March 16, 2005

Even a College Professor Can

Even a College Professor Can Be a Jackass

If you’re anything like us, dear reader, you are a voracious reader of the delightful academic rag entitled the Journal of Gender Studies. If the world were fair, this fine publication would prove just as popular as The Numismatic Chronicle.

Alas, as Al Gore will tell you, the world manifestly isn’t fair, and thus the Journal of Gender Studies risks publishing in a veritable penumbra of obscurity. It seems likely that no one reads this visionary periodical—not even the post-operative transsexuals who make up the subject of pretty much half of its lucubrations.

As far as we’re concerned, this is, as hefty blues star B.B. King would put it, a cryin’ shame. After all, just imagine all the examples of coruscating genius that most readers miss.

Don’t believe that there is much of interest in the good ole’ Journal of Gender Studies? Clearly, then, you have not taken in the November 2004 number of the periodical.

In said issue, one Tim Nelson offers his masterful discussion of Marvel comic books and issues of masculinity. It’s clever title speaks volumes about the high quality of the piece: “Even an Android Can Cry.” Just in case readers are wary of this insightful contribution to Western culture, the beginning of the article contains a list of “keywords,” which are the focus of the article: “Marvel Comics; superheroes; Vision; bodybuilding; masculinity; America.”

We know what you’re thinking, dear reader: Boy, this is going to be excellent. And quite right you are.

Take a gander, for example, at the insightful abstract of this brilliant piece:

“Even An Android Can Cry” is a short piece that uses a critical examination of a full-page illustration from a Marvel comic book to explore larger issues regarding the relationships between superheroes, bodybuilding and ideas of masculinity. The piece contrasts the ideal of the bodybuilder/superhero as male role model with the more ironic and ambiguous approach of the illustration, going on to suggest that the version of masculinity depicted by Marvel Comics during the 1960s offered a fuller response to the problem of growing up than the traditional approach of the superhero genre. The piece explicitly refers to Mark Simpson’s arguments regarding bodybuilding from Male Impresonators, Sam Fussel’s bodybuilding memoir, Muscle and Susan Sontag’s “Notes on Camp.”

Wow. We have so much to say about this curious abstract that we hardly know where to begin.

Let’s start with the obvious: Tim Nelson has obviously done hours and hours of painstaking, laborious work to craft his argument in “Even an Android Can Cry.” Imagine the innumerable days he spent flipping through comic books! We, the crack young staff of “The Hatemonger’s Quarterly,” certainly don’t envy him.

In addition, we should note that Mr. Nelson’s article has settled a score of sorts. For we, the crack young staff of “The Hatemonger’s Quarterly,” have had a long-running bet with Gordon, the maestro also known as the Cranky Neocon. For some time, we have argued that the version of masculinity depicted by Marvel Comics during the 1960s did not offer a fuller response to the problem of growing up than the traditional approach of the superhero genre. Gordo, on the other hand, argued the exact opposite. It seems as if “Even an Android Can Cry” has proved us wrong. There’s egg all over us, isn’t there?

We, the crack young staff of “The Hatemonger’s Quarterly,” also want to suggest that Tim Nelson does not work out. Sure, we have no idea that this is true; we’re going on a hunch here. Yet something tells us that Mr. Nelson is no muscle-bound paragon of fitness.

Let us drop our petty braying at Mr. Nelson’s expense, and offer you a few small tastes of the luminous brilliance that is his article. For example, dear reader, feast your eyes on this nugget of wisdom: “Marvel Comics’ output represented a re-evaluation of gender role models in the wake of the Cold War, through a satirical approach that foregrounded the artificiality of the existing genre.”

Finally, someone tells the truth about the pioneering role of Marvel Comics during the Cold War. And savor, dear reader, the use of “foregrounded” as a verb.

And don’t forget this pearl, which discusses the appearance of a comic book character: “The Vision looked like a muscleman, but was really an intellectual. This incongruity was signaled by the contrast between his red face and his green body, the choice of colouring heightening the contradictions.”

That sounds dead-on to us: Pretty much every intellectual we’ve met has a red face and a green body. Well, at least they have a green body.

Last but not least, check out this learned musing: “The Visions’ golden belt was not unlike a corset, only just holding together the contradictions between character and appearance, audience and protagonist, authenticity and artifice. The Vision turned out to be something of a sad clown.”

In this respect, of course, the Vision is very much unlike Tim Nelson. For Mr. Nelson, naturally, isn’t a sad clown. He’s just a clown.

Posted at March 16, 2005 12:01 AM | TrackBack