To borrow a phrase from our greatest inspiration, the internet is a rich tapestry. If you’re like me, you were raised on the internet, and you’ve been stumbling into strange, shadowy corners of the web since you were old enough to talk.
Sometimes, Weird Internet is great. Some of my fondest childhood memories involve whole classrooms erupting into renditions of “Magical Trevor,” or lazy evenings at evangelical summer camp where my friends and I would re-enact Strong Bad Email to a frustrated and baffled audience of counselors who just wanted to teach us about Jesus.
Sometimes, Weird Internet isn’t great. One of my worst childhood memories involves being eleven and looking up forums for American Girl doll collectors and, somehow, winding up on a website that featured pornographic stories about cheerleaders brutally murdering each other. Which is not at all the kind of thing you want to see if you’re eleven years old and you just wanted to like, exchange strategy tips for Kaya’s Mountain Escape and Kit’s Money Matters.
But I’m a grown-up now. I’ve witnessed and participated in a great deal of Weird Internet. At this point, I thought nothing could phase me. I thought wrong.
“I Will Survive” is a comic by the artist William Borba. It is about the lead characters of Disney’s film Zootopia having a domestic dispute regarding whether or not to have an abortion. By the time it popped up on my radar, it had already been memed to death and derided as a current-day Chick Tract.
But I was – and still am – fascinated by it. Although it was being circulated as “pro-life,” it hardly seemed like your typical one-sided church propaganda. For one thing, Judy Hopps’ rationale for wanting an abortion is laid out with atypical clarity and complexity; Nick Wilde’s opposition seems facile by comparison. And the art – all 24 long pages of it – was of a professional standard. It must have taken months.
What was really going on here? I couldn’t know. Information on the creator’s motives was scarce. A few publications ran explainer articles, but these were more focused on the derivative memes than the comic itself. I had to get to the bottom of this. I had to understand – really, truly understand – the Zootopia Abortion Comic.
Thus, I reached out to Borba for a Niche Interview about his comic, and he answered several questions via e-mail. Between my original e-mail and his initial reply, web users uncovered some disturbing artwork in his DeviantArt gallery; in the name of journalism, I asked him about that, too. Check out our interview below.
What messages were you hoping to convey with this comic?
First, I want to make it clear that I am Brazilian and that I was inspired to write this comic based on the controversy that happened in Brazil in late 2016, when a proposal for a change in the abortion law caused a lot of controversy in the country, with the expected massive presence of conservatives, such as the Catholic Church and representatives of other Christian denominations.
Unfortunately, though, most readers did not catch the main message of the comic (perhaps I failed to point it clearly in my narrative) which is what can happen when a couple, even a very loving couple, begin to argue over something very serious, which can jeopardize their relationship, and both parties refuse to reach an agreement, which ultimately causes disruption and separation. The revelation of the main plot takes place in the text of the final page, making it very clear, in my opinion, that the abortion issue was only the trigger that triggered the crisis. By the way, I have tried to be as free as possible in presenting the arguments of both parties, leaving the reader to take a position based on their own feelings and opinions.
Anyway, I want to make it clear that I firmly believe that only women can have the last word on what they can or cannot do with their own bodies.
Why did you feel that Zootopia would be an effective platform to tell this story?
I did not create this story with only Zootopia in mind. But as I became an unconditional fan of this magnificent film, I decided to use two of the main characters in the film as vehicles to express my ideas and as a counterpoint to what I found to be an excessive number of kissy-kissy fan fictions and fan arts about Nick and Judy’s relationship.
With that in mind, I have created a story that purposely moves the reader out of their comfort zone. Exaggerated expressions, gestures, and lines are by themselves sufficiently controversial. So anyone who reads “I Will Survive” can stand against or in favour of the comic but will never fail to take an attitude with regard to it.
What sort of response were you expecting?
What is happening now is considered by me as a revival of what happened in the first half of 2017, with the difference of having a greater reach and intensity.
When I first published “I Will Survive” earlier this year, I was expecting intense reactions from fans who are in favour of a loving relationship between Nick and Judy. I was only surprised by the amount of hatred I received, since I posted the comic only on DeviantArt. But many people have taken charge of posting it on other social networks, such as Tumblr, Facebook, and Pinterest. I found it curious that the comic even appeared on furry porn sites, as one DeviantArt user showed me, since it has nothing to do with pornographic themes.
Do you have anything you would like to say to readers who were offended by the comic, or by violent themes in your past artwork?
We live in a time where people feel offended by almost everything, a time when someone who has a different opinion from that held by the mainstream takes the risk of being crucified socially, especially through what we here in Brazil call “Sofativismo” (Slacktivism), using the internet and social networks to practice these attacks from the comfort of their homes and, most often, under the shield of pseudonyms.
Well, I exposed myself to their gunfire. I created and published this story using my own name and taking the risk of suffering the ill-treatment I now receive from those who cannot stand the existence of opinions different from theirs.
As for your question about people who saw something to offend them in my gallery about a mythical and ancient kingdom of Amazons in today’s central Brazil, I must say that these people interpreted the drawings in a way totally out of context.
One of the main sources of offended comments is a post where I linked two of the various drawings I made in the 1990s as visual aids when I was writing a series of books about that mythical kingdom, based on various legends and texts written over the centuries here in Brazil about these supposed Amazons. In these two drawings, in particular, I show the violent mistreatment received by two Amazon warriors who fell in love with each other, contradicting the law and religion of their class, which was based on what would have been ordered by their chaste goddess Artemis. In the books I wrote, this religion provided severe and violent punishments for those who were against the greater principle of chastity. This class of warriors, in my books, would be some kind of “warrior nuns,” and only they had that kind of behaviour. The other classes of Amazons did not prohibit or encourage a homosexual love relationship, just accepting it naturally when they happened.
The two warriors that appear in the drawings were shown positively in the books and in the graphic novel, having been friends of one of the main characters, who already felt revolted with the spartan conditions of life of the warrior class. The condemnation of her two friends just for the fact that they loved each other was sufficient for this character to begin a rebellion that completely changes the course of the history of the Amazon kingdom in this series of books I wrote.
Now they are calling me “intolerant,” “religious,” and “homophobic,” which is a curious thing for an atheist who came from a family with Jewish origins, who has a Catholic wife and has friends from different backgrounds, races, religions and sexual choices.
I’ll leave it to you, dear reader, to interpret and interrogate Borba’s work further. May his answers aid future historians in understanding what will surely be remembered as one of the most fascinating online relics of our time.