I was going to put this in a comment, but then I remembered – I could just write a post! So here it is. Whether it will be coherent or not I will leave you to decide.
So there I was, reading Matt’s column on toxic fandom, which I thought was perfectly fine. Then I read M-Wolverine’s objections to it in the comments, and I wanted to discuss some things with him. I think he got a bit unnecessarily personal with Mr. Hatcher, but I’ll let Greg fight his own battles. He’s a grown-ass man, after all, and can take care of himself.
No, what bugged me about M-Wolverine’s comment was his contention that we should engage racists because “both sides do it” and that if you like something, you’ll defend it even if the behavior is reprehensible and exactly what you criticize about the other side. This is partly what leads to people not voting, because “all politicians are corrupt” (easily disproved), so who cares who’s in power. I would say that I’d rather have a corrupt Hillary Clinton than a deranged Donald Trump, but then I’d be being mean to all those poor oppressed Trump voters, wouldn’t I? M-Wolverine says a lot in his comments, and I have to admit, he did make me think, which is never a bad thing. So I’d like to examine, without really engaging with the “Comicsgate” crowd at all (because I certainly agree that they don’t want to debate, they just want everyone to admit they’re right and listen to them), what it seems like they want. That’s why I’m unsure if this is going to be coherent or not, because I’m not sure if I can organize my thoughts as well as I should.
First of all, we should consider what these people want. I mean, it seems pretty clear, but let’s break it down from what they say on-line. They want a return to when comics didn’t push a political agenda that they don’t agree with, and showed heroes being heroes and villains being villains. They also want the heroes they love to stay the heroes they love, because Marvel and DC are busy replacing those heroes with either ethnic minorities or women. This, they say, leads to comics sales dropping, which will kill the industry, an industry that Marvel and DC are killing because they’re more committed to diversity than sales. Does this seem fair? I know we get caught up in the ways they express this, but does this seem like a fair overview of what the people involved want? I think it is, but if it’s not, please let me know.
Next, let’s take a look at M-Wolverine’s comments. I’ve never met him, but he has always seemed like a reasonable dude (well, except for his love of Michigan football, but let’s not get into that right now) who believes that because both sides do stuff like this, it’s necessary to remain calm and stay in the center of things. That’s a perfectly fine idea, and I espouse it, because it’s necessary to understand issues before we can act, and acting too emotionally to things before all the facts are in is a good way to go scorched earth on people who might not deserve it or at least look foolish after the fact (see: Argento, Asia). In his first comment, M-Wolverine writes (everything is [sic], by the way):
And most often what is occurring is that something that may have had subtle politic messages, or messages open to interpretation, have become hard left or right in their leanings. Populist entertainment is getting turned into “everything has to have a message.” You don’t care because comics are leaning in the direction you like right now. But if they were suddenly to become pro-Trump mouthpieces you’d freak. (As many on this site have at his mention). And it’s always excused by “yes, but in this case it’s really really bad.” Most of them are pretty awful people, but if they’re on “my team” they get excused for all their awfulness. But don’t tell me if they turned Batman, an old wealth rich guy, or Superman, a guy who grew up in Kansas, into hard line conservatives you wouldn’t have an equal number of people freaking out, even if it technically makes more sense for the character. (I’m mean, let’s be real…they’re ALL law and order vigilantes. That’s about as anti-liberal as you can get). Tony Stark ends up a villain so often because writers can’t conceive of a heroic capitalist. But Captain America is the most liberal 1940’s guy ever. And lately they have shown the lack of talent to be able to write characters of all sorts in an even handed way. (It’s funny, humanizing genocidal maniacs to make them more rounded characters is usually no problem, but a well rounded Trump voter? Right.) But it’s the squeezing in of beliefs that don’t fit character or story but fit the writer’s beliefs that stand out like sore thumbs.
You’re doing the same thing the Comicgates guys are, by naming names and outing them and making them “others” for their beliefs. You’re just doing it in a more polite way. But you can find tons of the same hateful outliers on both sides of the social spectrum. Ruby Rose, who people should be complaining about being a waif who would get broken in two and can’t act, not how “gay” she is, is a good example you mention. But if anyone can play anybody, someone should tell Scarlett Johansson. Because it wasn’t far right wingers tearing her apart.
