Tuesday, September 12, 2006

To the Moon, Mary Jane!

I have been charged with an Awesome Task, Gentle Reader, which asks me to find an academic article representative of some of the best, most thought-provoking work in my critical field. I hesitate to reveal Too Much about my professional choices in this blog, as I suffer under a delusion of Pseudo-Anonymity, but suffice to say that I work with historical and cultural events and markers as they appear in Victorian Novels. Mainly, I work with women's issues, and most particularly, issues of women's bodies and how those bodies are written in the Victorian era; at one time or another, I have written on maternity, prostitution, The Contagious Diseases Acts, sexuality, fashion, marriage, and suffrage. Sometimes, all of them coalesce into One Giant Paper, but that's a Very Rare Occurrence.

But in struggling to find this Mythic Holy Grail of Academic Articles, I remembered a particularly favorite article of mine, written by a particularly favorite critic of mine, about the Victorian Honeymoon. And *these* thoughts, as thoughts so often do, led me straight back to comic books. Yes, I know, Friends, you marvel at This Humble Author's ability to relate Any Given Topic to Comic Books, but please, remember that This Humble Author is an English Major; she can relate anything to anything, given enough time and secondary sources.

Mr. Reads, as I believe I have mentioned before, is A Marvel Fan Of Preposterous Proportions. Of course, My Beloved Partner enjoys the DC Universe as well, but I am the rabid DC fan in the relationship. While I enjoy Marvel, I don't hear the pitter-patter of little mutant feet in my head the way Mr. Reads does. My obsession with Wonder Woman is eclipsed by Mr. Reads' obsession with Spider-Man. And Mr. Reads has been, if I may be personal for a moment, a bit upset about the supposed upcoming death of Mary Jane Parker.

Not that Mr. Reads is a huge Mary Jane fan. Rather, he's a huge fan of Spidey, and he really, really doesn't like it when he hears other fans say, "Peter's better single," or, "Let's get back to the 'Old' Spider-Man." Instead, he loves to see his Friendly Neighborhood Web Crawler grow and change, and see Mary Jane, a wonderful example of a wife in a medium (that would be Popular Culture At Large rather than just Comic Books) that shows too few wonderful examples of wives, grow and change, as well.

This Humble Author, in turn, is a Mary Jane fan, and can take or leave Peter Parker, but that's another post entirely.

Why are fans so eager to dispense with Mary Jane? I've read countless excuses, from the fact that Gwen Stacy is Peter's True Love, to Mary Jane is too Perfect, to, yes, Dear Reader, that excuse that plagues so many great things, like the character Willow in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, "we just liked her/him/it better the way she/he/it was!" This Humble Author has heard True Whedonites scream over the changes to Willow following season four of Buffy, simply because she was no longer awkward and cute. And similar people scream that a married, stable Spidey is no longer as much fun.

Heaven Forbid we allow our characters to grow!

I don"t read Spider-Man, or Ultimate Spider-Man, or any book with "Spider" in the title except "Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane." This book examines the history of the current Web Crawler and his Lovely Partner, and is told from Mary Jane's point of view. We get the lead up to their relationships in the books, we get the result in their current marriage (which This Author only gets glimpses of in Civil War), but from what I can gather, we saw the honeymoon only through the super-villainous attacks.

The Honeymoon is an odd time because it is both so personal and so public. Mr. Reads and I took that greatest of Honeymoon escapes: Disneyworld and Universal Studios. We rode the Haunted Mansion, we ate our way through the Epcot World, we marveled at The Marvel Island of Adventure, at which Mr. Reads squealed like a school-boy and put us into bankruptcy buying all of the Marvel Legends Action Figures he couldn't find back home. But what we didn't do was wear those "bride and groom" Mickey ears, or matching shirts, or any other cute signifiers of our honeymoon-ness. Yet even so, people constantly stopped us and asked, "are you on your honeymoon?"

Gentle Reader, how did they *know*??

