On Commenting [Prince of Cats]

I have been writing a webcomic, Prince of Cats, for about five months.  I’m using fictional characters and fantasy elements as a vehicle to share the story of a queer community in the early 2000s.  I’m lucky (and incredibly humbled) to have really engaged readers.  Fandom culture is important to me, and there are some things I want to talk about in relation to my comic.

I love to wake up to all the exciting interactions every day, and I love knowing that my story is inspiring strong emotions and empathetic feelings.  That said, I want to reinforce a few things about the theme and mission of this comic, to ensure that all spaces on my website, including the comments section, are in line with this mission.

Lee and Frank’s story takes place knee deep in a queer youth culture kept ashamed and silenced. Here, the invisibility of sexual minorities is enforced by casual hateful language and micro-aggressions by peers. These are words that enforce the “worthlessness” of people acting outside of the gender binary, specifically, by degrading the feminine.

As a result, people are afraid to be openly gay, act outside of their expected gender presentations, or to be different because they are surrounded by people enforcing the idea that these things are wrong.  Casual use of the word “fag,” “sissy,” “gay,” “dyke,” “frigid,” “prude,” “tubby,” and “bitch,” among a whole host of other words and phrases, keep the teenage queer community “in line,” ensuring that they will always know that they are not welcome as they are.

It’s important that all spaces on my comic’s website are free of any kind of shaming or gendered slurs, so it feels wrong to let that kind of language go unaddressed and it is completely contrary to the intention of the story.

My engagement in fandom has come – it’s no secret – from slash and yaoi fandom.  The tropes of these genres are often problematic. Sometimes the fan culture fosters issues like the fetishization of homosexuality or the villainizing of women.  I’ve talked about it before in relation to the No.6 fandom, a narrative in which the female character could have been hailed as a selfless hero for giving her life to save the protagonists, but instead was seen simply as an obstacle in the way of the relationship between the two males.

My story is not “a yaoi,” (a point I address on the comic’s about page) but I don’t mention that to dismiss yaoi media or delegitimize it.  I say so because this is not a story centered around boys hooking up, and it’s problematic to treat it as such.  It is about a culture of queerness and the problems that queer kids face.  Lee, Frank, Adi, Owen, and Sam all battle prejudice in the span of this story.  I’d hate to see any one of them demonized for being “in the way” of the poster couple.

I hope that as a community we can honor what we’ve learned about language in the past ten years and be considerate of the words we use when commenting.  The characters may be fictional, but your fellow readers are not.

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About Kori Michele

I am a fan of lots of things and I want you to know about them. I'm a full-time cartoonist and I'm obsessed with glitter.
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5 Responses to On Commenting [Prince of Cats]

  1. Blimundoru says:

    I can understand and mostly agree with what you’re saying ( I namely hate how female characters are all around bashed if, in anyway, there might be the chance then enter the zone of the protagonists).

    However, I did not understand why you dressed the words “frigid” “prude”. They are normal words used to cribbed things, like someone being more prude or more liberal, no?
    I mean this not to start an argument, but mostly just out of curiosity seeing as English is not my native tongue, thus I might be unaware of a second connotation to the words or maybe missing some other point.

    • shirofuji says:

      “Frigid” and “prude” are two words that are used inappropriately towards women when they refuse to have sex. “Frigid” means “won’t have sex with you,” for example “she is a frigid bitch for not putting out!” “Prude” is used in the same way. Prudence does, of course, have a wider meaning (you’re right, to be prudent can mean abstaining from any kind of excess, including sex and alcohol,) but when used as part of the vocabulary of hate words, it’s just another word used to shame women when they aren’t “sexy enough.” Then, of course, you have all the words people use when women do dare to have sex… ick!

      • Blimundoru says:

        Thank you very much for taking the time to reply, I didn’t know these words were so infuse with sexist hate speech already o /
        Though it’s partially funny, for me at least, since I use the world frigid a lot ( and no, not shaming anyone with it, aha) and wasn’t aware of how it had evolved into this.

        And yes, slut-bashing unfortunately is somehow more mainstream and viewable in our society, so I’m pretty familiar with it ;<

  2. Nieke says:

    I agree with all you have said above. Bashing a character is always wrong and hurtful. But I do have to admit that I can understand some of your fan’s dislikes of Adi. I faithfully read your comic and think it is brilliant and most definitely do not think of it as a yaoi. I think of it as a coming of age story with a Gay – and apparently that will be BL – undertone. Adi is not my favourite character – my favourites are actually Sam and Lee’s mom, despite not having seen them all that much yet – and I do have to admit that I do see Adi a bit as “the-girl-that-is-getting-in-the-way-of-Lee&Franks-big-gay-love”. I’ll try to explain why.

    My problem is not really so much with Adi herself or her relationship with Frank. She has a bit of pluck, but so far we, the reader, have only really seen her as the girl who has a crush on Frank. So she is still a bit one-dimensional to me. But I actually like the way you are developing their relationship – the tutoring and then the prom were really nicely done.

    The main reason I feel that Adi is getting in the way of the BL love is because how you profiled your story. See it is profiled as a story that will focus on one of the boys’ coming out and how that will change his status and relationships with others. The summary also alludes to the fact that Frank and Lee are the main characters and that the rest are just secondary. They are there to help tell F&L’s story, but not really have a story arc themselves. So far that has been the case in my eyes. Then when we first met Adi and you had her and Frank grow closer together, you mentioned a few times in your comment section that we, the reader, shouldn’t worry because at the heart of it this was still a BL story.

    Now you have only actually mentioned that one of them will be outed as gay. When you read the character profiles, esp. Owen’s it kind of alludes that that guy might be Lee. Also the way Lee acts around Frank most readers probably assume that Lee has a crush on Frank. It is a lot harder as a reader to figure out Frank’s feelings. Now as far as I know you haven’t actually said anywhere that Lee and Frank will end up together, I’m not willing to put any money on that pairing since I think this can still go in all directions.

    But back to why I’m reading Adi as being “in the way”. I as a reader really feel for Lee – he is an interresting character and has quite a few levels – and so far Adi really has only played a part as the girl with the crush who is a part of why Frank and Lee are growing apart. Add to that your slower story pace (which I actually like, it really adds someything so this in no way is meant as a negative comment. But it does play a part in my feeling towards Adi’s character), which has had us seeing Lee as pining for Frank and Frank and Adi having a good time for a few weeks now, one sometimes starts to wonder when the “gay” is going to happen.

    If you on the other hand had profiled your story as a coming of age for various characters and not mentioned in those few comments that at its core this is a BL story, I would have looked at all characters as on equal footing. But I started as reading only Frank and Lees as main characters and Adi as a secondary character and so far nothing has really made me change that opinion. Thus up to this point, Adi feels, for me, more as a “problem” in Lee and Frank’s relationship, rather than an actual fully formed character on her own. But at the same time she has shown some strengths and I do not know how you will further develop her character.

    Just wanted to say I love your comic and I am really looking forward to what will happen next. And I hope you don’t take this comment the wrong way. I always feel that comments over the internet seem harsher. But I just felt that I needed to say this.

  3. kittyjimjams says:

    I love Adi, she’s one of my favourite characters and I love that she gets decent development and screentime. I think she’s awesome and admirable and realistic. JSYK 😉

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