And yet more:
And the private business not public thing is a great part of the hypocritical divide in this country. It’s always OK, unless I don’t agree with it. Banning from a convention, selling cakes to whoever you want or don’t want, disrupting speeches on campus, not serving cabinet figures because of their politics, smoking in bars. It’s always an outrage if you’re against those politics, and it’s always free speech and private organization rights if you’re behind the message.
In another comment, he writes:
And what is racism, or homophobia, or sexism, exactly? Hating those groups, or just not agreeing with every policy that comes up regarding it? Is it not believing every single case of a police shooting is racism? It is saying sometimes wait for the evidence in every #MeToo case so we don’t become internet vigilante justice? Because I’ve seen far less bring out the cries of RACIST or MISOGYNIST because it’s the intellectually lazy way of making an argument. Rather than argue issues or facts, attack the person.
Which is what this article, in part, does. It’s not a full on Dox’ing with addresses and contact information, but it’s naming names and attacking people and ascribing motives to them. Some of them are pretty awful people, and probably deserve it. Others get lumped in, well, just because.
People’s opinions become facts when they agree with them.
There’s a lot to unpack there, and while I don’t agree with everything he says, I don’t disagree with everything, either (I’ve made the point myself before that if Clark Kent had been raised in Kansas in DC’s sliding time scale of the 1980s/1990s, he’d be a conservative). Where I think he goes over the line is telling Hatcher that saying his editor is a conservative is the same as a racist saying he has black friends, because that’s not what Greg was writing at all, and M-Wolverine is being deliberately obtuse if he can’t see that. But again, Hatcher can fight his own battles.
[I should point out that since I began this post, M-Wolverine has commented again and clarified some of his remarks. That doesn’t invalidate what I’m writing, but I just wanted to let you know in case you missed it. Go read Matt’s original column!]
So let’s break this down. The Comicsgate people seem to want comics to push an agenda that they agree with, meaning a conservative one. Heroes = Heroes, Villains = Villains, Heroes Punch Villains, Good Triumphs Over Evil. M-Wolverine, in the first part of his first comment, mentions this too: “But don’t tell me if they turned Batman, an old wealth[y] rich guy, or Superman, a guy who grew up in Kansas, into hard line conservatives you wouldn’t have an equal number of people freaking out, even if it technically makes more sense for the character.” That’s a fair point, both about Heroes Being Heroes and heroes not being conservative. I very much doubt M-Wolverine’s point because The Dark Knight Returns is beloved and it’s one of the most fascist mainstream comics in history, but his point is not a bad one. But that brings us to my first contention, and that’s with so-called “conservative” art.
1. Conservative art and “punching down.” Great art is not, and has never been, conservative. There’s a reason for this. Conservatives, by their very nature, want things either to stay the same or, if they’re of a more reactionary bent, go back to a “Golden Age” (I’ll get to that below). Great art, almost by definition, is about pushing things forward. There’s a reason why so many artists back in the day died penniless or at least didn’t make any money until they were very old. The culture simply wasn’t ready for them. They pushed society in a way that society, which is generally conservative, didn’t want to go, and society reacted against that. There have always been people willing to “troll” artists and ignore the actual art just because they believe it doesn’t conform to what their version of art should be – the famous “Rite of Spring” premiere in 1913, which probably wasn’t a riot but was still contentious, points to just that, as one of the dancers was interviewed in 1965 and claimed that the audience was there to get riled up, which certainly doesn’t sound like any current situations we know at all. We can point to conservatives who make great art, sure, but the art itself is usually not conservative at all. Looking back to a “Golden Age” might make people feel good, but there’s a reason why so much of that kind of art is forgotten – it didn’t have the impact that great art does. Yes, I’m generalizing, but it’s still overwhelmingly true.
