Friday, 8 March 2013

Sexy Saga

Or a wonky essay on television headed robot royalty having intercourse.

Saga, by Bryan K Vaughan and Fiona Staples is pretty incredible and is a great example of why everyone should read comic books. It's smart, fun, and beautiful; an absolute rockstar book.

Anyway I noticed something in it, that as far as I can ascertain by googling, no one has discretely pointed out yet. And for posterity I'd like to point out that during the scene where the TV headed robot royalty are having graphic on panel sex that they are "turned on".

I mean, this scene is after it is established that the TV headed robot royalty normally have dark screened heads. So, when our robot royals are having the sex their screen faces are emitting white light it isn't their default expression/display. Furthermore, when Prince Robot IV loses his erection his screen darkens, and then his wife's screen also darkens when it is apparent that the sex isn't happening. So they are no longer "turned on".

So yeah, really clever minor jokey thing about the robot royals being "turned on".

But this great little art descision pun aside, this is a pretty great scene for a bunch of additional reasons too.

Prior to this scene in Saga: Volume 1, I kind of felt that I had a handle on what the series was going to be. It felt familiar when placed in the context of other Science Fiction. I mean prior to this you could categorize Saga as something like:  "Shakespearianish literal star-crossed lovers in an epic intergalactic conflict." And then bam, we have naked TV-headed robots fucking. It's a great statement that, no, no we do not have Saga hammered down, and that this book won't be so easily classified and understood. Because once we think we've put it in a familiar box, we'll get something crazy like TV headed robot royalty having sex.

This scene is also pretty great as an introduction to Prince Robot IV, one of the main antagonists of the comic. It brilliantly sets him up right from the get go as more than a one dimensional villain. Instead of being a simple murder robot, he is a person with desires, emotions, and family. He is a man (kind of) that is only interested in pursuing the protagonists as a means to get back to his pregnant wife which is an understandable motivation and a smart concept: Prince Robot IV must destroy what Markos and Alana have to get that very same thing. But beyond that, visually putting him in such a human/intimate/familair position at first glance means that we will always picture him as a person, as a complex character, in all of his future interactions. TV-headed royal fucking, it's a great way to introduce a character.

The next reason this scene is great takes a bit of explaining. 

I think we as a society have a really peculiar and maybe unhealthy approach to portraying sex in our media. We relentlessly censor it and push it the margins of most of our media. In happy media with functional people sex is almost always pushed out of focus: a couple kisses passionately and we fade out, because to actually show it would be immature, puerile, or icky. Which oddly has the affect of making a lot of the sex in a lot of our media pretty dysfunctional: it's frequently only displayed or discussed in raunchy, shock comedies or when its transgressive, or when someone is being murdered, raped, or both. Or it's porn, which you know is fine, but even then so much of that is just grim-faced, emotionless, orifice stuffing... that I find a lot of it uncanny valley creepy. Which all sort of results in very little fun, companionate sex in media and a lot of weird, violent, or, at least to me, vaguely off putting fucking. 

Which is pretty messed up right? I mean, sex is pretty central to the human experience: the vast majority of us are fundamentally wired to enjoy it and it's how we go about reproducing which is kind of important to us as a species. It perpetually strikes me that the fact we consider it more private and shameful and censorable than murder and violence and rape is all kinds of fucked up. And I think the fact there are so few portrayals of people having stable, emotionally satisfying sex in our media is wicked sad.

So, a big part of why I find this scene so amazing is that it portrays that kind of comfortable sex that happens between people in a stable, loving relationship. Prince Robot IV and his wife are partnered people, who clearly have a strong emotional connection as well as a comfotable familiarity  And as a result a healthy sex life. And here they are having vanilla sex, not for puerile thrill, but because they have been apart and love one another. Hell, they are also trying to procreate, which even if you object to fornication or sex-for-fun, is kind of the point we can all agree on about sex. Contrasted with the majority of our portrayals of sex in our media and this is extremely healthy and normal sex. Just, you know, between TV-headed robot royalty. And the fact that such bizarre creatures are having one of the few (and in comics only that I've read), examples of stable, coupled sex is frankly kind of amazing and brilliant.

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