The dead get no privacy. Right or wrong, as soon as someone dies we can examine, publish, and speculate about every element of their lives, including their sex lives.
Obviously, a lot of this is done for titillation. Sex sells. Including steamy content in your discussion about a historical figure can help get you more exposure. But beyond that, it’s actually become one of the more relevant factors to our modern political discourse.
History, by definition, deals with people who are effecting power of other groups of humans. In previous times, we were content to let the power struggle of that group be the contextual lens through which we viewed the figure. But our modern political discourse has increasingly become interested in how power relates to sex and the sexual treatment of those who are out of power.
For instance, if I wanted to use George Washington’s life to make a statement about the Harvey Weinstein scandal, I would need to examine how George Washington conducted his sex life as he came into power and over the course of his political career. And if I didn’t do that, I would be missing out on an opportunity to make my work on George Washington relevant to a modern audience.
In regards to White Lily, the obvious conflict is how gender relates to military service. To this day, Katya Budanova and Lilya Litvyak were the only two women in world history to earn the title of “Ace” fighter pilot by shooting down five enemy combatants because other women were never afforded the opportunity. This makes gender the obvious thing that must be discussed and examined in the story.
I’ve spoken with a number of people who get excited about the story, and naturally argue that the Soviet Union was simply more forward thinking that the rest of the world. Why wouldn’t they have female combat pilots? But this pro-Soviet interpretation ignores how the Red Army conducted itself. According to historian Anthony Breevor, the Red Army committed rape literally millions of times as they advanced from Stalingrad to the heart of Germany: German woman, Polish, Russian, none was spared.
I believe that it would be irresponsible of me to try to give an account of the gender politics of these women, and not touch on this often ignored catastrophe. I disliked how the topic was treated in the movie Fury, where an armed American soldier enters a rooms to have sex with a woman he encountered not a couple of hours earlier. For tonal reasons, Fury attempts to portray the couple as young adults trying to take a break from the war, but that feels like an obvious step taken by the production team in order to sanitize what happened for modern audiences.
Of course, White Lily is not a documentary, but rather a fictionalized account of the story designed to entertain, provoke, and educate. Thus, the problem of tone is a tricky one for you end up with part The Battle of Britain and part Thelma and Louise (in Russia). After much reflection, that’s exactly what I decided to create.
While the western experiences of World War II were of epic heroism, those on the Eastern Front were soul crushing. To me, that made these women’s story all the more amazing. It also makes a statement about the human condition and how gender relates to it. If you shy away from speaking to the human condition, you’re not making art.
I hope you are willing to take this journey with me as the story turns darker. While the first issue showcased only the well known horrors of war at the hands of both the enemy and your own government, subsequent issues are going into the bedroom.
I wanted to share with you page 4 of the second issue. A lot if happening on that page. On the prior page, Katya was working herself up to reveal her lesbian desires to Lilya, but those attempts are thwarted on page 4 when she comes out to find Lilya leaving with Alexei.
Cut to the next morning, and we see Lilya getting out of bed. But, if you take a close look at her neck, you will see something is amiss. She’s bruised. I leave it to the reader to put two and two together (or miss that detail entirely) but I decided to give Lilya a fetish for erotic asphyxiation.
No one ever understands the motivation I gave Lilya for preferring such a dark form of sexual coupling. It’s not simply thrill seeking, but an indicator of the depth of her hidden wounds. The event she’s grieving was showcased in the first issue- the execution of her father. He died by hanging, and poor Lilya attempted to save him by charging the gallows. But she failed.
In my notes about the character, that was the moment that defined her. Her failure to save her father caused her to seek more power through violence, but the guilt of his loss haunts her. In an attempt to process this loss, she seeks strangulation in her darker and more vulnerable times.
In an earlier version of the story, I made it obvious by having the sex scene interwoven with a flashback to the gallows. But the resulting on screen sexual violence made the story objectionable for obvious reasons. So I cleaned it up a bit by pushing it offscreen. The audience is now left to puzzle how and why she got those bruises on her neck, so I wanted to take a moment to explain it to my fans.
Until next time,