So Sweet Very Rotten is a book by Jane Mai and An Nguyen, and is a compilation of essays and fictional comics about alternative fashion. It’s main focus is on Lolita fashion. I had an issue with one of the comics in there and wanted to spread awareness about it, as it was rather unpleasant surprise when I had first picked it up. But before I go into it, I want to give everyone a heads up. This comic deals with the topic of self harm. This is not a post about me trying to censor the contents in this comic, but rather, a problem I had with the way the topic of self harm was handled.
The comic is called I Follow. It focuses on a comic artist who is determined to come up with a perfect vision of her story. The character harms herself in order to create said vision. Despite the cartoon-like style of the comic, there is some blood and gore involved, ranging from a hand being chopped off, to an eye being taken out, to even a heart being intentionally cut out of the main character’s chest. The main character puts all of this harm on herself. The harm becomes more apparent as she loses parts of her own body. Although the style of the comic is cartoon-like, the dark vibes of the comic may make some readers feel uncomfortable.
The main character does have a form of mental illness, though it is not confirmed out right in the comic. She has a shopping addiction which along with self harm, is an unhealthy way she tries to find inspiration for her own work.
My issue with this comic is that there are instances of self harm for the sake of being dark, and self harm is not taken seriously. The delightful reaction the character had when she got the inspiration she so desired. also made me feel a bit of the chills. Nobody helped this main character through her struggle with self harm and there is an overall feeling of hopelessness throughout the work. At one point, she holds a spoon in her hand, one that presumably she uses to take out her eye, and continuously, she says:
“I have to.”
“I have to.”
“I have to.”
She feels as if she needs to hurt herself to achieve the best vision for her comic. And nobody realizes she is harming herself until it is too late.
I opened this book, one with a pastel pink and blue cover, and expected something positive. But I was a little disappointed with this comic in particular.
The main character, after continuously self harming, dies in the end. Even when the main character’s friend discovers the body, (the friend died after taking out her own heart), she mourns briefly and just leaves, giving out a sigh of relief that seems a little off putting.
Coming from a fashion community with some members that do struggle with mental illnesses, I wanted to put more of a warning to the contents of this comic, rather than insisting on censorship. I do not think it was the intention of both authors to put self harm in this sort of light, but I personally did not like the way the topic was represented.
Although I disliked this comic, there are some aspects of this book that I did enjoy and I will likely make a post on them in the future.