— Ken Lowery (@kenlowery) May 31, 2013
Take a real blues song title, with the word “blues” in it, and replace “blues” with “feels.”
— Ken Lowery (@kenlowery) May 31, 2013
— Ken Lowery (@kenlowery) May 31, 2013
Take a real blues song title, with the word “blues” in it, and replace “blues” with “feels.”
— Ken Lowery (@kenlowery) May 31, 2013
The logic in my head went thusly:
1. Edward Norton was utterly wasted in ‘The Incredible Hulk’, a movie about a man with a split personality who was destructive and at odds with his ‘primary’ self.
2. Prior to that, Norton was probably best known for ‘Fight Club’, a movie about a man with a split personality who was destructive and who (came to be) at odds with his primary self.
3. Previous Hulk stories have featured the Hulk at varying levels of intelligence. You could, without betraying the source material, write a Hulk who was as eloquent and charismatic as Tyler Durden. And the potential for stunt-casting with Brad Pitt would be too hard to pass up. In some alternate universe, we got a version of ‘The Incredible Hulk’ written as a superhero homage to ‘Fight Club’.
4. When writing dialogue from this alternate Hulk movie, it’s worth remembering that Hulk dialogue is always funnier when written in Roy Thomas’ green Hulk argot.
“First Rule of Hulk Club: Hulk not talk about Hulk Club.”
“Second Rule of Hulk Club: HULK NOT TALK ABOUT HULK CLUB! RRRAAAARRRRGGGGH!”
“Third Rule of Hulk Club: When puny human say ‘stop’, go limp, tap out, Hulk stop smashing them.”
“Fourth Rule of Hulk Club: It not fair to gang up on Hulk.”
“Fifth Rule of Hulk Club: Hulk will smash you when Hulk finished smashing other puny human.”
“Sixth Rule of Hulk Club: No shirts. No shoes. Only purple pants.”
“Seventh Rule of Hulk Club: Hulk will smash as long as Hulk has to smash.”
“And Eighth Rule of Hulk Club: If this your first night at Hulk Club…you must SMASH!”
I’ve been watching Anita Sarkeesian’s Tropes vs. Women in Video Games, and have generally enjoyed it. You know who doesn’t? A Mister, um, DanimalCart on the Kotaku forums. To be fair, his complaint is more eloquent than some of the crap Sarkeesian has dealt with, so I thought it was worth further examination:
I don’t agree with the majority of Sarkeesian’s work and many of the examples she brings up don’t strike me as overtly based in sexism. However I also don’t begrudge Sarkeesian for trying to point something out and she deserves respect just like any other human on the planet. I can even agree that some sexism does exit in gaming I am just trying not to throw the baby out with the bathwater.
If it’s not clear which baby is being thrown out with the metaphorical bathwater, it will be shortly.
Sarkeesian typically shows evidence and uses examples that only go in service to support a thesis she has already made before researching a topic. She does not consider financial issues, publisher/developer relations and other factors that contribute to story/character decisions.
It seems to me that Sarkeesian’s approach boils down to 1) discuss a basic androcentric cliche and 2) cite a dozen or more instances where video games have utilized same. I’m not sure how much more research DanimalCart thinks she needs to do to justify her position, or how he knows she is cherry-picking data to support a predetermined conclusion.
As far as mitigating factors are concerned, I think she thoroughly addressed the way financial issues and publisher-developer relations affect the use of, say, damsels in distress as a plot device. Video game publishers have a financial issue in that they want to make money. Video game developers are obligated by their publishers to make games that will sell. Games about male characters rescuing helpless female characters are reliably easy to sell to male audiences. This is a motivation for sexism, not an excuse for it.
If you have played ICO, you will know that the character Yorda works with ICO as an equal to escape together throughout most of the game and she has mystical powers that ICO does not, is taller than ICO and more mature as ICO is a boy. Yorda even saves ICO’s life at the end of the game, and is no mere damsel. The game also features beautiful environments, great atmosphere and is a truly unique and beautiful experience. Sarkeesian reduced one of the greatest games of the PS2 into another example of sexism, which may be why some are so put off by these videos.
