Thursday, December 13, 2007

Reflecting on the Worst Joke Anyone Ever Told Me.

And I am going to warn everyone reading this that it is, in many ways, a particularly bad joke, and I would not be at all surprised if you were offended, in fact I expect it, so spending time complaining to me how horrible a joke this is would be incredibly redundant.

So I was having a casual bull session with some friends, late at night, beers were being passed around, and we start trading offensive jokes. Stuff you wouldn't say in front of anyone but your friends, because you know that if anyone but your friends heard you tell a joke like this, they would take it badly. Jokes about rape, racism, and dead babies. If anything offends you, we probably told a joke about it.

Now, I say "stuff you wouldn't say in front of anyone but your friends", but that can't be entirely true, because this stuff comes in from outside somehow, someone thinks it up and laughs and decides to pass it on. And it filters into your group of buddies somehow, and someone gets a couple beers in them and passes it on to the rest of you.

And so one guy, when we prompted him to tell a joke, screwed his face into an indecisive grimace, saying "I dunno. This guy told me this one joke, but it's just kinda sick, not really funny..." But, after some cajoling, this is what we got:

Q: What's the worst thing about sex with a seven-year-old?

A: Having to strangle her afterwards.

Now, if you're like me and my friends, you didn't laugh. The lot of us just kinda went "eeyuhh" and there was a brief, uncomfortable silence.

"Huh, you're right, that... wasn't actually very funny."

"Yeah, I know."

The secret of a "good bad joke" is that the wit or cleverness of the joke overwhelms the inherent badness of the sentiment, and that did not happen in this case, at least not for our group.

Failed joke or not, nobody jumped on the guy who told it and accused him of being a killer pedo, or implied that the joke he told was in any way a reflection of his real-life wishes and intents. And, I'm assuming that the majority of the people reading this are reasonable enough that no such charge would be leveled at me, for relaying that awful joke to you. (However, the small percentage of you who are not at all reasonable are why I remain anonymous when writing potentially contentious things like this.)

What assurance, then, what inner certainty of knowing someone else's mind, prompts some people to declare that comics creator X is definitely sexist or misogynist (racist, Republican, add your own) for writing or drawing a scene that offends them? And what jump of logic makes creating such a scene equivalent to having the same desires and intents in real life?

Relating this back to my column a couple months back, "Ban the Soul, Eh", it's much the same as assuming ads for tanning lotion are promoting necrophilia and/or pedophilia.

Which leads me to another line of thought, since the SAFE Act is making the rounds in the blogosphere. Steven Grant has a pretty good analysis of the situation, and I'll cut to the chase and quote from his closing paragraph:

But I do know another standard misconception in our society is that having fantasies – and everyone has fantasies of some sort, whether they admit it or not, though hopefully most of those fantasies don't involve sex with children – means people want to play out those fantasies in real life. I suspect most people don't, and wouldn't if they could, the same way most people who dream of flying don't jump off cliffs. Fantasy is pretty much the ultimate in safe sex. But colonizing fantasy has always been one of the great fantasies of western civilization, especially among those in power, because we have always basically mistrusted fantasy, and imagery/iconography. Legislating behavior is one thing, legislating fantasy is another, and if nothing else Freud demonstrated pretty clearly that sexual repression has consequences. Often unpleasant and violent consequences. Maybe visualizing aberrant fantasies helps stave off aberrant behavior, and maybe it doesn't, but study, not half-assed legislation (which will almost certainly get thrown out by the courts, like almost all porn legislation that tries to extend its grasp via vagueness) and citing "common wisdom," seems appropriate. Of course, this is one of those hot button issues where even suggesting alternatives will have the frothers (of both ilks) thinking you're some kind of sympathizer, so open discussion of the problem seems to be at a minimum. I'm all for rooting out pedophiles but casting an inordinately broad net creates the most harm for the least results (and in this specific instance forces an entire class of people to be unpaid cops, or suffer the consequences) when what we need is a practical solution.
Some may note that he echoes what Mad Thinker Scott's been saying for a while: That there's no real strong correlation between porn and sexual assault, and in fact, there's some evidence that more porn somehow encourages less rape.

"Common Wisdom" would seem to be far less wise than the credit it receives in Congress, in activist groups and so forth. And I wonder how many causes and viewpoints are espoused that, if analyzed fully, would break down to no more than "I just think it's right (or wrong), and that's enough proof for me"...?

Do I really trust someone else to judge me by a bad joke I tell, without consideration of the situation, or context?

Do I trust the values of the guy who has to filter my ISP? Is someone going to fix on some keywords in this post and set up a red flag: "potential child-murdering molester on"?

Do I trust some ad-watching activist group to have clear and rational standards when determining which ads send bad messages?

Do I simply accept that some comics creator is a misogynist, because someone else has convinced themselves they are?

I could... but that's a leap of logic I'm still not willing to make.

Merry Christmas. Happy New Year. See you in '08.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Gosh. I Feel Almost Necessary.

"And those particular fans who pop up on WFA periodically to denounce and decry feminist fans, female fans and the hive vagina? Well...think about it this way, would they be so vocal or so adamant if there wasn't the element of threat involved. If, on some level, they didn't think we might win."

That's the gist of a post by Kalinara explaining that, no, she and others aren't about to give up on superhero comics or the mainstream, and they're not going to stop protesting, either, because it has an effect.

And this because Tamora Pierce wrote about creating a new, establishment-free market, inspired (according to her) by the Elizabeth Bear column I praised last post as well as my own post on the subject. There's a flurry of posts besides Kalinara's that say much the same: nobody's going to give up their favorite characters, in fact everybody loves mainstream comics, despite how much complaining goes on.

Well, okay, and honestly, that's about what I expected.

The thing that strikes me about Kalinara's post, however, is the conviction that creators and fans responding to charges of misogyny and sexism is a sign of progress, and that the naysayers fear the Woman Power. This may all be true.

But that sort of thing goes both ways.

When I discovered the existence of WFA and the various controversies going on at the time, it seemed to me that there was quite a lot of sentiment on the order of Changing Society For The Better By Weeding Out Comics Sexism So That Nobody Could Have It. Since then, there's been a bit of discussion, prompted by critics of fangirl feminism, along the lines of Wait, That's Kind Of Repressive Talk, There And How Are You Defining Sexism Anyway, and sure, while some posts along those lines have been combative, if not downright hostile, it seems to me there's been a subtle reorganization: Okay, Have Your Sexist Crap But Give Me More Stuff That Doesn't Piss Me Off. The "changing society" bit hasn't gone away, but it seems to me to be less prominent than it was.

Someone gripes about a statue or something, someone calls for its elimination, someone else says "you're trying to remove anything sexy", someone else says "no, we don't actually want to remove the sexy", and so on. Stances shift as these details get hammered out.

Even those of us who are labeled as being "against" feminism have our place. Without resistance, any stance or philosophy becomes unthinking dogma. Without dissent, flaws in a philosophy go unrevealed, unchecked. And if, for example, Brian Bendis having to speak up and defend himself against charges of misogyny is a sign of the power of the feminist movement, then it certainly must be a sign of the power of the dissenters when someone like Mad Thinker Scott is routinely labeled as a troll and his arguments dismissed without even discussing the merits of his statements. Doesn't that indicate every bit as much a sense of fear that he might be right after all?...

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Ur Doin It Rite

I can really get behind an attitude and statements like this. There is so much that is so right about this.

I don't believe I've read any of Elizabeth Bear's work before, but I may just look some up next time I'm in the store.

ADDITIONAL: Seems Rational Mad Man has also endorsed the same post, and has received, well, what he usually gets lately, scorn and name-calling. Since my reasons for endorsing Ms. Bear's post are somewhat different than his, I'll elaborate on what I like about it, lest anyone automatically equate my statement with his and dismiss it outright, because I know some folks out there would, given the chance.

RMM sees her post as an extension of the "go make your own" argument/bingo-card-spasm-trigger, but I see it differently, because she really doesn't seem to be encouraging other creators to forge ahead with her statement (although I don't see any reason why she wouldn't be in favor of more female creators).

What she is saying, and what I like, is that she's forging her own path regardless (and in spite) of anything 'The Patriarchy' does or says in opposition. She doesn't need them to make her career work.

This is feminism I can get behind - the kind that says, "okay, here's what I think is wrong, but if you don't want to fix it, fine, screw you, I'm gonna have my own party and it's gonna rock."

By contrast, one of the failings I see in feminism as it intersects with mainstream comics fandom is that it is (quite probably inherently) dependent on 'The Patriarchy'. Long-standing feminist icon or not, who owns Wonder Woman? Not Gail Simone, especially not The Fandom, but corporate structures and shareholders, i.e., The Establishment, i.e., The Patriarchy. If this Patriarchy dominates DC and Marvel, then any appeal for change from feminists must be cajoled, begged or wheedled out of the Bad Mans. (Coerced, perhaps, but that assumes there's actually sufficient leverage with which to coerce.)

If you can't divorce yourself from the idea that you must have Wonder Woman, no imitations, no substitutes, no fanfic/fanart, it must be canon and she must perform to your expectations, then you leave yourself at the mercy of The Patriarchy, and their decision to put whatever creative team they choose in charge of her story, whether that's Good (Gail Simone and competent artists) or Bad (I dunno, say, Judd Winick and whoever people hate these days that draws WW with a wedgie and broken spine). And am I the only one that sees that situation as kinda messed up?

