details than that…
Also I should mention that this comic was originally drawn on the anniversary of Ian Curtis’s untimely and self-imposed crossing over, for those who didn’t know. And while I’m not sure what more die-hard Joy Division fans I know (Hi Lisa!) will think of him being portrayed as a Scooby Doo-esque cartoon ghost, well, I’ve always had that black humor streak. (And that blue humor streak, but it’s not figuring into this particular comic.)
It’s come to my attention yet again, however, that not everyone appreciates black humor as a coping mechanism, or actually anything less than Good-Morning-Starshine as a coping mechanism. Most recently this article, which originated on the site Everyday Feminism has made the rounds, and while I don’t know what the author’s actual experience, if any, with mental illness is, I have to disagree with much of her take on her subject matter. I find it erroneous, and in the possibility of further stigmatizing someone who may choose to express their problems in the manner described, possibly even hurtful.
The author has decided that an aesthetic called “soft grunge” is bad and terrible because it “glamorizes” mental illness. According to her, soft grunge found primarily on Tumblr, consists of images and captions putting an aesthetic spin on dark subject matter. According to her it began with millennials, and no one has ever created anything with such content before that. No Greek tragedies, no Vienna Aktionists, no Theatre of Cruelty or Cinema of Transgression or Diane Arbus , Gina Pane, Marina Abramovich or Bosch or Goya or Posada or any of it, I must’ve dreamt all that stuff existed before. In a section that reminds me of the hand-wringing adults of my youth who thought me & my friends were druggies, devil worshippers, etc. she then catastrophizes that everyone who likes this kind of thing is going to “negatively impact” the rest of the world (doesn’t say how) and that although she occasionally “enjoys an arty black & white photo” (Oh my god. Lady. You’re really Richard Kern, aren’t you? This is a big hoax, right?) it is “NOT okay” for us to discuss or explore negative emotions through art, because that’s “glorifying” and “appropriating” mental illness. (Because only those of us with bona fide mental illnesses can ever feel sad or angry, right?) She also seems to have some kind of issue with the level of attractiveness of some of the people she’s seen in photos, making me wonder if this isn’t really all about something else. And reminding me of a guy who once dismissed the idea of my zines dealing with ACTUAL mental health experiences by saying “You have a mental illness? You’re a pretty girl, what kind of problems could you have?” Do people really not think what’s on your face and what’s in your head can be two mutually exclusive things? She then attacks sad people for “bringing everyone else down” and gives us a lengthy diatribe about having emotions and “moving on”, in other words, the old classic “JUST GET OVER IT”. You know, and practice self-censorship, that’s what she’s essentially advocating.
Oh, and apparently “Twilight” figures into this. Not sure why, I thought that was about a vampire with a penchant for body glitter or something.
Anyway, since I guess my dripping sarcasm already creates a rebuttal of sorts to her talking points, let me present my philosophy on dealing with our personal shadows and making art. I do not believe in denying or repressing stuff. Whether you are someone living with an actual mental illness diagnosis, or a neurotypical person who just needs to process some rough shit happening in your life, no one has the right to tell you your feelings are right or wrong, or tell you how you’re allowed to express them through images, music, writing, or anything else. Furthermore, from the elaborate rituals surrounding death in ancient Egypt (hey, aren’t those Pyramids great big old death monuments? Someone should tell those Egyptians to stop glamorizing that stuff and replace them with statues of giant pink bunnies at once!) to the Indian path of Aghora which recognizes the ties between death and transformation, to Nietzche’s quotes about staring contests with the Abyss, there have always been those who recognized that the darker aspects of life are still a part of the encompassing All. All positives contain within them a negative, and vice-versa. I believe in tackling these things head on in my work, not pretending they don’t exist. And for others, if they’re in a place in their lives where such things resonate with them, LET THEM BE. If you don’t like it, don’t look at what they post, write, or draw! Maybe, like me, they are finding a comfort in such imagery, or using them as part of a healing process even. Who is anyone else to tell them they’re “doing it wrong”?
Anyway, here’s some Gina Pane stuff & Gunter Brus. Trigger Warning for self-injury, which I believe you all have the autonomy to decide for yourselves whether you want to watch or not, instead of just telling you what to do.