So when we consider if comics characters should be more conservative and remain heroes, the answer is probably “no.” Not because a conservative Batman would be offensive, but because it would be boring. What constitutes great art, after all? Change. The struggle to change and what happens when people try to stay the same in a changing world. What would a “conservative” Batman look like, anyway? Batman already sees the world in black and white, and he doesn’t seem to have much sympathy for criminals – two characteristics that conservatives like. No one wants to read about a wealthy Bruce Wayne making the city better through social programs, because people read Batman to see him beat up bad guys. The best Batman stories of the past 50 years have taken the tension between Batman’s unerring and unending war on crime – a big thing for conservatives – and his more gooey, liberal tendencies. That’s where you get the great art, as Batman, in his heart, knows he can’t win his war, but he can’t stop it either. Even the aforementioned Dark Knight Returns, which I imagine is one of those comics that conservatives would place in their “Golden Age” (I don’t know that for sure, but it feels like it would be) isn’t completely fascist – both Batman and Superman, who are fascist in different ways, have to learn different ways of doing things before they can move forward. If Batman is simply a “conservative” hero – meaning he doesn’t care about the roots of crime, just that there are criminals who need to be punched in the brain – he becomes Mr. A. Have you ever read any Mr. A comics? Gah, they’re dreadful. Beautiful art, but completely insipid. That’s what happens when you make your heroes 100% conservative. That’s why Tony Stark needed to be an alcoholic – confident capitalist Iron Man simply didn’t sell well enough. Captain America might be liberal, but there were plenty of liberals in the 1930s/1940s – remember, that was the New Deal era, and in 1912, for instance, Eugene Debs managed to get 6% of the popular vote in a presidential election running as a socialist. So Cap doesn’t necessarily have to be a conservative. Writers “can’t conceive of a heroic capitalist,” according to M-Wolverine, and that’s because capitalists are boring. What would a comic like that look like? Here comes Hedge Fund Manager Man, who made $13.2 million last year and spends two months of the year in Lake Como! Capitalism is not the worst thing in the world, but it’s deadly dull when it comes to art. The heroic novels of Ayn Rand are usually trotted out at this time, but nobody takes those seriously as great art, unless they have … an agenda!
The problem with “heroic capitalists” and other examples of mainstream white male American culture is with the idea of “punching down.” Great art “punches up,” as it either mocks, exposes, or tries to tear down completely the social hierarchy. “Punching down,” meaning mocking those who are below you on the social ladder, used to be fine, but it’s not any longer, and those people who want conservative agendas in their art can’t seem to accept that. Conservatives – symbolized by white, straight men, at least in the United States (obviously, it’s different in other places) – see that their dominance is being chipped away, and they can’t handle that. They can’t make fun of women, blacks, Asians, Hispanics, homosexuals, transgender people, and other minorities any more, so who can they make fun of? They’re still on top of the pyramid, but they want it both ways – they want to remain on the top of the pyramid AND be able to mock those further down the pyramid than they are. That’s not the way things work anymore, and many of that section of society aren’t handling it well. In a later comment, M-Wolverine got into a bit of a spat about Christianity, implying that Christians are discriminated against. In a country where anywhere from 80 to 90% of people identify as Christians, this statement is laughable. It’s just that Christians don’t have a monopoly on the secular law of this country anymore, and they’re a bit peeved. (To prove my point that Christians are not discriminated against, consider that it’s still against the law to run for office in seven states if you are an atheist. True, it’s against federal law to enforce these state laws, but they’re still on the books, and the fact that some states very recently have tried to enforce them should tell you what you need to know about Christians and being discriminated against.) Christians have been on the top of the heap for this country’s entire history, and now they’re mad because other groups are saying, “Hey, maybe your ideas aren’t the greatest.”
But the idea of “punching up” is why minorities can still mock or criticize those above them. M-Wolverine might not like it, Ethan van Sciver might not like it, but that’s the way it is. It makes conservative art not only boring but mean-spirited, because these “heroic capitalists” have to have something to triumph over, and when you’re at the top of the food chain, it’s hard to find a good antagonist. I suppose someone could write a “heroic capitalist” fighting an alien invasion or something, but that would reverse the power situation and that person would no longer be the apex predator. He (or she) would become an underdog, fighting against odds stacked against them. Just like a liberal. Or a socialist.
