Black Female Representation in Underground Comix: AngelFood McSpade

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Cover of Issue #2 in which AngelFood McSpade first appeared. (Find here)

AngelFood McSpade

First Comic Appearance: Issue 2 of Zap Comix [1] 

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Robert Crumb, 2010  (CC By 2.0)

Creator/Artist: Robert Crumb

For starters, Robert Crumb (“R. Crumb”) was an underground comix artist.[4] The “X” alludes to its X-rated themes and content. Underground comix gained popularity during the mid 60s through the late 70s. Underground comix were “created wherever cartoonists, disillusioned with mainstream comics, wanted to do something less constrained in terms of content and form.”[2] So basically, these artists could write about and draw whatever the heck they wanted. R. Crumb did just that and Zap Comix became one of the most successful underground comix ever published![3]

So, who’s AngelFood McSpade?
Lets talk about her shall we?

She’s an African female, but there’s something definitely wrong about her representation. According to her character’s backstory, she’s been “confined to the wilds of darkest Africa, because civilization would be threatened if she were allowed to do whatever she pleased!”[1]

OMG!

This makes her sound like an animal. Oh I bet it would be a monkey…right? Nope, worse gorilla! That’s it!

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Where are her clothes? (Google Images)

Black people are frequently portrayed as primal, hyper-masculine and animalistic beings. AngelFood acts as a model for that stereotype. But, how would AngelFood pose a threat when her people were taken, when she’s forced into submission and she serves white men? That doesn’t make sense right because… she’s the victim. They’re the threat. But black people are supposed to be okay with being victimized. The issues with her character don’t only come from what she represents, but also from the way in which she was drawn.

So, how about her looks?

Focusing on just AngelFood’s depiction, her physical attributes are incredibly exaggerated Her breasts are enormous and her derriere is abnormally huge. Her lips are drawn oversized. All of these exaggerations emphasize the body parts that are believed to be naturally larger on black women. This over-exaggeration forces her character to become a sexual object that is used solely for a man’s viewing pleasure. She walks around topless with a flimsy skirt and not only does this poke fun at traditional African dress, but her lack of clothes imply that her body is easily accessible and that she can simply be used by men whenever and however they please.

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Photo 1. Smiling? (Google Images)

The interesting part about her portrayal is that her facial expressions show that she actually seems to be enjoying her objectification [see Photo 1]. This depiction highlights the “Jezebel” stereotype in which black females are considered to hypersexual nyphomaniacs that enjoy sex and therefore, cannot actually be objectifed, assaulted and abused because their abusers believe that they enjoy what is being done to them. Furthermore, her lustful expressions emphasize her hypersexuality and her smiling suggests the notion that being lusted after by numerous men is something that a black woman should be thankful for, especially if they are white men.

Also, in one of the frames, her face is completely excluded (see this on the auction site here). In that scene, her brain (intelligence) and her mouth (her voice) is stripped away from her. Then in other scenes her entire body is on full display and this is indicative of the fact that men have the power to silence women and can “have” them whenever they wish. Her mind and voice is constantly being controlled by the men that lust after her.

As a side note, her name AngelFood McSpade erases her humaness because she is reduced to a soft tasty dessert. Her last name; however, uses the word “spade” which is a derogatory term for black people. This shows that her character is sweet enough to devour and invade, but she still is and always will be inferior because of the color of her skin.

I chose to write about her character because it aligns with how women are viewed in our culture; they are mere sex objects that are there to act as accessories to men in order to indicate their status, wealth, “game” or masculinity. To me, it seems that in our culture, the chase for the sexiest woman has nothing to do with the woman at all, but more to do with men attempting to boost their own egos and compete with each other for the best.

Fun Fact: I took a course as an undergrad called “Sex, Violence and Comics” (yes, it’s as badass as it sounds) and my professor noted that Crumb actually thought there was nothing wrong with his depiction of AngelFood. To him, she was the epitome of beauty…. We can talk about the issues with that statement another day!

I want to hear your opinions so, let me know what you think of this comic. Sexist? Racist? Or is it acceptable because it is simply a product that portrayed society during its time of creation? Jump over to contact page if you would like to discuss it further or post a comment below!

References

  1. “Angelfood McSpade.” Hey Kids Comics Wiki. Fandom. Web. 26 Dec. 2016.
  2. Bramlett, F., Cook, R. and Meskin, A. (2016) The Routledge companion to comics.  (Accessed: 22 December 2016).
  3. Estren, M. (2012) A history of underground comics: 20th anniversary edition.  (Accessed: 22 December 2016).
  4. Robert Crumb(2009) (Accessed: 22 December 2016).

 

 

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3 Comments Add yours

  1. sorayau2 says:

    Great job! This is a very thorough analysis and very intriguing. With regards to the question at the end posed to your followers, I think that these pictures are sexist and racist. However, they also reflect the main image of black people through white people’s eyes especially back then however that does not make it acceptable.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. geekybeaut says:

      Great comment! I fully agree with you. It is both sexist and racist. I do understand AngelFood was portrayed in this particular manner because it does reflect the racism of the times. I suppose that’s also why R. Crumb didn’t see a problem with it. But yeah just because something occurs frequently doesn’t make it right.

      Like

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