Monday, October 31, 2011
Saturday, October 29, 2011
Friday, October 28, 2011
Crumb, Robert. The Book of Genesis. Norton: 2009.
Crumb, The Documentary.
The Book of Genesis (comics) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Book_of_Genesis_(comics)#cite_note-HeyImStillHere-1
Some may argue that Robert Crumb's influence to become an artist comes from his dysfunctional family. Crumb's father was a frustrated war veteran who was strict and violent with his children. His mother was probably "manic depressive and behaved erratically."(Rcrumb.com) Basically his mother was insane and abused medication not necessarily being a good influence on children. He has two brothers Max and Charles. Both of his brothers were talented and artistic but also struggled with mental illness. The certain qualities and characteristics of Crumb's family proves the troubled upbringing.
Since he was a young child Crumb has always been "different" than the typical child. He experiences certain strange fixations in his early childhood, one of Bugs Bunny and a television character, Sheena from Queen of The Jungle. In the documentary it is revealed that he is becomes sexually attracted to Bugs Bunny and would carry around this buck-tooth rabbit. After his mother destroyed the picture of Bugs Bunny he developed a new obsession with Sheena. “I was one of those social rejects, but then, you know, a lot of people were — nothing unusual about being an outcast in high school.” (Rcrumb.com) Crumb felt rejected and alienated in high school. He always had difficulty "fitting in" with his peers in high school and considers his adolescence stage to be one of the worst periods in his life. Robert Crumb's artistic talents with cartoons derives from his past experiences which allows him to cope with his problems growing up.
Robert Crumb's parents create a defective family environment based on their own personalities. In Genesis, God is a parent to all the characters by speaking to them and helping them create the world we live in today. Crumb's parents and God are connected in the fact that they are the leaders of their respective families but somehow create a harmful environment for their children. Robert's father beats his children and constantly acting cold with strong disapproval for his kids. God does not approve of the people when he first creates the world and decides to destroy everyone and start from scratch. God acts tyrannical in a sense that he punishes people in Genesis based on his justification even though it may be false. This is Crumb's interest in Genesis because it reminds him of his past where his father figure was not there for him to assist him in growing up but instead looked down on his children causing intense anger within the family.
Crumb's obsession with sex and women is obvious throughout the early stages of his childhood. There seems to be a controversy on Crumb's opinion on women through Genesis and his childhood. In Genesis the women are drawn more reserved compared to illustrations from Crumb's earlier work where he draws pictures of women exceptionally sexual. He uses his vintage illustrations in Genesis specifically in regards to women with there hips and breasts. He shows an acceptance of women in his drawings but keeps his opinionated spin of his image of women.
Robert Crumb has proven to be one of the most successful cartoonists in the world. Crumb's childhood ultimately reflects on his work and his detailed genuine illustrations. Specifically in Genesis, he shows the connections between the story of the creation of the world to his childhood. His anger and obsessions are evident during his upbringing which is why he used comics to cope with his fixations. Robert Crumb's issues with his family and his sexual addiction with women allowed his graphic novel of Genesis to be an interpretation that different from what anyone has seen before.
Holden, Stephen. "Movie Review - Crumb - Anger and Obsession: The Life of Robert Crumb - NYTimes.com." Movie Reviews, Showtimes and Trailers - Movies - New York Times - The New York Times. 26 Oct. 2011. Web. 26 Oct. 2011. <http://movies.nytimes.com/movie/review?res=9900E1DD1E3AF934A1575AC0A962958260>.
"R. Crumb's Early Family Life." The Official R. Crumb Website. Web. 26 Oct. 2011. <http://www.crumbproducts.com/history/history1.htm>.
"Crumb Review." CSUSM Campus Wide Information System. Web. 26 Oct. 2011. <http://www2.csusm.edu/profe/crumb.htm>.
