Sunday, 3 November 2019

Cerebus' Second Marriage

Hi, Everybody!

House of Cerebus.

So, continuing from yesterday's post, where Jeff commented:
Okay. "She was asking for it." is no defense.
Astoria was the grand manipulator of Cerebus, to advance her ... career?
No, her cause. Her agenda against Cirin.
She had next to no interest in Cerebus, sexually, except for how he could advance her Kevillist cause. Seducing him, trying to get him to impregnant her with an aardvark baby would, most definitely advance her cause.
Also the scene with Astoria stripping her panty down to her foot and her artfully placing it on Cerebus' head, while giving him a look at his "acquired taste", was a callback to his first encounter with Jaka, IIRC. Except for the up-close look/taste. Jaka, sad to say, was waaay classier than was Astoria. I mean, just look at the source material for Astoria.
Layers upon layers, upon layers.
Induced, purposefully designed seduction. It was not a rape. In my humble and psychologically-trained opinion. Have at me, Feminists.
I would say, "Have fun," but we all know that that goes without saying. Don't we, girls?
Okay, Feminist Dave may have said and *may* have tried to draw and have written about Astoria being "raped."
But, that doesn't change the fact that she was manipulating Cerebus.
Unless, you know, she was just a "party" girl.
I think that Dave once wrote about writing and drawing her retiring to a sanctvary in order to make it up to the character for his having made her such a bad person.
Not that Cerebus didn't deserve it.
Eddie then said:
Dave talked about it in-depth a few years ago here. Not sure if answers your questions Jeff
Thanks, Eddie! (Everybody should have an Eddie...)

From the blog post Eddie shared, Dave says:
I've got my own controversial rape scene -- Cerebus raping Astoria in CHURCH & STATE. There I think I was making a more substantial point that probably didn't come through either a) at the time b) since or c) with most readers. And I tried not to explain because -- as an on-going work -- if you have to explain what you're doing it means you failed in your intention. Hope they -- or some of them -- "get it" later on. A quarter of a century later seems a different thing. READER'S DIGEST version:

I saw it as Astoria definitely having a High Level Debate with Cerebus as his prisoner: essentially saying "You're trying to make this into something that it isn't. You aren't really the Pope. You are technically, but you don't understand that that has to mean something larger than "technically". You're actually just another vile male and I'll prove it to you. And it will cost you because technically you are the Church and you are in my way and I want you out of my way. I think I can trip you up and bring you -- and therefore the Church -- down by several hundred notches on the Big Scoreboard." Which, to me, she did. She aroused him sexually. She didn't provoke him into raping her (although he would have seen it that way). Even as -- blunt-minded -- as Cerebus was and always had been, he couldn't just rape her which is a dead giveaway that he's transgressing and knows he's transgressing. Instead he blindfolds her, performs a "marriage" ceremony between them and then (in his mind) has marital relations.

At some level he must know exactly how bad that is.

But he's incontinent in the larger sense of the term (ie not just physically): if she's blindfolded it isn't really rape. If he marries them, as the Pope, it isn't really rape. And then, of course, he falls asleep right after. Which is part and parcel of trying to evade, mentally, that which can't be evaded in any way. If he falls asleep it didn't happen. He was asleep.

I had to address Astoria's nature as Lord Julius' ex-wife who was taking that stature -- and her link to Cirin -- and striking off on her own. Basically becoming the first feminist in Estarcion as distinct from the Cirinists (who were a matriarchy). I was doing the first substantial building blocks on the Cirin / Serna "How The Matriarchy Came To Be" which would take up a big chunk of "Minds" in MOTHERS & DAUGHTERS. Daughter political thinking actively opposed to Mother political thinking.

Rape, it seemed to me, would have to be factored in as an unavoidable part of Astoria's program.

The same way that rape, particularly gang-rape, is used to intimidate and "police" women in rural, tribal India today and in virtually all Muslim countries.

I had to fudge it quite a lot but what I decided was that Astoria would just become detached from it. In a context where rape would be unavoidable -- moving around a Medieval / verging on Renaissance environment mostly alone -- attempting to effect political change, empower women, etc. -- she figured out that the best that she could do was to just be an inert lump, completely detached. Which you'll notice was what she did with Cerebus. And then, as she did with Cerebus, gob in their ear. "That's basically what you just did to me -- injected your slime into an orifice of mine where it was completely unwanted". And I've always been proud of her line in answer to Cerebus' "What was that for?" "Little wedding present." Her fundamental belief in the fact that women getting the right to vote was the larger good was weighed against the sacrifice and she made the sacrifice. If becoming inured to rape was what it took, that's what she'd do.