I’ve never even heard of Ico before this week, but nothing in this paragraph proves that Yorda is not a damsel in distress. From what I can find online, Yorda is helpless to escape her plight, in spite of mystical powers (or height I guess), without the help of a male character controlled by the player. It may be more complex than Mario saving the princess, but the male is still the subject and the female is still the object of his efforts. Acknowledging that is not tantamount to dismissing everything good about the game.
Frankly, I don’t sense that Sarkeesian is arguing that the games she criticizes are necessarily bad, or even that the tropes she discusses are inherently bad. Her main point is that the tropes are used excessively, with little thought given to what they say about the video game industry’s treatment of female characters. The Legend of Zelda can be an awesome game and a rather un-feminist game at the same time. There’s no harm in admitting that, unless maybe you think it’s awesome because it’s not feminist, which would be kind of weird.
Women don’t want to be portrayed poorly or reduced to sex objects and Men don’t want labeled as misogynist pigs. Sexism is bad, everyone can agree to that and no one wants to be accused of it or have it applied to them. When tensions start at such an elevated height, a certain level of tact is required when trying to talk about them on a larger forum. To gamers, Sarkeesian displays all the tact of an uninvited construction crew coming in your living room at 5:30 in the morning and Jackhammering.
Here’s where we get to the root of the backlash against Sarkeesian. Like I said, I enjoy Tropes vs. Women, but when I watch it I find myself becoming defensive. I know she’s going to challenge my preconceptions, and I don’t want her to suggest that behavior I take for granted is sexist. If I played more of the games she discusses, the show would probably make me uncomfortable, so I can see why gamers would liken her to an unwelcome interruption. DanimalCart’s fallacy, though, is to suppose that Sarkeesian ought to maximize his comfort while lecturing him about feminism, when he would be most comfortable if she didn’t lecture him at all. There is no fun way to be told “your favorite games aren’t very good at depicting women,” and she isn’t obligated to make it fun.
Notice that it’s DanimalCart’s living room and Sarkeesian is the uninvited pest, even though she clearly enjoys video games as much as he does. Because she’s questioning the sacred cow, whereas he’s reflexively guarding it. The gaming community, like any other fandom subculture, is devoted to the purity of a common interest (in this case video games) and tends to be pretty insular and jingoistic, especially if they feel bullied by outsiders. In this worldview, you’re either with gamer culture or you’re against it:
The gaming media is running a giant game of guilt by association. By running articles and putting a spot light on these nasty comments [by gamers against Sarkeesian], perceptually they were not outliers anymore; they were the voice of the community. How in a span of 20 years did the stigmata of gamers go from “nerds who live in their parents basements” go to “every white male gamer is a sexist, misogynist asshole”?
Simple: Twenty years ago people didn’t know what nerds in the basement were saying or thinking, but now you can go on the internet and see. The issue isn’t so much that gamers are all misogynists, though. It’s that, far too often, their response to stories about misogyny in gaming is to circle the wagons and defend gaming from external criticism, rather than address internal ugliness. Thus: Sarkeesian criticizes video games, gamer culture harasses Sarkeesian, gamer media critcizes gamer culture, therefore the problem is Sarkeesian and the media!
Look at how this very site trashed Katie Couric for her uneducated and research viewpoint on video games. Kotaku ran four articles about “Couric-Gate” calling her one episode “one-sided, fear-mongering”, encouraged gamers to tweet at her with challenging viewpoints and did a victory lap when she offered a mea culpa. Where is that for Sarkeesian’s work? Couric ran one 40 minute episode on gaming; Sarkeesian plans to run 13 parts each over 60 minutes in length making just as grandiose claims of the ramifications of gaming. Where is the analysis in the gaming media?
