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"A place to start a conversation about inequalities of representation"
March 18, 2014 1:46 PM   Subscribe

"The Harvey/Renee Index doesn’t distinguish between the different types of Renees. Any character who can be identified with one or more groups that are currently marginalized based on race, ethnicity, sexuality, or gender is a Renee. Anyone who is white, non-Hispanic, cisgender, straight, and male is a Harvey." -- Diversity in the Big Two's superhero comics being a perennial hot topic, Comics Alliance comes up with a novel way to quickly establish a diversity baseline: the Harvey/Renee index. (Named of course for Gotham's greatest cops Harvey Bullock and Renee Montoya.)
posted by MartinWisse (31 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
Harvey is a person of size, though, so he isn't entirely privileged. People of size are rare in comic books, and when they are depicted, they are usually villains like Mole Man, the Blob, Mojo, Amahl Farouk, etc.

Check your privilege, Comics Alliance!
posted by entropicamericana at 1:53 PM on March 18 [10 favorites]


Also, the characterization of the Fantastic Four as 3H/1R forgets that Ben Grimm is (1) Jewish and (2) made of orange rocks.
posted by Strange Interlude at 1:56 PM on March 18 [13 favorites]


They do acknowledge their system is far from perfect and of course the name is chosen because of the Harvey/Renee partnership, not because either is necessarily the perfect symbol of what they represent here.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:56 PM on March 18


Ben Grimm is (1) Jewish and (2) made of orange rocks.

This is addressed in the article. Roughly, being Jewish is being counted as white here and "How do we categorize characters who don't have a typical human appearance":
We've decided that if a character has an alternative human identity, we should categorize by that identity, whether it's an identity they've chosen, like Martian Manhunter, or one they were born with, like the Thing. (Chosen identities are prioritized over birth identities.)
posted by MartinWisse at 2:00 PM on March 18 [2 favorites]


That's a pretty big copout considering the history of (and current) antisemitism in the world.
posted by entropicamericana at 2:05 PM on March 18


Supergirl recently became a Red Lantern...

Aaand I officially give up on DC for another couple of years.
posted by Etrigan at 2:06 PM on March 18 [6 favorites]


I had no idea there were so many groups called the X-Men.
posted by Going To Maine at 2:08 PM on March 18 [3 favorites]


Well, that wasn't as depressing as I thought it was going to be.

although my reaction to John Constantine being on any kind of Justice League is never not going to be "what the fuck."
posted by dogheart at 2:13 PM on March 18 [3 favorites]


That's a pretty big copout considering the history of (and current) antisemitism in the world.

We're talking about a modern USAnian context however, where you can make a case that being Jewish is on the same sort of level as being Irish: a massive history of being discriminated against, but which now enjoys the same sort of privileges as other white etnicities.

Again, it's not the complete truth but I can see why they made that assumption here.
posted by MartinWisse at 2:14 PM on March 18


Roughly, being Jewish is being counted as white...

Which IMO is kind of insensitive considering that "ethnicity" is explicitly noted as a qualifier for "Renee" status, Jewish characters in comics are rare, and that there was a whole lot of Jews in early comics who had to hide the fact.

In the face of Fantastic Four -- conceived by two dudes named Stanley Lieber and Jacob Kurtzberg, who certainly didn't put those names on their comics -- "Jewish is being counted as white" is sort of insensitive.

Not that this isn't a good project with merit, but, hey, y'know.
posted by griphus at 2:15 PM on March 18 [7 favorites]


Having totally failed at keeping up with comics for what, four years plus, this is both cool and completely perplexing. Like there's a Red Lantern book? With bowling ball MODOK head guy and Devilman Lady, but no rage kitty? Justice League Da... no, with John Constantine? Noooo, whaaaat?
posted by emmtee at 2:16 PM on March 18


Well, that wasn't as depressing as I thought it was going to be.

No doubt: I was expecting to be just massively super-Harveyed to death, but things aren't anywhere near as bleak as I thought they'd be.

That said, I think it's also worth examining just how many of the Renees are hot, young, white cisgender women, because a quick scan suggests they compose a notable majority of the Renee-folk.

Also, count me among those who are bewildered by the number of spinoff, alt-'verse, and "artisan" variations on the teams us old folks grew up on. Get off my gamma ray irradiated, uncanny lawn!
posted by lord_wolf at 2:21 PM on March 18 [2 favorites]


...a massive history of being discriminated against, but which now enjoys the same sort of privileges as other white etnicities.