Which is why I find a statement like Ms. Bear's so refreshing: it demands nothing from the Patriarchy except that it step the hell aside if it isn't going to cooperate.

I think that's just gotta be healthier in the long run.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Everybody Whack Cheung Tonight

The words we use are strong
They make reality
--Wang Chung

What is it about outrage that makes some people just lose their shit and projectile-rant like their head's full of nothing but angry bees? I'm not talking about chronic anger junkies launching into long semi-comprehensible tirades, though that's always something to watch for, I'm talking about sensible-seeming people saying stuff that, if it were turned around and said by someone else about them, or if the rage level were lower, would be picked at and dismissed by the same people who said it... I'd like to hope, at least.

I can only conclude that, in direct opposition to people who claim that their anger and outrage is empowering and vital, outrage actually mostly makes you stupider.

Not that there aren't valid reasons for outrage: even I cringed a bit when I saw Dave Cheung's pseudo-pornographic cartoon featuring video game producer Jade Raymond. (I say "pseudo" since no genitalia were depicted, but sex acts were heavily implied, and that white stuff at the end was not likely supposed to be squeeze mayonnaise.) Understand, I read Cheung's "Chugworth Academy" strip on a semi-regular basis, so I had seen the strip pretty much at its initial release, well before it sparked a brouhaha on some forums here and there.

I took him at his word then, which was that the strip was a satire on the gaming fanboys' wishful thinking regarding Ms. Raymond and whether she'd "put out" for them in some way, posing for photo layouts or whatever. That was his stance before the criticism and after, and I have no reason to believe otherwise.

That said, I think as satire the strip stumbles and fails. Reading the strip by itself does not make it clear that this is a fanboy fantasy, and on its own merits it insults and degrades Jade Raymond. I have to say I don't follow the gaming world, so I don't have any clue about what kind of person Ms. Raymond is, but portraying her as somewhat dim seemed to me to be out of line. And then a satire of fanboys loses its sting when the object of fanboy desire is portrayed willingly fulfilling that same less-than-reasonable desire. How much of a loser can a fanboy be if he's actually receiving some fellatio?

It's hardly a fair satire, and I think the strip is a victim of Dave Cheung wanting to draw a pretty woman in a bikini doing naughty things. I've seen his work in other venues besides his webcomic, and the man does not shy away from porn. In fact, by comparison to other examples of his work I've seen, this strip was pretty damn tame. I also think he has some measure of contempt for Ms. Raymond, though whether that's justified or not I don't think I'm qualified to say.

So, yeah, I see where the outrage comes from. I'm not nearly as put out by it as some folks, but I'm not going to spend a lot of effort defending the strip.

What I am going to do is roll my eyes at some of the responses to the strip. Even justified outrage doesn't excuse losing touch with rational thought. Case in Point:

"Hey, Let's Bring Dave Cheung's Parents Into It!"

Oh, bravo. I'm not sure what this falls under: an appeal to Dave's shame (the supply of which must be limitless, I'm sure [definitely sarcasm]), or some kind of criticism of the job Dave's parents did raising him. On a similar note, here's a blog-reply comment from another person along the same lines.

Unless you are taking them to task for raising him badly, as if it was really any of your business, what percentage is there in dragging Mr. and Mrs. Cheung into it? Do you seriously expect them to do anything to their adult 25-year old son? Do you really think it's necessary to tattle on Dave to them? For what? So they'll scold him personally on behalf of your outrage?

Well, whatever. But I don't want to hear word one from you about any personal anguish Jade Raymond might feel, if you see nothing wrong with riling up someone else's parents and possibly making them very upset so that they can spank their kid for you. You want someone to up and tell your parents about that party you had in your dorm room, with all the drinking and bong hits and inappropriate touching? Think your folks'd be happy to have your dirty laundry aired out at them? Yeah, now go ahead and be that person.

"It's Okay If I Think They Deserve It, Otherwise It's Evil"

Normally I think Dirk Deppey is pretty much on the ball, but every once in a while he muffs one. Twice he's linked to the Cheung controversy, calling him "a dipshit", and "vile little douchebag". Okay fine. But it's hard for me to take Deppey's distaste for Cheung seriously when Journalista's featured the same damn cartoon featuring the Prince of Spain and his wife doin' it doggy style several times over.

Both cartoons are nasty, insulting and sexually-themed, and the only difference I can see is in competency: you know in the Spanish cartoon exactly who the target is and why. Aside from that is the question of whether one target actually deserves it more than the other. While I'm not particularly in favor of European monarchies, certainly you don't choose to be born the Prince of Spain, and I'm not sure that possessing royal blood is in and of itself sufficient call for that kind of abuse.

Maybe Deppey's attitude will soften if Dave Cheung does get sued over the cartoon. Then we can see it repeatedly.

"Stop Being So Free With That Free Speech!"

I quote:
"The predictable defenses have shown up. People can say whatever they want because of free speech! (Wow, congratulations on being lucky enough to have rights. Now stop using them to be an asshole, why don’t you.)"
Sounds an awful lot like another call for "artistic responsibility". I suppose I could go on about how the concept of free speech isn't needed to protect speech you like, etc. etc., but the way this kind of thinking sprouts up repeatedly just makes me tired and sad right now. I bet this person even believes they are in favor of free speech.

I mean, really, people.

Come on.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Statement of (Self-Absorbed) Purpose

I eat meat.

It'd be nice if we lived in a world where no lifeform has to consume some other living organism in order to survive, and we could all exist off of sunlight and photosynthesis or something, but we can't, so there you are. If it's not immoral for a lion to eat a gazelle, it's not immoral for me to eat a cow.

I also don't object to animal testing, in many cases. If testing drugs and treatments on animals makes it easier to find drugs for humans without risking human lives (as much), then as far as I'm concerned the animals can take that hit.

Now, I'm not in favor of doing these things wantonly or indiscriminately. I don't think animal testing should involve excessive pain or torture, particularly if the testing is for comparatively frivolous things, like cosmetics. And though I support the right to domesticate and/or hunt animals for food and materials, I don't support blasting an animal just for the thrill of killing something.

You might, therefore, think I could be persuaded to become active in support of animal rights, but in general I avoid affiliations with organizations like PETA or... well, any of them. Though I agree with some things they say, there's a lot of what they say that I think goes far beyond good sense into a quasi-religious dogma. More than once I've seen some soundbite of an activist saying something like how they'd prefer that their disease-stricken relations do without lifesaving drugs if it meant having even one rat confined and experimented upon.

Priorities: If you can't place your own family (assuming you do love them) over the life of a lab animal, how can I take your call for compassion for animals seriously?

This is a variation on what I wrote many columns back, about why I do not consider myself a feminist. While there are some feminist viewpoints I do agree with and even sympathize with to some extent, there's a lot that I feel abandons sensible priorities in favor of dogma and, in many cases, extremism. This applies to feminism in general, as well as the subset of feminism known colloquially as the "feminist fangirls".

Why would I bring it up again?

Over here, there was some musing over the purpose of WFA, leading to a restatement of WEA's intended purpose (and what its purpose isn't). And though I specifically wasn't mentioned (oh, I feel so neglected), I suppose some may see me in the same light, as someone out to "bait" the comics feminists. (Now that I think about it, in past comments on my posts, I was accused of "wagging my finger"... Ami Angelwings did say seeing my pseudonym near a potentially inflammatory title would automatically indicate it being a ploy for attention, and I guess that could be a kind of backwards compliment: at least nobody thought I was actually being that much of a jerk, did they...? But I digress.)

If anything I write can be considered an attempt to insult or bait comics feminists, it's not done out of some need to simply make feminists upset. There's far easier and less polite ways to go about doing that. You can consider what I write an honest attempt to communicate, for whatever that's worth to you. Whatever I say may very well upset you for some reason, well, that's life.

My motives for writing have nothing to do with any of you, really. My motives are purely selfish, and at the moment, I believe they can pretty much be sorted into two general categories:

1) I don't want feminism to take anything away from me, comics-wise.

2) I want comics (meaning the industry in general) to improve, and I believe comics-oriented feminism as it seems to exist now is at best ineffective and at worst antithetical to that aim.

(cue collective "huh? but whaaaaa??")

Number One is straightforward enough. Despite claims that "we aren't out to take the sexy away", I believe some feminists intend to do just that. Now, if you're about to tell me "but no, I like the sexy!", consider that what you think is sexy is different than what someone else thinks is sexy, and remember that "there is no vagina hivemind", so that even if you specifically have no intent to remove anything yourself, your fellow comics feminist may have a somewhat more restrictive goal in mind. Strawfeminist? Perhaps. It'd be nice if nobody wanted to take anything away from anybody, but when someone complains that something isn't morally right to print in a comic book, often the implication is that "somebody should DO something about that".

And it's more than just "the sexy", it's anything objected to in that way. I have yet to be convinced that something (perceived as) bad or objectionable in comics (or any media) has any serious impact on society at large; to me the theoretical risks do not justify imposing one's own standards on comics. Every arbiter of "good taste", however you define that, walks a thin line between personal opinion and agenda for the rest of us.

Note that I'm not against personal opinion or critique, either. If you hate something you hate it. This isn't a call to be quiet and shut up, this is a suggestion that if someone else enjoys reading about (for recent example) Tigra getting the crap kicked out of her, maybe that person has as much right to read it as you do to not read it, regardless of how upset or icky it makes you feel.

Number Two is a bit more involved to explain.

I believe that if what the feminist fangirls really want is superhero comics they can reliably enjoy without being made to feel upset or icky, that goal is possible and reachable.