After watching the movie Crumb, it becomes apparent to anyone that Robert Crumb is slightly mentally disturbed and has many odd likes. Of all the books he could have illustrated, Crumb chose ‘The book of Genesis’ from the Bible. If one doesn’t know the content of the book, they might come into the false assumptions that he was doing a very noble thing by trying to elucidate the contents of the “sacred” book of the Bible by illustrating them for the readers’ easiness. For those who do know the contents, it becomes apparent quite clearly why he chose the book and how it reflects his personality and house life.
Crumb is a very sexually oriented guy. The explicit drawings of naked women and the clear explicit drawings of intercourse in Genesis reflects on Crumb’s personality of being a pervert. He likes to think of woman as a piece of toy or property only used to exploit as shown in his earlier works. Other than the drawings showing his pervert nature in the book, the actual story of the book also seems to relate and pull Crumb into it.
There are two main themes that relate very closely to Crumb’s life; the figure of God and the repeated conflicts between brothers. Two main focuses on brother-brother conflicts are the Cain and Able dispute; and the Esau and Jacob dispute. In Cain and Able, the younger brother Able gets favored by the Lord more than Cain which leads to Cain hating and eventually murdering his brother. In the Esau and Jacob dispute, Jacob, the younger of the two, steals all glory from Esau by taking his birthright and stealing their father’s blessing for Esau to himself. In both stories, there is a motto of younger brother being better than the older. Even in Crumb’s life, Crumb has an older brother who is much less accomplished than Crumb. This connection of younger brothers being more accomplished, smarter and ending up much better than the older brothers connects with Crumb to a very high degree.
The second point of the figure of God also affords a great deal of connection to Crumb’s life. The God depicted in the whole of Genesis is shown as an over controlling, heartless, and very strict overseeing image. Crumb illustrates almost all the pictures of God as Him having an angry or displeasured face. Also the fact that the God depicted is shown merciless and destroys everything that he doesn’t like or that he feels is wrong must have pulled at Crumb’s heartstrings a lot. Gaining from the movie, it was hinted and in some cases explicitly stated that Crumb’s father used to be very harsh and cruel to him and his siblings and even led to most of the destruction of his elder brother’s morale. One could also argue that Crumb’s quirky weirdness could also have descended from his father.
Genesis seemed to have a lot of similar mottos and events that transpired in Crumb’s life such as the brother-brother conflict and the God having a similar personality to his father. So it comes as no surprise that Crumb was drawn and felt inclined and comfortable doing a piece of work that he could relate with and vice versa, by seeing his interpretation of the words into pictures that have emotions that can be decoded, we ourselves can understand how his personal life was and why he drew certain things the way he did.
Thursday, October 27, 2011
I believe that Crumb is using Genesis as a way to show an example of the “fermented culture” which we need but have lost. I also believe that perhaps he was drawn to illustrate Genesis because of the likenesses between the people in the book and the ones in our culture today. Crumb says, “It used to be that people fermented their own culture, you know, it took hundreds of years and evolved over time.” Genesis is an excellent example of this kind of culture. In a single page - the ones showing the different generations - we can already see the many, many years this culture is being created throughout and it continues to evolve as the generations go on. Genesis begins with the simple “culture” of just Adam and Eve, two people and their actions determine everything. These actions mirror those of the greedy people in today’s world. Adam and Eve’s own greed made their culture evolve into one where greed exists. There is then an eternal choice of doing something right or doing something wrong instead of the simple, good life they were created by God to live.
As time goes on, people begin fighting and killing and adding negativity to their culture. This is the point where Genesis is not necessarily an example of the culture that we need but don’t have anymore, but instead shows one comparable to our own as it is today. Crumb said, “People now don't even have any concept that there ever was a culture outside of this thing that's created to make money… whatever is the biggest, latest thing, they’re into it.” The people in Genesis aren’t necessarily doing things to make money, but greed is present and fuels their actions. Much of the action in the book stems from arguments about “the biggest, latest thing” and who gets what, whether someone’s possessions or a human being.
