Monday, October 13, 2014

Crumb on Religion

                Religion is an area that is always open for interpretation because often there are so many versions and different ways of thinking about the same thing.  The existence of many different kinds of Christianity for example is a great way to prove how different interpretations can be on this matter.  In Crumb’s The Book of Genesis, Crumb uses comic strip style images to illustrate his words and these images show how he is interpreting the words from the original book of Genesis which he is using as his source.  Some of his images are satirical or contradictory, and I think he is doing this to share his view on religion. 
                In particular, the images of God at parts when he making decisions about the future of humans are ones that I find very interesting because they might point to Crumb’s feeling about God and religion.  Firstly, the picture of God in chapter seven when he realizes that he regrets creating man shows him angry and vengeful, with his face darkened and cast downward.  Crumb seems to want to put God in the place of being all-powerful and having the right to destroy humanity just because he wishes it, and even though this is certainly how the original book of Genesis meant for God to look I believe Crumb is ridiculing it.  He doesn’t really believe that this how God should be and is putting this view in more of a satirical light.  Crumb makes God look over the top with his power because he interprets that as unrealistic and disagrees with.
                Later in chapter eleven, God is unhappy that humans all speak the same language because he thinks they will become too powerful or progressive.  So God makes it so that everyone speaks a different language and no one can understand anyone else.  It is meant that if humans can all understand each other they might once again become corrupt and pull each other down into degradation.  Crumb seems to interpret it as God merely being jealous of the humans’ capabilities for building a city and uses his power to keep them under his thumb.  Again Crumb chooses to represent God as vengeful and ominous and uncompromising.  Crumb chooses to repeatedly show God in this light because he does not see God this way himself and putting God in this perspective is to point to the fallacies that exist in the book of Genesis and in faith.  He does not think that God has such power and even if he does Crumb sees the action of changing human language as petty and ridiculous.
                In chapter eighteen, the sequence of pictures where Abraham is arguing to whittle down Sodom’s innocent count shows that Crumb wants to point out that God doesn’t have all this power and influence.  Abraham is asking God to show more mercy, which God wants to do, but Crumb’s illustrations make Abraham look like he is scheming and trying to work towards a different purpose besides helping Sodom.  Crumb wants it to look less like Abraham simply easing Sodom’s plight and more like Abraham challenging God’s power and trying to see which way the influence can go.  Crumb still uses the same representation for God and keeps his eyes darkened and the foreboding look of his face, but it is clear that God’s power and influence is more of an illusion than reality because Abraham was able to manipulate him.  In several of the frames God looks as if he is thinking hard and each time he lowers the total and in several shots he is shown with his face taking up the whole frame or putting his hand on Abraham’s shoulder as if he is making a grand gesture by lowering the total.  But in reality each time Abraham is just showing that he can subtly twist God’s arm and get away with it.

                Crumb chooses to portray God like this because although the words make God appear as the overarching being he really lacks the influence he thinks he has and Crumb wants to show that through the illustration.  He does not think God has that power and so mocks the idea of it by making God seem hypocritical or naïve while humans grow intellectually and learn to influence God.  With these illustrations Crumb satirizes Genesis and gives it a critique that could question its validity.

1 comment:

  1. Your intro isn’t clear. Rather than directly addressing Crumb’s satire, you beat around the bush.

    In the 2nd and 3rd paragraphs you don’t really analyze Crumb’s drawings at all. That’s a problem because, as you acknowledge, God *is* angry in these passages. Now, there’s room between simply depicting anger and depicting anger with a satirical edge - and where you discover the difference is in really paying attention to the details. However, you don’t do anything with them - you make the claim without providing the evidence to support it.

    There is a little more detail in your discussion of Abraham, and it’s far less obvious, so it’s interesting material, but your reasoning is still unclear. Show us how Crumb shows Abraham to be scheming & manipulative, then explain what that means. Very likely, this section should have been your entire focus, so you would have had time to analyze the relevant panels in detail.

    Overall: The idea is fine, but the execution isn’t there yet - you needed to do far more with Crumb’s details. It’s also unclear if you have a perspective on this satire. Is it pointless? Does it serve a good purpose? What does the satire mean to you?