“Analysis” here may be read as “knee-jerk defense.” Whenever someone suggests the entire medium of video games is to blame for something–Joe Lieberman, Jack Thompson, Katie Couric–the community rises as one to protect gaming from the ignorance and fear of outsiders. It’s a comfortable position to take, hunkering down with one’s “countrymen” against some boogeyman in the name of an unimpeachable cause. It also reduces a fandom’s capacity for self-examination. Gamers who are uncomfortable facing Sarkeesian’s arguments choose instead to pretend they’re a persecuted minority, under attack from all sides and finally betrayed by their own news outlets. They want her to be the next Jack Thompson, because that simplifies the conflict.
So here’s where we get back to that “throw the baby out with the bathwater” business; in this rush to reduce the debate into absolutist terms, Sarkeesian’s critics end up accusing her of dealing in absolutes. She thinks games aren’t feminist because she doesn’t understand them! She identifies sexist tropes in games because she wants those games to be eradicated! Combating sexism is fine, but this nut thinks all gamers are sexist, and she wants to destroy all video games! Absolutely none of this comes across in Sarkeesian’s videos, but since she doesn’t go out of her way to deny it hard enough, gamers feel free to assume it’s true.
I do think DanimalCart is right that Sarkeesian would do better to take into account the extraordinarily thin skin of her audience. Nevertheless, the greater onus is on her audience to grow the hell up.
If you are willing to accept that this is not a clever caper film but rather Fast and Furious-level entertaining silliness with magic instead of cars (and also there are some cars), it ain’t a bad way to spend a couple hours.
continue reading "Eleven thoughts about the new season of Arrested Development"
Socraticsilence, in the recent Doug Ford post, asks:
So admittedly this is an outsiders perspective but I’ve always gotten the idea from you and other Canadian political commentators that Rob Ford is an amiable boob, a well-meaning moron with a bit of a mean streak but not overtly cruel and/or calculating- kind of a fat Canadian Dubya– right down to the inheriting everything and not realizing his privilege. So I guess what I’m asking is, and I don’t want to stretch the analogy too far here- is Doug, Rob’s Cheney– the competent, cruel, bloodless guy behind the power?
If that is the idea you have gotten, then Canadians have misrepresented Rob Ford to you. Ford is not an “amiable boob.” He is friendly enough, I suppose, but not so dramatically that he is one of those people who engenders joie de vivre in all he meets or anything like that. Ford is extremely stupid but he is also very mean – a callous dunce who doesn’t have the imagination to even consider other people’s viewpoints much less sympathize with them. His goodwill is essentially predicated on his own unmerited high self-opinion; he lives in a black and white world where he is always the good guy and can always, always justify the stupid shit he pulls off. I am quite sure that right now he totally believes he is being wronged in this crack video scandal, despite that it is pretty obvious now that A) the video exists and B) he is lying through his teeth about that.
As for Doug, he is not bloodless and he is barely competent. Cheney thinks about what he says before he says it. Doug Ford doesn’t think about anything and has most of his brother’s faults. He is only “competent” when compared to his idiot brother, who really does set a new low for all things related to governance, and any buff in reputation he gets is largely the result of being “the less stupid one” so damned often.
Now, you might be thinking “but wait, you have no respect for the Ford Brothers.” And that is not precisely true. Rob Ford is excellent at constituent service, for example – he genuinely loves it and takes pride in it, it is quite possibly the best thing about a generally awful person. You can at least respect Rob Ford on that basis, and there are clearly other elements of the man that are respectable, which makes him such a tragic figure in so many respects.
But Doug Ford? (Who, for non-Torontonians, is Rob Ford’s older brother and who took over Rob’s seat on city council when Rob ran for Mayor.) Holy crap, fuck Doug Ford. He has, with this scandal, proven himself to be a truly worthless human being, on the basis of one sentence:
“Rob is telling me these stories are untrue, that these accusations are ridiculous and I believe him.”
Not “Rob doesn’t smoke crack.” Not “Rob would never do those things.” Not “there’s no tape, this is just crap.” Not even a “oh, fuck you.” Doug Ford just threw his own brother under the bus, because according to Doug Ford, Doug Ford is just an innocent bystander in all of this. If the Rob Ford crack video eventually does emerge (and it looks at this point fairly likely to do so) and Rob Ford is indeed smoking crack and calling Justin Trudeau a fag and all the rest of it, well, that’s not Doug’s fault, because Rob told him he doesn’t smoke crack and why wouldn’t you believe your brother?
