Why We Feel Guilty – Pop Culture and Those Who Make It

If 2015 was the death of our heroes, then 2016 was the death of the reputation of our heroes, as someone on Twitter once said.

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Black Panther And The Impending Doom Of Hollywood’s Mediocrity

Recently, the success of Black Panther has exceeded even the most wildest of expectations, having passed 1 billion world wide, then 1.25 billion, and now has sailed past the record set by Titanic by James Cameron.

Heck, Black Panther will also be the first movie screened in Saudi Arabia after its 35 year cinema ban ends. Quite the extra achievement there.

Continue reading “Black Panther And The Impending Doom Of Hollywood’s Mediocrity”

Horizon Zero Dawn’s White Saviour Problem

It’s been awhile since Horizon Zero Dawn has come out, in fact it’s been a year, and after watching so much of its fans talk about it on tumblr, sharing fanart and fanfiction, I finally broke down and borrowed my niece’s copy.

I wasn’t too impressed with its trailer, which depicted its heroine, Alloy, dressed up in an outfit that was part post-apocolyptic and part hipster who just took an DNA test and found out she was 5% Indigenous and put together a quick outfit from the Halloween sale at the local dress shop.

In fact, I discussed my feelings before on what bothered me about the game initially. 

Now, having put more than a number of hours into the game (in fact, I’m close to the end I believe), I find myself enjoying it, yet bothered by the White Saviour Narrative that underlines it.

As it’s been out for a year now, people should know there’s going to be spoilers abound in this, but I’ll still say, from here on there be spoilers.

Continue reading “Horizon Zero Dawn’s White Saviour Problem”

Doing More Than The Bare Minimum

So, it’s finally come to pass that DC Comics have fired Eddie Berganza, the serial sexual harasser that has worked at DC Comics for over a decade.

No, he hasn’t been moved from one position to another, nor was he kept out of the public light, but he has been fired.

F-I-R-E-D.

And frankly, it’s about time.

Bridget Alverson of Smash Pages recently released an article talking about the history of Berganza and what he had done, as well as the concerns of women who worked under him and alongside him, and the sheer lack of any concrete effort by DC Comics to do anything more than protect themselves from a future, potential lawsuit.

It’s a good read, and one I recommend as it helps to collect the stories of various women who worked at DC Comics and their accounts.

The termination of Berganza’s employment at DC Comics, after allegations from three women, comes at an important time as the fallout from allegations brought against Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey continue to grow. As comics continue to work hard to improve sales and public relations, keeping on a known sexual harasser who kissed women against their will and promised them writing gigs if they only returned sexual favours is not a good look.

In our capitalist society, we’re all trying to buy according to our conscious, a hard thing to do considering the treatment of people who make our products, such as the laptop I’m writing this on.

So it was ultimately in DC’s best interest to fire Berganza, the guy who once pleaded with women to stay on the failing Supergirl comic series.

“Women. Who needs them? Well, actually, I do.”

Those words carry a considerable undertaste of bile and poison now, not that they weren’t any good back then.

See, it wasn’t just Eddie Berganza who made working at DC Comics a bad place to be for women who wanted to follow their passions as a writer or artist, but the higher ups in charge, the ones who listened to the women give their concerns, their accounts, and promptly did nothing.

I’ve heard some names brandied about as to who helped to cover them up, and if DC’s statement of a desire to make a harassment free environment is to be taken seriously, then those who knew and did nothing and continue to work at DC Comics should tender their resignation immediately.

Because the kind of environment DC Comics made, where sexual harassers are protected and shielded is not unique to them, and it’s one in which women face at many other different companies.

Harvey Weinstein has been the biggest name recently to come out about the kind of toxic environment he indulged in and which the companies he founded and then worked for, Miramax and The Weinstein Company,  indulged him. Like Eddie Berganza, nothing concrete was ever done about him and his harassment of actresses for sexual favours was the worst kept secret in Hollywood.

Actresses such as Lupita Nyong’o, Brit Marlon and others have come forward to tell their stories of how he attempted to exploit them, usully with threats to their career.

People.com has since collected a list of people with allegations against Harvey, and it’s sad and frustrating to read about how many women this man lorded his power over.

Another example of a man in a position of power and exerting it over women in exchange for sexual favours came across my twitter feed today from associate editor at Gamespot, Kellie Plagge, as part of the #metoo hashtag making its rounds on social media.

