TRIGGER WARNING! Sexual harassment being defined as: “Harassment includes offensive verbal comments related to race, gender, sexual orientation, disability, appearance, body size and religion, sexual images in public spaces, deliberate intimidation, stalking, following, harassing photography or recording, sustained disruption of talks or other events, inappropriate physical contact and unwelcome sexual attention.” Please note: where “harassment” and “assault” are called out separately it’s to gauge the number of incidents that involve physical situations versus spoken harassment, stalking, etc. All are taken very seriously and are worth discussing but in the interest of gathering data I’d love to know the difference in numbers of spoken harassment, stalking, etc. versus outright sexual violence. Where just “harassment” is used it’s meant to encompass all of the above. If you need support due to harassment, here are some excellent resources: http://www.rainn.orghttp://www.feminist.org/911/harass.htmlhttp://www.eeoc.gov/laws/types/sexual_harassment.cfm
This is a survey about sexual harassment in comics culture/industry that was sent my way. I’m posting it to hopefully give it a larger sample space. Please don’t troll it (many people have, and they are also attacking the author and threatening her with assault, which is gross and ironic given the nature of the survey), because this is important and serious.
In October of 2012, I was enrolled in one of my first serious animation classes, with a professor who I rather admired. I admired him so much, in fact, that I caught him outside of class time and asked him to review a few of my personal character designs. I was a very mediocre artist at that point (as opposed to now, where I’m a slightly less mediocre artist) and upon presenting my teacher with my designs, which were all intended to be different characters with different stories and different appearances, he barely had to scrutinize them before he delivered his verdict: “They all have the same face.”
And, I was dismayed to discover, he was right.
Since then, I have studied long and hard, so that my female characters may no longer have the Exact Same Face. Huh…female characters. Funny how that works, isn’t it?
A few months after this incident, the official character designs for Disney’s Frozen were leaked.
Up until then, all we had seen was concept art, which was so far removed from these that a lot of people thought they were faked, me among them. I seriously believed that someone with too much time on their hands had photomanipulated some screenshots of Rapunzel and tried to pass them off as the official Frozen designs. After all, there was no way that a major animation studio like Disney would knowingly, willfully produce three princesses with the Exact Same Face.
And again…princesses. Female characters. Exact Same Face. Something is amiss here.
Unfortunately, I overestimated Disney, and it was revealed that these were the real character designs indeed. Even though I will concede that, yes, there are some slight differences between the Frozen girls and Rapunzel, there are zero changes in the faces of Anna and Elsa. Zero. They have the same facial structure, the same eyes eyes, the same nose, the same mouth…and while we’re at it, the same body too, with the exception of Elsa being a little taller. The only differences are in skin tone and surface details, such as freckles and makeup (which, as I’ll cover in a moment, don’t fulfill even the most rudimentary basics of good character design — but we’ll get to that). So, how did this happen? How did a design mistake that would get you called out in a beginning animation class end up in a major Disney release?
In my opinion, the answer isn’t necessarily limited time, which was certainly a factor in Frozen, or laziness, or the fact that they’re all CG characters (sorry, 2D animation advocates, but lots of 3D girls do not look identical). To me, this speaks to a disturbing trend in Disney’s general approach towards designing female characters.
This is very long, but it gets into some stuff we’ve talked about on this blog, about making female characters look the same because they have to fit a very narrow standard of beauty, and even if you’re varying tiny features, the restrictions mean that they end up looking like clones. If female characters need to be pretty, and pretty means big eyes, no wrinkles, small nose, round face, thin legs, etc, then even if you’re trying to make them different you really can’t make them look all that different. And it’s something a lot of us absorb because so much of the media we consume is already like that, so we do more of it, sometimes without realizing, because when we add wrinkles, she looks old, so we erase them, and we can’t have her legs be too thick, or she’ll look fat, so we slim them down, and we end up with a bunch of clones with different hairstyles and clothes.
I love this blog! Before I found it I was frustrated my drawings felt odd and wrong and made no sense compared to same poses in comics. But now I know it's because they ignore proportion and anatomy for the sake of "sexy" - opposite from art school.
