Tuesday, December 1, 2020

31 Days Of CCS, #1: Leise Hook

Published in The Believer, Leise Hook's The Vine And The Fish is an unusual entry for High-Low in that it's a limited-animation downscrolling comic. This is a fine work of personal journalism that compares so-called "invasive species" like the kudzu vine and the Asian carp to xenophobia and generalized anti-immigration sentiment that was fanned during the Trump administration. Given that Hook is of Asian descent herself, it was easy for her to connect the dots to create this kind of emotional impact. What was interesting is that she let the material and the images speak for themselves, as she even muted the emotional content during the strip. She didn't have to rely on histrionics or polemics, because the whole point of the piece was about how nuance is lost in arguments about immigration. 

Hook's research was impeccable. Her dispassionate yet pointed information-gathering provided historical context as to why both species were initially imported to the U.S., and how events unforeseen by those who upset delicate ecosystems led to both species overrunning their new environments. Hook points out that the language of war is often used when it's decided that it's time to get rid of these species, which she describes as a symptom of "the human desire to create order by imposing clean categories on an untidy world." Hook makes reference to a historian who notes that this kind of language is related to a latent fear of invasion. 

The second half of the story, which focuses on the Asian carp, digs further into linguistics and meaning. The animus against the fish was feared to have created a negative view of Asians in general. While at first this may seem to be an overreaction, the worldwide view of Asians after Donald Trump insisted on referring to COVID-19 as the "Chinese virus" demonstrates why words are important. They have an impact, and falsehoods repeatedly told start to feel like the truth. 

Hook's use of limited animation is graceful and lively. It never felt gratuitous or showy; instead, it enhanced the flow of the strip and its transitions. The downscrolled animations deftly moved the story along and its natural stopping points coincided with breaks in that animation. The muted green wash added to the somber yet earthy tone of the story. It's clear that Hook has found her niche with this kind of journalism, and this article practically begged for more of this kind of research from her.

No comments:

Post a Comment