Who is Crumb? A comics artist who has OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder), disgust women, and do drugs. He has two brothers that both of them have mental disorder. He got a mother spoiled her children, and a father treated them arbitrary. The childhood is full of anxious and sexual repression. Crumb was drawing his bizarre mind all his life. What can I say? Wholly freak. His comics can be recognized as annals of human beings’ desire and instinct. He showed everything in his comics: the obsession of strong muscle and ass women, icon family actually is incestuous, and the fantasy to have sex with a woman without head. It is so distorted but real. The image he showed us is so powerful to express his emotion and conflicted. On the one hand he reveled in release of angry and desire, on the other hand he dislike himself so much.
One thing really come to my mind is Crumb’s attitude about women in The Book of Genesis Illustrated. He said that “I can avoid these topics, but why? Those are what I am thinking. I never loved any women, if there is one, she is my daughter.” He never covered up how he thought about women. I read his The Book of Genesis illustrated, and those women in his book are really not my type to enjoy. In the beginning, I thought Crumb vilified those women to fulfill his personal poor taste about women, since he showed too much negative attitudes to women in his previous books. But after I finished read the book I got some new ideas about Crumb. His The Book of Genesis Illustrated did not simply transfer the words to images, He actually gave his mind inside the whole book through those images. Yes, I know Crumb disliked women, but the Genesis seems having the same idea with him. In the beginning, god created Adam and Eva. But the truth is God created Adam and he thought Adam seems so lonely to be along, so he created Eva with Adam’s bone. It seems like when god created the world, women were some kind of accompaniment for men. In the Garden of Eden, it is also Eva eta the forbidden fruit first, and she gave it to Adam. God punished Eve, “I will terribly sharpen your birth pangs! In pain shall you bear Children! And for you man shall be your longing, and he shall rule over you!” I think this is the beginning of the male chauvinism. The story gives us a directly first influence that woman is trouble. Eva could not resist temptation and she tempts Adam to make the same mistake with her. But if we consider this in another way, Eva is so brave to try new things, even if god said “you eat from it, you are doomed to die.” Men are more willing to believe woman are stupid and weak than they are brave. So the story came up to Adam take care of Eva after they got kicked out from the Garden of Eden. What a responsible man! It is the initiate of the male chauvinism, after that Genesis start to consolidate the man’s power, and restrain women with more and more rules.
In the patriarchal society, women even became men’s personal properties. Abram, a man who was blessed by god, is the prophet of the Judaism, Christianism, and Isam. He is also the “First Man” who treated his wife as a goods in the Bible. To keep himself alive, he gave his wife to other people twice. The first time is in Chapter 12, to avoid Egyptians kill him because of the beauty of his wife. He told his wife, “Say, I pray you, that you are my sister, that it may go well with me on your account, and I shall stay alive because of you!” So Pharaoh’s courtiers took her into Pharaoh’s house; Abram stay alive and got lots of awards from Pharaoh. The same thing happened in Chapter 20, Abram sent his wife to Abimelech. It surprised me that God chose to punish the Pharaoh and Abimelech since Abram is the man he blessed. If we heard things like Abram did in the modern society, I believe most of people would say it is ridiculous. From my personal view, Abram can never be a great person in the history. I have not seen anything he did fulfill his prophet identity. He changed his name to Abraham since God asked him to. He even wants to sacrifice his only son Isaac to God because it is a test for Abraham to detect his faith. I saw a fervent believer through those stories, the personality itself is irrelevant. Abraham is such a ruthless person. The way he treated his wife was cruel and insane. How much humanity left in Abraham? A man should protect his wife, not use his wife to protect himself. From the Abraham story I realized that in the male-dominated society, women can be abandoned by their husband any time, even treat as personal property. They did not have any social status; they belong to their husbands. They did whatever their husbands asked. When we consider the god is always fair to everyone, I need to ask a question --- is the equality only to his believers or including everyone?