2. When were the “good old days”? When the “Comicsgate” people write and speak, they claim they want comics to return to a “Golden Age.” Anyone in any walk of life claiming they want to return to a “Golden Age” should be suspect, but let’s take them at their word. When was this “Golden Age,” when Heroes were Heroes and politics didn’t intrude on their escapism? As many, many people have pointed out, Superman was a liberal from the very beginning, back in 1938. In the late 1940s and 1950s, as censorship began to strangle the comics industry, heroes were definitely less political, but I would venture to guess that most of the people involved in “Comicsgate” are not in their late 60s or 70s, which is what they would need to be if they’re talking about returning to those halcyon days. Marvel’s re-entry into superhero comics was heavily political (with a liberal bent, despite biases against anyone other than white men), and DC got into the act, as well. In the 1970s, we had many diverse comics, from Black Panther fighting the actual Klan to Ororo joining the X-Men, just one of the most popular comics in history, NBD (I know the “Diversity and Comics” guy holds up Storm as a shining example of things he likes, but there’s a reason for that, and it has to do with my next point). We had politically charged comics, from the heavy-handed Green Lantern/Green Arrow comics to the fact that Richard Fucking Nixon was the head of an evil terrorist organization. In the 1980s, we had even more diversity and more politics, and old square characters like Barry Allen got replaced by a cooler, younger Flash … and sales took off. The 1990s brought us more “replacement” heroes and better sales, and even more diversity and more politics. So when were these “good old days” when white guys were the only heroes who mattered and comics were completely apolitical?
Past “Golden Ages” are dangerous because they can mean different things to different people. If you claim that a time was a “Golden Age,” that’s fine. If you want to return to said “Golden Age,” that’s another, because it means undoing a lot of stuff that’s happened in the interim. In politics, we’ve been hearing about a “Golden Age” since 2016, but our president or those who support him can’t quite tell us when that “Golden Age” existed, because they don’t quite know. All they know is things used to be good for them, and now they’re not quite as good for them. They don’t like it, so they yearn for a “Golden Age.” When I was growing up, conservatives in the 1980s ranted about everything was going to hell and that we should get back to 1950s values. Now, conservatives rant about everything today is going to hell and that we should get back to … you guessed it, the way things were in the 1980s. Things are measurably better in almost every way today, yet because certain people don’t hold a monopoly on political, economic, or moral power anymore, they want to return to a “Golden Age” that might have been golden for only a very small section of the population.
It’s similar with the “Comicsgate” people, or so it seems to me. They’re annoyed that left-wing politics have entered their comics. They’re annoyed that their heroes are being replaced by heroes of a different gender or ethnic group than they used to be. Are they annoyed that their creator heroes aren’t getting as much work as they used to? I don’t know – that doesn’t really seem to come up. They imply it by claiming that women or blacks (those are the two big groups, it seems) are getting too many jobs in comics, but comics aren’t a zero sum game, and I’m not sure if “Comicsgate” people follow established creator heroes who aren’t getting work. They seem to imply that they themselves can do a better job writing and drawing the comics, but that’s a different thing. So they want to return to a “Golden Age” when their heroes were white men and politics were non-existent. The big problem with that is pinning down exactly when that was. I haven’t engaged with any “Comicsgate” people because, frankly, I have a life, so I don’t quite know when they think comics like this existed. I have a theory, though, and that brings me to my next point.
3. Nostalgia and its insidious lure. The reason why no one, when asked, can pin down a “Golden Age” is partly because it’s a myth, and partly because it’s a very personal time frame. But when we get into the idea of Golden Ages, it’s usually before those espousing it were born, or, crucially, when they were children. You know what was better when you were a kid? EVERY-FUCKING-THING!!!!!! Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that most of these so-called “Comicsgate” people are between 40-50 years old. That means they were born between 1968 and 1978. I don’t know this for sure, but it’s probably not a bad guess. So they came of age from about 1976 to 1994 or so, which is about when I came of age (I was born in 1971). You know what was better in the 1980s? EVERY-FUCKING-THING!!!!!! I mean, music was so much better, television was awesome, movies were incredible, and comics were great. All of pop culture was so much better than what we have now!!!!!! Nothing can compare to the sheer awesomeness of the Original Trilogy (I still call the first movie only Star Wars because I won’t let George Lucas rape my childhood!!!!) and Raiders and Highlander and Arnold and Sly and Lethal Weapon and Die Hard and Tron and Legend and Ferris Bueller and Breakfast Club and Goonies and Lost Boys and Stephen J. Cannell shows and Cheers and Zep and the Stones and Floyd and Yes and early Metallica (before they sold out) and Van Halen and Claremont/Byrne X-Men and Byrne FF and Miller Daredevil and Moore Swamp Thing and Pérez Avengers and Byrne Superman and Lee X-Men!!!!!!! THEY WERE ALL MOTHERFUCKING AWESOME!!!!!!!
