Monday, April 28, 2008

Oh, you think YOU've got it bad? Pff.

Because I don't feel like delving into the actual argument where I saw this bit, and because I'm too lazy to do the link thing right now, you'll just have to guess where this came from:

I still laugh at the irony: that I try to encourage people to look at the whole of a story before judging it and I now find myself being judged as the next Mad Thinker or anon a mouse by people who won't read the whole of my body of work.


Buddy, you should try to actually BE Anon, a Mouse, and get pre-judged and dismissed out of hand for having a difference of opinion.

My heart bleeds.

(In point of fact, though, it'd be a mistake to say that such dismissal upsets me THAT much. It is a little annoying to deal with some people who refuse to even comprehend some of the ideas you try to communicate, either through simple lack of reading comprehension or a dogged insistence on not giving up one virtual centimeter in a debate lest they be forced to, oh, I dunno, reconsider some long-held item of faith, BUT I can't muster up enough hurt feelings to go begging people to look at my entire output 'cause I'm not really that bad of a guy, oh woe.

Dismissal runs both ways; for every person who says "yeah, it's just Anon, a Mouse again saying the same old stuff", I can just as easily say, "well, that's so-and-so, another closed mind feeding off its own assumptions and prejudices".

Although, it is interesting to get dismissed out of hand by some folks who complain bitterly about how the rest of the world won't even try listen to their wisdom 'cuz the rest of the world's all evil and full of misogynists. "Listen to me! But I don't have to listen to you!" *applause*)

Suck it up! You said it, deal with it! Stop seeking approval from people who will never ever give it to you regardless of how hard you grovel...

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Inappropriate Appropriating

Quick thought #1:

Go check out Newsarama and a few other places about the recent legal decision that says that the estate of Jerry Siegel now (re-)owns half the copyright to the Superman character, and you're bound to come across upset fanboys aghast that someone besides DC can possibly control the destiny of the character. They fear it being misused, they fear Superman somehow being taken entirely out of the continuity of the DC Universe, and if you're very good and pure of heart and sit very still and watch, you may even see the fanboy who calls the estate evil and/or greedy for wanting to reclaim control over a creation that was taken from its creators for blankets and glass beads back in the day. Don't move, you'll spook him!

Aside from spraining my optic nerves from all the eyerolling at the extraordinary entitlement being displayed, I had to think of my recent discussions regarding Wonder Woman, and the appropriation of the character by one faction or another. Aaaaaaand, I'm not sure I see much difference. Both characters are seen as heroic icons, and the beef seems to be about that heroic uplifting nature being sullied in some way by "bad appropriation".

So I guess claiming ownership of something you don't really own isn't limited to feminists. Fans of both genders do it! I guess that's a step towards some sort of backwards equality.

Derived Quick Thought #2:

What the hell was Gloria Steinem thinking, anyway? I'll grant that maybe she was looking for an empowered heroic female to use as an icon, a symbol, and maybe among DC's stable of heroines, Wonder Woman was the more suitable choice among the most recognizable heroines. She wasn't derived from a male hero, it's true. And her earliest adventures were, if loaded with fetishes, also loaded with female empowerment messages.

But, while I imagine DC didn't mind the pro-feminist endorsement, I question the wisdom of selecting as an icon for your movement a character that is owned outright by some other corporate identity. It's like, what if the gay movements decided to use Mickey Mouse as their symbol? It could only really last as long as Disney didn't mind, unless you did it deliberately to spite them (in which case, get set for the brisk taste of lawyers). And then what if they revamp Mickey and his perceived nature differs from what he was appropriated for?

So what was Wonder Woman doing in the '70s When Ms. put her on the cover? After her original creator died, she was doing a lot of the same sappy things the other heroines were doing (see: the Robert Kanigher-written run), until she got depowered for a little while! This is what Wikipedia says made Ms. Steinem angry and prompted the cover, but it's kinda like, well, what if Slave Leia pissed you off so you made the Princess in her white robe and Cinnabon hairdo your symbol.

Just sayin', doesn't sound like the wisest decision to me, in retrospect.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Maybe This Doesn't Mean Anything.

So I guess I'll finally get around to discussing that poll of mine and its final results and what they mean... which is probably Not All That Much, since it's hard to judge from a month's time and a handful of participants from who knows where whether any particular result is indicative of any trend in the general population... or anything else, for that matter.

After all, I haven't a clue who reads this blog or where they come from. Sure, I assume a large percentage come from When Fangirls Attack, considering the linking I get, and my guess is that a few of the anonymous comments I've had are stragglers from my John Solomon/Your Webcomic Is Bad-related posts. (Disappointingly, the smartass anonymii aren't nearly as entertaining or clever as they think they are.)