I get that Doug Ford is in a difficult situation: when you are a politician, you can be loyal to the public or to your family in a situation like this. If Doug knows there is no video or doesn’t know if the video exists, his response should have been a simple “Rob doesn’t smoke crack.” If he does know about the video, then he has two choices: either stand with the city and say that Rob needs to stand down, or double down, stand by his brother and say “Rob doesn’t smoke crack.” And frankly, given that last option, I think most people would (eventually) forgive him, because this is the man’s brother. I’ve had judges tell me on numerous occasions that they discount testimony from family members of parties/accuseds because, well, they’re family and it’s to be expected that family sticks together. And they’re not going to go attacking those people for perjury. We’re supposed to be loyal to our families.
But, when the chips were down, Doug Ford made his choice: not to be loyal to the city or to his own brother, but instead to be loyal to Doug Ford. That is the amoral and craven act of a truly worthless human being – and one, frankly, that if Rob and Doug’s roles in this were reversed I think Rob Ford would not have chosen – and I think people need to remember this, because Doug Ford is going to do his damnedest not to go away and continue to be a blight on the political landscape. And conservatives in Ontario need to remember it more than liberals, because it is now quite obvious that Doug Ford does not give a shit about his fellow conservatives. If Doug Ford isn’t willing to go to the mattresses for his brother, then he’s certainly not going to do it for his fellow party members.
So Amazon has announce Kindle Worlds, which is kind of sickly brilliant: it’s basically an online publishing house for fan-fiction, wherein royalties are paid to the owners of the IP and to the author of the fanfic. And the royalty to the author is, frankly, not bad – 20-35% of total revenue of digital sales of the work.
Of course, it’s not all candy and sunshine. If you look at the more detailed explanation, Amazon explains that it will own all rights to the work for the entire term of copyright, including (most importantly) reprint and adaptation rights. If the CW likes your Vampire Diaries story so much they want to convert it into an episode or two, then they will pay Amazon instead of you. If the CW doesn’t like your Vampire Diaries story but does like your moody vampire character named Steve, Amazon will grant them “a license to use your new elements and incorporate them into other works without further compensation to you.” This is, to say the least, kind of problematic. The simple explanation doesn’t even say if you’ll be credited as the creator of those elements, which to many fanfic authors I think would be one of the most important things.
And remember, this is for the entire term of copyright, which means for as long as money can be made off it (e.g. until long after you are dead) Amazon will control it entirely. So to call this a “bad contract” is kind of a major understatement, isn’t it?
Well, yes and no. We are after all talking about fan-fiction – something that is only quasi-legal at the best of times. Amazon has found a way for fanfic writers to get paid something for their work (and it’s a pretty reasonable something) and to be recognized for their craft, and if the terms are draconian, they are still a major improvement over what previously existed, which is “nothing, or maybe get sued for copyright infringement.” If Amazon includes some more reasonable terms for compensation with respect to profits from reprints and adaptations it will be approaching “good.” Frankly it’s already more than I expected what this would eventually look like when it happened.
Of course, no discussion of payment-for-fanfic is complete without the standard admonishment of “you should just write your own original stuff that you own and control.” But I understand the desire to write works set in an existing universe all too well. And I am forced to admit: if DC Comics suddenly became a “World Licensor” for this thing, and if Amazon extended its digital publishing to include comics… I would be, at the very least, significantly tempted to write certain properties as I saw fit. I am only human, after all.
In email, Michael Paciocco asks:
So, I’m reading this.
And there’s a lot of reference and reverence for the “Five Years Later” Legion stuff. Which is sort of before my time (didn’t even start reading DC regularly until post-Zero Hour – exceptions being Waid’s Flash, the Superman stuff, and the beginning of the Kyle Rayner era). As the biggest Legion guy I know, would you mind explaining it to me because I don’t get it.