Of course this is ridiculous, but it’s the way many people – not just those with an agenda – feel. Ask anyone you know what their favorite thing in pop culture is, and the chances are very good it will be something from before they turned 20. That’s not surprising – our critical capacities aren’t as formed when we’re children, we’re seeing things for the first time so they have more of an impression on us, and we have the time to consume more. I used to go to see movies all the time before I had kids, even into my 20s. I used to watch more television than I do now, and I definitely used to listen to more music than I do now. Kids have more time, and their brains are like sponges. White male kids can easily ignore things that might be problematic, like their heroes’ contempt for women or the fact that in most pop culture from back then, ethnic minorities were usually sidekicks and treated with nothing but condescension. They were seeing all this superhero stuff in comics for the first time, so of course they thought it was awesome. One of the reasons why I don’t read many superhero comics any more is because I’ve seen it all before. But I, unlike some others, know that you can’t go back. You’re only a virgin until you have sex the first time. You can’t unfuck yourself. Nostalgia is powerful because it’s so attractive. For a vast majority of people, their childhoods are when they were happiest, and if they weren’t, they look back on them with rose-colored glasses because they wanted them to be happy, despite the evidence. Let’s face it – being an adult can suck. You know what I do as an adult that I never had to do as a kid? I change diapers full of shit worn by a 16-year-old girl. I pay bills. I worked for and with assholes and had to be nice to them. I get pulled over for going 22 miles per hour in a 15-mph-school zone at 10 o’clock in the morning when everyone is already in school. I have shitty metabolism so I can’t eat Kit Kats and Snickers and drink Dr. Pepper and not have it affect my waistline. I worry all the fucking time about my children. But I’m an adult and that’s the deal – I also have a beautiful wife who I love very much and to whom I’ve been married for 24 years, I have two amazing children who always surprise me with how amazing they are, I have great friends all around the world, and I have a pretty good life. I had a great childhood, but I also understand that I can’t go back. Nor do I really want to. That’s the difference between regular people and “Golden Agers” – regular people understand that you have to adapt to change because everything is always changing, while people who want to revert to a “Golden Age” can’t accept change and want to bury their heads in the sand. They want to live in a hazy dream where everything was always perfect for them, even though, let’s admit it, The A-Team kind of sucked. Don’t deny it!
But that’s why nostalgia is dangerous, and why the lure of a “Golden Age” should be resisted. When people speak of a “Golden Age,” their focus is extremely narrow, and it only suits them. Conservatives who want to return to a “Golden Age” think that women should stay home and take care of the kids, black people should protest social injustice in the “right way” (like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who protested in such the right way that he was murdered for it), and Hispanics should be happy to work in the fields picking lettuce in Yuma (Yuma: that lettuce in your salad today probably came from there!). Everything was great when that was the way of the world, wasn’t it? Similarly, “Comicsgate” people want the X-Men to be like when Claremont and Byrne were doing it (which is why that Diversity in Comics guy likes Storm – she was introduced during his childhood, and she was exotic enough that she didn’t act like a “real” black person), Captain America to be a white, square-jawed hero, Spider-Man to be a white, weak-chinned hero who inexplicably gets all the girls, Batman to be a Manichean vigilante, Superman to punch Lex Luthor, and blacks to remain sidekicks and women to remain supporting staff for the male heroes. The fact that women and ethnic minorities and gay people and transgender people are making comics and saying, “Hey, that ‘Golden Age’ you speak of kind of sucked for us, so we’re going to tell our own stories” is something they can’t abide. But, like most “Golden Ages,” the one they remember is gone and is never returning, even if they get what they want. They’re never going to experience the thrill of reading the Dark Phoenix saga of The Dark Knight Returns for the first time. Marvel and DC are currently going through one of their spasmodic “nostalgia binges,” where they reboot everything to what they think people want. And it never works. The “Comicsgate” crowd like to point out that comics shops are going out of business because no one is reading comics because they don’t give the conservatives what they want. That’s ridiculous. Comics shops go out of business all the time for any number of reasons. And comics are fine. There’s never been a wider selection of kinds of comics to read, there’s never been as many avenues to get comics, and just because some brick-and-mortar stores go down doesn’t mean that comics are dying. It sucks, sure, but it always sucks when a locally-run business goes under. No, nothing sells like Amazing Spider-Man did back in the 1960s, but that’s because the selection is so much greater. Back then, if you wanted to read a superhero book about a geeky teen, you had to read Amazing Spider-Man. Now, you can swing a dead cat and hit five or six of them. The lack of a single title selling 100,000 or 500,000 or 1,000,000 copies doesn’t mean comics are dying. Comics are thriving, and what bothers the “Comicsgate” people, it seems, is that they’re thriving without them. How dare people enjoy different kinds of comics that I don’t like! That’s so unfair!!!!!