Hell, for all I know, just putting the poll up spat out some sort of automatic link at ("hey, look! Here's the latest 20 polls put out by opinionated tards using our site!") and the poll reached 57 random yahoos... or maybe 57 people really did peruse my blog and vote on the poll based on truly relevant linking.

Wherever they came from, I admit to being mildly pleased with the results. To recap, in the event the poll vanishes from its current location in future days, the question was:

Is it possible for someone to have sexist or misogynist fantasies and thoughts, and not actually be sexist or misogynist?

The winning result was: "Yes, your fantasies are separate from reality." Out of 57 responses, it was not only the largest response (33 votes), but that expressed by over half the responders. A clear majority no matter how you interpret the numbers.

I think this is a sensible opinion to have; it's nice to know that a large percentage of other folks (at least the ones who encountered my poll) seem to think so, too.

Now, I included a not-so-serious option: "Anyone who likes what I hate is scum." I think we can disregard the 4 votes this got as being people who just wanted to select the most smartassed answer possible. Certainly I'd lump anyone who selected that as a serious answer as a demagogue, comparable to loony talk-radio hosts and evangelical rabble-rousers (and the people they appeal to). I can't fathom the mindset it would require for someone to be so self-assured about their own inherent rightness that they allow for no possibility whatsoever that someone else's opinions may have some validity, so let's just assume those 4 votes were all jokes. Right? Of course.

At 3 votes, "No, to have a sexist fantasy means you are sexist" gets even less play than the joke answer, and honestly, I was expecting a bit more out of this answer.

The runner-up, though, is interesting to think about. I specifically wrote it to be a little ambiguous: "Well, you can have sexist fantasies and not ACT sexist." Break it down, and what does that really mean? Essentially, the same as "No, to have a sexist fantasy means you are sexist," only with the added idea that even if you are sexist, you can mask it by behaving yourself in public. But deep down, you are sexist for having those horrible fantasies.

I kind of expected that answer to be the front-runner. But at 17 votes, it proves to be a significant chunk of the opinion out there, if not the dominant opinion.

And it gets its play in other blogs. In the latest "Bendis writing Dr. Doom" flap (and for the record, I agree that the dialog was very unlike what I expect from the regal Doom) you can hear echoes of the Tigra beating uproar from the comments sections: Bendis writing someone insulting Ms. Marvel must mean that Bendis is himself a misogynist. No, it's not nearly as strong a sentiment this time around, but it exists.

Is it just an assumption that some make, regardless of evidence, that a creator must by default equal his or her creation? Can this notion be countered successfully? On the depressingly "no" side of our checklist, I give you:

The woman who strongly believes that Joss Whedon rapes his wife based on the evidence of his writing of Firefly.

I dunno, after that, few words are needed.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Didn't I Pretty Much Say That Already? Why, Yes, Yes I Did.

Oh, sure.

There's a couple articles about Wertham and then Valerie D'Orazio's talking about it and there's a healthy smattering of interest and response.

But when ol' Cranky McWomanhater talks about Wertham, well, only a few will brave those dark waters.*

Okay, sure, maybe I made it all uncomfortable-feeling by linking Wertham's attitudes to some displayed by elements of the feminist fandom. It's pretty damn interesting to me, though, how there can be this "was-he-or-wasn't-he" discussion of Wertham and what he did, whether he was right about those crime comics being inappropriate for kids, and then I can click on some other link at WFA and find Looking To The Stars' blog talking about The Latest Bendis Warcrime. Read:

So why did I feel the need to comment on this when so many other more distinguished luminaries, including that master parodist Christopher Bird, have already weighed in on this issue?

Because of something that the children's librarian in me remembered from reading through a catalog and something that I think is rather important. Namely, that this book - Mighty Avengers #11 - was rated All Ages by whoever it is that Marvel has rate their comics for age-appropriateness.

Yes. All-Ages. As in, you're supposed to be able to give this to anyone without fear of it containing inappropriate material.

Now, I'm not a prude. Far from it.
Anybody who has read my work, knows my reading habits or is familiar with my weekend exploits as part of a Rocky Horror troupe can vouch that I am not easily offended nor am I a Helen Lovejoy "Won't Somebody PLEASE Think of the children" type.
But I have to ask: Since when has "whore" been an acceptable word for use in children's books? Even children's pictorial bibles don't drop the W-bomb!

