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.

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