Why I Read Comics (and books, and television, and movies...)Gentle Reader, first, let me please direct you to the sidebar on the right. Under "About Me," there is a blurb entitled "why the name Amy Reads." In that blurb, I state that "to read" means several things, including reading words on a page and critiquing and evaluating texts. It's what I do for a living, in fact. I Read Books. Also? I Write About Books. Sometimes, I Write Books, but no one's paying me to write anything but the Dissertation at the moment, so I don't believe I shall count that one.
But when we read, we don't just read a book. We take into that book, or television show, or play, or movie, or song, the things that we are. We take our gender, our sex, our privilege, our lack of privilege. We take out of books what we bring into them. It's just the way this works.
This Humble Author actually takes a lot to books, and out of books. I go into a book with ten years of training in literary criticism. I go into a book with me, all the parts of me: the reader, the writer, the woman, the feminist, the wife, the daughter, the friend, the pop culture lover, the David Bowie fan, the Whedonite, everything that I am. I come out of a book with certain readings because I go into a book with certain expectations.
To wit, We Read What We Are.
So, when I read a comic book, and I critique it, and I say things like "it's somewhat misogynistic," or "this book speaks to white privilege," or "holy crap! That's freaking awesome!" (not that This Humble Author would ever use such vulgar language, of course) it's not because I Dislike Comics. I *adore* comic books. I read them, I've written about them, I want to write on one (*cough*WonderWoman*cough*), and because I love them, I feel absolutely, 100% comfortable critiquing them.
Why do so many people believe that critique is hatred? That criticism can never be constructive? That analyses are judgments? When I declare my utter astonishment and dislike for the Sam Bradley Is the Father of Catwoman's Baby storyline, it doesn't mean I dislike the book, the writer, the artist, the publishing house, the fans, or even the characters. It means that *I don't like that particular part of the plot*. That's an opinion. When I declare that Sam Bradley shouldn't be the Father of Catwoman's Baby for the following five reasons, that's a critique. If I say "Catwoman, bleh!" that's "teh crazy" talking, and you should cyberly smack my hand, forthwith.
We do not exist in a vacuum; why should we pretend we read in one? Why should we pretend that race, sex, gender, economics, religion, and love of cheesecake have nothing to do with the books/television/movies we read? Once the book leaves the writer's hands, it's not just hers anymore. We get a tiny piece of the story, once we read it, because we remember it, we like it, we don't like it, but somehow, through all of that, *we're invested in it*. There are no "take-backs," or explanations, or justifications. I can't assume authorial intention, but the author can't come sit next to me and say, "well, when I wrote Wuthering Heights, I really meant..." not only because Ms. Bronte is No Longer With Us, but because it doesn't even matter what she meant.
I tell my students, every day, that they cannot assume authorial intention. They cannot tell me "When she wrote Wives and Daughters, Elizabeth Gaskell meant that..." because *they don't know what Elizabeth Gaskell meant*, and further, does it really matter?
Perhaps. Perhaps not. But it doesn't change the way *I* read the text, any text, at all. And Gentle Reader, I can't control the way you read this post, either. Because some of you may read this as The Gospel Truth, while others may read it as An Attack, while others still Won't Read It At All. Fair, all fair, but unless I police every person who wanders by, and sit every person down and explain, "well, what I really meant was..." and even then, still never capture The Exact Meaning of the post at The Exact Moment of its creation, then you will interpret this post As You Will.
Or, in the words of Mr. Eliot,
Would it have been worth while
If one, settling a pillow or throwing off a shawl,
And turning toward the window, should say:
"That is not it at all,
That is not what I meant, at all."
"The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" (lines 106-110)
I read, because I love books. I read, because I love to talk about books. I read, because I think about books (and television, and movies, and...) all the damn time. And I read (critique, analyze, evaluate) because of all of those things and more.
I am, therefore I read.