Before now, I was content to limit my ban on Marvel Comics to my own personal reading habits. Now, I'm enforcing it at my library. Because if I can't trust Marvel Comics to honestly and fairly rate their own materials, then I can't be bothered to take the risk on anything they publish.
And right there, the ghost of Wertham rises, to reach a quavering claw-like hand from beyond the grave!

I mean, no sooner has he said he's not all "think of the children", he goes right in and thinks primarily of the children! A complete ban on Marvel at the library? Is this is a library that only caters to kids? Are the comics normally only racked in the kid's section? Do adults never peruse the comics at his library?

Unless this is a kids-only library (hell, I dunno, it could be), what he's saying in effect is: because Marvel drops the ball with its labeling in his opinion, nobody at the library should get to read any Marvel comic from now on, be they minors or adults. It is more important that a kid not have to see the word "whore" in a comic than said comic is available to those old enough to not suffer brain damage from reading the kind of words they say on prime-time TV.

(And in addition: at what age is a kid able to withstand the horrors of the word "whore", and does this mean that the library, even if it caters exclusively to minors, would be removing Marvel not only for the teeniest wee sheltered readers but also the teens and just-about-teens? Yes, of course it does. Were I a teenager in such a situation, I'd feel pretty damn condescended to, and I'd avoid such an institution like the plague.)

And since labeling is the issue here, let's trot over back to Occasional Superheroine, where we see in the comments section, courtesy of Ami Angelwings:

I dun see a problem with a warning label or description of what's in it. I mean as a writer who posts a lot of fiction online I know a lot of stories have tags at the beginning to inform readers about what sort of themes are contained. We have NSFW stuff in posts. A tag or label isn't censorship in any way :\ It's just more information :) Like nutritional labels in food products :)
Here's the problem.

Warning labels are arbitrary. They hold standards which are based on opinion. A food label, at least, has the benefit of supposedly telling you objective facts ("this candy bar has peanuts in it"); a label that says "this comic has too much violence for an 11-year-old" depends on the person reading the label and the agency placing the label on the book having similar standards.

Ever gone to a movie and thought the violence was too much for the PG rating? Or seen an R-rated movie and wondered what the fuss was all about? That's someone at the MPAA board deciding for you that this is too much violence for some folks here, but this other violence here is more acceptable.

Someone at Marvel thought "whore" was an acceptable word to put in an all-ages book**, and our librarian disagreed, and now no more Marvel at the library. That is censorship, right there. Not in a country-wide fashion, no, you can still read Marvel comics elsewhere. But it is censorship nonetheless. And going back to movie ratings: when was the last time you saw a movie with an "A" rating in the theater? Once someone marks a film as being "too adult for even the R rating", that pretty much kills its distribution. Oh, sure, you can still find a few places that might play it, depending on the film. A seedy adult film theater (if they still exist in the days of private DVDs and internet porn), a tiny art-house showing, or heck, just wait for the DVD. Well, gosh, it can't really be censorship if it's still around, right?

Sure. And all those comics that didn't take up the Comics Code in the fifties could still be published, they weren't being censored, no, you just couldn't find them on the majority of newsstands.

Labels suck. They are, in a fashion, an abandoning of personal responsibility: "Well, the label says it's bad, so I don't have to use my own judgment and think about it myself, out it goes!".

They are also a hammer, a threat: "take that blood spray or cleavage out of that scene, there, or we'll give you an "A" rating and then you can't get your film into theaters. Conform to our standards for decency!"

You may not think a simple warning label could have much effect, but then you probably also don't pay much attention to what CDs get into Wal-Mart and which don't due to labels or potentially offensive material. You don't care or even know about about some gangsta rapper failing to sell some album because the forces that be behind the scenes are "looking out for the public interest". You probably don't know about artists as tame as Sheryl Crow running into content troubles with chain outlets. And Tipper Gore only wanted to help parents with the awful drudge-work of raising children when she formed the PMRC. Surely she didn't think she would institute censorship, oh, no.

Ami probably means well, the librarian may have nothing but the finest of intentions, but really, it doesn't take a whole lot of foresight to see how these things can start benignly but snowball out of control, far beyond what anyone thought they wanted, since it's happened before, and we even have an example specific to comics that we can look at and evaluate.

What's that everyone says about history and being doomed to repeat it...?

*I really wish I were confident enough about my readership that I didn't feel the need to mention that was all a joke.

**Actually, I think it's far more likely that nobody at Marvel is really paying attention to their rating labels, or that they don't want to have to judge each issue individually so that little Billy can read Avengers #347 but isn't allowed to see the continued story in Avengers #348...