In vtclis12 class on Thursday we had our second discussion of McCloud’s comments. I think we could all agree that it was a day of subtle tricks that unlocked powerful concepts for us all. It started with Julie’s reading of the comic from right to left (GASP!) and followed with Adam’s link between the comic on page 724 and gears turning at different rates. More subtly, at the end of class we talked about panels. We examined the quotes “for just as the body’s largest organ — our skin — is seldom thought of as an organ — so too is the panel itself overlooked as comics most important icon!” This led to that the panels have “no fixed or absolute meaning like the icons of language science and communication… nor is their meaning as fluid and malleable as the sorts of icons we call pictures.” In McCloud’s comic itself, this leads to conversation on the relationship between depiction and perception. Throughout the talk of panels, McCloud quickly references “frames” as a synonym. But, as we re-read through this in class, we always used frames to talk about it. <I promise I’m going somewhere with this :)>
Frames. I’m not a comic book reader. I work with students in the context of community engagement. I am responsible for course content of leadership and social change. I value reflection on critical issues in this world. To me, when I hear the word “frame,” I think about the person who is privileged enough to set the stage, to tell the story. I think about the schemas (categories and stereotypes even) that help us to navigate the world. Until Thursday, when I read pg 716-717 I thought of panels in comic books. Thursday, because of the simple switch of a word, I was reading about frames in life. I immediately bookmarked Chimamanda amazing talk on Delicious because connections were firing off in my head. To McCloud, the panel is comic’ most important icon. In our lives, understanding “framing” is perhaps one of the most important things we can do. I want to share some quotes from Chimamanda…
“That is how to create a single story, show a people as one thing, as only one thing, over and over again, and that is what they become” (talking about oppression)
“Stories too are defined by the principle of <power>. (she uses a word I do not know how to spell phonetically) How they are told, who tells them, when they are told, how many stories are told, are really dependent on power.”
and, “The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.”
I am pleasantly flabbergasted at how McCloud’s dive into time and frames is so universally applicable beyond comics – from commenting on how we think and perceive, to a reminder on the nature of the “frames” that help us perceive and mis-perceive, judge and be judged, understand and mis-understand. And, just as the cartoonist can manipulate our thoughts and perceptions with “frames,” so too can we celebrate or malign others in our framing of them. At one point in her talk, Chimamanda mentions that “where you start the story” (how you frame it) can make all the difference. For example, she mentions the single-story oppression of starting the story of modern America’s history with the arrows of the Native Americans rather than the arrival of the British, and how that dramatically alters the perception of the history. This reminds me of the comic wheel again on page 724 – how does the story change depending on where you start? Does the couple break up at the end or is this the story of the birth and growing up of a boy with a single-mother who struggles through life but happily finds love at the end?
What “frames” are in your life? What “framing” do you do of others and how can you be more intentional with, and respectful of, the “framing?”