Thieves, by Lucie Bryon
Nobrow Press, 2022.
Lucie Bryon might of accidentally crafted an “Asiansexual” fairy tale for the current year. However, that comes with the worship of a lesbian couple rather than a heterosexual one, meaning that it's okay to celebrate the love between a Chinese girl and a white girl in the year 2023. I'm not gonna go full "woke" here or talk about how "progressive" this comic (*cough, “Graphic Novel”) is, as both Alice Oseman and Molly Knox Ostertag want us to believe.
I'm a simple white man. I have no issues with bedroom politics. I walk into the Comix Experience shop on Divisadero Street, I look around the shop for cool things to own, but still, I see goofy shit, like Chinese Superman and his yellow kids telling me "Black Lives Matter," or that there is such a thing called "Queer Manga."
I’m not making this up.
Hell, I wrote about "queer culture" as a pamphlet, and I argued that anyone can be "queer," so as long as you have a common hatred against normal people, and wish to use some kind of "queer stacking" to climb corporate (and artistic) ladders, and to make money off yourself for being such a unique snowflake against the state (ironically).
They say, “This is San Francisco. You should know what you are getting into!”
Again, I don't want to espouse PragerU tier beliefs, or dry "anti-SJW" cliches, but there is no doubt in my mind a lot of this social justice pandering is propaganda rooted in a Malthusian, "don't have kids" policy that celebrates hedonist distractions of consumption. The result of this is to be alone, using and abusing other people for sex, and to wave a Ukrainian flag outside to remind your neighbor you voted for Joe Biden.
But through all this, I am a sucker for interracial romance. I am. I have been an advocate for niche identity politics and forbidden sexualities since I was 24. And you would think, I would be accepted by the neoliberal state by now. It’s hard to explain myself.
You see, I'm an Asian Studies major, and my specific area of study a decade ago was researching the "Eurasian" culture clash between white and Asian communities in America. I'm grateful to know that a decade later, I am finally seeing a unique, CalArts-inspired cartoon about this idealized romance. It’s good to know that I wasn’t the only one weeping in my misery.
I saw copies of Thieves on the table, I skimmed through the pages, and right away, I saw a cute Chinese hipster gal. “I know she’s Asian. I can tell!!” My only neurosis was that I just needed confirmation that the chick was Asian, and it was only affirmed through the first pages that her favorite movie was In The Mood For Love, which is a cult classic among queer Asian Americans, and as well a stable to the aesthetics and theme of Mood Ring, an Asian American nightclub out of Bushwick, Brooklyn.
So I decided to buy the comic. It also came with a cool autograph sticker by “Luchie” herself. I stuck it on the back of my Korg Drumlogue. Now I’m stuck making electronic music forever with the thought of these cool “punker” chicks.
I "read" Thieves once, and rather than reading, maybe instead I just felt tender and warm over the cute, girly pictures, which I fell in love immediately with, just wishing that there were indeed, in reality, badass girls like Ella and Madeleine that share the same desires I have.
Trust me, I tread on this lightly, because as a simple white man, I am hated for stating a preference for Asian aesthetics and beauty, which in turn makes me a "rapist enabler" to some hoity-toity white liberals, or ironically, by spiteful whitewashed non-whites (as white people have nothing better to do than to police each other as being ill-mannered). But I really don't care anymore, as I have nothing to lose, now that I know Lucie Bryon made it ok to justify both the Asiansexual and “Whitesexual” urges among an interracial lesbian couple. Both Ella and Madeleine thrive off each other, and both advocate a hybrid subculture of Eurasianism. I can only advocate that their love is a real progressive turn against the backward woke class that wishes that Lucie Bryon is writing about egalitarianism and non-reproductive hedonism. (Byron herself is French, and likely wants nothing more than a French supremacist society she belongs to).
I cannot help but stare endlessly at the still pictures of Ella and Madeleine, cuddling and holding hands, like a picture never dies, and like a memory, will only last until I close the book and never look at them again. That is the power of the still image. No words, no complicated language, but of the sublime nature of beauty, and what controversial and repressed desires are projected onto a canvas. If Edmund White could write about homosexuality in A Boy's Own Story, Byron can speak of a specific Eurasian love in Thieves, which will make any reader feel empowered through their own similar “Asian aesthetics” background.
The story begins with Ella waking up and going to school. Bryon draws each frame as a film shot, highlighting the objects around her room, and who she is, by subcultural aspiration, and as a person. The workaround "Object Oriented Ontology" and what materialism exists within Thieves is an important underlying theme. I don't want to get into the specifics of "OOO," but try and imagine Ella's interest in fashion, movies, and parties (which is underneath the text and only presented through pictures) reveal a greater truth about life outside the narrative. Objects are connected to both the culture and subculture of Ella, where a simple cameo of In The Mood for Love reveals an ideological presence of who Ella is, as a human, and as an individual, through consumer objects. All of this leans towards something that has not been said, or explained, before.
They say "Necessity is the mother of invention." It is a necessity to write what you know. Importantly, with regards to creative writing, or even "fantasy memoirs," you write out of a necessity to tell the world what and how you feel, where these feelings were not known before. For Ella, we are understanding what it means to be her, and how others like her can “come out,” and represent a new subculture. Thieves is about her love for Madeleine, a white female, and how she discovers herself through her desires.