To take the thought that Crumb could have chosen to illustrate Genesis because of it’s similarities to our own culture even further, one could say that God may represent the government to a certain extent. His intentions are to do good for the people and the world that he has created, but he brings horrible things upon them when they do not obey. Perhaps the comparison could be too extreme to some, but the whole idea of something greater than you that controls you is one that always stands out to me when I think about religions.
I think that the idea that Genesis can hint at a representation of the troubles in our own world is one that Robert Crumb would probably agree with. While the illustrations are a representation of what we have now, I think that the second part of his quote is also true. He says how people don’t even think about the culture that ever existed outside of the one they see now whose only goal is to make money. Genesis can be a representation of what Crumb sees as the faults in our society, shown in a way that highlights things our society is missing. It’s displayed through the actions of people in an entirely different culture than ours. Our culture is obsessed with money. Their culture was obsessed with human beings, getting women, etc. The land, the earth, family relationships, children- what they were doing to get these things is the same kind of stuff we do to get money, but the fact that they were working towards a variety of things when we only want money makes the culture in Genesis a lot more rich. Maybe in our society today, we think that the way they went about getting the things they wanted might be strange, but to them it was all a normal part of their deep-rooted culture spreading across generations in contrast to our shallow, ever-changing culture that lacks those kinds of determination and goals.
In the 1994 documentary Crumb we are given an in-depth look into Robert Crumb’s views on women through his own artwork as well as the commentary of the interviewees. The perception that the viewer develops is that Crumb is a womanizer with problems sexually connecting with women in a healthy way. To support this argument the documentary shows that Crumb’s work is full of sadistic sexual themes and instances of the objectification of women. If we choose to only look at the surface of these images then we can draw the same simple conclusion that the documentary came to. However, if we choose to look a little deeper, especially in relation to his work on Genesis, we can see that the lines are not so clearly drawn.
The film Crumb presented quite a few examples to show Crumb as a womanizer. It is possible to defend some of Crumb’s work in which he portrays women in a negative light as being satirical, however I feel that the following comic goes way too far to be written off as merely social commentary. The most extreme example I found was the comic in which Mr. Natural shoves a woman’s head into her own body and then gives her to Flakey to be used as a sexual object. Flakey proceeds to have sex with the headless girl after which he feels guilty and returns her to Mr. Natural. The story is peppered with offensive one-liners stating things to the effect of “I removed her head and now all my problems are gone.” This comic quite honestly offends me, and when I look at it I desire to cast Crumb as a sexist jerk like most of the female commentators had done. However I don’t feel as if this is the whole picture.
Crumb’s general style is to draw women as full figured, curvy, and strong. His female figures have an undeniable sexuality about them, especially in Genesis. This sexuality, unlike in his some of his other work mentioned above, is more of a source of power and strength than oppression. For example in chapter 38 Tamar uses her sexuality to make Jacob see the error of his ways. In chapter 19 the daughters of Lot choose to be impregnated by their father, not the other way around. In chapter 34 Dinah’s choice to have sex with Shechem causes an entire village to be slaughtered. In all of these examples women are not being sexually objectified but rather they are in a position of sexual power. Crumb’s illustrations also reflect this position of power, drawing these women with faces reflecting determination, resolve, and decisiveness. Here we see another side of Crumb’s views on women where he sees their sexuality as not a medium through which men can diminish them, but rather as an aspect though which they should be empowered.
These two different views seem contradictory on the surface, but then I was struck by a quote from one of the interviewees in Crumb. She made the claim that men who are sexually attracted to women’s legs—like Crumb—tend to feel inferior to women due to some psychological issues with their mothers. This inferiority leads to fear which leads to objectification to protect one’s Id. Viewing Crumb’s varied portrayal of women through this lens we can see his earlier work as his first attempts to deal with this fear by bringing women down and his later work as his more mature acceptance of the sexuality of women. Even if one is hesitant to accept this idea that Crumb actually thinks women are superior so he must draw them as inferior, it is clear that his views on sexuality and women are far from clean cut and simple. This complexity makes it difficult to draw the broad characterization—demonization—that is made in the film.
