Consuming news and peaceful (?) endings

This week’s reading was my first experience with graphic novels, and, I have to admit, the experience was better than expected. I found the form interesting, and both works provided clear commentary on the media and the ideas of sensationalism that we have discussed throughout the course.

I thought the Lappe and Goldman work employed an interesting mix of real photos and graphics. The commentary on consumerism and globalization was obvious, with Starbucks and other American stores and products appearing throughout the work. Also, the idea of the media itself cutting off true reporting comes up repeatedly throughout the work. After Jimmy’s first video appears and he interviews with Global Television, the anchor repeatedly cuts him off. He is continually cut off throughout his experience. Jimmy feels that he has a “real” story to tell. Clearly, Lappe and Goldman are attacking news media through their work, and they seem to specifically focus on how stories and true reporting are hindered.

Both Shooting War and In the Shadow of No Towers speak to how news can consume individuals and society. Jimmy says that “being a war correspondent eats away at your soul. It happens slowly.” Spiegelman’s character is obviously consumed by the events of September 11, 2001. Another one of Spiegelman’s characters pulls her husband from the computer, saying that he’s “gonna get news poisoning” (8). Interestingly, though, Spiegelman portrays almost everyone else as having a lack of awareness or consideration for the catastrophic events. He mentions that “by 9/12/01 clocks began to tick again” (10). Time moves on, but, for many, the catastrophic event fades with each year, a reality which he depicts with the image of the fading tower.

Spiegelman makes an interesting point about what he “actually” saw versus what he saw on TV (4). He says that “he saw the falling bodies on TV much later…but what he actually saw got seared into his skull forever.” In the introduction, Spiegelman talks about his experience traveling to the Midwest in October of 2001. Whereas New York was still dealing with the tragedy, “in Indiana everything east of the Alleghenies was very, very far away.” Spiegelman speaks to the idea that TV is a sort of alternative reality—the events aren’t truly real unless they happened to you. Otherwise, the pictures are entertainment. Here he is definitely commenting on the sensationalism of news stories.

Although I enjoyed the overall experience of reading these graphic novels, I really feel unsatisfied with the ending of both works. I truly don’t know what to make of the ending of Shooting War. Where does Jimmy stand in the end? It seemed that he was realizing the “evils” of the news media industry, but then, in the end, it seems that he has become consumed by it and is in it for the thrill. In the final pages of In the Shadow of No Towers, Spiegelman reflects on “old newspaper comics” in which some searched for “solace” after 9/11/01. He ends with the comic of a man trying to prop up the Leaning Tower of Pisa because he is convinced that it will collapse. The ending seems unclear, but I wonder if Spiegelman is commenting on himself and his purpose or goal. He expresses self-conscious thoughts throughout the work. He admits that he “see[s] glasses as half empty rather than half full” (8), and he even doubts his own thoughts and fears when he cries out when he’s among “complacent” sleepers (9). Perhaps ending the work the way he did is his way of acknowledging that his work has no real effect (or that the “problem” can’t be fixed), but he’s making an effort. Alex makes some great points about Spiegelman’s work as “trauma literature.” It seems that the book, written over a period of years, was Spiegelman’s way of dealing with the tragedy. Hopefully he found more peace when he completed the work, as Alex suggests that the final “Ah!” indicates.