Sadly, there are common themes through these stories, and plenty of others, such as the disbelief that so and so would ever do such a thing, gaslighting women, threatening their careers, and blaming them for the actions of the men by either dressing or looking provacatively.

And quite frankly, it has to stop.

The people that permit an environment which allows a sexual harasser, a predator, to flourish and thrive also need to be held accountable for their actions. It takes more than the firing of the predator himself, but those who either brushed off the concerns of the women who were preyed upon, or took steps to protect the company on a whole from lawsuits and public relation damage.

Yes, it is good that Eddie Berganza was fired, and with any due luck the man will never be hired by another comics company and put in a position of authority over women, but his actions were tolerated by those at the top for years.

Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. It’s a quote from Elie Wieseal in his acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo Norway, in 1986, and it’s as true now as it was then.

Because as much as DC Comics might be doing the right thing in some regards, they did absolutely nothing, and those who turned a blind eye should be fired. It’s especially tiresome and frustrating as Brett Ratner has been signed on to be a producer for the next Wonder Woman movie.

Brett Ratner, much like Harvey Weinstein, Woody Allen, and others, abused his position of power over women and even outed Ellen Page on the set of the third X-Men movie, as she discussed in a powerful post on her Facebook page.

For DC Comics and Warner Bros to have this man on board still while firing Eddie Berganza reeks of hypocrisy and a real lack of care for the women on that set. It’s my hope that Gal Godot’s threat of not coming back for the second Wonder Woman movie unless Brett Ratner is removed will get the higher ups at Warner Bros to remove him, instead of rewarding him.

And that those who believed it would be a great idea to have a man who gladly included the pedophile rapist Roman Polanski in his movie, followed by a rape joke, Rush Hour 3, are subsequently terminated as well.

Pandering and the Default

So, in the midst of the continued fall out from Weistein, the accusations against Kevin Spacey increasing by the day as more come forward to tell of his predatory nature, Twitter continuing to not do a thing about Nazis but erasing bisexuals, this bit of criticism about Jeph Jacque’s Questionable Content from a fan, and Jeph’s subsequent response, came across my feed.

Now, in the picture provided in the link here, there’s a lot to unpack about what the fan has to say to Jeph, especially the subtle bit of transphobia by saying Marten isn’t in a hetero relationship. The bit not said is that since Claire is a transgender woman, she’s not a REAL woman, and so Marten is in a gay relationship.

That is some TERF Laci Green level of logic right there.

However, I want to focus on the Pandering bit of the statement, that in having so many characters who are LGBTQIA, Jeph Jacques is somehow pandering to people who identify as such, and that this is somehow a bad thing.

It is, as my friend Tim Yang, the producer behind the podcasts All Comics Considered and Race Invaders, said on his Facebook page in discussing this, “It’s code for “why aren’t you pandering to me?!”

This is hardly a lone example in the past few years of people angry that changes are being made to something they like, and it says a lot that the people who are angry are straight, white, cisgender, able bodied men.

Game Critic and article writer Tauriq Fousa was the recipient of mass harassment on Twitter and elsewhere for his article being critical of The Witcher 3 for having a predominantly white cast.

Leslie Jones was the target of a mass harassment campaign simply for staring in the remake of Ghostbusters that had an all female cast.

Marvel Comics came under fire for having a female Thor, a black Spider-Man, a Muslim superhero in Kamala Khan as the new Ms Marvel, and accusations of becoming overrun by SJWs.

The fallout from the new Doctor being a woman? Same thing.

When straight white, cisgender able bodied men like me complain about these things, and other showings of diversity in our movies, comic books, video games, and books, it comes from a place of insecurity, I feel. For so long, in Western society, a lot of what we enjoyed was made for us by us, and so many of us were so used to this for so long that to see even the smallest increase in diversity of any kind is, on some level, a threat to our very existence. It is something worth going to war for, as evidenced by the Gamergate Hate Movement against women and diversity in games.

In a way, the straight white dudes who complain about creators pandering to people not like them come off as Dudley Dursley, face twisted up in rage as he receives one less present than the previous year for his birthday, decrying the injustice of it all and demanding recompense for this mild slight against him.

