Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Marked- Identity and Perseverance

One of the big schpeels/schticks I make when writing about identity for grad school (and sort of allude to a lot when Duty Calls )  is that lived body is inseperable from the corporeal embodiment. By  that, I mean your physical body in the outside world cannot really be separated from your internal, mental processes and the world in your head. This is because our physical bodies interact with environments and other people nonstop, and this shapes and directly influences the internal workings of our minds. So then, another schtick I push is that identity is not static, but constantly changing and ebbing and flowing, depending on what is most salient  to a person in a given moment. And similarly, when we assign identity  to others, the way our two bodies interact comes into the mix, as well as how our minds do or don't mesh- this, in turn, is also a constant process, too.

So identity is relational- we relate to our environment(s), we relate to other people (and creatures or whatever), and we even relate to ourselves- the way we present ourselves may not always be exactly the same as the self in our heads, so it's as if we have more than one self combating for dominance (I hate to make it sound so power-ee- it's not really about power, though, because it has more to do with what we want people to think of us: If we want to be more socially acceptable or less to them, more or less nerdy, etc.; and also with environments, too, because we may change the way  we walk or talk because we feel threatened or the terrain is rough). 

And one of the little things I hope to contribute is this notion that identity is a process with no End, and how a person interacts with all these things determines what they internalize and act out as theirself.  And that last word, "theirself," and a few other forms  of it, is  my way of signaling or marking that combined distinction in my own work- lots of people have said pretty much everything I have, sure, but none have said it all at once, as far as I know.

The caveat is  that disability acts as a mark. Whether the disability is visible or recognizable by  others, or entirely invisible and known only by  the person with it, it marks their identity in ways not hide-able. It directly affects that identity process. And so does its absence. Disability's presence and lack thereof influence that identity process every time it happens- and this is whether it's the process of identifying oneself, or identifying someone else. 

So what does this have to do with Batman?

Well, just before she left for the summer, my roommie and I were seriously considering getting tattoos together in the fall when she returns. 
Okay, well, admittedly, we were prolly both doing the, "YES YES WE SHOULD!" kind of thing, but I know I've become more serious about it, even in her absence. 

Which may come as a shock to a lot of people (MOM). But I want to do something for me, something unique, and something that won't just go away. For me, it'll symbolize  making  it through a lot of chaos and hardship and coming out as a good person with a loving heart and forgiving spirit. I've actually really thought hard about it, and I've decided that once I have enough spare money to do it (so yeah, prolly in October  or something) (I still need to pay my roommie back for all the moving costs she footed) (THANKS, ROOMMIE!), I'm doing it. Even if my roommie decides to change her mind about her own body, mine  is made up.

I have two places I'd do it. Either my upper right  shoulder, or my left shoulder blade.

Now what would it be? Yeah, something  Batman related. And okay, it may seem like it's just me being  immature and geeky, but one thing I hope people understand is I don't like  Batman just because he's a geeky fandom to be a part of. I like Batman because the story is deep and powerful: Dude sees his parents murdered, and turns  his  pain and anger into a force for bettering society. And the Batman I'm more familiar with nowadays (even though yeah, I watched the Adam West show as a kid) is even darker than  that. He deals with chaos and deep, deep corruption and genuine  evil and  darkness. And yet he always  retains  his  moral compass, and even though it really would  be better in a utilitarian sense for him to just off the Joker, Two-Face, Scarecrow, and all of the people in his Rogues Gallery (that's what they call the list of baddies in, uh, comic speak)- he doesn't do it. He could, oh most definitely- but he doesn't. He deliberately chooses not to, ad nauseum, sometimes even to the frustration of fans like  me that just wish he'd bloody grab a gun and blow that asshole sky high. And him constantly making that choice is what makes him so admirable. He may be fiction, but still.

Batman's constant struggle (read: process) to be good, in spite of all of the forces he's up against, all the things the world throws at him (and he throws himself at), is one that inspires me. I know that prolly sounds cheesy and unrealistic, but there aren't a whole lot of good people in the real world for a person to look up to, and  especially a woman like me. 
I mean, sad as it is, some of the people I've tried to admire have had a fall of some sort- Charlie Rengel, for example, broke my heart a few years ago when he really only got off on all those semantic technicalities (just because he didn't technically violate any laws, doesn't mean  he wasn't being douchey- apply this to pretty much every liberal political figure that's been in trouble since I was a kid). Now, sure, thank God for Hillary, but she's the exception that proves the rule, right? (And I'm also really worried/anxious about something coming up that means a hard downfall for her, too.)

So I want  to celebrate that perseverance and iron-will-determination I've had to keep hanging on and not entirely fall apart. I'm still kind and outgoing  and empathetic and I hope to never change that. It's something I do my best to not let go of, every day as I go through that identity process and interact with persons and things, and yes, it's a conscious choice, but that's kind of the point- I could really easily just become a raging asshole, but I choose not to.  And I make that choice every time I get up, every time I'm in the shower, every time I see someone, every time I'm  walking River, every time I go to class, teach, meet with profs, call a friend on the west coast. It's as if that choice is just a constant process in itself- it's made an infinite number of times a day.

And I feel like, after I make it through this  summer, there'd be no better time to celebrate my daily victories, small as they may be. 

