Reversal

The primary disadvantage with rarely getting sick is that, when you do get sick, you find yourself unable to put it into the proper perspective. When most people get sick, they probably say “Ugh, this sucks, but there’s nothing I can do about it; I need to get on with life here.” I, on the other hand, haven’t really felt at 100% in about two weeks, and am thus convinced that my death is imminent. And really, do I want to spend my final hours on here babbling incoherently about Zelda or writing Mafia summaries or whatever? Surely not. Far better to spend them on YouTube watching Mario Party videos.

One of my odder hobbies is thinking about bad things and considering whether their badness is intrinsic, or if it’s a question of execution. That is, do they suck because their authors suck, and would therefore be compelling if examined from another angle, or are they just unworkable?

Take Sonic the Hedgehog… specifically Sonic the Hedgehog’s infamous furry drama. Everyone knows that, post-Dreamcast, Sonic’s attempts have been clumsy at best, laughable at worst. However, is that because Sonic’s cast and world just cannot tell a serious story, or is it because Sega’s writers are inept? I don’t think the cast is necessarily an obstacle… for all its other flaws (and they are legion) Sonic Chronicles shows us that Sonic’s Stupid Friends can be tolerable if written competently. I’ve spent an embarrassingly long time trying to dream up a plot for Sonic and Co. that is both non-goofy and non-stupid, but the best one I came up with didn’t use Sonic at all, but rather Sonic analogues. The story would be written in a way that an audience familiar with Sonic would see the parallels, but it would still work as a story on its own merits, rather like Watchmen.

More recently I’ve been pondering whether there’s any way to write a comic that has gender-bending as its main premise but is neither wink-and-nod masturbatory fodder for transformation fetishists nor a serious examination of real-life transvestism. Transformation comics are hardly rare, and even non-transformation comics like to dip into the well, but they’re a lot like furry comics in that the subject is so charged with preconceptions that you can’t write one without being accused of either writing with one hand or dog-whistling for those who do. Is that inherent, I wonder. Could you write a comic that has gender bending as a theme or a plot element and just have it be there, present but not an object of particular focus, without letting it dominate either the work or the discussion/fandom of the work?

I’ve got a couple of ideas, but the problem is that most of them are just normal stories that have the transformation… well, “shoehorned in” is probably an exaggeration, but certainly as not a necessary element of the story. For example, one idea was a fantasy/adventure story where the main character is under a curse which reversed his gender — but in the world the story takes place in, you can only be under one curse at a time, so he’s recruited into an organization that operates in high-magic areas (analogous to how plague survivors were sometime press-ganged into working in areas where the plague had struck). The other major characters would also be cursed, and not all of them would be transformed, so the gender bender fits into the story without being the primary focus.

Problem is, I thought of a few plot holes just writing that. First, why gender-bending? I mean, why not dream up a curse that says “You can no longer say the word ‘manscaping'” and put it on everyone? Curse problem solved, and you don’t need to recruit victims anymore. Plus, while the gender bending is no longer central, that in itself presents a problem — if it’s not central, why use it? You’d just get accused of having a TG fetish again; it would just be more circumspect. You’d have to make the main character’s adjustment to his new state central to the narrative, but then you’re right back to “metaphor for real-life TG/TV” again, which has its own issues.

…So yeah, that’s what I’ve been thinking about recently. Tell the world my story.

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