I was still fudging it. Rapists are sadistic by nature. It's an act completely shorn of empathy. A woman -- particularly an attractive woman -- travelling alone in that historical context would be drawing a straight line between two very evil male points. Astoria would have gotten scarred at some point or several points and probably maimed. By not having that happen to her, it seemed dishonest at a fundamental level. But to actually show her physically maimed seemed a bridge too far to me. Over in the direction of splatter porn (again, I apologize for the dinosaur term).

If I was doing it now, I would probably go that extra step because there would be the real world precedent of girls getting acid thrown in their faces and getting their noses cut off in Muslim countries. Which we now know was happening at the time, and is a recurring motif in tribal societies (it just wasn't talked about in the news because it was pre-9/11). And, thematically, it's the same thing. The girls who that happened -- and happen -- to tend to just become more resolute which is what I was trying to convey with Astoria. The end -- women getting the right to vote -- justified any means for her. You would, presumably, flash on the mental image from the news you can erase from your head instead of asking "Where is this coming from? is this guy 'getting off' on showing Astoria with her nose cut off?"

That was my "backstory" for Astoria that I didn't want to just drop like a turd of exposition somewhere. Who would she discuss forcing herself to become inured to rape with? I get the sense that did not come across AT. ALL. for most readers. So I'm suggesting that could be the case with THE KILLING JOKE. Alan was saying what he says he was saying but that it just didn't make it off the page, through the readers' eyeballs and into their conscious minds.
 And then there's Trina Robbins: The Rape of Astoria.

And: Even The Pope Isn't Infallible, wherein Dave says:
I believe Cerebus raped Astoria. A number of Cerebus fans don't think so, venturing the opinion "she was asking for it". Are they wrong? It depends on your point of view. I don’t think there is such a thing as "asking for it" (unless she literally "asks for it" verbally). Cerebus changed the terms under which she was offering her "favour" (one of which was a gag to preclude any dissension). That is rape (to me). As I say a number of readers disagree. Kind of scary.
So: Cerebus. Raped. Astoria. End of discussion.

(But since I spent two hours formatting pages from various phonebooks, let's continue anyway...)

Jeff asserts "But, that doesn't change the fact that she was manipulating Cerebus."

Let us remember how Cerebus and Astoria ended up in that cell together:

So Cerebus uses his strange Aardvarkian powers...

And she kills the Lion of Serrea, and is almost immediately captured.

Which is how she ends up in the cell:

At her trial she explains what happened from her point of view:

None of which, in my view, is her "manipulating Cerebus."

Next Time: "Geez Matt, you're not done with this YET?!?" Nope. There's another dozen pages I haven't even gotten to yet...


Michael Grabowski said...

On a tangent, I'm curious about the short, surprisng scene on pp.295-296 of High Society. Staying at Dunham Manor on the campaign trail, Astoria tells Cerebus it's time for bed, and on the next page he's lying in bed envisioning the Aardvarkian Empire, and Astoria is deep asleep in the same bed. I'm sure nothing sexual occurred off-panel but it's a surprising image and moment in the story for multiple reasons, and it seems to go unremarked in the story.

Mouse Skull Entertainment said...

That's tomorrow's post.


Tony Dunlop said...

Will you also be touching on Astoria getting "frisky" when she inhaled the drugs sent by the Elf?

I'm late to this party, and have little to contribute, but I do notice - possibly for the first time - that we never did find out what Astoria was planning to ask for "in return."

I'd also forgotten about Trina's letter. I think she summed up the dynamic as well as anyone could.

Mouse Skull Entertainment said...


Yup. Drugged is part of tomorrow.


Jeff said...

I stand by my assertion that Astoria was manipulating Cerebus into having sex with her because she wanted an aardvark baby to aid her in her cause against the aardvarkian matriarch. A reread of High Society clearly shows that Astoria manipulated Cerebus every day from Day One. She saw him as a useful idiot in her quest for power. The magic scene of her teleportation showed that it's not a good idea to attempt to manipulate an Effing Magnifier.

And, her last words before being transported? "No! You'll ruin everything!"

Jeff said...

Actually, it was: "You'll ruin everything! Stop!" She wasn't talking about him ruining everything for himself. She meant her plans.

Birdsong said...

I just assumed she and Cerebus slept together in High Society based on the scene of them in bed. I don't know if Dave ever addressed that and it would be interesting to know. I say they did because of Astoria's knowledge about Cerebus' plumbing. I don't think she got any intimate knowledge of it during the rape so she must have had a gander at it at some point.

Jeff said...

Good point, David.

whc03grady said...

In re all of Jeff S's comments on the topic:

Well, Dave was right...kind of scary.

M. Grady.

Tony Dunlop said...

I'd use "creepy," Mitch...but yeah.