Ella first sees Madeleine behind her in class and is immediately in love with her, and sees herself drowning in a tidal wave. This is symbolic of repression, and how drowning is like how we fear our honest sexual desires. Again, liberals argue we should stop "fetishizing" an individual because you like blue hair, and seek out only those with blue hair, as an identity politic. But for Ella, Madeleine represents perfection in many ways we as readers can relate to.
"There's beauty in mystery, and I have been investigating," as Ella mewls over to a friend. She is obsessive over Madeleine, like how Gustav von Aschenbach is obsessive over Tadzio in Thomas Mann’s Death in Venice. This desire play is a reoccurring theme throughout Western literature, and well with artistic engagement in the text between the author and his reader. Ella is willing to chase her down on Instagram, look at what she does from afar, and yet, like the rest of us, never approach her. Knowing that a quirky Asian girl could do this to a white girl, just ask, how many guys do this to the many assortments of girls showcasing themselves on a virtual marketplace like Instagram? Like Jesper Juul, who argues video games are "half-real," the so-called "social media" is half-real too, that pictures represent a cartoon, a fantasy, creating a narcissistic driven reality that everyone and anyone can be a muse to strangers. Madeleine is a muse to Ella, and thus, a muse to us.
In my male gaze, I believe Ella is cute because what I see through pictures, is that she is a cool Asian tomboy that casually smokes cigarettes after school with her white guy friends. In my fantasy, I could easily see myself doing that when I was a teenager in 2009. Ella becomes the muse. However, I seriously don't know anyone like Ella. We as readers are following the French, de Sade fantasy of believing in projection. If only there was a muse like Ella, and how a subculture could follow her. We wish she was real. It’s something we want to do.
Ella is a type of jouissance if that makes any sense.
I don't want to spoil the entire plot, but Ella goes to a cool kid party and bumps into Madeleine. And obviously, Madeleine wants to date rape Ella as soon as possible. I can’t help but think of Dennis Cooper's Closer at this point.
Some panels remind me of Matthieu Bessudo, (known as "McBess") as Ella is making erotic faces, walking drunk, and all the other kiddie emotions she makes. Later, she discovers a treasure trove of Chinese objects she adores. Again with Object Oriented Ontology, I just admire the secret cameos of the Nana manga and trinkets that remind Ella who she is.
Everything after reads like a sadist fantasy of falling in love. "I want her," as the reader dwells in his arousal.
In philosophy, Platonism represents the highest form of human connection and intimacy, followed by love and romance, and is advocated by the act of two human beings bonding with one another. This is the crux of the romantic comedy, which is not only admired by the upper class and bourgeoisie but an unavoidable aspect of Platonism and the meaning behind intellectualism. Watching Ella and Madeleine bond together creates envy with the reader, and encourages the same mimesis within us to do good. Being good means pursuing romance, love, intimacy, and the subculture that creates us.
Ella drowns in her anxiety, and she is coming to terms with her sexual awakening, or, her Whitesexual interest in “the other,” outside of herself. To spoil the text, the fucking begins on page 52. I don't want to say Madeleine is a bad person like George Miles (the lonely and lost boy in Cooper’s Closer), but the date rape fantasy becomes real in less than 24 hours, perfecting the sadist desire.
Even more cute, is that Ella stops fucking in favor of "consent." "Consent" here could as well be translated as grace, or, the ethos of the Platonist spirit, realizing human beings are more than animals. Lucie Bryon creates a world too perfect for us, and only something that most intellectual, sensitive men would want. But why... why, why, why, why... do they have to be lesbians?? I don’t know. I’m just pretending Madeleine is a guy at this point.
Ella dances out of excitement. Every man would dance like this after getting first base with a woman. Anyone would. This is where Thieves shines as a work of art.
The French tradition in the arts is about fantasy. A sexual fantasy that disturbs the programming of the mundane world we live through. Ella sparks fantasies in her world, projecting her desires, and wishing to be with Madeleine. Another party, another distraction. Another fantastic fuck. That's the cycle in Thieves. It is a fantasy that any young artist should be motivated by. It's not enabling "rape." No way. It’s another unrealistic sex scene after another.
The liberal fears desire. Desire conflicts with one another. That means one will use prejudice to discriminate, foiling egalitarianism. Desires are niche, and therefore, society must worship the niche, by force. The rhizome theory is against individualism, as anything is possible.
Thieves worship an identity politic that the liberal world can't handle yet. What was supposed to be dressed as Malthusian social control, instead of dancing around a subculture that might incite revolution against whiteness? Maybe the truth is that "Eurasian lesbianism" is a new form of whiteness. I don’t know.
But for sure, I'll take Eurasian lesbianism anytime, as it is the same idealism that a white nationalist advocating homosexuality would have because, to the white nationalist, homosexuality is unique in white sexual interest.
I don't want to spoil the plot further, so rather, I encourage you to pick up Thieves. It's a wonderful addition to the AxA subculture and a part of the rising (and romantic) Eurasian tide against the state.
The cycle continues between Ella and Madeleine. They "fuck," they dance. They fuck, they dance, they fuck, they dance, they fuck, they dance...