This week in comics and my rant on Jason Aaron's "Scalped"
Last night as I was reading issue 43 I was saddened to see yet another Native American woman sexualized and used without any power at all by two men in the same night.
In issue 41, we open with a pregnant Native American woman smoking and then throwing herself off of a set of stairs to kill her unborn baby. Then she uses a coat hanger to try and give herself an abortion.
I have yet to see a single strong, self empowered Native American woman in Scalped and I think this is just so sad because Jason Aaron is a great writer, a fantastic storyteller, but he's made up his mind so far to use his comic book series to be hurtful towards Native American women.
As a writer and editor of Aboriginal comic books, I've been watching Jason Aaron for years now so I do not do what he does. I can't be the only person out there who's being vocal about this. I know Blue Corn Comics publisher Rob Schmidt has never been happy with Scalped, and I've been wishing for over a year now that Jason would use Scalped to show how it is Native American women now who are usually running the schools, health departments, curriculum development, libraries, band offices, etc. etc. I could go on and on.
Jason Aaron could say (and probably will say) that he continues to show how Native American women have no voice or power in modern day society, and this is why he continues to write like this. To this I say: bullshit.
To Vertigo Comics, I say shame on you for publishing such hurtful literature.
To editor, Will Dennis, and Associate Editor, Mark Doyle, I say shame on you, as well.
At what point was it okay for three men to get together and agree it was okay to brutalize Native American women by continually portraying them as whores, sluts and junkies?
Way to go, guys. I'd like you all to respond to what I'm saying here. Scalped is hate literature, in my opinion. I'm now cancelling my subscription. I can't stomach or support this anymore.
The Native American women I know are self empowered, strong, leaders, matriarchs.
Yes, there are Native American women who hurting, but show the leaders. Show the strength. Show the dignity.
I can't imagine how heartbeaking reading "Scalped" must be for a young Native American woman or girl.
Moreover, he's read every issue, which I haven't. He's confirmed that SCALPED has made zero progress toward presenting a more complex view--at least of Native women. They were whores, sluts, and junkies in #1 and they're still whores, sluts, and junkies in #43, almost four years later.
In Mile Post 398 vs. SCALPED, I wrote:
In SCALPED, the good/bad ratio is more like 10/90. This is relentlessly, unalterably bad. It's far worse than the rez life depicted in Mile Post 398 or in any real or fictional reservation I've seen. Hence my dismissal of SCALPED's stereotypical vision.
Where's the reality?
Over the last year or so, violence against Native women has received a lot of press. Women forced into prostitution and sex slavery, women gone missing or murdered, etc. The problem is still acute, but people are becoming aware of it. They're organizing protests, holding hearings, and passing laws to address the situation.
Is any of this evident in SCALPED? According to Van Camp, no. The series is missing the leaders and matriarchs who are fighting for Native women. It's missing anything other than its nightmarish (noirish) view of reservation life.
Would anyone accept a comic book or TV series about blacks that featured only gangsters, pimps, and "hos"? No, which is why there's never been such a thing, basically. The cries of racism would be instantaneous and overwhelming. But the same approach goes unremarked or gets praised in SCALPED. People really think Indians are degenerates and reservations are hellholes, so they tout SCALPED for its "realism."
For more on the subject, see Media Ignores Victimized Native Women, Irene Bedard Abused, and 500 Red Dresses for Victimized Women.
Another interesting point is the evolution of Van Camp's views. He initially seemed gung ho about SCALPED, sharing the prevailing "finally, a hard-hitting series about modern-day Indians" attitude. But he's a smart and sensitive guy, so eventually his views changed. After 40-some issues, it became obvious that SCALPED wasn't setting the stage for a more complex, less stereotypical view of Indians. This was pretty much it: Indian men as criminals, thugs, and lowlifes and Indian women as whores, sluts, and junkies. In other words, a clever rehash of the standard Native stereotypes: Indians as savages, drunks, and squaws.
I wonder if any other Native supporters of SCALPED have changed their views. It would be interesting to see the trend lines on that. How many Natives have gone from thinking SCALPED = good to SCALPED = stereotypical like Van Camp? How many started off praising SCALPED for its honesty and ended up criticizing it for its dishonesty?
And how many have gone in the other direction? How many have read 40-something issues and said, "You know, I thought SCALPED was stereotypical at first, but now I've changed my mind. It's presenting a three-dimensional view of Indians totally unlike the thousands of racist portrayals of the past"? I'd love to see the numbers on that.
Anyway, kudos to Van Camp for taking a stand against Jason Aaron, SCALPED, and Vertigo. Van Camp is trying to tell the truth about Natives in his books and comic books. He's doing that here, too.
For more on Van Camp's views, see Van Camp's New Comic Books and Van Camp on Aboriginal Comics. For more on SCALPED, see Native Noir Comic Books and Okay to Stereotype in Noir Comics?
Below: A slutty woman on a SCALPED cover. Because the vast majority of Native women are like that, you know. They're big breasted, flat-bellied sex objects just like in SCALPED. (For my less intelligent readers, note the heavy sarcasm.)