I also believe that if what feminist fangirls really want is for "the boys" to clean up their act so that "the girls" won't ever be offended by some misogynist thing in some comic that passes in front of their eyes, well, tough luck. That's long term stuff, maybe not in your lifetime.

To reach the former goal, what I think needs to happen is that there needs to be more comics, made by more people, and a more diverse group of people at that. Mainstream comics are indeed a "boy's club", of sorts, despite notable exceptions. So long as that persists, and without a "comics code" with any teeth to enforce particular moral limitations, you're going to get comics generally slanted a particular way. There's only so many Gail Simones working right now.

More female creators, more creators of color, more comics overall, and I think the goal will work itself out. If there were enough creators and enough comics, the enlightened feminists could have their comics, the sicko fanboys could have their comics, and we could at the very least leave each other alone most of the time. (True, there's other factors like effective promotion and wider distribution in a currently small and sometimes shaky market...) And I want to see that happen, because a more diverse range of comics (even a more diverse range of superhero comics) suggests more buyers, suggests a healthier industry, suggests even more and better comics. I know, easier said than done. But I submit to you: that is the problem that needs the most attention, not whether a statue of Mary-Jane demeans the entire female gender worldwide because of her contact with laundry in a basket.

I am aware that to many feminists, these media depictions are seen as causes of stereotyping and a source of much real-life unhappiness. I do not believe they are nearly as toxic as much of the rhetoric would have us believe. And I think the more time and energy spent on trying to "fix" the boy's club, and make it perform to the liking of feminists, the less time and energy gets spent on what I feel could really make a difference in comics, not just for feminists, but everyone, and more importantly, ME.

I mean, don't mistake this for "sympathy trolling". If I imply that my advice can somehow make your existence more pleasant, it's only serving my own self-interest in the end.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

When Being Nice Doesn't Work.

"Oh, say, Mr. Comics Publisher, I hear you're gonna put out an issue of Wonder Woman where she gets captured by the Spankinator and has her bottom paddled for 18 pages. I think that's offensive and degrading to one of my favorite heroines. Could you stop it, please?"

"Hmmmm. No."

"You misogynistic bastard! How dare you drag a feminist icon through your lurid fetishes! I demand that you turn the character over to respectful creators THIS INSTANT, you pig! Boycott! I'LL BOYCOTT!"

"Hmmmm. No."

Both attempts fail.

"But Anon," you may be about to say, "I thought you were all about the being nice and here you are saying nice doesn't work oh I have you now, hahahaha!"

Well, it occurs to me that some people may not actually know how to be nice effectively.

The goal is persuasion, the changing of minds. In the first example, the language is polite, but all that is said is "this offends me, please stop".

And realistically, that's no reason to do anything. People get "offended" at the drop of a hat. You can't do anything in the public eye without someone being offended. What makes your sense of offense any more important than someone else's?

What you need to do is wrap a valid reason to change up in your nice presentation. What is that reason? Beats me. What you think may be valid is not necessarily what the person you're trying to change thinks of as valid. You may have to do some fishing around, to find out at what root point your opinions diverge, and then begin working on that spot. Then you may have to move on and work on another spot. This is not a game for those without patience.

As for the second example: if you think that is a viable shortcut, I believe you are deluding yourself.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Screw You, Feminist Comics Bitch.

I apologize for that title.

However: I'm betting it made a number of you look, assuming you're following a link from WFA.


And I bet a number of you arrived pretty angry, already forming before you'd even read this far some sort of reply or retort that would tell me off in some way. Some of you may have interpreted the title as an attack on a specific person, and may have been curious to see what the confrontation was about and who it involved; some may have even had a knee-jerk reaction, an instinct to defend the supposed "victim" of my outburst.

Before actually reading past the title, did anyone, anyone at all, even for the slightest instant, think that this post would be in any way benign or even helpful?

If so, I admire your keen insight and ability to keep an open mind, but you are probably in the vast minority.

In the comments section of my last post, an anonymous commenter expressed a dislike for the term "being nice", describing it in essence as a call to sit down and shut up. They (assuming it was the same anonymous) then defended the use of angry stances and rhetoric as a tactic to shock (or "shove", as they put it) those who might be ignorant or apathetic into realizing the scope of the conflict.

I'm skeptical about the chances of success for such a tactic, frankly. Most people don't like it when you yell at them, and I'm pretty sure the commonest response is to get defensive and grumble something like "what the hell are you yelling at me for?" or "I didn't do anything to deserve being yelled at!" Maybe some folks would step back eventually and think, "hm, maybe I should think about this a bit". Perhaps a few.

But anyone who arrived at this post ready to tear me a new one should keep in mind that if it doesn't work that way on you, you can't expect it to work that way on others. Even if you say "but see, we're thinking seriously about your words now that you got us here with your nasty title", it's ameliorated by the fact that in this post itself, I change my tone. Once past the title, I'm done with the seemingly angry name-calling. One hopes nobody finds my subsequent words as insulting or infuriating. At least, not yet.

And there's the matter of reward vs. penalty: would the few who would indeed tolerate a figurative "shove" and open their minds be worth the ill-will generated in others who maybe don't take kindly to "shoves", regardless of the underlying causes?

While you're considering that (or not), consider this:

The thing that disturbs me about this kind of justification for uncivil behavior is that it kind of echoes other, more despised patterns of behavior.

Like wife beaters.

I mean, isn't that the stereotypical excuse you hear? "Baby, I'm sorry I clocked you in the head with this pipe, but you know, it was your own fault for making me so angry. If you'd just done what I said like I asked, it wouldn't have gotten so bad." Every bit as stereotypical is the woman who's been battered into believing this kind of crap. "No, Mom, this black eye was my own fault for not having dinner on time, I should know how mad it makes him."

"I have to call this fanboy an asshole, it's the only way he'll ever learn. He needs to know exactly how angry I feel."

Yes, there's a difference in scale and effect, but the rationale is remarkably similar: less-than-polite behavior is justified because it's for their own good, it's the only way they can learn...

Because some people apparently, when they see words they dislike, lose all ability to parse English, some clarification seems to be in order.

Wife-beating is not equal to making angry internet posts, and that's not what I'm saying.

What I am saying is that justifying your angry/abusive intarwub rants with the reasoning that some people somehow need to be yelled at by you for your message to be understood is the same kind of faulty logic that leads, for example, spouse-beaters to rationalize smacking people around because otherwise they just won't get it through their heads what they should be doing. It's all okay, because someone else has to be made to understand what you want them to understand.

Yes, of course there's a difference between physical abuse and verbal abuse. No shit, Sherlock. But as I've said before, this "ends justifying the means" business is exactly that, the ends justifying the means. If you don't tolerate the angry language from the other side of the debate, what makes you think they're any more receptive to you when you act the same?

But let's take this from theory to experience. I challenge anyone to give me a personal example of when, as an adult, being yelled at or insulted by another adult (genuinely, not banter between friends) convinced YOU that the other person was right, and perhaps you were in the wrong. Who yelled at you? A friend? Someone you knew or respected? Or some random person online?

When have you ever yelled at or insulted someone else and had it work out to where the other person genuinely said, "oh, well, my bad, sorry, I see your point" out of a sincere desire to correct a mistake and not just chagrin/embarrassment at being yelled at? Are you sure they really saw your point of view, or did they just want you to stop yelling at them?

And compare both examples with how often the opposite result happens: when you feel only anger when someone else gives you a hard time, or when you gripe at someone and they gripe right back at you, perhaps louder and more aggressively.

I mean, if this actually works for you in practice, fine, guess I was mistaken... but unless I get a flood of people saying how minds were actually persuaded by yelling in their direct experience, I'll remain skeptical that the less polite path has any benefit besides stirring up the converted and giving someone a bit of catharsis.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Choose Your Own Adventure

Reading a few more WFA links on the whole "being nice/vagina-no vagina/bad, bad Wizard" thing makes me think that a few different topics are kind of melting together at the edges.

Anyway, a lack of foresight prevented me from marking down where I saw this comment, but really, it's pretty generic, and was echoed elsewhere by a few different people:

"I'm tired of being nice." Followed by a brief statement about the ways in which "being nice" hasn't got her(?) anywhere.

And now, probably at the risk of offending any black people who read this, I compare two people: Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr.

Both influential civil rights figures, both assassinated. Malcolm X's style was angry and confrontational, while King, though he was certainly passionate, specifically denounced violence, and attempted to find an accord with influential white figures, something Malcolm X criticized.

(I am aware that this is a gross simplification.)

Whether or not you think one person or the other's tactics were right, proper, or just, look at how each is regarded years later in history. Both are admired by many (most/all?) black people, but among whites, it seems to be King who is revered more. Even in commentary that criticizes current actions of black figures, King is treated as unassailable, flawless, even used as an example of how current figures are failing to live up to certain ideals. Malcolm X, however, depending on the bias of whoever's commenting, can be portrayed either as a brilliant, influential leader or a raving terrorist madman, with various stops inbetween.

The title of this bit comes from the thought that was running through my head as I wrote it, of those "Choose Your Adventure" books I used to see around way back when. "You have been insulted. Do you slap the insulter's face? Turn to page 65. Do you say you don't like what they said? Turn to page 27. Do you do nothing, turn the other cheek? Go to page 56"...

"Being nice", if you choose to accept that path, isn't something done for short-term gain. Perhaps not even for any personal gain. It's a slow-moving, tedious process that often may appear to not be working. But "being nice" would go far in countering charges of "crazy feminazism" by all but the most rabid, inflexible opposition.