I started to think the attitude towards women in the whole western society. In Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, the title page already used words in Bible “vengeance is mine, I will repay.” Bible as a spiritual pillar supported Anna’s world. The end of Anna can be considered as the tragedy of ideology. The death of Anna was the consequence that Anna provoked the current social rules. Although she can control life and death of herself, the point is that the manipulator behind her death is the unshakable male chauvinist ideology. In 1971, Linda Nochlin published Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists. It is the first time feminism challenged the history of art. She pointed out a fact that in the art history there are no great female artists like Michelangelo, Rembrandt, Picasso, Vincent van Gogh, etc. And the reason caused this fact is that the society have an unfair treatment between men and women. Artists need to be trained when they are young, but son have a more important status than daughter caused lots of women lose the chances. In the Bible there are express terms that the responsibilities for women are fertility and family. The Society never encourages women try artistic creation which beyond their identities. Under the paternity’s education system, women are treated as models most of time. They do not exist as beholders or creators. Linda Nochlin also mentioned “here exist, to my knowledge, no representations of artists drawing from the nude which include women in any role but that of the model—an interesting commentary on rules of propriety: i.e., it is all right for a ("low," of course) woman to reveal herself naked-as-an-object for a group of men, but forbidden that a woman participate in the active study and recording of naked-as-an-object men or women.” Now we consider art and religion in the renaissance, many painting themes came from the Bible. Such as Michelangelo’s The fall and Expulsion from Garden of Eden, Eva’s face is weird and ugly, it probably represents the theological field’s attitude about women. God created women to punish human beings, they are the reason people started the miserable time in the history. And the Italian painter Tintoretto’s Susanna And The Elders, showed the most beautiful moment when Susanna take the shower. For me it is also express the beauty always bring troubles. Otherwise the painting showed a sexuality question, the ideal audiences are always men, and women exist for flatter men.
How ironic it is. The Genesis and the whole western society have some similar ideas about women with an underground cartoonist for a long time. Crumb is a crazy artist, his miserable childhood and insane family caused he has such a distorted view of the world. In the movie, Crumb’s two brothers are actually made me feel so sad. Compare Robert Crumb himself, his two brothers are also talent artists. But they got swallow by the darkness. The older brother Charles Crumb still lived with his mother, and probably did not go out for a long time. He was more obsession in his inside world than Robert Crumb, he used medical to keep the emotion stable. He already gave up painting for a long time, even writing the ambiguous word anymore. I was shocked by his work actually; it seems so different and amazing. The work also showed that he gradually became crazy and depressed. He killed himself after the movie finished. Meanwhile, the younger brother, Max Crumb was also made me unforgettable. He was an isolated sage. He punished himself every single day to cleanse his soul. He seat on the bed made by nails, and eat cloth. When Robert Crumb went to see his younger brother, he became a conversable man. I have to say after I saw this movie; one thing I really understand is that genius and insanity only have a blurry line between them. Crumb and his brothers are genius or insanity, but we know their attitudes are dark and negative most of time. The way they judge the world comes from an unhappy family and odd childhood, but most of men in the history actually have the same idea about women with them. What can I say? In the Genesis Chapter 19, Zoar’s daughters made some stupid decisions about “keep alive seed from their father”. They made their father drunk and had sex with them. When I read it, I can only say it is just ridiculous. And in the Chapter 39, there is a story about Joseph and his Egyptian master’s wife. She wanted to lie with Joseph since he is so handsome, but he refused her. He said “How could I do this great evil, and give offense to god?” And because of he always refused her, one day she find a way to revenge. “She seized Joseph by his garment, saying lie with her. And he left his garment in her hand, and he fled and went out.” She told the master “The Hebrew Slave came into me, whom you brought to us, to trifle with me.” The garment is the evidence to prove what Joseph done. There are many stories in the Genesis to show us women are ridiculous and evil. It is no doubt that those women’s behaviors are not one hundred percent correct, but the hostility is too obvious to me. It is probably the reason why Crumb used such a different way to draw the Genesis.