4. The irrationality of nostalgia and its consequences. As I noted, nostalgia isn’t rational. It’s not even necessarily positive. The word comes from the Greek, from two words meaning “homecoming” and “pain” or “ache,” and was classified as a form of melancholy back when the term was first coined. People feel it when they’re dissatisfied with their current life in some way, because the past is set in stone and they can create any kind of narrative they want. I’m not saying that I’m not nostalgic, either. I’m almost weirdly sentimental, but I don’t let it cripple me and stunt me emotionally, like it has for so many. If you sit down with a “Comicsgate” person, I imagine, and try to engage them, which is what people like M-Wolverine seems to be saying we should do (if I’m wrong, I certainly hope he puts me straight), you try to argue with them rationally. You point out that their “Golden Age” never existed. You bring up Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams, Stan Lee and John Romita Sr., Evil Richard Nixon, even Action Comics #1. You explain to them that showing Red Sonja in a metal bikini isn’t really the best representation of an “empowered woman.” You point out that Luke Cage might not have been the best way to portray a strong, independent black man. You point out metrics that show that comics aren’t dying at all, just changing to serve a different demographic, much like they did in the 1970s and 1980s, when people stopped treating comics as disposable entertainment and began collecting them to re-read. None of this is new, and none if it is bad. But the problem is: Even if you engage them in this way, it doesn’t matter. Irrationality cannot be reasoned with. These are people who got angry at a group of women for drinking milkshakes, for crying out loud. Their nostalgia for a time when white men were on top of the pyramid has overwhelmed their rational minds, and they have no interest in confronting this weird new world, where women don’t passively submit to sex, where they demand equal pay for equal work, where black people tell them that maybe cops shouldn’t shoot first and never ask questions, where Muslim women don’t want to show off their skin (I have some problems with the hijab, but it’s still a fact that many women really want to wear it), where Christians can’t simply act un-Christian to people because that’s how it’s always been done, where homosexuals want to be treated as actual human beings rather than animals you can kick.