But hey, do what you like, you know, it's a free will world, baby! You turn to that page you've picked. It's your adventure.

Unlike the books, you don't always get a chance to turn the pages back, though...

Thursday, November 1, 2007

...You Actually CARE What Wizard Does?

I think Mad Thinker Scott has analyzed the issue pretty well already, so I don't think I have much to add on the whole "Wizard is for Men" deal.

I'm just surprised anyone cared that much.

Frankly, I'd be willing to bet that a large percentage of the people commenting never read so much as a single issue of the thing before they added the "for Men" label; that'd explain the shock and outrage now over stuff that's been going on since well before they made it "official". Putting it on the cover just made it more visible and blatant, and now everyone's all "whaaaa but how dare they", and like I said in the comments for last post, it's cycling through responses to responses to responses (yes, much like this post).

I'm also a bit mystified by the tone of some comments on the situation, as if Wizard was somehow obliged to be sex-neutral and this is a huge betrayal of... something, I dunno what.

Personally, I found the argument over "if you don't have a vagina you should step back" to be a lot more interesting and relevant. (But everyone else seemed to be discussing that one just fine, again, nothing much for me to add.)

Friday, October 26, 2007

Did I Miss Something About Brave and Bold? Did YOU?

Sometimes I get comics late; time and finances don't always allow me to hop into the shop every Wednesday as they unpack the boxes and stock shelves.

So it's been a couple days at least since Brave and the Bold #7 was released to the world, I assume. Plenty of time for the fast-moving blog world to comment. But a scan of the Oct. 26 When Fangirls Attack shows no mention of it.

Now, I realize that there's a couple more distressing issues to talk about, such as Big Barda's death (and I'm kinda down about that myself, truth be told) or Tigra's beatdown.

But can it be? No love for Wonder Woman and Power Girl teaming up? No kudos for a story which features neither being hogtied or in sexy bondage or defeated and at the helpless mercy of men? Oh sure, there's some MINOR SPOILER ALERT mind control, but the villain never uses it to compel anyone to strip naked and jog in place.

George Perez draws lovely heroines, but unless you have issues with the basic costume structures in the first place, he doesn't over-exaggerate the sexyness.

Mark Waid's written a story where Wonder Woman and Power Girl kick ass and save Superman from a imaginatively horrible death, in about as undemeaning a fashion as I think is possible without swinging all the way to preachy-feminism mode.

It's a fun, fairly breezy comic, probably suitable for kids (well, maybe not real little kids, the Superman bit was creepy), containing no message I can see that would have failed the Comics Code, yet containing little of the chauvinism extant when the Code was formed.

And not a peep out of anyone I've seen going, "Yes! This is how it should be done!"

Last time I noticed Waid's name in the WFA-oriented blogs, it was regarding some old story that was maybe not so thoughtful about the relationship between AIDS and gays and such. So maybe Waid's being snubbed for that or some other offense. And while I enjoyed the comic, it hardly is going to set the world aflame with its genius or depth.

Still... wouldn't you think that if the complaints are about overly sexified, fetishy heroines, misogyny of various stripes, and an unsuitability for the younger audience, particularly girls, then shouldn't a comic that avoids all these things be singled out for praise?

What does it say if I have to do it myself?

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

A Completely Irresponsible Viewpoint

A discussion about morals or ethics regarding any variety of subjects often will be sprinkled with the word "responsible", or more accurately, a derivative such as "responsibility". This can be useful in many cases, such as when you're talking about owning a gun or a car. You have to be responsible for not driving on people instead of the road. You have a responsibility to not hand the gun over to your six-year-old to keep the li'l squirt quiet while you catch the game on TV. If we (society, acting via the government) give you a license to have and operate these things, we want you to be careful with them.

People use the words a lot when discussing artistic endeavors, as well, but I'd like to speak up for the notion that art, and artists, have no responsibility whatsoever to or for anything except, perhaps, their own artistic drive.

The Comics Code and Hitler quotes I posted last time were surrounded by exhortations for "artistic responsibility" - that is, the idea that an artist, for the good of society, must confine his/her output to things that benefit society or at least do not somehow harm it.

This, of course, is usually based on a particular idea of just what is "good for society", and I shouldn't have to say that opinion varies on that score.

Failing any direct harm, like that which a gun or car could cause, why should any artist feel any particular responsibility for anything? The worst a painting or novel or comic could do is make someone feel bad, or give false information. I'll go so far as to say I don't think artists are even obliged to not lie (well, after all, what is fiction and fantasy, anyway?), and furthermore, I think it is the responsibility of the reader/viewer to sort truth from horseshit. There's horseshit everywhere, possibly even in this blog, and if you blindly accept anything said in some artistic medium, you're really not prepared to live in the world. You owe at least that much to yourself.

What's more, I get a bit annoyed by people who declare that other people have some sort of responsibility, but neglect to clearly state just to what they're supposed have said responsibility. If I write or draw a comic, to what, if anything, am I supposed to have responsibility? The readers? The publisher? Society? Art itself? God?

I think not. Maybe the publisher, assuming they're footing the bills and cutting checks, but the rest? Why?

Ultimately, I think many people use "responsibility" as a quick substitute for "I think you should obey my moral code instead of your own." It's neater, quicker, and implies a correctness that may or may not actually exist. After all, "being responsible" is often seen as a desirable character trait, and it avoids the messy questions that the latter phrase brings up, such as "what makes you think you're so right?"

I also think it can be used as a crutch to avoid responsibility, by shoving it off on others. We have movie ratings, video game ratings, album stickers and comics ratings, ostensibly because producers and publishers have some sort of "responsibility" to assist parents in knowing whether their kid is going out and buying smut or ultraviolence. Only, why should anyone but the parents themselves be responsible for filtering what their kid sees? You want to know if your kid is listening to gangsta rap? Open up their damn CD cases and give a listen! Only, no, that's too invasive and it'd hurt their feelings of privacy and blooo hoo hoo sooo mean! You're shocked that your kid is staring at that lurid tentacle bondage cover? Why'd you let him buy the damn thing in the first place? Label? You trust some label over your own judgment? Go to hell.

At this point, I imagine that some parent may be reading this, fuming, going, "but I need all the help I can get, parenting is hard!" To that, I offer exactly none sympathy. Yes, it is hard, and you should have known that going in. Your lack of foresight, in my view, does not grant you the right to drop some portion of your responsibility for raising your own children at the expense of making things more inconvenient for everyone else.

Nearly all other pleas for "artistic responsibility" will meet with similar condemnation on my part. Particularly if, as described, the "responsibility" is to some amorphous, ill-defined concept of niceness. I mean, you might as well say "God says so" for all the meaning that has. And especially if calling for someone to take responsibility is just a cheap excuse to fob one's own responsibility off on others.

Because that's just the kind of irresponsible cuss I am...

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Things I Like to be Reminded of Every So Often


"It is not the mission of art to wallow in filth for filth's sake, to paint the human being only in a state of putrefaction, to draw cretins as symbols of motherhood, or to present deformed idiots as representatives of manly strength."

"Art that cannot rely on the joyous, heartfelt assent of the broad and healthy mass of the people, but depends on tiny cliques that are self-interested and blasé by turns, is intolerable. It seeks to confuse the sound instinct of the people instead of gladly confirming it."

"As for the degenerate artists, I forbid them to force their so-called experiences upon the public. If they do see fields blue, they are deranged, and should go to an asylum. If they only pretend to see them blue, they are criminals, and should go to prison. I will purge the nation of them."

"If we do not lift the youth out of the morass of their present-day environment, they will drown in it. Anyone who refuses to see these things supports them, and thereby makes himself an accomplice in the slow prostitution of our future which, whether we like it or not, lies in the coming generation. This cleansing of our culture must be extended to nearly all fields. Theater, art, literature, cinema, press, posters, and window displays must be cleansed of all manifestations of our rotting world and placed in the service of a moral political, and cultural idea. Public life must be freed from the stifling perfume of our modern eroticism, just as it must be freed from all unmanly, prudish hypocrisy."

--Yep, Hitler, the last from Mein Kampf, the others from various speeches and writings



General Standards Part A

1. Crimes shall never be presented in such a way as to create sympathy for the criminal, to promote distrust of the forces of law and justice, or to inspire others with a desire to imitate criminals.

2. No comics shall explicitly present the unique details and methods of a crime.

3. Policemen, judges, government officials, and respected institutions shall never be presented in such a way as to create disrespect for established authority.

4. If crime is depicted it shall be as a sordid and unpleasant activity.

5. Criminals shall not be presented so as to be rendered glamorous or to occupy a position which creates the desire for emulation.

6. In every instance good shall triumph over evil and the criminal punished for his misdeeds.

7. Scenes of excessive violence shall be prohibited. Scenes of brutal torture, excessive and unnecessary knife and gun play, physical agony, gory and gruesome crime shall be eliminated.

8. No unique or unusual methods of concealing weapons shall be shown.

9. Instances of law enforcement officers dying as a result of a criminal's activities should be discouraged.

10. The crime of kidnapping shall never be portrayed in any detail, nor shall any profit accrue to the abductor or kidnapper. The criminal or the kidnapper must be punished in every case.

11. The letter of the word "crime" on a comics magazine shall never be appreciably greater than the other words contained in the title. The word "crime" shall never appear alone on a cover.