I’m glad my blog’s helped you feel better about your drawings. :)
In honor of a question I’ve received several times, today’s list is dedicated to the writers out there! It’s short but sweet. Here are three wonderful guides to writing people of color when you’re white or generally writing a culture you’re not a part of. Hope this helps!
I want to talk about a comic art convention I see from time to time that really gets up my nose. Now, when I say convention, I mean an accepted technique or practice in the field rather than a gathering of gloriously enthusiastic nerds in costume. In this instance, I am talking about a particular drawing shortcut that is accepted as “solid” and “professional” in the industry that I find teeth-grindingly lazy and bizarre. I call it “Subway Sandwich Thighs”. As illustrated below:
As you can see, the thigh and the calf are sandwiched together, mid-air, without anything pressing against the underside of the calf to make it that way. Legs do not work that way, not even in bendy women. We cannot bend our legs and make them do that in mid-air. For that to happen, we need to put our weight on our bent legs, kneeling on the ground. It is the weight of our bodies that pushes the two parts of the legs together. Usually, the legs splay to the side, so that they aren’t pushed together too hard. We often sit on the side of our butts after about three or four minutes, cause that shit is uncomfortable.
As an experiment, go in front of a mirror, and try to bend your leg as much as you can, pressing your heel to your buttock. Do not use your hands to press the foot and buttock together – just check how close you can get naturally. If you’re a guy, I really want you to try this.
Now, stand there and imagine flying for more than ten minutes in that position. It fucking hurts, doesn’t it? It’s tight, it’s unnatural. It’s the sort of thing a dancer does for two seconds before leaping away into another pose. It is not a natural position to take.
I half-jokingly wonder if artists employ it because it evokes the mental imagery of a woman splaying on top of a man during intercourse, straddling him. It can display the buttocks in a pleasing way, and it also makes much of the crotch. But it’s the most ridiculous bloody drawing convention outside of the Rubber Spine thing, and I’d be more than happy if it died a quiet death.
Here are some gymnasts, naturally flexible people, bending their legs in the middle of routines. Notice their aren’t squishing the two halves of their legs together:
Here are some women kneeling. Just for reference for later corrections:
And now, some corrections:
Okay, enough of me picking on JSC. Here’s the nitty gritty of the matter, and a hat-tip to stylistic choices:
Thanks to tumblr’s downscaling, the red text is: Leg too long, No pelvis all butt, heel goes where? and Where leg go? as well as “This looks odd but my body is really like this”.
The anatomy I’ve done isn’t perfect, but I think I illustrate my point.
The Anatomy of a Fuck Up:
So what’s happening here? Why are people making this mistake over and over? The reason is twofold.
One: Mistaken anatomy.
When these artists draw their stuff to arse-up, face-down, no-time-to-fart deadlines, they don’t have the leisure I do to stop and think about how a woman looks when doing these poses. So when they have to think about a woman flying mid-air, they think about a woman kneeling, rather than an actual woman with her leg in the air. They just transfer the kneeling leg position to the upright position, even though the human muscles, tendons and body mass DO NOT ALLOW for that to happen. With kneeling positions, they just go ahead and trundle out the shortcuts they learnt earlier in the piece, without thought to how heels and butt-cracks work.
Two: It’s Not Important.
In most situations, accuracy of a woman’s anatomy is not important in a comic book or graphic novel. A female character must be alluring above all, so certain anatomically impossible conventions get the wave and are never fixed. Other people learn these “shortcuts” and that it’s okay to draw like that, and it keeps on happening. FOREVER.
I’m not saying don’t use sweeping lines for style. I’m just saying let’s not have utterly ridiculous anatomy going on. These women characters take up so little space already. Draw them as the leg is supposed to look and suddenly they have legs and tendons and physical signs of strength. I guess that isn’t sexy enough?
One of my favourite blogs highlights and explains something about how women are drawn in superhero comics that has bugged me for a while but I couldn’t put it into exact words. Almost all of these pictures have also been on this blog before. Artists do this with a lot of other stuff with women too, such as with breasts, where they create cleavage with clothing or poses where there should be none because their references are from pictures in a different context from what they’re drawing (and they seem to hate having characters wear bras).