One thing that was focused on in the documentary Crumb was the artist’s sexuality. By delving into Crumb’s childhood, past relationships, and works, his view of women became quite obvious and I was personally a bit disgusted by it. When talking to one of his ex-girlfriends, she even came right out and asked if he “still hated women.” Growing up, Crumb was the typical “dorky kid” who was always overlooked by girls. While he tried desperately to get their attention through his drawing abilities, he was the farthest thing from being lucky with the ladies. Additionally, he had a mother who was an amphetamine addict so was without a strong positive female influence as a child. Although Crumb talks about both subjects casually, they had a deep impact on both his sexuality and his views towards women. He spends a lot of time, both in the film and in his works, focusing on sex and women. While the topics are significantly downplayed in Crumb’s version of The Book of Genesis compared to his other works, he definitely is still making a strong point about them.
At one point in the film, Crumb is discussing sexual phycology with a group of women at a party. One of the women states that men who are more attracted to the female lower body tend to have a history of suppressed feelings of inadequacy and inferiority. When I first opened the Book of Genesis, I was taken aback by how the women were illustrated. They are extremely curvy and thick, and while women in the media often get portrayed as having large breasts, it is less common for their lower halves to be quite as voluptuous as Crumb draws them. Although phycology can be easily disputed, I feel like there is some truth to what Crumb’s friend claimed in his case. He spent his entire life feeling as if he wasn’t good enough. Throughout his childhood, there was constant pressure from his military father, he was always trying to impress his older brother with his comics, and of course there was that never ending desire to be accepted by girls.
As a counter argument to the woman at the party, Crumb pulls out one of his strong opinions towards women that has been drilled into his mind since middle school—women like power. In school, he watched all the girls go for the popular kids and even includes them in his comics picking on his brother Charles. They were obviously jerks and the only reason the girls flocked to them had to be because of their high school status. Clearly Crumb is not the only person to ever have been neglected and deemed unpopular, but whereas others are able to leave these animosities at the door, Crumb held on to them after graduation. What is unfortunate is that his viewpoint was actually strengthened as he became a popular artist. He was now entering the world of fame and fortune and women came along with the package. Just like all of those high school jocks, Crumb was able to attract women based on his status.
These opinions come through in his work and can be seen through Rebbekah’s character in the Book of Genesis. Initially, she is seen as a simple, kind woman wanting to help the traveling servant in Chapter 24 where she is introduced. She is not interested in him until he pulls out the nose ring and gold shekels, and then her eyes widen in delight. There is a drastic change that Crumb illustrates in her appearance, as if she is possessed by the idea of such wealth and a secure future. Her face is frozen in a crazed smile and she is rigid as if this news is too much to handle. The servant has become one of those popular kids that Crumb despised, able to manipulate women with his wealth and status, and of course Rebbekah cannot turn him down. Later in the Book of Genesis, Rebbekah is again portrayed in a negative light. She is the fuel behind the feud between Esau and Jacob. While Crumb stays true to the text here, he illustrates Rebbekah in an extreme way, again almost possessed by power. She wants Jacob to get Isaac’s blessing and goes to all ends in order to get what she wants. When Jacob questions her plan, Crumb shows her in excessive, irrational anger, another typical stereotype of women. Crumb’s version of the Book of Genesis probably his most tame work, but he still makes his mark on the Bible by including illustrations that portray his view on women.
