Monday, October 16, 2006

The Lighthearted Humor of Casual Incest

If you're interested in a complete rundown of the plot, background, and detailed allusions in the Dr. Thirteen backup story in Tales of the Unexpected #1, please read this post at Absorboscan.

That's not what I've come to talk about.

I've come to talk about incest which, if you go by the statistics, is overwhelmingly cases of older male relatives raping younger female relatives. If you go by media portrayals, though, you're likely to think that half the time there's some teeange Lolita "coming on" to the older male. I counted three distinct incest references in the brief first part of Dr. Thirteen. None were deeply hidden in subtext.

1. Father's dream of "slutty daughter" hanging over shirtless father in bed.

2. "Doomsbury Mansion, our in -- uh -- ancestral home."

3. "Daddy . . . Would you eat me?"

So, what percentage of incestuous relationships begin by a daughter seducing her unwilling father? If any number or decimal in your percentage is above "zero", you're probably estimating a little on the high side.

I fear this story is already verging on paedophiliac propoganda, in which any bad things that happen to the daughter will be because she was "asking for it."

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Blogger Scipio said...

"2. "Doomsbury Mansion, our in -- uh -- ancestral home."

3. "Daddy . . . Would you eat me?""

I can't see anything sexual in 2 no matter how hard I look and you cut out the context of 3, a discussion about cannabilism.

Come, now!

5:28 AM  
Blogger Ragtime said...

Oh, come on now! He had to stop himself from saying "Incestral"!

And I think you've got to be pretty blind to miss the sexual undertones of the cannibalism talk.

6:05 AM  
Anonymous Tamora Pierce said...

Let's not forget that "the kid came on to me" is the classic pedophile's excuse. Never mind that it is never the kid's responsibility.

6:46 AM  
Blogger Ragtime said...

That's exactly right. There is something called the "Availability Heuristic." Something seems more or less credible depending on how easy it is to pull up an example of it in your mind.

When a juror hears how "She asked for it" in an underage sex case, the easier it is to pull up an example of Dr. Thirteen's tartlet daughter, or a Long Island Lolita type story, the more credible the "She came on to me" defense is to an average juror.

7:23 AM  
Anonymous trilobite said...

The fact that HE was dreaming of the daughter coming on to him and then HE almost Freudian-slipped "incestral home" kinda says to me that HE's the one with incest on his mind -- not her. She's not portrayed as coming on to him, he's portrayed as fantasizing that she is. This is presumably a setup for a plot about his mental problems, not hers.

Now, why we are being asked to sympathize with a protaganist who lusts after his teenage daughter, is another story. Personally, that does not work for me.

2:57 PM  
Blogger Ragtime said...

I think the "HE is the one with incest on his mind" is overriden by the flirtaciously sexual "Would you eat me?" While always holding open the possibility that I'm mistaken, I just can't see this one portrayed as a one-way street of obsession.

8:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

After just finishing the story, I have to agree that there is an obvious theme of incest running throughout. Anyone who denies that is not reading the same book.

But I'm not so sure that this is really "casual incest." Something is clearly wrong with Thirteen. He is ether fighting some serious incestous desires or he is under the influence of a demonic force. On account that "Vertigo" is nowhere on the cover, I think it's safe to say that the later is the case.

I think the problem with this story is not the inclusion of incest. Incest is a very real thing and must be addressed in literature. Even comic books. But because this is not a "mature readers" title, incest cannot be deplicted as the disturbing act it truely is. Instead of seeing Thirteen's distress, we get some "subtle humor." Or, if the writers honestly wanted to address it with humor, at least a Vertigo title would allow the humor to be dark enough that there would be no confusion as to the text's attitude towards the act.

I guess my point is that "Dr. 13" is a horror story that is not allowed to truly address the horrors (incest) that it invokes, as a "mature readers" designation would have effected sales.

But really, who under 18 would even want to read a Dr. 13 story?

7:43 PM  
Blogger Ragtime said...

Hi Rob,

I agree with your general assessment, but I have to go back to your conclusion that because it is not a "mature" title, it can't be addressed properly, so the best they can do is address it improperly.

No, the best they can do is not address it at all. I think doing it "wrong" is much worse than chosing a different topice that they can do "right".

8:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, my point wasn't that "the best they can do is address it improperly," but that it's a mistake to address it outside of a Vertigo book. Because they've included the story in a general audiences (i.e. open to children) they've doomed the story to be offensively flippant about the seriousness of incest. I agree with you that if they couldn't have done this right, responsibly in a mature readers title, they shouldn't have donw it at all.

I would have loved to sit in on the meeting between the editor and writer.

Editor: So you want to do a Dr. Thirteen story, huh? He was just in 52! Why don't we make it a backup for the Specter miniseries?

Writer: But my proposal involves incest. Don't you think that is a little inappropriate? I mean, I was thinking this would be a Vertigo book. Should I take it out?

Editor: No! We've got to appeal to the capes fans. Only snooty English majors who only call comic books "graphic novels" buy Vertigo titles. We need to make money on this. Just lighten up the incest stuff. Don't make it so serious.

Writer: But a kid might read it...

Editor: No, they won't! They're too busy reading thier Identity Crisis trades.

I know I'm giving the writer way too much credit, but I really beleive that the editorial decision to make this a non-Vertigo story is motivated purely by money.

5:54 AM  
Blogger Ragtime said...


In that case, I think we agree completely!

9:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No daughter experience but once had a female 1st cousin who was a few years younger make some not so subtle overtures. I actually wish now I had really pursued it. As it is, I have some memories of some nice moments that definitely could have turned into something steamier.

6:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fact is, younger girls can and do "ask for it". I don't think guys of any age should be boinking 9 year olds but what about a girl in her mid-teens, fully capable of child-bearing, not just making subtle hints but demanding you sleep with her? It happened to me. I didn't acquiesce though I felt desire for her as would any guy whether they're honest about it or not. Whether you're a "pervert" is dependent on whatever arbitrary number your state's legislature comes up with. Apparently you're "respectable" in one state if she's 14, a pedo in another state if she's 17. Good lord, once upon a time if a girl wasn't married by 20 she was regarded as something of a spinster.

6:30 AM  

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