In November of last year, the notorious self-described “pick-up artist” Julien Blanc visited Australia on a seminar tour to teach men his ways, which mainly include lessons on how to treat women like objects – things
to be got and then dropped.
Blanc’s Melbourne talk was originally slated to take place at a luxury hotel, but was forced to relocate after thousands spoke out against his misogynistic dating tactics using the hashtag #takedownjulienblanc.
The action in this short comic book by cartoonist David Blumenstein – in its second printing, due to its popularity – takes place largely during the night of Blanc’s foiled seminar, whereby protesters effected the abandoning of a private river cruise to which Blanc and his crew had sneakily moved the seminar. As publisher Pikitia Press describes it, Blumenstein’s “playfully drawn true account of one evening introduces you to the people on both sides of the protest line”.
And playful it is, to a fault. Blumenstein portrays himself as someone caught naively in the middle of the situation, when in fact we read that he had deliberately plonked himself there, clicking through from a news story about Blanc’s visit to the resident American’s site and signing himself up for the seminar. The reason for doing so, he tells his wife, is that he’s only “interested to see what kind of guys turn up”. It would be more interesting for readers, and provocative, especially in a story where the author is the central character, if we were given more insight into Blumenstein’s reasoning for turning up.
By far the most interesting sequence of #takedown flows along the pages where Blumenstein’s character discusses the matters at hand – Blanc, “pick-up artists” in general, and the men who attend versus the folks who dissent – with the protester Jenny (a pseudonym; all people’s names and likenesses have been changed). It is here where some of the nuances of the issues are fleshed out, even if only for a few panels. It’s a shame then when the story is cut short, even if only to stay true to how events actually played out.
Blumenstein’s visual style is simple. His characters are always cartoonish – as he puts it himself in the short introduction, “I’ve given everyone no hands or feet and a perfectly round head.” In addition to its warm limited palette of salmon and burnt sienna, #takedown is ultimately a bit too sanguine for the subject matter at its heart. TW
Pikitia Press, 40pp, $10
This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Jun 20, 2015 as "David Blumenstein, #takedown". Subscribe here.