Thursday, November 17, 2011

Revision #2: Crumb: Anger and Obssession

Through watching the documentary Crumb, it is made obvious that Robert Crumb lived in a “damaged household”.  The documentary provides a detailed description of Crumb’s childhood and upbringing.  Most importantly, it focuses on the struggles and difficulties he faced in his home.  His depiction of his comic illustration of Genesis has a major influence on the understandings of his earlier work and family.  Crumb compares his own life experiences to his interpretation of the biblical text of Genesis.  Specifically, in his documentary, he portrayed himself as an outsider and as someone rejected from society.  This ultimately links to his childhood problems with his mother and father.  The way he perceives his relationship with his parents is similar to the way he perceives God’s relationship with the people of Genesis. Throughout the documentary and illustrations, there are many examples that provide evidence that Crumb’s interpretations of his parents and God are strongly connected.

During the documentary, Crumb’s highlighted the problems that were brought about from his dysfunctional family.  For instance, Crumb’s father was a frustrated veteran who was strict and violent with his children.  His mother was bipolar and had an unpredictable personality.  She was insane, abused her medications, and was overall a terrible influence on her children.  Crumb had two brothers.  They were talented and artistic but struggled with mental illnesses.  Some may believe that their illnesses were caused by the way their parents raised them.  Their parents were unreasonable and demanding.  Their poor parenting led to extreme mental punishments for their children.  Their actions display a great similarity to the actions God displayed in the biblical text of Genesis.  Crumb’s parents punished their children for not being the “normal” and fitting in with society. Crumb felt alienated and rejected from society.

Similarly, God experiences problems during the creation process. God continues to encounter issues with the people he creates. This is evident when he creates Adam and Eve. God attempts to teach the first woman and man on earth the valuable lessons of life. They reject his rules and eat an apple from the tree of life after he told them not to.  Due to their disobedience, God creates consequences.  In example, in chapter 3, he punishes the serpent by removing his arms and legs because he was responsible for Adam and Eve’s decision to eat the apple. In the images of the serpent he originally has arms and legs and in the next frame they are removed from his body while he is slivering on the ground. God acted so harshly because he felt that their actions contradicted what was perceived as normal behavior. 

Crumb’s parents and God are parallels because they are both the leaders of their respective families.  Crumb’s father also saw similarities between his parents and God.  For instance, he stated, “I think of Dad as a person who, I believe, had in many ways achieved the secret of life” (  God is viewed as a figure who achieved the secret of life through creation.  Robert’s father shaped Robert’s upbringing based on his own childhood and perceptions of his own father-son relationship.  Robert’s dad saw his father as an all-powerful figure due to his immense amounts of responsibilities and pressures.  Furthermore, his father was opinionated and close-minded.  It always had to be his way or no way at all.  This is exactly how Robert depicted God in his illustrations.

In Genesis, God had many responsibilities.  God constantly felt frustrated because the people would go against his commands.  God wanted a peaceful world and instead the people acted in evil ways.  The earth was corrupt and this upset God because it was the world that he created.  The people were violent and made God feel regretful for creating humans on earth.  In chapter 6, it is clear that God had many pressures of maintaining a peaceful society.  Since the people continued to act evil, God found Noah who was seen as an ideal human in God’s eyes.  He was honest and peaceful. The pictures drawn in chapter 6, shows the size difference between God and Noah. They are both drawn as elderly man but God is drawn on a larger scale showing his power. Noah’s smaller size shows that he is weaker but still will obey him unlike the rest if the world.  With the help of Noah, God created the arch.  He created the arch so he could destroy the rest of the world, which was filled with corruption.  He wanted to have people only like Noah left in the world. 

Overall, Crumb’s portrayal of his parents is deeply linked to his portrayal of God in his illustrations.  He presented a theme of God and his father having regretful thoughts of creation.  Both God and his father felt that their rules and expectations were not being fulfilled.  Therefore, they both gave consequences.  Crumb and his brother’s relationships with their parents were similar to the relationships between God and the people of Genesis.  His parents and God were viewed as all-powerful beings and if their “children” disobeyed them they were punished.  Robert Crumb illustrates God in the way that he does because of the way he was raised and because of his childhood experiences.

Crumb, R. "Crumb's 'Genesis,' A Sexy Breasts-And-Knuckles Affair : NPR."NPR : National Public Radio : News & Analysis, World, US, Music & Arts : NPR. Web. 26 Oct. 2011. <>.

Holden, Stephen. "Movie Review - Crumb - Anger and Obsession: The Life of Robert Crumb -" Movie Reviews, Showtimes and Trailers - Movies - New York Times - The New York Times. 26 Oct. 2011. Web. 26 Oct. 2011. <>.

 "R. Crumb's Early Family Life." The Official R. Crumb Website. Web. 15 Nov. 2011. <>.

"Crumb Review." CSUSM Campus Wide Information System. Web. 15 Nov. 2011. <>.

1 comment:

  1. After reading the first sentence, I'm very skeptical about whether I'll agree with you - but I'm also extremely interested to see whether you can pull this off.. One thing that makes me hesitant is that Crumb, of course, is not in full control of the contents of the documenary - if he is shown as an outsider, Terry Zwigoff is emphasizing that role, not Crumb himself (I think this is relevant- maybe I'm wrong).

    In the 2nd and 3rd paragraph you seem to be on the edge of arguing that God of genesis is mentally ill and abusive, with severe consequences for his children/creations. You didn't quite have the nerve to actually say that, though - it would have been stronger if you'd managed to move some of this material into the introduction, and to present your viewpoint more clearly. Say what you mean, clearly and directly!

    The paragarph with this line "I think of Dad as a person who, I believe, had in many ways achieved the secret of life" seems both critical and underdeveloped. I mean, there's nothing strange in the general claim that children see parents, in a generalized way, as God-like, but this is a very brief and incompletely developed argument that Crumb *in particular* does so. It's a fine approach - it just needed more.

    Your closing two paragraphs really don't advance your argument - they repeat things you've already said.

    I'm unclear where/how you actually use your research. Your research approach was dubious in any case: research on Genesis itself, and on the portrayal of God-as-father could have been very productive for you.

    Overall: Your premise is potentially bold and interesting, but you underplay it, which is odd, given that your strengths here are all in the concepts and not at all in the execution. The idea is strong, and I think it shows a lot of insight into Crumb's personality (who knows, maybe even the source of his neuroses). But you don't show much of an inclination to carefully revisit the film for relevant details, or to do truly relevant research (how about interviews with Crumb? That seems like the obvious place to go here!), or to read the text of Genesis with any care.

    This is interesting, and an interesting start, but also only a gesture at what it could have been.