Monday, July 27, 2009

A Sensitive Range

Comic strips have the ignitability to start great discussions from a variety of topics which can reach people of all age groups. Comics are often funny and short and with a touch of color and with humor a short story is told. Comics are known for grabbing the reader’s attention and entertaining them for a brief moment creating unconscious thoughts about the topic. The colorful pictures put the whole puzzle together resulting in a conversation, a conversation the author wants to bring to surface. Lynda Barry’s Today’s Demon: Common Scents comic brings an aroma of difference that helps emerge other issues as prejudice, acceptance and tolerance. Reaching a large age range can develop into a younger person impression to treat others as they prefer to be treated this goes well for her older audience as well. Barry’s comic created a message of difference and the message was carried throughout her comic. This difference was the fragrance swirling through each panel spreading the message of acceptance and tolerance. Barry’s comic makes an attempt to prove that people must examine themselves, remove their mask and accept people as they are. The bright color selection creates an impulse of alertness on the many details making the reader pay attention to the whole message from the facial expression to the many flavorful scents mention in the comic. Using humorous and colorful illustration seems to have been Barry’s attempt/method to alert her audience, to intensify the conversation of difference. This method is called an ice breaker, making the audience participate in the discussion. As the aroma of difference ignite there is a clear understanding that Barry’s purpose was to awake those sensitive topics that can trigger a reflection of how people must look at themselves before judging others, unmasking themselves. Barry’s message is that everyone is different; but God made them all. “Speaking in Tongues”, by Zadie Smith message is for people that are considered different to accept whom they are; therefore, accept you and your difference by unmasking yourself.
Creating a dialogue among people can become difficult, especially having a discussion about acceptance, prejudice, and tolerance which are the three main words I gathered as I read Zadie Smith’s, “Speaking in Tongues” essay and Barry’s comic. This composition will hopefully bring empathy and a better understanding that people are different; therefore, accept them the way they are and stop judging people because of the way they appear or smell the reference Barry use. This is a step we all can do to support one another from all age groups. This tolerance can create a change within that brings reason to unmask, to unmask what has been hidden, and to unmask what has been removed from the public initiating a self examination of acceptance. Smith included President Obama in her essay to show and prove that people that are multi voiced are have flaws they too try to cover up, to prevent from being exposed. Almost everyone has something to hide. Smith took a quote from President Obama’s 60 Minutes interview that displayed this mask, his mask that was removed maybe mistakenly, but removed and showed the President’s confidence in himself; some might call it cocky, or too sure of himself. Whatever we might call it, it is his character, it is him. “Hey, I’m not stupid, man, that’s why I’m president,” something it’s hard to imagine him doing even three weeks earlier.”(4) Smith stressed that the President would not have made that comment while being Senator Obama because he had to remain masked, and not reveal his mask nor say anything pertaining to “I” or “I am” to win the Presidential Race to the White House. During that interview Smith also noted how casually and culturally his mood was which concluded that he found comfort and the ability to exhale due to his great victory. Obama’s victory allowed him to display how proud, and how intelligent he was. President Obama comment was aimed to all that doubted him, his win to the white house showed how smart he really is. Barry’s comic speaks of unmasking as well when Little Barry mention of her family’s unknown smell. The girl was unsure of her family’s difference, but what she noticed was that others had issues and was concerned about it. Almost all the homes she visited made an attempt to cover up smells, masking their unknown issues. Her house wasn’t covering up, or masking who they are. “Of course the biggest mystery of all was my own house. I couldn’t smell it at all. I didn’t think it had a smell, which was strange considering all that went on there.” (54) She had to take a look at her family and try to examine what took place daily. Concluding that her house had the most activity and should total to a much louder smell did not make any difference to Barry, she accepted her family as is. Providing a twist of colorful humor expose many have pointed fingers at others among their friends and family; consequently, Barry comic announces that she is aware of this hidden discussion and it’s time to bring the discussion to surface. Utilizing smells to address the problem of prejudice helps direct the sensitive issues to an atmosphere where her audience are able to hear and understand the message without judging.

