Victim Allegory

I wrote about Penny Dreadful last time. I’m still thinking of her. She’s a great character that may be an intimidating one to write (I’m assuming that’s one of the reasons Masseurs Seifert and Ketner haven’t been working on any new issues). In comic books and graphic novels, those who are interested in the representation of women in the genre know how these characters are either extremely vulnerable or extremely armored (figuratively speaking); they’re either the victim or the harpy. Not often are female characters as complex as real-life women. I think Penny– elder-god possessed Penny– gets very close to the idea, though.

Years ago, when I was but a lowly undergrad taking an intro to critical literary theory class, I remember my professor saying, “Women have rapeable bodies.” This is the statement that shocks one into paying close attention to the thin lady at the front of the class. The one that terrifies me when I let my thoughts wander too far. That defines many, almost all, female characters in literature.

I hope you’ve come to the conclusion that I’m using what my professor said those many years ago (haunting me still) in an allegorical fashion. Penny, the art student, is a victim of an invasion. You don’t realize the enormity of that until you see her– the girl– talking to the monster (presumably inside her own head, though looking on from the outside, invisible to the physical world) and you don’t see a two-halves of a whole, but two beings sharing one body. Most poignantly, though, is in the second book, when Penny is able to speak as herself, without the monster in control. What’s more, she’s a victim who’s dealing with it on her own.

I bring this up because I’ve been hearing a lot about representation or the lack of representation in media. Usually, this is in reference to members of other races, sexual orientations, or other types of identities. What’s not often represented is what is going on beneath the artifice of labels and skin, which is literally what’s going on with Penny. Rape victims aren’t represented in media as much more than plot-points (see Mark Millar) and 2-dimensional caricatures. In a really weird and– I can’t stress enough– metaphorical way, Penny is one of the best representations of a victim. She can’t do much but deal with it on her own and move forward when she is able.

Sorry there aren’t many pics. I don’t want to recycle the same ones I used in my previous post (which I would end up doing) and I’m manipulating you into reading the books.

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