The Book of Genesis illustrated does not even like his work anymore. Why did he change the way he draw the comics? Why so serious? In my personal idea, the way he mocked to the world in the Genesis did not just focus one thing or one piece anymore, the whole book showed an ironic attitude by this serious style. But there is a problem; does Crumb really want to mock the Genesis’ attitude about women? Or does he just want to agree with Genesis? Considering Crumb’s attitude about women showed in his previous book, I really have no idea. It is the most attractive part. We always try to give some meanings when we read a book or watch a movie, but the truth is those meanings come from our own experiences and ideas. When Crumb wrote this book, he probably just followed his heart. We do not know. The Genesis is an important book in human history. If Crumb rewrite the Genesis in a too “special” way, it probably will cause Crumb lose all his reputation. It is a really brave decision to write this book, and he got succeed. In the introduction of the Book of Genesis illustrated, Crumb said “Every other comic book version of the Bible that I’ve seen contains passage s of completely made-up narrative and dialogue, in an attempt to streamune and ‘modernize’ the old scriptures, and still, there various comic book bibles all claim to adhere to the belief that the Bible is ‘the word of god’, or ‘inspired by god’, whereas I, ironically, do not believe the Bible is “the word of god’. I believe it is the words of men. It is, nonetheless, a powerful text with layers of meaning that reach deep into our collective consciousness, our historical consciousness, if you will.” We can see how confident Crumb is. He has his own opinion about the Genesis, and he actually made it. The image style in his book caused the re-discussion of Bible. As a famous underground cartoonist; connecting the Genesis and himself is an interesting topic. The relationship between Crumb and women also made the Genesis changed the original meanings.
Analyzing Crumb’s attitude to women and the Bible is a complicated and confused process for me. It also made me think about the question about the world in our eyes and the world itself. It is different, right? We all know about that. But our subconscious told us we need to believe what the world shows us. We live in such a fantastic moment, people get rich, illness get heal, criminal get caught; nothing need to worry. Well, I have to say it is the most convincible illusion. If we consider the attitude about this world deep inside our heart, we probably will find that there are so many negative prejudices. For instance, I cannot accept a homosexual friend; I hate Taiwan said that they did not belong to China; I choose to ignore that the truth is I have nothing when I mocked other people; I desired money, but I showed how I love my spirit world; I do not like the poor, but I always tell people how kind I am; I like beautiful woman, but I tell other people that personalities are more important than surfaces. I just realize I am such a dishonest man with so many opposite attitudes in my mind. If our inside minds already have too many contradictions, how we can clearly identify the outside world. Linda Nochlin said that “one begins to realize to what extent our consciousness of how things are in the world has been conditioned-and often falsified-by the way the most important questions are posed.” When I judged Crumb as an underground indecent crazy cartoonist, he actually showed himself without hide to the world. It is the most valuable advantage Crumb has, but most of people do not. The movie showed me a self-contemptuous Crumb with ambitious to tell the world his feeling about this world. All his works showed a ridiculous, dark, and crazy world. His comic books involve so much violence and sex. He is just not good for children. Those negative attitudes in his book hurt, but real. When I was young, I always believed that people have a nice faith of the world; the sky would always blue, innocent girl and kind boy would always being together in the end, and hero would always save the city. As the time I grow up, I realize that those things probably are not true. Crumb actually told me that sensitive children grow up in the suffering situation, they become cynical and extreme. Most of time, when people discuss Crumb, they say Crumb is an artist enjoy condemn the social abuses, but this is him. Racial discrimination, sexism, praise violent and eroticism … The reason I like him is that he is such an honest and humor person. In his My Trouble with Women, he said “Around the age of 16 I begin wasting my god-given talent drawing pictures of sexy women the way I liked ‘em … trying to capture the shape of the magnificent female ass of my dreams. I used these drawings to masturbate, and then I’d tear’em up in little pieces and flush’em down the toilet ...” He keeps mocked himself by those jokes and showed his attitude through all these words and images. Most of good things are made up by people to cover how cruel and dark the reality is. When we grow up and parents do not protect us anymore, we can finally find out that the reality of the society does not as good as Grimm’s Fairy Tales.
When the first time I went into Crumb’s world, I realized I would never come back. It is simple, no matter how wonderful the fairy tale is, we still live in the reality and we have the right to know the truth. The problem is that there are too many illusions to us, and we need to find the reality by ourselves. Crumb was keeping himself in the comic world, and he actually saw the world more clearly than us. We need to figure out our attitude to this chaos world, and find our own way to decide which kind of reality we choose to believe.
Robert, Crumb. The Book of Genesis Illustrated. W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. 1996.
Robert, Crumb. My Troubles with Women. Last Gasp. 2003
. Nochlin, Linda. "Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?" N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.
Tolstoy, Leo, Constance Garnett, Thomas Mann, and Philip Reisman. Anna Karenina. New York: Random House, 1939. Print.