Having the ability to open the communication doors is a gift. This allows a dialogue to start peeling off layers of issues among people that are considered different. Different is not a bad word, it just means not the same. Speaking different languages, eating different food, or being born in another country does not make people inhuman. Obtaining knowledge and having the versatility to accept the difference is an achievement many wished they have. Being creative Smith discovered that being bi-racial gave her the skills and talent to communicate with both sides of her family. This gift Smith was born with was difficult to accept initially and hurtful because both sides of her family criticized her of her difference instead of tolerating her difference with acceptance. This might have been the issue for President Obama that allowed him to communicate very well with a large span of people. Smith expressed that it was difficult for Obama, the gift of communication and understanding both sides of the fence mainly because he has the capability which can become overwhelming. “Being many-voiced may be a complicated gift for a president, but in poets it is a pure delight in need of neither defense nor explanation.” (9) Smith and Barry had many voices. Smith knew it was different and was proud of her gift and was able to utilize it while working creatively. It triggered Smith into this creative poet installing her with this sight to paint words vividly. Barry figure it was normal and did not considered it different until one of her friends brought it to her attention; informing her of her family’s difference. Barry’s daily life is considered different to others, her Grandma was the interesting person in her family that displayed their difference as well as discussing the issues of being different and prejudice. “N’ako, Lynda! This duran fruits smells so badly but taste so goodly! You try it! God made it! My golly! Eat! Eat!” (60) The grandma displayed much information in this quote. The different type of food, language and smell are multi voiced multi language, and multi culture which is their life. This panel of Barry’s comic is hilarious because the Grandma want Little Barry to taste something that smells bad. Children do not like anything that smells, but in other cultures they have a large selection of different fruit and some of those fruits have an awful smell. As a child Little Barry’s concept of life was pleasant and she enjoyed learning new things, noticing the difference in others.
The ending of Smith’s essay gives the impression that it was obtaining a position for all who have stayed in Dream City. Dreamers remaining in Dream City cannot accomplish anything there; therefore, there is a need for them to remove themselves from their fragile state of being and face reality by fighting for who they are and accepting themselves. A select few might be understanding and have empathy towards them but; consequently, there is a need to face the issue without hesitation. “A hesitation in the face of difference, which leads to caution before difference and ends in fear of it.” (10) Overcoming any issues can be difficult because of the formation that is needed; this formation is what or how they create themselves to handle obstacles. The fear of the unknown creates the hesitation, being caution is a human reaction and feeling embarrassed of the task that only you, the person must accomplished. This is very similar to Berry’s comic where the girl realizes that she is like everyone else, God made them all. This was a self assuring moment the Grandma took upon herself to provide evidence that people are similar. Having confidence and know yourself; a message from Grandma. “You know, my darling, God has made every people! And every people makes ta-ee! And every ta-ee smells bad! Ask this lady does perfume come out of her pueet? N’ako, I don’t think so darling! It is not God’s way. You tell her!” (57) Grandma was trying to show her example that everyone has their own smell, their own issues they must deal with. Nobody is perfect. Little Berry realizing that she too had an issue and that was accepting the greatness of her original family, regardless what others say. Little Berry must have been feeling confused as a child trying to piece together mature feelings and categorizing those feeling into her personal world.
Comics are an ice breaker that brings open conversation from any location ranging from a water fountain at work to a classroom full of elementary students. Berry’s comic does a great job of elevating the importance of tolerance, of acceptance and of judging others. These sensitive issues have existed for several hundred years and an attempt to unmask people with these problems with difference might result in the reduction racism. Have Berry achieved her purpose of inclusion of all races, cultures, and languages? This separation of difference might be considered as today’s demons, but due to people taking a look at them has allowed a self reflection to motivate the change.

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