Fun with Fallacies…Volume 1: Garth Ennis

To celebrate my recently completing Preacher and being excited about The Boys, I bring you…Fun with Fallacies!…inspired by the things that I am sick to death of hearing when I bring Garth Ennis up in polite company.

FALLACY:

“Garth Ennis is a misogynist pig who HATES and OBJECTIFIES WOMEN!”

TRUTH:

Garth Ennis hates people.  Garth Ennis hates everything. As Jamie says, he’s an equal-opportunity hater. He even hates inappropriate quotation marks:

Garth Ennis writes complex, three-dimensional characters, some of whom (like Herr Starr, above) happen to be misogynists, either knowingly or unconsciously. The reason you might feel uncomfortable is because he’s really good at making sympathetic characters out of the worst people in the world. Some people like their antagonists all-bad and their protagonists nothing less than fine upstanding individuals. Garth Ennis has a habit of mixing it up.

Ennis writes plenty of realistic, strong, sympathetic female characters, and he also writes characters who are parodies of misogynist female stereotypes. He writes horrible, perverted, violent people who somehow manage to inspire some–extremely uncomfortable–sort of sympathy in the reader. He also writes plenty of sympathetic male characters who have serious, potentially deal-breaking character flaws. Ennis may fill his comics with repugnant individuals, but how are you supposed to recognize the good in characters without some real horribleness to provide contrast? If you want your comics black and white, go read some Golden Age Superman.

FALLACY:

“The Boys is unnecessarily crude and homophobic!”

TRUTH:

The Boys is using extremely crude imagery and storylines to shove your own feelings about homo and heterosexuality in your face. Garth Ennis is trying to make a point about homosexuality and sexual deviancy being two very different things. He’s acknowledging that homophobia has many faces, and sexual deviancy comes in all forms. He’s not dumbing it down for you. He’s also not afraid to make his protagonists huge jerks, and he’s not afraid to use disgusting imagery and behavior to provoke a visceral reaction in his readers…reactions that he often uses to flip some shit over on you when you least expect it.  Which brings me to…

FALLACY:

“If you love Cassidy as a character, YOU are a failure as a woman and you are perpetuating fucked up mysogbleah bleah bleah…”

TRUTH:

cassidy

Cassidy is a wonderful character. He is wonderful because he is seriously flawed and completely lets you down…REPEATEDLY. Anything else would be totally disingenuous. You know that book Twilight? That’s what Cassidy would be if Garth Ennis was a misogynist pig. Unlike Stefanie Meyer and her spank-bank-born sparkly vampire, Garth Ennis is not endorsing or justifying Cassidy’s behavior. He’s simply putting it out there for you to process, just like Jesse Custer is asked to process it.

As the story progresses, you as the reader expend an enormous amount of energy hoping Cassidy will DO THE RIGHT THING and you are repeatedly disappointed. You come out of the story either satisfied or angry, depending on whether you decided you could still see the good in this seriously fucked up dude. When it’s all said and done, you aren’t really sure the characters in Preacher deserve to come out on top. But you can’t help feeling happy that they do.

FALLACY:

“Garth Ennis swears too much!”

TRUTH:

Garth Ennis swears just enough.


Next Week…Fun with Fallacies: Bruce Springsteen…

FALLACY:

“Bruce Springsteen sings about cars and ladies and has nothing worthwhile to say!!. . . . .”

-Jenn

Advertisements

5 responses to “Fun with Fallacies…Volume 1: Garth Ennis

  1. JenniferRuth

    Ennis writes plenty of realistic, strong, sympathetic female characters

    When? (and don’t say Tulip, her actions only ever count in relation to Jesse, who imo is a massive sexist)

    I have yet to read Ennis write a well-rounded female character or a male character who isn’t a raging asshole. And that’s fine. I understand what he is trying to do – as you explained in your post – it just doesn’t work for me.

    For the record, I don’t think Garth Ennis is particularly sexist. As you say, he comes off as more misanthropic. I’ve read quite a lot of his work but I find it hard to stick with because it feels like he is constantly going “how can I top the sick thing I did last issue?”

    But that’s just personal preference – an objective rather than subjective opinion :)

  2. See, I would say that Tulip is a well-rounded character. She’s not a very well-rounded PERSON, and the way she defines herself by her relationship is fucked up, but Garth Ennis at least recognizes that it’s not a healthy way to operate. And I agree Jesse Custer IS a massive sexist; it’s one of the recurring issues throughout the comic, and something he never gets over.

    Garth Ennis populates his comics with characters who are driven by their fears and weaknesses and most of them are selfish assholes. That’s why I’m still not sure Tulip and Jesse deserved to come out on top.

    Of course, all this is moot if you just don’t like Ennis’s style. I have a really high tolerance for crude, violent, perverted comics…as long as the crude violent perversion is part of a compelling story, and I think Ennis gives you that (for an example of someone who does not, see Mark Millar’s “Wanted”).
    Ennis’s characters may be assholes and perverts, but their motivations seem very very familiar to me, and I dig that. I prefer reading deeply flawed characters who do questionable things for selfish reason, because that is what rings true to me.

    But maybe I’m a misanthrope too.

  3. P.S. We have the same name! Hooray!

  4. JenniferRuth

    Jennifer is an awesome name :D

    I agree with most of what you say – I just find it quite hard to stick with his books because they never let up. I know they aren’t meant to let up, but I guess I am always hoping for some sort of character revelation or personal development. This is, of course, my problem and has nothing to do with Ennis as a writer. I have a terminal case of optimism, you see. I even tried to read The Boys, but only made it through the first 3 issues! Just not my cup of tea :)

    But I am interested in who you think he wrote really well as a sympathetic female character. I find it very hard to identify with his women. They don’t fight back much and when they do they usually need to be rescued. And they cry a lot. Now, there are lots of women like that but the only thing they ever manage to inspire in me is a roll of my eyes.

    What books would you recommend of his for a female character?
    Now, if I were Tulip I would probably have knee’d Jesse in the balls and left loooong ago but I think a lot of women actually quite like Tulip.

  5. Ok…here I go.
    I like Tulip, because I relate to her. In my hypothetical brain, I would have kneed Jesse in the balls long ago as well, but in literal real life, I probably would have acted just like she did. I like that you can see her different motivations and urges tugging on her. She loves Jesse and wants to stick with him, but it’s hurting her pride and their relationship each time he tries to “rescue her”. They both want to leave each other, for their own reasons, but they can’t, so they just go back and forth. To me, that’s pretty true to life.

    Also from Preacher…Jesse’s mom. She got away from her horrible family, who eventually dragged her back and “killed” her. But she was never weak or a crybaby. She was trying to protect her son. And in her later, post-death-in-the-swamp incarnation, she is an incredibly tough lady who doesn’t rely on anyone to rescue her. She’s tough as nails…and androgynous and kind of scary, but I appreciate that Garth Ennis doesn’t make tough and feminine mutually exclusive ideas. He also doesn’t feel a need to interpret “never needs anyone to save her” as “can’t get a man to save her life”.

    Finally…The most questionable of all…I really like Annie from the Boys. She’s naive and overly trusting and people walk all over her, but in every issue you can see her getting more and more sick of it all and starting to toughen up.
    She also NEVER has anyone to save her, because she’s been thrust into a world where everyone hates her. It’s an interesting and uncomfortable progression to witness.

    One more….Cindy Dagget from Salvation never cries, and never needs to be rescued and fights back a lot. And, like Jesse’s mom, is another instance of Garth Ennis writing an attractive, intriguing female character without putting her in a short skirt and boobs. Not a lot of comic writers can pull that off.

    That’s my offering!