From what I’ve read in bits and pieces from blogs and everywhere else, the 5YL is the Legion’s “Grim and Gritty” phase – the UFP is more Dystopic, Cosmic Boy’s lost his powers, the Legion is basically shattered, Richard Kent Shakespeare, Shrinking Violet has a bionic leg or something, etc etc. And then there’s whole thing where they find a bunch of bright and happy clones (who may or may not be the real deal) and Earth is destroyed? How does that not conflict deeply with the whole thing of “LOSH should be bright and happy and heroic”?
The first thing you have to understand about the v4 era Legion is that it was almost certainly one of the most ambitious superhero comics undertakings of all time. The blogpost Michael references rightly describes it as a “post-Watchmen comic book” in the proper sense, which is to say it took away far more in the storytelling toolkit from Watchmen than simply the grim tone. Indeed, calling v4 “grim and gritty” oversimplifies it greatly; after all, this is a run which had some of the greatest comedy issues of all time.
What Keith Giffen took from Watchmen was the concept of whole-world-building and the idea that the greater world beyond one’s protagonists matters, but his use of it was expressly in opposition to the core thesis Alan Moore advanced, which is that, all things considered, superheroes in and of themselves are basically powerless to stop society’s self-destructive urges (Dr. Manhattan is only a stopgap, Nite Owl and Rorshach are meaningless, and Ozymandias only succeeds because he abandons superheroism for conspiratorial means). v4 Legion, in comparison, is set against the backdrop of a full-fledged galactic war between numerous enormous space empires – the United Planets, the Khunds, the Dominion, the Dark Circle, et cetera – but time and again, the Legion mostly succeeds in its goals. Where it does not are usually disasters of immense scope rather than the result of others’ agency.
As comics have grown more cognizant of the belief that superheroes could only “realistically” operate as agents of state authority (see the Marvel Universe, where currently most of the major superhero teams either are explicitly state agents like the Avengers or operate on a wink-nod basis with the state), Giffen’s Legion went entirely the other way: he had the Legion reform under conditions as hostile as possible, with only their own resources keeping them afloat (and although Chameleon was at this point ridiculously wealthy, the series made clear that individual wealth really only goes so far more often than not) and with most of the established power actors either disinclined to cooperate with the Legion or actively hostile towards their re-inception. It’s an overwhelmingly pro-superheroic, deeply idealistic run of comics. To call it “grim and gritty” because a lot of characters die misses the point – after all, the series takes place mostly within a war, and whenever the focus shifts away from those wars, the most striking thing about the story is how much care it takes to show that the Legion is an extended family more than anything else.
And, as a writing accomplishment – getting back to the technical side of things – even though it does not entirely succeed (Giffen tries to juggle an enormous number of balls, and frankly he drops a few here and there) it is staggering in its scope. What Giffen did (along with the Bierbaums, who I think at this point are widely acknowledged as being the weaker writers in the v4 team, particularly when their eventual run without Giffen was so much… less than his) was to apply Watchmen‘s use of wider-world story to the Legion universe – IE to apply it to over thirty years of comics. Giffen had done this before with Paul Levitz, of course (see the Great Darkness Saga and the Legion of Super-Villains story, both of which were massive callbacks to practically the entirety of Legion history) but v4 is so dense at times it practically begs for annotations – not that they are necessary, for the most part, to follow the vast and ambitious swirling plot. And Giffen did all of this while creating a new status quo to explain how the Legion came to be in a universe where Superboy was never a member to boot (a task at which he was mostly successful, creating Laurel Gand in the process – a Supergirl replacement who became quite popular in her own right).
It doesn’t entirely succeed. Some elements were controversial at the time because neckbeards hate change (the Ayla/Vi gay relationship, the Shvaughn/Sean Erin de-transgendering story, Sun Boy’s character arc). Some elements were controversial because they just sucked (Kid Quantum, a bad idea all around). But on the whole it is far more successful than not, and where it fails it is forgivable because of the furious attempt by Giffen and his co-creators to do something new in superhero comics. And that is worth commemorating.