In our class discussion on Will Eisner’s A Contract With God, people seemed most concerned with Eisner’s representation of sex, especially in “The Super.” Everyone seemed to agree that the super acted wrongly when he paid Rosie a nickel to see under her dress. However, the class seemed divided on whether or not Rosie is a temptress or a victim. I do not think that a 10 year old can really be a temptress, but I do believe that Eisner’s representation of her is purposefully sexual.
The Super is the main character. We are meant to be viewing the story from his perspective. That doesn’t mean that we have to side with him though, and I don’t believe that is what Eisner intended. I think he wanted to tell a story from the view point of a character that makes us uncomfortable. The scene directly following his first encounter with Rosie is in his room where we see the erotica all over the walls. The images he is looking at in the scene are not pedophilic. I don’t think the super is meant to be a pedophile, I think he is Eisner is trying to represent a desperate man living in hard times. I think he is doing something similar with Rosie.
At the age of 10, Rosie is already following suit of the adult female characters in other stories in this novel. She is using sexuality as power, which seems to be the only way that women in Eisner’s stories have power. Eisner is showing that in limited living conditions, people will do what it takes to live. Rosie is only 10 years old, so she has probably spent her whole life watching the women around her use sexuality as a bargaining tool.
Rosie and the Super are both products of difficult economic conditions. We shouldn’t be angry with Eisner for drawing a 10 year old in a sexual light because he isnt doing it with the intention of convincing his audience that Rosie is sexy. He has drawn her this way to purposefully make us uncomfortable. Their relationship isn’t meant to feel comfortable or safe. We are meant to be uncomfortable with both the Super and Rosie. And because this story is told from the perspective of the Super, Rosie is going to look more sexual than she is acting because that is how the Super sees her.