The documentary Crumb revealed the complexities of Robert Crumb’s childhood and family life. When compared to Crumb’s Genesis, however, there was not an exact correspondence. Essentially, it was difficult to pin point exact reasons as to why Crumb depicted Genesis the way he did. The film focuses on Crumb’s childhood troubles, broken family, and all things in between that influenced his style of art. Although the film focuses on his more popular works of art, it is evident that his life and influences are significantly represented in his illustrations of Genesis. As a result, readers are able to develop a better understanding and appreciation of Crumb and his life as an individual.
As a child, Crumb was always extremely sexual and exhibited sexual behaviors. In the film he explains how he apparently had his first erection at the age of four. He would then go into his mother’s closet and hump a pair of her cowgirl boots singing, ‘Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.’ Although this can portrayed as an extremely erotic and slightly idiotic disclosure, Crumb does in fact incorporate his young sexual tendencies in his comics consisting of humping and groping images. Just years later when Crumb was five and six years old, he developed a sexually attraction to “cute cartoons,” especially bugs bunny. This was also very evident in his early comics when he illustrated hundreds of sexual cartoon characters. It was not until age twelve when Crumb began to be sexually attracted towards females. The first was Sheena the Jungle Lady, which he drew time and time again. Eventually, Crumb turned his attention on girls he went to school with. He had many crushes, but claims to have never went on any dates before. He describes how he was a loser in school and girls never gave him the time of day. This was the influence to his “Problems with Women” Comics. The ultimate message was that Crumb felt misunderstood and thought of himself as an outsider. He recognized his own talents and kindness but could not figure out why girls were blind to his admirable traits. He often depicted himself as a “dork” with labels that read, “dandruff, thick glasses, front teeth missing, sloppy dresser, sunken chest, and round shoulders.” The caption of this comic read, “I’m talented, intelligent, kind, understanding…in fact, I’m a highly moral person.” This is one of his earliest childhood memories that influenced him to develop hostility towards women. His interest then shifted towards illustrating graphic art that demonstrated social protests in the subjects of sex, religion, and politics. Crumb felt rejected and his art was a way to channel that rejection. He wanted to draw things that inspired and uplifted him, all the while not caring what others would say or think. He was not looking for approval; he just wanted to draw whatever came to his mind.
Crumb became obsessed with the idea of this “underground comics” at age seventeen. He used his powerful imagination to depict women of power. He believed he was illustrating women the way they really are, with all of their natural curves and characteristics. One woman interviewed in the film claims that Crumb’s images of women redefine self-images and creates a new self-confidence. Furthermore, Crumb’s first wife, Dana Crumb, believes that his illustrations are reflections of his sweet romantic envisions. Although Crumb admits that he did not necessarily like women as a young adult, he admits that he likes women’s lower bodies, which is why he portrays them as they are. While some may argue that this could represent Crumb’s fear of women and his insecurities, he claims that just has a love for drawing women of all shapes and sizes.
Evidently, Genesis reveals many of Crumb’s life experiences and influences. After viewing Crumb, one is able to recognize how Genesis reflects his childhood and his life. His troubled family is one of the main underlying reasons as to why Crumb’s art is so satirical of the modern family and why his images are sarcastic and exaggerated, yet brutally honest at the same time. His obsession with sex is also portrayed throughout Genesis in many of the mating scenes. However, we learn from Crumb that this was not intended to be insulting or absurd; it is merely Crumb’s perception and adoration for having sex. Finally, we learn that Crumb’s interpretation of women and women’s bodies is also not meant to be insulting or demeaning. Although his original influence derived from his rejections as a young adult, we learn that he used this to his advantage in order to go against mainstream society and draw whatever came to mind. Eventually, this transformed into a love for drawing women as they really are, with no exaggerations. Essentially, Crumb is a brilliant, yet slightly insane, artist who came from a troubled past with many rejections but used that to create a life of his own. After viewing Crumb, we are able to recognize these influences in his Genesis, which allows us to develop a better appreciation for him as an artist.
Crumb, Robert. The Book of Genesis. Norton: 2009.
Crumb, The Documentary.