I apologize for even continuing this line of argument, but this very much depends where you are and how obviously Jewish your name and appearance are. I'm not about to say it's on par with the sort of discrimination many other minorities face, but it's an ethnic minority just the same.

There's more than definitely places right here in the good ol' US of A where so much as being olive rather than pink and saying my name aloud gets me plunked right into "just short of the kind of white we mean when we mean 'white'" category.
posted by griphus at 2:23 PM on March 18 [3 favorites]


although my reaction to John Constantine being on any kind of Justice League is never not going to be "what the fuck."

Oh DC. What next, Morpheus in Super Friends Goth?
posted by kmz at 2:24 PM on March 18 [2 favorites]


What next, Morpheus in Super Friends Goth?


SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY!


That is, the old Spanish dollars and big folded banknotes I keep in locked drawer in the dusty rolltop bureau in my study.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 2:33 PM on March 18 [3 favorites]


Gotham's greatest cops

No love for Jim Gordon?
posted by radwolf76 at 2:56 PM on March 18 [2 favorites]


> "No love for Jim Gordon?"

Jim Gordon supported the actions of extralegal vigilantes! Renee Montoya would never do anything like that.

*cough*
posted by kyrademon at 3:02 PM on March 18


I just ordered the Strangers In Paradise and Stray Bullets omnibii (which is the sort of thing anybody who claims to love comics should also be doing), and, not saying I'm better than other people or anything, but I think it's weird when people read anything by DC at all, and Marvel is only publishing two books worth a damn: Hawkeye, which doesn't know which issue it is currently at but, it could be argued, is equal parts Harvey/Renee; and Thor, where all the covers look the same, and which is pure Harvey.
posted by turbid dahlia at 3:03 PM on March 18 [2 favorites]


I dunno, you could argue that Jim's a lot of the time more of an ur-cop, a father figure for the notion of a reformed Gotham civil service and a liaison to Batman, than he is a beat-cop cop.
posted by cortex at 3:06 PM on March 18 [1 favorite]


Huh, I always think of the human aspect of Namor as being Asian, I guess that's me edumacted. Also a Jewish dude made of orange rock ain't no Harvey in my book.
posted by Sternmeyer at 3:37 PM on March 18 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure quantity is the issue at hand so much as quality. Or rather, not how many Renees, but how they are represented.
posted by Foosnark at 3:42 PM on March 18 [2 favorites]


You know, I'm okay with not considering inhuman/unnatural features as minority representation.

Regarding Jews as a ethnic minority: As most American Jews what their race is, they'll answer White (unless they're, you know, Asian or Hispanic or Black). We can talk about hierarchies of whiteness and the lack of religious diversity in comics, and I'm aware that's not the case worldwide, but complaining that someone's calling a Jewish guy a White dude when we're talking about overall representation in comics seems kind of far out.

Again, I'm not saying that there's no anti-semitism in the US (I've been told, to my face, that I'm a pretty good person for a Jew, and been accused of fad dieting during passover, and had a Bible literally waved in my face, and...). And yeah, there is a lack of religious diversity in mainstream comics. But attempts to classify US Jews as PoC always seems weird.
posted by dinty_moore at 5:00 PM on March 18 [1 favorite]


Interesting in theory, kinda screwed up in practice. Not only the lack of acknowledgement of Jewish people, not only not any acknowledgement that some of the characters weren't American, but under Guardians of the Galaxy he just says that when he wasn't certain of the answer he left them out. Wouldn't a gender neutral character, or at least one that could be classed as either gender, be a valid Renee, in that instance? After all, he explicitly divided them into 'straight cis non-Hispanic white male' and 'other'. Or is non-human, because it won't have real-world readers who will identify as such (blah blah otherkin, but you know what I mean) not regarded as enough of an 'other'?

And Marvel had two all-Renee teams, which I thought was awesome, but apparently a team that is ten Renees and one Harvey has a counterpart "that almost cancels out its diversity" consisting of ... four Harveys and three Renees. That's just bad maths.

I get the point. I get the bad of comics. But the author was too wedded to his original concept that reads like it worked on a couple of books, but he kept trying to apply it after it fell apart.

What I found interesting was how many of the Harveys were he oldest characters in their respective universes. Especially Marvel, where most of them dated from at least the 60s, and are still in use today. Which suggests to me a concerted effort to have new characters not all be homogenous in identity markers even while utilising characters that have worked for decades.