I can't ever recall reading a comic book that involved Honeymooners, and that's not to say that those books don't exist In The World. I just have never read them. Do we scorn the honeymoon texts because we *know* what's going on? Public and private, at the same time, honeymooners are instantly recognizable, more so than first love, or forbidden love. The Honeymooning Couple is a phenomenon that one can immediately see, and from which one must avert her eyes.

Or is it because The Fight Is Over? Sexual tension is gone, the guy got the girl or the guy, or the girl got the guy or the girl, and we've read as far as we want to read. We enjoy strife, heartache, and hardship, and for some strange reason, we enjoy seeing Spidey star-crossed, in pain, and *single again*. Because then we can relive the cycle over and over again. We never have to have the conclusion, only the tension and the hunt. Because the journey's the best part of the adventure, right? It doesn't matter where you’re going, only how you get there? Or is it because once we find love, we believe we have nothing else to do in our lives?

In a recent discussion regarding my blog and its potential audience, Mr. Reads said he believes Arrogant Self-Reliance suffers from "TL; DR" syndrome. As I had no idea what that meant (my InternetSpeak is not very good, Dear Friends!), I asked him.

"Too long; didn't read," Mr. Reads said.

Hm.

So therefore, a caveat before I cut this post short(ish). I am an ABD Doctoral Candidate in English Literature, Gentle Reader, which means that for the past four years, my written work has been *at least* ten pages or over. One of my dissertation chapters is 57 and counting. Therefore, many, if not all of my posts will be "TL," and it's up to you to declare "DR," if you choose.

10 Comments:

At 11:09 AM, Blogger Loren said...

I, frankly, enjoy your blog entries. Yes, they are longer than your average blog, but I always feel you have something interesting to say. I also like the way you call your husband Mr. Reads and us readers "Gentle Readers." I feel like I'm reading "Mrs. Dalloway" or something. ;)

Anyway, I think the thing with comics is that everybody wants their characters to be in some state of turmoil. It's kind of like a soap opera. When the characters get to be too happy, they have to either break them up or kill them off. It's strange that way. I honestly hope they don't kill off Mary Jane because I think she's a rare breed in comic books. She's not just Spidey's wife, she's his best friend, his confidant, and somebody he bounces his ideas off of. She's a key player in his life. In some ways, it would be like killing off Alfred for Batman. Alfred is not just the butler, but, perhaps, the one person, above all other characters, that Batman and Bruce Wayne totally trusts.

While I enjoyed Identity Crisis as a story, I am still saddened that Sue Dibny died. She was like Mary Jane...probably even more so because she was actively involved in Ralph's heroic career.

So, let's hear it for those rare breeds! Let's support them! Let's let them live.

 
At 4:03 PM, Blogger Sarah said...

It is perhaps ironic that the TL/DR message comes at the end of the post, as those TL/DRers would have stopped before reaching it :)
Here is where I would give my technical writing students a lecture on the conventions of genre. But, Ms. Reads, do not change on my account. I enjoy you :)

 
At 4:09 PM, Blogger Sarah said...

Our culture is very much in love with falling in love and all the chemical reactions that come with it. And marriage is definitely seen as a destination--an end. Once you reach that end, what's the point of talking about it anymore? You're there. I think maybe the lack of honeymooners can be connected to the lack of interesting marriages and interesting wives.

 
At 4:11 PM, Blogger Amy Reads said...

Hi Loren,
So very glad you are enjoying my Blogging Journey! It has been Quite The Experience, if I may say so. Let us hope, however, that it ends with less tears than Mrs. Dalloway ;) (of course, my life is much less scandalous than Dear Clarissa's, so here's hoping!).

And I completely agree with your point regarding the Soap Opera-ness of comics, and really, serialized characters in general. Several of the works I read in which a character's life is revealed over many, many titles has this whole "state of turmoil" to which you refer. Alfred is indeed the One Person to whom Bruce/Batman can relate (with maybe the exception now of Selina Kyle/Catwoman) and to lose him as a character would be to lose most of Bruce's humanity (and he has so little to contend with!).