12. Restraint in the use of the word "crime" in titles or sub-titles shall be exercised.

General Standards Part B

1. No comics magazine shall use the word horror or terror in its title.

2. All scenes of horror, excessive bloodshed, gory or gruesome crimes, depravity, lust, sadism, masochism shall not be permitted.

3. All lurid, unsavory, gruesome illustrations shall be eliminated.

4. Inclusion of stories dealing with evil shall be used or shall be published only where the intent is to illustrate a moral issue and in no case shall evil be presented alluringly nor as to injure the sensibilities of the reader.

5. Scenes dealing with, or instruments associated with walking dead, torture, vampires and vampirism, ghouls, cannibalism and werewolfism are prohibited.

General Standards Part C

All elements or techniques not specifically mentioned herein, but which are contrary to the spirit and intent of the Code, and are considered violations of good taste or decency, shall be prohibited.


1. Profanity, obscenity, smut, vulgarity, or words or symbols which have acquired undesirable meanings are forbidden.

2. Special precautions to avoid references to physical afflictions of deformities shall be taken.

3. Although slang and colloquialisms are acceptable, excessive use should be discouraged and wherever possible good grammar shall be employed.


1. Ridicule or attack on any religious or racial group is never permissible.


1. Nudity in any form is prohibited, as is indecent or undue exposure.

2. Suggestive and salacious illustration or suggestive posture is unacceptable.

3. All characters shall be depicted in dress reasonably acceptable to society.

4. Females shall be drawn realistically without exaggeration of any physical qualities. NOTE: It should be recognized that all prohibitions dealing with costume, dialogue, or artwork apply as specifically to the cover of a comic magazine as they do to the contents.

Marriage and Sex

1. Divorce shall not be treated humorously nor represented as desirable.

2. Illicit sex relations are neither to be hinted at or portrayed. Violent love scenes as well as sexual abnormalities are unacceptable.

3. Respect for parents, the moral code, and for honorable behavior shall be fostered. A sympathetic understanding of the problems of love is not a license for moral distortion.

4. The treatment of love-romance stories shall emphasize the value of the home and the sanctity of marriage.

5. Passion or romantic interest shall never be treated in such a way as to stimulate the lower and baser emotions.

6. Seduction and rape shall never be shown or suggested.

7. Sex perversion or any inference to same is strictly forbidden.


These regulations are applicable to all magazines published by members of the Comics magazine Association of America, Inc. Good taste shall be the guiding principle in the acceptance of advertising.

1. Liquor and tobacco advertising is not acceptable.

2. Advertising of sex or sex instruction books are unacceptable.

3. The sale of picture postcards, "pin-ups," "art studies," or any other reproduction of nude or semi-nude figures is prohibited.

4. Advertising for the sale of knives, concealable weapons, or realistic gun facsimiles is prohibited.

5. Advertising for the sale of fireworks is prohibited.

6. Advertising dealing with the sale of gambling equipment or printed matter dealing with gambling shall not be accepted.

7. Nudity with meretricious purpose and salacious postures shall not be permitted in the advertising of any product; clothed figures shall never be presented in such a way as to be offensive or contrary to good taste or morals.

8. To the best of his ability, each publisher shall ascertain that all statements made in advertisements conform to the fact and avoid misinterpretation.

9. Advertisement of medical, health, or toiletry products of questionable nature are to be rejected. Advertisements for medical, health or toiletry products endorsed by the American Medical Association, or the American Dental Association, shall be deemed acceptable if they conform with all other conditions of the Advertising Code.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Ami, you didn't look hard enough...

"And what’s worse than that is that this sexualization of superheroines doesn’t seem to revolve around them as some sort of goddesses to be worshipped (though that would also be annoying) but as obstacles to be brought down." (Quote from a column by Ami Angelwings)

Weeeellll, maybe it isn't a trend that is heavily reflected in mainstream comics, but there are sites that sexualize superheroines in "dominating goddess" fashion. Although, you could say that, for example, Wonder Woman or Supergirl are by nature super-powerful women who could dominate most normal mortal men, so they already tilt towards the goddess nature by default. If "captured helpless superheroine" scenes in mainstream comics are reflected by more extreme sexual fetish sites, so perhaps are the super-goddess sites reflections of the heroines' natural states.

Ami does point out Phantom Lady's death scene in Infinite Crisis as an example of a superheroine becoming less-clothed in a moment of defeat, but I'd like to point out that Phantom Lady (or at least that particular incarnation) didn't have much covering to begin with. Her costume was a glorified v-type swimsuit, open in the middle, and it wasn't the fatal blow that opened it up any. The costume does appear tattered a bit, but really, she had about as much skin exposed normally.

Aside from all that: Doesn't this read like what I was saying a few posts back, about how people are worried about what other people are thinking? The whole ominous "I don't know what these people are thinking, but I'm worried it's not at all good" tone?


Monday, October 15, 2007

Heroes for Hire: The Numbers Are In

I didn't see anyone else mention it before now, I'm surprised.

ICv2 just released its top 300 comics list for September, which includes everyone's favorite "tentacle rape" issue of Heroes for Hire.

HfH#13 comes in at 40,086 copies sold and sits at #51 on the list.

HfH#12 in July was at 41,229 copies and was ranked #64.

While it's true that sales dropped a bit (1143 copies), its ranking rose. And there's a fairly large difference between the top-selling item in July (Thor #1, 165,325 copies) and September (World War Hulk #4, 148,610 copies), and I wonder if sales weren't generally a bit down for last month, or if perhaps it's a result of there being no super #1 debut/death of iconic hero to buoy up the month's sales. (After re-reading that, I checked: in June, HfH #11 was #53, at 41,298 copies, and WWH#1 was at the top, with sales over 170,000.) Another contributing factor to the slip may be the gap in publication (no issue in August).

Results, therefore: inconclusive. I can't point to the comic and say, "see! boobies and bondage sells!", but on the other hand, it's hard to make a definitive claim like "see! gratuitous offensive sexist material kills sales!", either. I don't think the losses are really all that great. One might speculate that any loss of readers from offense was offset by gains from drooling fanboys, although that would have to assume that those feeling offended actually were buying the title in the first place.

What may actually be the case is that for most comics buyers, having a bondage scene on the cover isn't really all that important an issue either way.

What may be a contributing factor is CONTROVERSY, CONTROVERSY, CONTROVERSY.

Because, May? Ranked #109, with sales of 20,503. Sales after that month doubled. And when did the whole cover controversy break, again...?

Okay, an edit because I'm a moron: of course, it's the World War Hulk tie-ins. dur. With that factored in, even controversy as selling point becomes questionable.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Oh, All Right, You John Solomon Trollburger, I'll Read The Stupid Link.

So a little while after posting my thoughts on "Your Webcomic is Bad and You Should Feel Bad", I got a comment from "Salmo" telling me I should go to "" and read what that guy said about what I said. Since this was prefaced by the phrase, "Oh, wah wah wah," I was pretty sure it wasn't going to be somehow in my favor. So screw that, I thought, and I demurred.

(And isn't "wah wah wah" kind of an ironic thing to post, since the whole point of "Your Webcomic is Bad" is people bitching and crying that these bad webcomics exist, and waaaaaah they don't conform to my standards of quality boo hoo...?)

But then "anonymous" copy/pasted a wad of text from the site directly into my comments section, determined, I'm assuming, to maintain some level of drama by proxy between, if not me and John Solomon, me and some entirely different guy who kind of defends John Solomon. I guess.

Well, if baby gotta have it, then what the hell. All you playing at home can read "More On That Bad Webcomics Site" for yourself.

Solomon apologist Christopher Bird could probably have saved himself a lot of typing time if he'd not jumped to conclusions about what I'd written. In essence, he takes this notable phrase from my previous post:
The moment you really give a shit what a site like this (or any other) says about your webcomic, you lose.
And construes it into a declaration that no creator needs to ever listen to criticism. Which isn't what I said. His "counter", as he calls it, reads like so:
As a producing creative, you have to give a damn about your work.
But that doesn't run in any way counter to my statement.

Behold: the conceit of the Art Critic. It is the idea that all art and artists are, whether they know it or not, completely dependent on the critics for their very existence. Only an Art Critic can thusly confuse giving a damn about your work with giving a damn about what some crank with a badger up his ass thinks about your work.

He also confuses "not caring" about criticism with some sort of hermetically-sealed condition of "never reading" critique, which is, again, not what I said. That's extremely not what I said. And that means that a great deal of his talking about how valuable critique is and it should all be acknowledged has no bearing whatsoever on what I said.

I do indeed think that Art Critics tend to greatly overestimate the value of critique in general and their own importance in particular, but we'll save that for later.

Let's kick this damn thing in the head and kill it right off the bat. Here's the point in his post where he shoots his own argument in the thorax:

Art is something we create because we are driven to create it. We have a need, deep down, that cries out for personal expression.
Exactly. And if you really have that drive, that need, critique is irrelevant. Skill is irrelevant. You will create, regardless. If your drive can be thwarted by John Solomon taking a verbal piss all over your webcomic and your fans, then your drive to create is weak, and, as I said, you lose.

That right there should be all you need. Drive to create is greater than need for critique, and really, there's not much reason for me to write more, or you to read further.


But I did, and you may. But if at any time you feel uncertain or confused, or think I'm losing my way, jump back up over the asterisk line, re-read that. Set yourself straight.

In all actuality, one of the reasons I haven't posted this response sooner is that I began writing a long, point-by-point dissection of his dissection of my rant, and realized that the majority of it was just useless, considering his opinions were based on a complete misreading of my words. But I've preserved some of the better points for those trolls who may be disappointed I didn't come out all a-froth and tooth-gnashing. Enjoy.


