Editor’s Note: Last week Gucci debuted the trailer for the TV spot advertising its new fragrance, Gucci Guilty, and revealed that the commercial is being directed by none other than Frank Miller, cinematic auteur of the comic book world. When we heard rumblings of Miller’s involvement, we reached out to our nerd-oriented friends at Geekosystem for a more in-depth rundown: who he his, why Gucci would want him to direct the commercial for their fragrance, and, most importantly, why allowing him into women’s fashion might be a bad idea.
Why Frank Miller is A Big Deal in the Geek World
Frank Miller is a writer of comic books, many of which he illustrates himself. If you’re not into comics but watch movies, 300, and Sin City were both based on some of the work that made him famous. But the real reason that he’s geek-famous lies back in the 1980’s. See, in the ’80s, American comic books were still recovering from spending a decade and a half under self-imposed censorship . We were undergoing something of a renaissance, what with Alan Moore and Neal Gaiman, to name some of the more well known figures, turning out some of their best work. Frank Miller was a part of that crowd. The Dark Knight Returns — a story about a dystopic future where Superman is under the heel of an autocratic American state, and a fifty-five year old Batman must come out of retirement to put down gangs of mutants, a return of the Joker, and eventually Superman himself — was one of the first graphic novels to be taken seriously by mainstream book reviewers. It, along with books like Watchmen and Sandman, led the industry into an era of darker, more adult storytelling. Miller is also known for Batman: Year One, one of the big influences on Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies; Sin City which was also praised for its innovative art and thematic content; and for popularizing the Marvel Comics character Daredevil.
To sum up: Miller did some really influential work, both in writing and art, in the 1980s. He is largely where we get the modern interpretation of Batman as a dark and brooding figure. He is a figure of historic significance in American comics.
Okay, then. Moving on.
Frank Miller’s Work is Consistently, Offensively, Shockingly Misogynistic
I say this as someone whose first graphic novel was a copy of Batman: Year One, and I say this as a girl who has been in love with comics from the age of eleven. There are two kinds of women in Frank Miller stories:
- Women who are employed in the sex industry.
- Women who are beaten and/or brutally murdered by the end of the piece.
Frank Miller likes Noir, a genre which is rife with virgin/whore dichotomies, but there comes a point when one must draw the line. Take the stories selected for the Sin City movie. The only woman who is not a prostitute or a stripper is a lesbian parole officer who likes to walk around her apartment naked. Elijah Wood amputates her arm and eats it in front of her. She is then gunned down by corrupt cops.
Frank Miller introduced us to Catwoman as a former prostitute. He created the first female Robin and the formidable assassin Elektra, only to eventually torture and kill them, respectively. Wonder Woman in The Dark Knight Strikes Back is mostly just around for Superman to have sex with. Successful print reporter Viki Vale in All Star Batman and Robin dictates a story about idiotic playboy Bruce Wayne while lounging around in her underwear, but drops her evening plans immediately when Bruce Wayne requests that she join him in five minutes with all possible excitement and not a trace of bother. And then there’s this cover. Note the placement of his signature.
It seems that the only woman Frank Miller feels safe with is one who is dependent on a man’s attention for her survival.
However, if I got angry at every blatant example of sexism in the comics I read, I’d have no energy left. So lets talk about the subtle. Frank Miller writes “creepy” male villains by making them ambiguously homosexual. An easily accessible example of this is the character of Xerxes from 300, who is mostly naked, kholed up the wazoo, covered in piercings, shaved eyebrows, and nail polish and whose speech and actions are charged with sexuality towards the righteous Spartan warriors.
(Who, in the book, refer scornfully to Athenians as boy-lovers when in historical fact, Spartan soldiers were totally openly gay.)
A less accessible example is Miller’s portrayal of the Joker in The Dark Knight Returns, where he makes a point of noting that the madman knows how to apply his own lipstick and has him refer to Batman by various lovers’ nicknames.
It’s not really fair to call these characters ambiguously gay, because what they actually are is effeminate, a difference that many people fail to grasp. What Miller’s characters say is that the freakiest thing that a man can be is like a woman. Any reader should find it disturbing when a writer’s favorite way to show them an evil person is by showing them a person with feminine attributes.
Oh, Right! I Was Supposed To Be Talking About Gucci
The trailer for Gucci’s ad clearly borrows a lot from Miller’s Sin City playbook, iconic but vaguely laid out cityscapes; a black and white world with occasional arresting spots of color; movie stars, bars, and fast cars. Which is great from a design standpoint, but does not bode well for its depiction of both sexes. It stars comic veteran Chris Evans and Evan Rachel Wood, the latter of which, at least within the 32 second timeframe of the trailer, appears to have some ass-kicking potential. But in light of his historical tendencies towards his female characters, we’re not holding our breath.
While Miller may — and I sincerely hope he does — take into account Gucci’s target market, it’s still surprising and, honestly, bothersome that a man like him is running PR for a woman’s fragrance. The full-length video will make its debut at the MTV Video Music Awards on September 12, so we’ll just have to wait and see. But here’s the bottom line: the fashion industry has enough to worry about regarding questionable advertising without throwing him into the mix.