Behind Open Doors
First published: April, 1989. First posted online: June 27, 2005.
Steve Jackson is a fantabulous guy. He made the Yamara collection a reality, of course, but more than that he has no qualms about telling it like he sees it. He’ll say it to Secret Service men breaking the Constitution, and he’ll say it to goofy comic creators who break common artistic conventions.
We didn’t actually meet Steve until after the book was out. That was all done by phone, fax, UPS, and a little bit of email. We went to the first Dreamation, in 1995, specifically because he was there. At first, we found ourselves confronted by larpers– and we didn’t even really know that word yet– and almost despaired of finding him. But happily someone stepped out of character long enough to direct us up to the staff suite, where we met Steve and the wonderful Double Exposure crew.
Anyhow. After a bit of conversation, Steve gave Chris a long look and asked, “Why do you sometimes draw Yamara like a small man?” This strip likely exemplifies what he was talking about, and thus becomes host to an echo chamber of sexual irony.
Q. So… why do you sometimes draw Yamara like a small man?
The short answer is: Real life.
First, let me heartily acknowledge I’m not the foremost artist of this, or any, age. The issue of consistency of a comic character from panel to panel is an important one, and I don’t always get that right, not early on here in this series, anyway.
And yet… the question was not “Why does Yamara change from panel to panel?” It was a bit more specific, and I’d like to address that.
Beyond a mere range of body types, women are very changeable in appearance, individually and as groups, moment to moment, hour to hour, year to year. Women themselves know this, though it may not be expressed too clearly very often: It’s part of the motivator behind buying the dozen pairs of shoes, and numerous outfits. Shopping is an imperfect method of addressing the issue, of course, though it is the one allowed for in our culture.
The image of what a woman “should” look like is an enforcement of culture and the tastes of whoever can afford to market their tastes. The limiting of culturally acceptable ranges of beauty sets up impossible hurdles for both sexes to achieve social happiness. But please note that this isn’t a rant against stereotyping or objectifying women. That’s going to go on, as it has since Willendorf days. It would take a mind as cold as the Borg to stop the existence of porn, and I think we all know an example where even they failed*. So I’m not interested in crusading against your favorite downloads.
But the vast range of humanity that actually lives around you could never truly be captured by the cartoon shorthand of prettiness (or ugliness). It never fits into the clothes cut by fickle fashion. Facepaint never suits every mood. Hence the existence of officewear, homewear, eveningwear, etc. etc. The pretend worlds of Fashion and Beauty can never hope to keep up with an actual living soul, and the motions she puts her waking flesh through on the most average of days.
So my answer to the question? I don’t sometimes draw Yamara as a small man.
You’re just trained, sometimes, to see her as one.
* Maybe they didn’t fail with Seven of Nine– maybe just the vast majority of Terran data files and consciousness is devoted to porn, and they assimilated it all. “Your uniqueness shall be added to the collective.”
We are the Porn. Resistance is futile.