This is different than a simple difference of opinion. I have mentioned before that the people who frequent my comics store are overwhelmingly white and male (we do get some women and some other minorities, but they’re definitely in the minority), and they skew older, as well. They’re not necessarily conservative, but we do have at least one dude who voted for Trump, and the owner himself is fairly conservative. I like the Trump voter; I don’t know if he regrets his vote, but he was definitely more anti-Clinton than pro-Trump, and he didn’t like Obamacare, so I’m curious how his health insurance premiums are doing. He buys a lot of mainstream superhero comics and not much else, and we often talk about “the state of comics,” because he’s a person who thinks very strongly that certain characters should remain unchanged. So he sounds like a prime candidate to be a “Comicsgaters,” but he’s an adult, so he’s not. I don’t agree with him on everything and he doesn’t agree with me on everything, but we have nice discussions. He thinks Marvel (it’s usually Marvel; he’s generally happy with the way DC is functioning these days) should be keeping their legacy characters and not hiring so many bad artists. When we discuss art, the gender and ethnicity of the artist never come up; he just likes the more traditional kinds of superhero artists and doesn’t like the cartoony style a lot of Marvel books have today. He thinks America – the comic book and character – was very racist toward white people, but I never read it so I can’t argue, although I do scoff at him a little when he says it. But he never said anyone should threaten the creators. He thinks that Marvel should have a core group of “traditional” heroes, and if they want to promote diversity, they should create new characters, which I tend to agree with and I wish Marvel and DC made it more financially lucrative for their writers and artists to do so. He gives almost every Marvel book a chance, no matter who writes it. Squirrel Girl is one of his favorite comics, and this past week he decided to give West Coast Avengers #1 a try, even though it’s written by one of the most “SJW” writers around right now, Kelly Thompson. He very much enjoyed Jason Aaron’s “Chick Thor” story while at the same time wishing that “Dude Thor” would return. My point is that people have differences of opinion on what kind of comics Marvel should publish, but it’s perfectly possible to discuss them even when you disagree with each other. So why doesn’t that work with the “Comicsgate” crowd? Because they’re children. Emotionally, of course. Have you ever tried to discuss something rationally with a child? It’s really difficult. They don’t understand logic, they don’t care about logic, and they just want to talk about their point of view. Sound familiar?
5. “Everyone does it.” It seems what made the most people angry about M-Wolverine’s comments was his insistence on looking at the extreme examples from both the left and the right. I think he goes too far claiming that Matt is doing exactly what the “Comicsgate” people are doing – as others point out, Matt simply reprinted public statements made by said “Comicsgaters” and didn’t publish their real names or addresses and didn’t call for any of them to be threatened or harassed – he just used their own tweets to show their behavior. So to claim that Matt is the “same” is another ridiculous statement, and it undercuts M-Wolverine’s entire point, which is not a bad one – extremist behavior makes everyone look bad. But Matt does write briefly about the other side of the spectrum – the specific example of Ruby Rose’s casting as Batwoman – so I’m not sure why M-Wolverine was so hot about it. “Everyone does it” veers close to “whatabout-ism,” where people accused of crimes try to explain it away by asking why others aren’t being targeted as well. Trump and his cronies have taken this to a depressing art form, and while yes, it would be nice if everyone who ever committed a crime was punished appropriately for it, that doesn’t give anyone license to commit their own crimes.
M-Wolverine wants to remain calm, like Kevin Bacon in Animal House, which is a fine solution. He doesn’t want to rush to judgment, which is another fine solution. There is a problem with people rushing to tweet their stupidest thoughts and later thinking better of it. The ubiquity of smart phones has made it far too easy for anyone to vomit out whatever is in the darkest parts of their brains, and that’s never a good thing. It can lead to a mob mentality and lots of pain for people who don’t deserve it and all kinds of collateral damage. M-Wolverine brings up the fact that you can’t question certain things – police shootings or accusations of sexual misconduct – because the leftists will shout you down. Well, I have no idea if that’s true or not, because I don’t engage with any of that shit on-line. I don’t know what anyone said to Ruby Rose about her lesbianism or Jewishness (anything I’ve read about it only says that she was harassed, not what form the harassment took), and the only reason I know about what these “Comicsgate” people say is because I read about it in columns like Matt’s. So I have no idea how accurate M-Wolverine is. It’s funny, though, that he’s decrying two things that we used to not be able to question at all in the opposite directions – police shootings and sexual misconduct – because obviously police wouldn’t shoot someone unless they deserved it and obviously men had a perfect right to treat women like sex objects. The pendulum perhaps has swung too far the other way, but now that symbols of white male authorities are the target, suddenly white men are saying, “Hey, let’s slow down a bit here and consider all the sides!” But M-Wolverine is right, in a way. We should investigate all police shootings to make sure they’re valid or invalid. If you say that, though, people will point out that police almost never get indicted for shootings, so the power structure is saying that almost all police shootings are valid, and that’s just ridiculous. We should believe victims of sexual misconduct, but that means believing the dude who says Asia Argento raped him, and that doesn’t mean that Harvey Weinstein didn’t rape Argento. There are thousands, probably millions of examples of people being abused when they were kids turning into abusers when they’re adults. Does that mean we should ignore their own abuse because they abuse others? M-Wolverine gets defensive about Christianity even though he says he’s not a Christian. But the Catholic Church covered up sexual abuse by their priests for years and they still won’t admit to it completely and don’t seem inclined to do too much about it, despite the hippie pope that everyone loves. You can understand why people are justifiably angry at Christians. Should they take the time to single out the corrupt Christians? Sure they should. But what white guys fail to understand is that oppressed people have been saying this stuff for decades and no one listened. So you’ll have to forgive them if they’re not inclined to give groups the benefit of the doubt.