That said, I think it's also worth examining just how many of the Renees are hot, young, white cisgender women, because a quick scan suggests they compose a notable majority of the Renee-folk.

A good point, but would require another metric. Perhaps Cloaks and Daggers. And I do hope we can avoid any kind of 'beauty privilege' derail.
posted by gadge emeritus at 5:28 PM on March 18


Regarding Jews as a ethnic minority...

"Ethnic minority" and "person of color" aren't interchangeable terms. The country and area I am from -- I have no idea if I count as a "US Jew" as I emigrated from somewhere in large part because my birth certificate said "Jew" under "ethnicity" -- whether or not the other ethnic minorities are "white" is a topic of content. Georgians, Kazakhs, Uzbeks, do they get to be white? Are they people of color? I can't answer that, but I can tell you for a fact they are ethnic minorities, as am I.

And as far as "classifying Jews as PoC" goes, there are plenty of Jews -- I worked with a bunch if Israelis who came from Yemen, Iraq, Iran -- that no one would bat an eye at describing as a person of color on sight. But they'd never identify as anything except "Jewish" and lumping them in to any other category (save for Mizrahi or Sephardi or whatever) would be insulting to their identity. I don't see a dividing ethnic line between myself and them and other Jews, even though they're brown and I'm olive and other Jews are pink. They do have to put up with a lot more shit than me, and Jews who aren't as obviously Jewish as I am -- my name might as well be Moishe Finkelstein -- put up with even less. It's not a spectrum of whiteness, it's a spectrum of my ethnicity.

I'm not saying you're wrong, but just about every Jew I know would be circling "Jewish" instead of "White" if that was an available option -- Americans, even many American Jews don't grasp the concept of Jewishness as an ethnicity and occasionally tell me that I'm "Russian," because I am from Russia and which I am emphatically not -- and they were guaranteed no negative consequences. (Personally, I don't fill out that category, and put "Other" if I have to.)

I'm not trying to invalidate your experience of being Jewish, but it doesn't match mine, and my experience lines up with a lot of the shit you have to put up with when you're an ethnic minority. "Religious diversity" has literally nothing to do with my identity as a Jew; I'm effectively an atheist and observe few holidays and definitely have never prayed in earnest.

And I think it's especially important in a project about comics, just because there's a long history of Jewish contribution to comics and erasure of Jewish identity in comics.
posted by griphus at 5:31 PM on March 18 [4 favorites]


Race is always a weird concept, but I frankly don't understand the way it works in the USA at all. I mean, would Ben Grimm count as Hispanic if he were Sephardi?
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:48 PM on March 18


This Man... This Census!
posted by griphus at 8:16 PM on March 18 [2 favorites]


M.O.D.O.K. is a hero now?! But he's designed only for killing!
posted by No-sword at 9:04 PM on March 18 [2 favorites]


They're counting an awful lot of spin-off teams, which tend to be short-lived, and of course there's lots of overlap of the core members. The Justice League tends to be more representative. If you look at, say, the movie Avengers, it's 5H2R; the first X-Men movie, 3H3R (that's counting Professor X). (And putting Nightcrawler in "other", because he's blue and furry, but not Beast, who's been blue and furry for most of his existence, really makes no sense.)
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:29 PM on March 18


And putting Nightcrawler in "other", because he's blue and furry, but not Beast, who's been blue and furry for most of his existence, really makes no sense.

Oh, it does, since Beast was born a white man and only got his looks through his own stupidity, while Nightcrawler was born that way.

M.O.D.O.K. is a hero now?! But he's designed only for killing!

Designed Only for Kuddling.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:19 AM on March 19


griphus: "It's not a spectrum of whiteness, it's a spectrum of my ethnicity."

Well, it's an ethnicity and a religion. You can't be born white and convert to black or Asian or the like, but you can be born something other than Jewish and become Jewish later in life.

Plus, the article doesn't say anything at all about considering Jewish as "white". That was MartinWisse's...interpretation? I dunno where he got it.

So classifying Judaism on the Renee/Harvey spectrum is hard. Since the dividing line is "person of color" vs. "white", and depending on the individual, a Jewish person could be either one, I don't think it's that the article is saying "Jewish is white" but I suspect the author's line of thought is "Judaism is not an indicator of color, so it's not being considered as a deciding factor in either direction". That's just my guess, though.
posted by Bugbread at 4:22 AM on March 19


Huh. Who would have thought that reducing everything to 'straight white cis American male' and 'other' would have unintended consequences?
posted by gadge emeritus at 5:59 AM on March 19


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