I’ve been watching the reviews of Glamourpuss roll in, and the favorable ones talk about what a shame it is that there are people who won’t give the book a second glance because of Dave Sim’s reputation for misogyny.
I understand that Sim is a legendary artist, and that Cerebus is a great work. I understand that he’s very skilled and very talented. However, he has a view on women that not only makes me uncomfortable to read, but that will doubtless anger me if I did. And it may not surface itself until he one day goes off on a rant through the mouth of his character. And if I were drawn into the work and followed it and then suddenly found myself face to face with the idea that women are “voids” who suck the light out of men, it would be a slap in the face. It would hurt one hundred times worse than some random guy on a message board spouting this idea because by then I would have respect for the creator’s work and would care about his opinion.
So, in order to prevent that, to keep my blood pressure down, I avoid all of Dave Sim’s work.
I don’t see a problem with this.
Now, I know that there will be someone reading this who thinks this means I’m closing myself off to all opinions that clash with my own. But opinions get measured in degrees. Some writers have a slight idea that slips into someone you otherwise adore, that you mentally disagree with but you still love the story. Some writers have an idea or a slight political leaning that can rub you the wrong way, but you can still appreciate a good tale. Some writers have terrible attitudes about race and gender that you can rationalize away while reading, and still enjoy the story. And some writers have opinions that are so opposed to yours that you are repulsed by the resolution of the story or the passage that outlines the idea. If someone is that far away from me, no amount of skill is going to make up for it. I will get angry when I see the idea. I’m not going to give them a chance, because that would be like turning on that political pundit you always disagree with. You don’t need to, and you’re better off without them.
I also know that someone will think I’m saying to just stop reading something rather than criticize problematic parts (even though you like everything else about it.) That’s another major oversimplification. Just as ideas are measured in degrees, so is quality. And, as fans, we all recognize an emotional investment in certain characters and story types and the need to see what happens next. So you measure that against what you dislike, and you enjoy what makes it enjoyable, criticize what you dislike, and continue to buy what you think is worth it. If the ideas go overboard for you, and overwhelm the quality, you drop it.
If you have no investment in picking up a story, and know that the creator has ideas that repulse you and overwhelm the quality of a work for you, then you don’t bother. I don’t think this is a shame. There are plenty of people who don’t consider Sim’s views on gender a deal-breaker. There are plenty of people who can be drawn into that world and not feel that it’s a slap in the face when his attitudes surface. Good for them.
But am I missing out for not reading it? Yes. I’m missing out on the blinding rage, disappointment, and disgust that will undoubtedly ruin any enjoyment I can get out of the story itself. I’m okay with that.
And I think it’s a smart consumer who avoids a writer they know they will hate.