Dudleyangry.jpg

They can’t possibly understand WHY others wish to see themselves in the games they play, the books they read, and the movies they watch. After all, we grew up seeing so many white men inhabiting all sorts of roles, and if they can’t relate to them, then that’s their problem, not ours.

It’s not FAIR! They had Winston in Ghostbusters, shouldn’t that be enough?! Why make Spider-man black!? Women had She-Ra and Xena, shouldn’t that be enough?! Why have Thor be a feeeemalllee…? Or Valkyrie be a black woman in the new Thor movie?! Or the new Doctor?! It makes no sense for a time traveling alien who regenerates into different bodies to avoid death to change his gender!

What guys like that don’t understand is that for as much diversity as we are seeing, people of colour, LGBTQIA people, basically people who aren’t straight, white, cisgender, male and able bodied are still woefully under represented in our various forms of media.

Part of the problem that lies within was explained perfectly by Rebecca Kuang when discussing the diversity panel she’d been a part of at a recent convention, in this wonderful thread I’d highly recommend you check out.

When you have unfair, heightened standards for a movie, a book, a game to succeed when the lead is not a straight white cisgender man, you are setting it up to fail.

It was a problem with superhero movies as lead by women, wherein movies like Supergirl, Catwoman, and Elektra were not given as good a treatment in terms of production, writing, promotion etc as their male counterparts. It becomes, in effect, a self fulfilling prophecy that other gatekeepers can then point to as evidence that, hey, people just don’t like female lead superhero movies.

It was something that Marvel CEO Ike Perlmutter did, without even taking into account how many male superhero movies bomb, either critically or financially, such as Ghost Rider, Amazing Spider-Man, Batman Vs Superman, Green Lantern, and Daredevil to name a few.

So lets see about rebooting Spider-man and Batman for the millionith time, eh?

Until Wonder Woman arrived on the scene, that is.

JL_Wonder_Woman

She’s arguably, single handedly saved the DC movieverse with its success of over 800 million dollars world wide, making it the highest grossing superhero origin movie to date. Who did it beat out? One of Marvel’s most popular characters, Spider-Man from 2002, directed by Sam Raimi.

The truth of the matter is that as we continue progressing forward, the default of the Straight, White, Cisgender, Able Bodied Male is becoming less the gold standard for an assured success, and more a sign of the gatekeeping that merely thinks that people only want to see straight, white, cisgender able bodied men.

And that they will ignore all evidence to the contrary. One only need look at the poor performances of The Great Wall, The Last Airbender, and Iron Fist to see that people don’t want to see all white people all the time, and still studios will try to hamfist white people into roles not meant for them, such as Scarlet Johansson’s leading role in Ghost in the Shell, because the people who make the decisions still believe that audiences only want to see white people in leading roles.

The Sad Puppies/Rabid Puppies come from this line of thinking as well, believing that science fiction and fantasy should not pander to people not like them (straight white cisgender dudes) and tried to influence the votes of the Hugo Awards.

That they failed should be seen as a sign that people want more diversity and not the outdated views of bigots and racists, although their very presence should also be taken with caution that said people will not go quietly into the night.

There’s a great deal of progress yet to be made, especially where hashtags such as #OscarsSoWhite continue to garner incredible traction, across all forms of entertainment, and that barriers to the success of creators who ‘pander’ to people like them need to be dismantled.

This feels especially important in the light of Trump becoming president of the US last year, where there was an incredibly vocal and violent pushback against people who didn’t have it so great in the good old days of the distant 50s Americana.

Pop Culture is more than just a means of entertainment and escapism for us. It can educate us about social issues important to us, as Star Trek did when it first started, and can show us a better, brighter future that we can work towards.

To remain rooted in the out dated way of thinking in terms of representation is a failure on the part of fans who want nothing different and the people in charge who see money only in the faces of people who look like them.

Brain Food – Episode 66

Hello everyone, it’s a new episode of Brain Food!

In it, I review Jesse Petterson’s In The Dead Volume 1, an anthology of short stories about zombie survivors so white you’d think someone dropped it in a bag of flour.

I used a different format this time, using stock imagery from Pixels and Unsplash, instead of just filming myself, and I hope everyone likes it.

Yes, I was heavily influenced by Jim Sterling’s videos.

So please enjoy, comment, like, and subscribe!