So the tattoo will mark me for that, in a way anyone can see (if I want them to- notice I did pick places easily hide-able; I'm not doing it on, like, my face). It'll use iconography that I have genuine affection for, but that very much parallels my own internal identity process. Sure, most people will just think I'm a nerd- which sure, don't get me wrong, I totally am, and I'm fucking proud as Hell of that!- but hopefully someone that doesn't know me will overthink it and realize what the images in it symbolize, or at least ponder what they could mean beyond nerdery. And someone that does know me, I'll prolly explain it to them. Not in too much detail, but something like, "Well this symbolizes hardship, and that symbolizes perseverance." And  they'll nod, maybe make a noise, and move on . It won't be  a big deal, regardless, because this isn't for anybody else. This is for me, and fuck everybody else's naysaying. Especially since they won't have to see it if they don't want to.


The idea I have is in-progress, and I could use some help. So I'll explain the  idea and  then  where I need the help at.

To represent  the chaos and struggle, I want something to represent  the Rogues. But getting a tattoo of Victor Freeze or Edward Nigma would just look dumb. I just happened to be watching The Dark  Knight last night, and it dawned on me- the Joker cards. So here's what I want in the foreground:

I'd get rid of the "Joker" on either side, but that particular card showed up during a few of the most chaotic scenes in the movie, so I think  he's a good representation of the randomness of life and the stuff I've persevered through. I'd consult  with the tattoo artist about whether I should have it look kinda vintage the way it does in the picture, or if it should be more solid. Aesthetically, the way it is would be better, but as it'll be a tattoo, having it already look kind of faded may not  be a good idea- I'll have to ask about some way  of sealing over the sort of empty spots or something, like with a lighter creamy color or something.

So then superimposed in the background, I want one of Batman's symbols. But the trouble is,  there are a lot  to choose from:

Now, obviously the person  making  this poster doesn't have every single one, but  a lot of that has to do with symbols being reused in various publications and depictions of the Dark Knight simultaneously (for example, the one labeled as "1986 Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight" was also the symbol in the somewhat Biblically proportioned/referenced The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller). But I picked this for here because it's easy to read, and because the symbols I'm debating are all easy to spot. Here's a link to the image in case you need it larger.

So the first one I'm debating  is the one labeled as "1998 The Batman  Chronicles" because that one is pretty close to the most recognizable one out there- I feel like, even though Nolan's movies are so popular, that one is still somewhat more iconic because of how it was- and still is- used in so much merchandise (I've been wearing this wrist band since I went to the premier of The Dark Knight Rises almost a year ago, only taking it off to be in weddings, and I bought it brand new, for example) (I got one for my BFF, too, so we could be twinsies, yay!). When you search for Batman stuff, whether it's a picture or shirt or jewelry, it's most likely going to have this version of the symbol on it. This is the one I'm leaning  toward the most, but  I haven't entirely ruled out two others.

Next, of course, is the one from The Dark  Knight and The Dark Knight Rises (which are the same- the person making the poster was just being superfluous in having it look all cracked and stuff, that's not the actual symbol itself... end nerd rant).  It would make sense, given where that Joker is coming from, after all. And it does look pretty fucking badass, the shape. But I think with the first symbol in the background, it'd still be obvious the joker in the foreground alludes to the Joker and blah blah. But this one may also be easier to use just because it's a little simpler in its shape- it's sleeker and has fewer points on it, which may be easier to put the joker in front of without it looking too cluttered.

Last is the one from the two Arkham games (they're on the bottom). Again, I would get rid of the silly graphics the person included here (honestly, person, if you're able to come up with some more obscure titles as the names for the symbols, and the very fact that you're making this thing- that says to me you're  a pretty devoted fan, so why keep the extra graphics- what matters is the symbol on his chest, not the box for the game or movie poster). I like that one, again, for its sort of sleek design, and also, somewhat arbitrarily, I have a shirt with that symbol on it (got it with a friend, again, in prep for the premier of The Dark Knight Rises) (I don't remember if he wore his or another Batman shirt, but, regardless, our little gaggle was rockin' the nerdery that afternoon/night, whether Batman, B@manor not). (And, for the record, that symbol was also the one on Batman's chest in- some of-  Hush by  Jeph Loeb  and Jim Lee.*) I also like  it because it's, at least in my head, sort of a middle ground  between the first and second choices. That symbol is pretty popular, too, especially now that it's being used in those Arkham games, but it's not so prolific that it'll seem like I'm just going with the most popular choice. And don't get me wrong, it's not like I'm trying to be hipster about it. I just don't want it to seem like  I'm taking this remotely lightly. And I do want to keep it unique, so that's why I'm not 100% sold on the first choice I brought up and yeah...

And there's one last thing I'm not sure about. I was wondering if I should have the Batman symbol in the background tilted a little, so that it was veering to the left a smidge and the wings came out in the kind of large gaps made by the knees/chest-chin and the tail/hat because of the joker's stance; or if it would look better straight. Part of me thinks this may have somewhat to do with which symbol gets chosen- the first one would prolly look best straight, and the third, but the second one may work either way because of how rigid its shape is.

So anybody taking the time to read this, which symbol, and at what angle, do you think seems best? I'll figure out bodily location on my own, but I'm more torn on the symbol and its placement.

ADDENDUM 1: Another reason to tilt the symbol is the ears of the bat may get entirely hidden by the body of the joker.

ADDENDUM 2: As a backup, in case it's too complex or something for the tattoo artist, the joker from that card looking up at a Bat Signal. Eh?

*Also, that one  is interesting because the symbol itself morphed a little over the course of the story arch, I think to represent  what Batman/Bruce was going through. 

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