And although I didn't know the history of Sue Dibny pre-Identity Crisis, I, too, was saddened by her death. But I think in this personal case, that attests more to the Quality of Mr. Meltzer's writing; he made me care about a character I didn't know by presenting her grieving survivors. *That's* good writing.

Let us hope that this Mary Jane fiasco is just A Tease. Perhaps we should start the "Save Mary Jane!" campaign? I'll make The Buttons; you make the Placards.
:)
Ciao,
Amy

PS thanks for reading :)

 
At 4:15 PM, Blogger Amy Reads said...

Hi Ms. Sarah,
You said, It is perhaps ironic that the TL/DR message comes at the end of the post, as those TL/DRers would have stopped before reaching it :)


Ah, but here's where I'm the Tricksey Writer, testing to see who actually read To The End. For those that didn't, do they deserve my witticisms? Never!
;)
Just Teasing, of course. This Humble Author adores all of her readers, the TL;DRs and otherwise.

You also said, I think maybe the lack of honeymooners can be connected to the lack of interesting marriages and interesting wives.

Absolutely. And the potential loss of Mary Jane who is, as Loren has pointed out, an excellent example of a marital partner, is utterly tragic. *She* is an interesting wife in the comic books, so says Mr. Reads. I say she is utterly fascinating in Jim Butcher's recent novelization of Spider-Man in which there are some wonderful scenes with MJ and The Scottish Play.
And I won't spoiler this book anymore.
:)
Ciao,
Amy

PS Ms. Sarah, are you, perhaps, lurking the halls? I'm Here, you know ;)

 
At 10:26 AM, Blogger Matthew E said...

I prefer long blog entries. (I've written enough of 'em myself.) Anytime anybody has a lot to write about something that's important enough to them to go ahead and write it all... that's something that's usually worth reading. Brevity is a virtue, but there are competing virtues, like thoroughness and style and digression.

Honeymoons: Karate Kid and Projectra had a honeymoon at around the time LSH v3 split itself off from LSH v2. Unfortunately, they didn't get to enjoy the marriage long...

 
At 3:10 PM, Blogger Amy Reads said...

Hi Matt,
You said, Honeymoons: Karate Kid and Projectra had a honeymoon at around the time LSH v3 split itself off from LSH v2. Unfortunately, they didn't get to enjoy the marriage long...

Excellent news! Well, not about not getting to enjoy the marriage very long, but about the honeymoon In General. I did some searching yesterday, and have learned that there were "Honeymoon issues" for Peter and Mary Jane, but have yet to get my hands on them. Must ask Mr. Reads if he has them hiding about.

re: long blog entries, Brevity is a virtue, but there are competing virtues, like thoroughness and style and digression.

Indeed, Sir. Of course, my dissertation suffers a bit too much from digression, but then, I digress ;) I am not Ms. Parker, nor am meant to be, and really, who was better at brevity and wit than she?

i.e. Thanks for reading :)
Ciao,
Amy

 
At 3:11 PM, Blogger Amy Reads said...

Er, Matt? That "Ms. Parker" is, of course, the fabulous and clever Dorothy Parker, and not "Mrs. Parker," i.e. Mary Jane.
Methinks This Humble Author needs more caffeine....

 
At 9:15 PM, Blogger Matthew E said...

Scarily enough, it never occurred to me that 'Ms. Parker' could mean Mary Jane and not Dorothy until you pointed it out.

 
At 9:26 PM, Blogger Amy Reads said...

Hi Matt,
You said, Scarily enough, it never occurred to me that 'Ms. Parker' could mean Mary Jane and not Dorothy until you pointed it out.

As an academic instructor, it is, of course, my job to frighten people on a daily basis*.
Just saying ;)
Ciao,
Amy

*Or every Tuesday/Thursday. Whichever.

 

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