I think I see where a lot of the difference in opinions originate, both between me and Christopher Bird and between me and John Solomon. They both fancy themselves critics, they both think critique is Important To Artists, and they have a distaste for artists who show ego they think is not deserved. It's an attitude that smacks of life in the traditional/professional publishing world, where, in order to get your work out there, you have to submit your work to someone else, let them review it, and hopefully convince them it meets their standards for publication. Since there's a lot of this kind of thing going on, it would be easy to forget that this isn't the only way art gets produced and disseminated.

Imagine Picasso, painting what he felt like for decades without giving a crap about what critics said, even when (especially when) they were calling his paintings "the work of the Devil" (cf Wikipedia). Yeah, your average webcomic creator isn't Picasso by any stretch. But then, the internet-wide institution of "webcomics" isn't the friggin' Guggenheim, either.

Let's quote some.

Dismissing a critic - any critic - out of hand is the stupidest, most infuriatingly arrogant thing any artist (or person who wants to be an artist) can do, because the application of criticism is literally the only way that people improve as artists.

Nuh-uh, wrong again. The only way that people improve as artists is by refining and practicing their craft. Critics can be a guide to that end, a signpost to indicate in which way to practice and refine, but they are neither essential nor necessary. Not to mention that there's a host of signs all pointing in different directions.

And look, this "infuriatingly arrogant" business? This comes from an Art Critic, who practices an activity pre-loaded with hubris.

If you choose to ignore criticism, you are, in effect, asserting that you don’t need to pay attention to criticism, because you are too good for it.

Unlike the critic, whose hubris rests in the idea that his or her opinion should be vital to any given creator. Reading a critic complaining about an artist's ego is the magic key that summons Jörmungandr, the serpent that bites its own tail.

Ignoring criticism doesn't have to be a result of either complete self-satisfaction or apathy. A third possibility is that by ignoring criticism, you filter out irrelevant chatter that may distract from your singular vision. And that does sound kind of self-important, but there's a world of difference between saying "I don't need to improve" and "I know exactly what I'm trying to do." "I don't care about my work" is miles apart from "I don't care what YOU think about my work".

The problem: this is crap. You are not too good to be criticized, ever. Particularly if you’re working at a creative endeavor, because god knows the one universal constant about art is that ultimately every opinion has a given level of validity, even if that level is only “does it appeal to me personally.”
But at that given level, opinion is meaningless to anyone but its possessor. The homeless guy in the alley sipping rubbing alcohol and singing about "Puppy Jesus" may have a valid opinion, but that's not going to make me take him seriously.

[...]but all improvement in any craft is predicated upon one simple rote: “You’re doing it wrong.” Over, and over, and over again.

Maybe. But whose "wrong"? In the "Lust" section of the "Seven Deadly Sins" thing that sparked all of this, "Lilith Ester" writes about unrealistic, "bigger than her head", "spherical, shiny" breasts as something not to do. Perhaps if you want to impress Lilith or at least not make her upset, that's good advice.

But if you don't give a rat's ass about what Lilith likes or hates, and if what you really want to achieve is the creation of the hugest, most ridiculously wankable, shiniest, roundest boobies ever, that's lousy advice! Now, you can argue about the relative merits of each path, but this illustrates the flaw in the idea that everybody's opinion actually matters, because if you really count everyone, you get every opinion possible, and that leaves you in the same damn boat as if you heard no opinions.

I will agree with the point that nobody is ever too good to be criticized. In my opinion, rare is the artist worth the title who feels they have reached perfection; good artists are never entirely satisfied by their own work. But heeding outside criticism is simply a matter of taste and preference more than any necessity. It certainly isn't mandatory. Now, do John Solomon's opinions matter? Maybe:
A recent review of the webcomic Broken Mirror, for example, focused entirely on the horrible writing (and it most certainly is horrible writing - gratituous, pretentious, overblown dialogue with no attention to individual character, nonexistent characterization, and pacing best described as “insufferably glacial”), and both Solomon and the commenters quite astutely noted that the artwork, while not particularly amazing, was perfectly serviceable.

That’s a fair review. It’s not nice. But it’s fair.

How do I know this? Because I don’t dismiss Solomon out of hand - and I don’t dismiss the emails I get telling me I suck, either.
In that case, here's hoping "Mightygodking" doesn't dismiss this post out of hand, either, because this bit isn't exactly clear. What is he referring to when he says "how do I know this"? Does "this" refer to his knowledge of the contents of the review? If so, wow. He read the review. Amazing.

Does "this" refer to the fairness of the review? If so, the only way one can judge the fairness of a review is to examine the work yourself and compare your conclusions with those of the reviewer. To know if the reviewer is right about the "glacial pacing", you must experience the pacing yourself and decide if the reviewer is telling the truth. Otherwise, you're taking their word for it on blind faith, which is every bit as stupid as completely ignoring their opinion supposedly is.

That is how you know something is "fair", in the latter situation, and dismissing John Solomon or not has nothing to do with it. In the former situation, we're probably looking at more of this mistaken notion that somehow I think no critique should ever be read by the artist. Which seems to be borne out by this:

The only way to tell if criticism is useful is to read it. It may be useless. You may consider it inapplicable, nitpicky, or simply wrong - not all criticism, after all, is created equal, and critics can be wrong. But if you’re going to be a serious producing creative, you have to acknowledge it, because without it, your creative output will be essentially static.

In one paragraph, here, he's both supporting what I've been saying (critique is fundamentally an opinion, everybody has one, they aren't all made equal or relevant) and trying to push this idea that at the same time you have to listen to it all.

To be clear, I think well-considered critique can be very useful for an artist in the right circumstances. But I think there are circumstances where artists can get along just fine with minimal critique.

I don't have a webcomic for John Solomon to savage, but if I did, I would probably not read what he said about it, and if I did read what he said, I wouldn't care. But it wouldn't be because I refuse to hear any criticism. It would be because:

  • Having read other reviews by John Solomon, I know that he writes in an obnoxious, insulting manner that often crosses over from comments on the work itself to personal attacks. I don't think there is any critique so insightful that someone needs to let someone else abuse them in that way in order to glean whatever scrap of real wisdom they may have buried in the shitthrowing.
  • All I know about John Solomon's aesthetics are what I've read in those reviews, and it pretty much boils down to "I hate damn near everything that has passed in front of my eyes". He may like some other webcomic. I wouldn't know. But someone who hates everything is a useless critic, because they hate everything. Why bother getting his opinion when you can predict the answer? He hates it! Big surprise.
  • Would I really care about the approval of such an obnoxious bastard? One of Curt Cobain's complaints about his fame, before he decided to make moot all his grievances, was that the very same people he despised, the jocks, the mindless frat boys, were now the ones following his music in hordes. I wouldn't consider it worth blowing my skull apart over, but Solomon's favorable opinion would have very little value to me.

So if I dismissed John Solomon out of hand, I'd have decent reasons to do so.

Wholly negative criticism, like Solomon’s, can be the most useful criticism you can receive, for the same reason there are times in life when we need particularly need a cold shower rather than a comfortably warm one.

This analogy is fucked. It might hold true if you were submitting your work for publication by some comic book company (one with standards of quality). You submit your work, the editor takes it apart, burns it, pisses on it. You learn that you really aren't ready yet to work at that company. But one assumes that you submitted your own work voluntarily, specifically to get reviewed, even if the results aren't what you hoped for.

And when one needs a cold shower or warm shower, one assumes that you decide for yourself what kind of shower you want to take.

In the case of this analogy, a John Solomon review is like having some stranger bust into your home uninvited as you're taking a shower and turning off your water heater in order to try and give you hypothermia.

Or for a more extreme example, the cops kick in your door and train the fire hose on you.

Putting something out in the public eye isn't automatically inviting commentary, but it is making it available to be commented upon. Still, any such commentary is surplus to requirements in an arena where literally anyone with a computer that can put some boxes and scribbles together with some text can make a comic, of sorts. And if an artist has a huge ego for not heeding criticism, how much the ego of the critic who thinks his opinions ought to be heeded regardless of whether or not they were solicited?

I'm willing to concede that many artists have trouble spotting flaws in their own work. But there's very little in art that isn't completely subjective, and what may be a flaw to one eye may be a gem to another. Something like "is this a correct and accurate representation of human anatomy" is about as close to an objective question one can ask in graphic art, and even that has value only if an accurate representation of human anatomy is a goal of the artist.

Beyond all that: if someone is so close-minded as to refuse to acknowledge that they are in any way not a perfect creator, all the review in the world, nice or otherwise, isn't likely going to change that. Can anyone seriously believe that John Solomon's "cold shower" is going to "wake up" anyone who is determined not to change? Bullcrappery. They'll just get mad and defensive, and other than that it's BUSINESS AS USUAL. Which makes Solomon's reviews, AS reviews, ultimately pointless.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

How to Win Influence and People Friends.

Stephanie cringed.

She could hear the footsteps approaching the cubicle. To most people they wouldn't have sounded any different than any of the other several dozen footsteps that passed the area during the day, but Stephanie could pick out the specific ring of leather on tile at that precise tempo, then the distinctive scuff on the carpet, as the footsteps neared her cubicle...

"STEPHANIE!" She jumped, as a sheaf of papers flew by her head, splattering on her desk. "WHAT THE HELL DO YOU THINK YOU'RE DOING?"