The other problem with “everyone does it” is that it makes all outrages equal. Not everyone on the right is Hitler and not everyone on the left is Stalin, but in the hyperactive world we live in, that’s what happens. So it becomes easy to not only condemn both sides, but not take action against anything. If you don’t like Nancy Pelosi and Trump, you can simply call them both corrupt politicians and move on, but that ignores the very real damage Trump is doing to our country, which Pelosi really can’t do because she’s not in a position to do so. It’s easy to do nothing, and usually, that’s perfectly fine. I ignore the rantings on the internet all the time, and that’s fine. I will vote for people who I think will stop Trump, and that’s what I can do – I don’t love any politicians, but I think there are people who will try to stop Trump, and I personally don’t care if it’s to advance their careers. I don’t support Ethan van Sciver because I don’t like his art, not because he’s a bit unhinged on Twitter. I might think about not buying his work if I did like it, but I’m not sure what I’d do. I don’t have a problem with ignoring extremists at all. M-Wolverine says you get shouted down no matter which bear you poke, and if he’s right, why engage at all? As Matt pointed out in his column and I’ve made the case here, with certain people, you can’t engage because they’re not thinking rationally. The reason I think the right-wing crazies are worse than the left-wing crazies is not because I agree with them, as M-Wolverine claims people do. It’s because the right-wingers are fueled by nostalgia, and deep down, they know they can’t go back unless they force things, and that leads to violence. The left-wingers are fueled by a “politically correct” agenda, so even if they rage about Ruby Rose, deep down, they know casting an actual lesbian instead of someone pretending to be a lesbian is a big step forward, so by the time the show airs, it won’t be an issue (at least I don’t think it will be). As for police shootings and the MeToo movement – well, yes, accusing people of things they didn’t do isn’t great, but if it makes the cops and other people in position of power a little bit less likely to shoot someone or grope someone, I don’t think that’s a bad thing. It’s “punching down” versus “punching up” again – the “Comicsgate” people are “punching down” while the MeToo people are “punching up.” Mistakes can happen on both sides, but it’s a lot more forgivable if the person is “punching up.” Maybe it shouldn’t be, be life isn’t fair. It’s about time white men learned that, too.
I know this is probably tl;dr for some of you, and I apologize for that. I did want to respond to M-Wolverine in the comments, but I knew I’d probably have a lot more to say about it. The anger he provoked is interesting, because some of it was perfectly justified – again, he insulted Greg, which was weird, but as I knew he would, Greg responded his own self – but some of it seemed to miss the point of what M-Wolverine was saying, even as he missed some of the points of what Matt was saying. “Engaging” those you disagree with is never a bad idea, but it’s clear that the “Comicsgate” people aren’t interested in that. All that’s left is to call them out for their bad behavior, and if their behavior turns criminal, report them. But M-Wolverine’s point about both sides is valid, even though in today’s world, it seems like saying the two sides are perfectly balanced in terms of their extremist behavior is ridiculous. Maybe I’m just not getting the right news, I don’t know. The world is an annoying place these days, and I think it’s perfectly fine to try to figure out what people want even if they act poorly in trying to get it. The problem becomes when they become irrational. Fandom has always been a bit weird, from sports fans to pop culture fans, and it’s sad that people can’t enjoy what they enjoy and ignore the rest. I haven’t bought a comic starring Spider-Man in over a decade, and he’s one of my favorite characters. Do I care? No, I do not. There are far too many more important things to occupy my time. Extremists of all kinds are children, and it’s too bad we’re occasionally forced to act like they’re adults.
Anyway, that’s off my chest. I think I’ll go back to writing about movies and comics I dig for while. This stuff is too heavy, man!