THE PERVERT BY MICHELLE PEREZ AND REMY BOYDELL
Story
Art
Characterization
Summary
As Perez and Boydell's debut graphic novel, the two accomplish quite a lot. THE PERVERT shines a light on sex work in the 21st century, as well as the intersection of sex work and gender. Although the book falls short in terms of narrative cohesiveness, THE PERVERT will give readers a lot to think about.
83 %
NOT PERFECT, BUT IMPORTANT

THE PERVERT, by Michelle Perez and Remy Boydell, is set to hit shelves on April 25th. Love it or hate it, it’s going to be one of the most important comic releases this year. Here’s why.

THE PERVERT
Courtesy of Image Comics

THE PERVERT follows a trans woman named Felina living in Seattle who makes money as a sex worker. We follow this protagonist as she interacts with her coworkers, clients, and lovers. If the title did not give it away, THE PERVERT is very, very not safe for work, even veering into pornographic territory at times.

Thoroughly Modern Manic Pixie Dream Girl

THE PERVERT is composed of a collection of strips following Felina through an unspecified period of time. Although there is a story arc, it can be hard to place where each strip falls into the overall narrative. The dialogue can be confusing at times too, and the relationships between characters aren’t always immediately apparent. Overall, there is ambiguity in how the story is told. It remains unclear if this is an intentional writing decision or a product of collecting individual strips into a larger book. Ultimately, THE PERVERT doesn’t really have the narrative cohesiveness you would expect from a “graphic novel.” However, despite the ambiguity, THE PERVERT offers just enough closure to leave most readers satisfied.

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THE PERVERT novel veers away from the themes that dominate a lot of trans-centric narratives. It does not focus on the protagonist’s inner struggle with her identity. Instead, the focus is shifted to how Felina moves through her interpersonal relationships, and how her identity does and does not impact those dynamics. Like many women, she sometimes becomes a vessel for men to work out their complicated feelings, divorced from her own. This is especially true for her work as a sex worker, where she commodifies herself to survive. This theme explains why there isn’t really much to work with in terms of characterization. We don’t know much about our protagonist. In fact, she doesn’t even say her name until the final pages of the book. In a way, Felina is a thoroughly modern, manic pixie dream girl.

The T in LGBTQ

On a reactive level, I initially took issue with the depiction of trans women in THE PERVERT. It was pretty objectifying, with most trans women engaging in graphic sex at some point in the book. I know that the fetishization of trans women in porn is often problematic. However, I can see how one could argue that the sexualized depiction of trans women in THE PERVERT is reappropriating these problematic representations and therefore reinstating the sexual agency of trans women. 

THE PERVERT
Courtesy of Image Comics

THE PERVERT is reacting against the anesthetized version of trans women that we often see in progressive mainstream media. Nonetheless, these depictions often made me uncomfortable. Still, I think that was the point. Afterall, this is a graphic novel about sex work. This line of work is rarely glamorous and THE PERVERT does a fantastic job of showing what sex work looks like in the 21st century.

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Soft Art, Hardcore Porn

The art of THE PERVERT undermines our expectation of gender by depicting some of the characters as anthropomorphic animals, mostly cats and dogs. There are, however, human characters as well. I had trouble determining why some characters were just humans and others were not. Was Boydell just taking artistic liberties, or was there an underlying reason for these depictions? Regardless, by using anthropomorphic animals, it becomes impossible for the reader to clock any of the characters just by looking at them.

Furthermore, the stylistic decisions made by Boydell are in stark contrast to the themes of the graphic novel. Scenes like Felina contemplating what she will do if her client gets violent while she’s getting fucked are all rendered in soft watercolors. The art creates a feeling of vulnerability that permeates the entirety of THE PERVERT. This heightens the overall “uncomfortableness” because, as a reader, we get the feeling that we are seeing things we aren’t meant to see. Although THE PERVERT reveals some harsh realities, it does so from a genuine and personal place.

THE PERVERT
Courtesy of Image Comics

The last thing that is super notable about the art is that there are peculiar post-modern references to other cartoon characters. Background characters resemble Jon from Garfield, Charlie Brown, and Clifford the Big Red Dog. This serves as both a homage to the comic strip and also contributes to an overall theme of loss of innocence and jadedness.

Final Thoughts on THE PERVERT

THE PERVERT is definitely not for everyone. This graphic novel is likely going to offend a lot of people, both conservative and liberal. But that’s kind of what makes this book exceptional.

THE PERVERT shines a light on the intersection of sex work and gender in the 21st century. Would I recommend this to my friends? Some of them. Still, the importance of THE PERVERT in our journey towards gender parity and sexual liberation is undeniable. With THE PERVERT as both Perez and Boydell’s debut graphic novel, the duo has a lot to be proud of.

Ultimately, regardless of how uncomfortable some of the content of this graphic novel made me, THE PERVERT reinforces the need for a greater diversity in LGBTQ media representation. This includes representation that is just as provocative as THE PERVERT. I walked away from this book not really sure what to think. However, I walked away feeling like I had read something extremely important.

THE PERVERT will release on April 25th, 2018. Until then, you can preorder the graphic novel here.

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2 Comments

  1. ryumoau

    April 26, 2018 at 7:22 pm

    No offense, but that comic sounds Cringey as heck. Also Michelle Perez is an awful human being. She wished the death of a veteran on twitter.

    Reply

    • Lindsey Mott

      April 27, 2018 at 12:36 pm

      Hi, ryumoau! I think “cringey” might not be a completely out of place description for this book — THE PERVERT definitely is not for everyone. Even as a queer-identifying person, this book made me very uncomfortable. However, I think we exist in a universe where there is room for art that makes us uncomfortable. In fact, I think this kind of art can be very important in how it challenges us to examine why it makes us so uncomfortable.

      Regarding your beef with Michelle Perez — I don’t know the incident in question, so I can’t really speak to what was said. However, there are a lot of creatives who say things that I do not agree with, but I can still appreciate their work (case in point — Kanye’s entire career). Everyone is inherently problematic by being human — however, there is definitely a line of what I can personally tolerate. If what was said was abhorrent enough that you choose to never support Perez’s work, it is your prerogative as a consumer to make that decision.

      With that said, if you are looking for a trans-centric comic that is less abrasive than THE PERVERT, Erin Nations’ GUMBALLS is a great pick!

      Reply

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