"M-Mr. Hayden, I--"

"Do you have the nerve to call this a report? Well? LOOK AT IT!"

She glanced at the pile, held loosely by a couple of staples. The pages that were visible had countless circles and x-marks done in orange highlighter, notes scribbled in the margins.

"Here!" Mr. Hayden reached down and flipped the pile open to some point in the middle. "Have you even SEEN a report before? Do you have any idea how they're organized? This thing is put together like some twelve-year-old's FANTASY of how a report is made! And here--" shuffling through the pages, stabbing at one part with a finger, "--what kind of bullshit is this?? Did you just copy it verbatim from a romance novel??"

People began peeking over the tops of other cubicles. The normal noise and bustle had gone deathly quiet, save for Mr Hayden's bellowing.

"P-please, Mr. Hayden, not so loud--"

"Loud?? LOUD??? I'LL GIVE YOU LOUD!" He grabbed the report and threw it straight up. The staples gave way halfway towards the ceiling fan; white leaves speckled with orange rained across the entire area. "I HAVE TRIED BEING NICE, REASONABLE--" (when? wondered Stephanie) "--AND IT HAS NEVER WORKED! I WILL CONTINUE TO YELL AT YOU AS LOUD AS I PLEASE UNTIL I GET A REPORT OUT OF YOU THAT IS ACTUALLY COMPETENT AND DOESN'T OFFEND MY SENSIBILITIES! I SWEAR, ONE OF THESE DAYS I WILL GET YOU TO DO THE JOB I HIRED YOU TO DO!"

"B-b-but mr. h-hayden," Stephanie squeaked, "Mr. Owens hired me, not you--"



Stephanie might be incompetent. Mr. Hayden may have every right to yell at her. Or she may be blameless, and he may expect too high a standard of work from her.

Either way, I doubt there are many people who wouldn't think Mr. Hayden is an asshole. Possibly he and some of his fictional business cronies get together, and they congratulate him on the way he slaps his employees around. We could say then, that although they may not think of each other as assholes, they probably all are.

Much has been said lately about the relative merits of angry, abusive ranting versus nicely phrased, polite conversation as regards their effect on feminist concerns in comics. Which works better? Hell, I don't know. I know I personally tend to dig in my heels harder in resistance in direct proportion to the obnoxiousness of whoever may be trying to influence or persuade me. But I imagine some people might cave in when faced with anger and heat blasting at them over some issue.

That's not what I want to say. Be quiet, be loud, be rude, be polite. You have the right to do all that, and in any combination.

You have the right to be a complete and utter asshole, if you wish.

What I'm here to say in this post is: at least, though, be aware that you are indeed an asshole.

I know, some of you think your cause is just and right, and you justify being an asshole on that basis. You have to be an asshole in order to get your point across, that's what matters most. Well, if you believe that, fine. But you are still an asshole, regardless of how noble your motives are. Just remember that.

No, I'm not exempt. I've been an asshole before, probably will be an asshole at times in the future. I try to be aware of when I am being an asshole, when it is useful, when it is gratuitous.

Here's a quick asshole test. Think of something you ranted about recently. Swap it around. If, say, your comments on other people's comics covers were applied to a business report you wrote, would you feel insulted? Do you really think you'd be motivated by an honest desire to change, or would you resent the criticism, or change out of intimidation? Would you get pissed off if someone said to you what you've just said to someone else? Well... you were probably an asshole, then.

Again, hey: you have every right to be an asshole. It might even be necessary. But don't kid yourself that you aren't being an asshole. Don't think that your cause makes being an asshole something else.

That goes for everyone.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Your Site that Reviews Webcomics is Bad and This Irony is Probably Lost on You.

Oh, look, one that isn't directly about feminism in comics.

There's a site out there some of you may have heard of: "Your Webcomic is Bad and You Should Feel Bad." The gist of it is, some guy (recently, some people) sits around picking apart webcomics he (they) judges to be bad, usually (pffft, I mean always) in a snark-filled, insulting manner.

This thing gets plugged at me from time to time, and each time, my response to the plugger is, "Why do you hate me so fucking much that you'd try to inflict this wad of crap on my eyeballs?" Because this is exactly the kind of crap that makes me assume an anonymous identity. Holier-than-thou shitbags who aren't content to let anything that doesn't mesh with their perfect art utopia fantasy exist in peace, absolutist jackasses assuming the role of arbiter of taste not only for themselves, but for everybody else as well.

This kind of blog is no innovation. This is the Internet, after all, and snark and self-important twattery are in no short supply. I have noticed what appears to be a pattern among this particular type of critic/reviewer/asshat; I will share the pattern, but only "John Solomon" et al. will know if it holds true in his/their case.

Component 1: Art Student. Took some course of study in the arts, probably at some art-specific school. May very well still be in school. Is convinced their handful of years in an institutional learning facility gives them nigh-superior wisdom.

Component 2: Youth. Is quite probably too young to realize that they don't quite know fucking everything and probably never will. (This is not an absolute rule, see below).

Component 3: Horrible Curmudgeonly Idol. Quite often a teacher at aforementioned school, but could also be some other type of mentor or even some celebrity or notable figure. In any case, the defining feature is this individual's intense hatred for anything that is not either A) themselves; B) something on a short list of personal likes; or C) sucking up mightily to said Horrible Idol. This hatred manifests itself in a harsh binary attack on everything in the Universe, resulting in two classes of things: that which is genius and that which is utter filth. In order to save that which is "genius", it is necessary to destroy (or at least abuse) everything that doesn't measure up to that standard. Rather than put it in so clear a term, however, the hatred is euphemized in some way, such as: "He tells it like it is, isn't afraid to let THE MAN know what he thinks." Noble motives are ascribed to behavior that, for some reason, some people think is visionary inside a classroom, but in another setting, such as a Thanksgiving dinner, would get you ejected from a house and then beaten with crowbars.

Your average Horrible Curmudgeonly Idol is the exception to the Youth component, having managed to maintain the "I KNOW FUCKING EVERYTHING" mentality well past its normal expiration date. What flavor curmudgeon the idol is directly linked to the amount of success he/she has: if they are a successful person, the rest of the world is expected to bend to their whim or be soundly castigated for not obeying/living up to expectations. If they are unsuccessful, sheer bitterness over that which is successful drives a spewing of bile.

("Successful" being related to the Idol's own viewpoint: A person who fancies themselves a painter but cannot make a living at painting may consider having to take a teaching job at some art school to be a personal failure, even if they do quite well at the job.)

Quite often, what happens is this: the nascent asshole hits the art school, becomes exposed to all manner and means of new concepts, and it blows his/her mind, just not quite enough. The Horrible Curmudgeonly Idol is discovered. If it is a celebrity, it is through new exposure to their work, but often it is a teacher at the art school. In the latter case, the student receives a harsh critique on their own work from said Idol, and it "opens their eyes". The failures and mediocrity of their own work is revealed in cruel detail, and the idea is formed that such an awakening never would have happened if not for the glorious whip-hand of the Idol spanking them into awareness... THUS, the asshole-in-training takes this as a sign that they themselves must use this same tactic against art and artists they dislike or despise, to "tell it like it is" in as confrontational and unpleasant a way as possible so that either the object of scorn may themselves "awaken" and possibly redeem themselves, or that they will simply melt away like butter on the skillet of scathing review.

Add in a dash of neo-conservative prudishness swiped right from the bowels of Something Awful, and there you have "Your Webcomic is Ba...

Wait, what? conservative? No way!

Yes way! These folks are every bit as anti-sex as your average Fundamentalist Christian Evangelist, as long as whatever sexual element there is falls outside their politically correct spectrum. Wasn't all that long ago this same kind of person would be openly yelling "faggot" and "queer" at their objects of scorn, but no, now that's a sign of bigotry and intolerance, so to get that same namecalling, finger-pointing rush, they move on down the line to anything less accepted. Furries, for example, or anime freaks.

Make no mistake: this type of person is intensely interested in the masturbation habits of other people. If they even suspect slightly that some person might get a little excited by something a hair out of the ordinary, look out, it's "HAY GUESS WHAT TEH PERVS R DOIN", and it's all okay, because everybody thinks furries (or whatever) are weird. And okay, maybe the furries ARE weird, but what the hell? You've just moved from homophobia, worrying that a gay guy is gonna butt-bang you right there on the street, to worrying that some furfag is going to wrap you up in a coyote skin and mount you on the hood of your Civic. (Or some gender-swap androgynite is gonna dress you up in fishnets and sweatshirts and call you MaryBob, whatever the hell.)

And this goes right to what I was saying last post, about people being all wrapped up in what other people get off on. (So in a way it does tie into feminism, I guess.)

Now, up until this moment, I was satisfied to just let all that go. I mean, picking on bad webcomics? It's like taunting all the kids on the short bus. I suppose it can make you feel superior and all that, but damn, dude, it's way too easy a target and it's a bit overly sadistic for my tastes. My greatest joy at graduating High School wasn't the accomplishment of academic whatever, it was the idea that at last I was free of that cesspool of bullies and cliques. Oh, woe, when I realized that it keeps going long after, but at least I don't have to actually read some fucked-up site about griping about webcomics.

But then someone came up with Webcomics' Seven Deadly Sins, (and someone plugged it to me, the fucker, going "you really gotta read this!", do I never learn?) which isn't even itself all that outrageous, until you get to the last: Pride.

And ooooohhhhh baby, isn't Pride the worst sin of all. Because all those crappy webcomic people think they're the coolest, think they're the best.

But Pride is the very heart of a site like "Your Webcomic is Bad...", the primary driving force. Pride in one's own standards, one's own ability to know what is "good" and more importantly what isn't, Pride in knowing you're in the "cool" section of the Internet, Pride in your ability to make the other monkeys dance and flail and cry, Pride in your very own asshole-ness, your ability to be an utter douchebag to people whose only real crime was to create bad art where you could possibly see it.

(Let's not forget Wrath, too. For every angry webcomic creator who can't accept criticism, keep in mind there's an opposite number right there on "Your Webcomic is Bad..." who can't tolerate the idea that someone would create anything without fucking running it by them to get the aesthetic thumbs-up first.)

(Oh, and though they kinda gloss over Envy, try not to miss that under Greed they complain about some despised comic actually making a profit for the creator In Defiance Of God's Will while other, more deserving and better-crafted webcomics languish in poverty and obscurity. It may not be a personal Envy, but it's certainly Envy on behalf of someone else, at least... the idea that someone does not deserve what they've received.)

At this point I suspect the person who plugged this bit at me knew it'd tick me off, in pure "let's you and him fight" fashion, and I guess it has to some degree. But I have the secret key to victory here in my heart.

If you have a webcomic, and it has been assaulted by this site, or you fear it may be at some point in the future, here is the secret:

The moment you really give a shit what a site like this (or any other) says about your webcomic, you lose. It's the easiest thing to understand, the hardest to accomplish. Almost nobody can completely turn off their feelings when some dipshit yells "you suck, faggot!" at you. Nearly everyone likes approval, hates criticism. But it takes no real skill to dislike something. Everyone can do it. This website is not special in that regard. Any artist or creator must be aware that they cannot please everyone, so worrying about a small clutch of detractors with verbal skills evolved beyond the keyboard fist-pounding argot of 4chan is pointless. Know that your bad webcomic continuing to exist (or better yet, thriving) in spite of John Solomon's shining brow radiating tangible wisdom is the thing that will aggravate him the most.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Ban the Soul, Eh.

In recent readings. I've seen some people declare their blogs to be places where they just spew out personal thoughts as they happen, without editing, the implication being that criticism of what they say is pointless and overkill.

Well, why not use that for myself? If you disagree, I'm just sharing my thoughts!

Meh. I typed the above mostly because I was intending to foreword this post with a notice that it may meander a bit. I'm searching for something, not sure if I've found it yet. But rather than apologize if this one doesn't actually go anywhere, I figured I could JUSTIFY it, and make it all criticism-free! (He said, trying to avoid biting his cheek-planted tongue.)


A few years ago, I was rummaging through some stack of old magazines somewhere, I forget where. Secondhand store? Library castoffs? Whatever it was, I happened across an article about some feminist-oriented media watchdog group. The magazine was dated somewhere in the late 80s or early 90s, and the article was about this group and the things they were criticizing, and what caught my eye was their critique of ads for Bain De Soleil (I think that's how it's spelled, maybe) tanning lotion.

I vaguely remember the TV ads, with a sexy tanned woman in a black bikini luxuriating at some pool while a woman's voice sings "Bain De Soleil, for the San Tropez tan..." What I didn't know was that there were print ads for this stuff, too, I'm guessing they appeared in women's fashion magazines. And the watchdog group was against these print ads.

Here's what the ads depicted, and the group's reactions, as best as I can dredge up from memory. (Wish I had the article, but if I actually acquired the magazine, it's probably long since lost/thrown away.)

The first ad was of a woman very much like the one shown in the TV ads, a tube-top bikini, stylish and glamourous, reclining by the side of a pool. Bright sunlight, deep blue sky. The picture is taken from the side, showing her nearly lying down on the concrete or tile, knees bent a little, resting on her elbows, her back arched a bit, her head tilted back, eyes closed, as if she's drinking in the sun's rays. Very sexy.

The watchdog group's statement called this a depiction of a lifeless, dead woman. Their analysis of the woman's posture was that the woman was supposed to be unconscious or dead, a helpless victim to whatever person wished to assault her.


There was another ad shown, from a later campaign. The overtly sophisticated sexy model was replaced, this time with a similar model in the same bandeau swimwear, but one with a more active posture and expression. (Or it might've been the same model after all, I dunno.) My guess is that they were aiming for a more general, family-appeal look. Now the woman was not on her back, but on her side, facing the camera, smiling pleasantly. And also in the picture, also smiling at the camera, was a young girl of maybe 6 or 7, decked out in the same style of bikini, also fairly tan.

The watchdog group's statement was every bit as harsh as before: now the ad depicted a woman offering up her daughter for the viewer's sexual use.

Oh....kay. So first they're marketing tanning lotion to necrophiles, then to pedophiles. So says this group.

That was as far as the article went (I don't remember seeing any third ad campaign featuring dead 6 year olds or something).

Now, here's what goes through my head first when presented with this: is that really how it works? The ad agency is showing a woman that some might interpret to be dead in order to appeal to people and make them want to get tanned and buy lotion? Or presenting a young girl in a bikini is going to inflame the passions of pedophiles, who I suppose must have lots of disposable income?

The next thought that comes up is: now, wait, who's going to think that's a dead woman, anyway? There's no ad copy going, "yup, once they've reached that San Tropez tan stage, that's the best time to throttle them to death." If it's just a woman laying down limp and still, well, that describes a lot of real live sunbathers I've seen in my life. And there's no sign in the other pic reading "juvenile hooker for rent". To get these messages, you kind of have to be reading meanings and symbols into them that probably aren't intentional, if they even exist in the first place.

And after that, I have to think: and who is that going to appeal to, anyway? Unless you actually are a pedophile, are you really going to get all aroused by a 7-year old in a bikini? If you see a picture of a reclining woman and think she looks dead, is that going to be sexy for you unless you actually are a necrophile?

Does the fact that a pedophile could get turned on by the image of a young girl in a bikini mean that we should never show the image of a young girl in a bikini? Should we forbid girls of certain ages to wear swimwear that reveals X percent skin because it might excite a pervert? Should women always be depicted in action, so as to avoid any scene that might have some necrophile fantasizing about running a hand over room-temperature flesh?

If so... why?

Setting that aside for the moment, my thoughts turn to the watchdog group, and what kind of mentality they must have to be looking at things like this and seeing the most depraved interpretations in every last thing that catches their eye.

And then I think...

What good is this going to do, anyway? Let's suppose for the moment that they're right about these ads. And the ads get changed or removed.


How does this improve society? What harm were the ads causing anyway? Do they think the ads would generate an increase in pedophiliac or necrophiliac tendencies? Is someone going to look at them and, out of the blue, think, "hey, that's hot, think I'll go rob graves and hang around the schoolyards in a white van now"?

Or perhaps they think that the people who do have these desires will be "worked up" by the ads to the point of committing some crime? Maybe they think that taking that kind of ad away will somehow calm perverts down?

I dunno.

A few posts back, I mentioned Stephanie Brown's death. In response, "Lexi" said this:

"Oh, certainly there are people who would find the sexualized brutal murder of Stephanie Brown hot.

Statutory rapists (she was only 16).


Snuff film enthusiasts.

You know, sexual criminals."

Anonymous, who appears to be BrokenPorcelainDoll, who wrote one of the first "not taking your sexy away" posts I read, also offered this:

"If I'm taking you correctly, then that "nymphet" manga- the one about the preteen girl who tries to have sex with her teacher- is all well and good? What about snuff? Is sexualising rape and murder okay?"

Somewhere in the Bible, Jesus says:

"But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart."

Interesting quote, that. A lot of times when you see it referenced, the last "in his heart" has been dropped, so the message presented is, "If you think about adultery, you are actually committing adultery." But, the actual quote straight from the Bible keeps things in the realm of thought, a temptation to be resisted.

Lexi's quote, as I pointed out in the comments section where it appears, presumes that the ones who look upon Stephanie Brown's corpse with lust are by default criminals, that is, they have committed real crimes.

Anonymous/Bunny/BPD implies, in her quote, that presenting a work about a sexually precocious girl, or a work that links sex and death, is wrong. No crime is actually committed, but images and thoughts are presented that deal with things that might very well be crimes if they were real.

The battleground would seem to be over other people's thoughts. Because think about it: When the scene of Stephanie Brown lying on the floor, post-torture, is discussed, I've seen it mentioned that she's been drawn in a "sexy" pose. I'm not sure how many ways there are to lay on the ground that absolutely could not EVER be described as "sexy" in SOME way, but okay, let's say it is somehow "sexy". When YOU look at the scene, do you think it is sexy, do you find it "hot"? No? Do you assume that someone else finds it sexy? How do you know someone else thinks it's sexy? And if someone else does find it sexy, what does that matter to you?

I just read a post about the anime-style DC superheroines figures. The writer gripes about the sexualization of the characters, and later, replying to a comment, says it "represents a larger problem".

What problem is that, exactly? That someone might get a little too frisky, alone in their room, with some statue?

Why are so many people so concerned about what goes on in the innermost reaches of other people's heads?

What do people really think will happen?

Which is more correct: What Jesus actually said, or what a lot of people think he said? Is a fantasy every bit as criminal and evil as a real action?

Will it be enough that less actual crime and nastiness occurs in real life, or must thoughts be regulated, filtered, and sorted into appropriate categories to appease people disturbed by what gives other people some sort of thrill? Will everything be judged by a panel of experts in order to ensure that no offense is ever given and no bad thoughts are inspired?

Who will be first to join the forces of the Thought Police?