Why Yes, Your Art Can Have More Than One Meaning

 

So, about that Joker movie, eh?

Oh, I should say, about the director of the Joker movie, Todd Phillips who has recently been expressing distress, even anger, and not a little bit of snobbishness, that people would dare, DARE criticize his movie.

There was also this blatant misdirection Todd attempted, most likely while his publicist screamed at him from afar to just shut the hell up.

Just a reminder to Mr Phillips, Keanu Reeves isn’t white, he’s biracial, his first name means Ocean Breeze Over A Mountain, so please stop erasing his Asian heritage, as he was born in Lebanon.

That being said, I find the actions of this director vehemently opposing any idea that his film could be held up as the endorsement of white male violence upon the world as astoundingly childish and also a sign of white privilege in and of itself. Movies, aside from being a medium of entertainment, are an art form, much like books, video games, and graphic novels.

And as a form of art, there can be more than just the creator’s intended message that people can take away from it. The history of cinema has shown this time and time again.

For example, Alien is not just a scary, claustrophobic movie about a dangerous creature hunting a bunch of truckers in space, it’s also a commentary on capitalism that seeks to gain profit even at the danger of destroying humanity. Aliens continues along this thread but was also seen as a metaphor for the Vietnam war, where a technologically superior invading force is wiped out by the native life there.

The original Blob movie? A metaphor for the encroaching communist spread across the world during the McCarthy Era as well as a movie about a faceless ooze that devours people.

And those are just but a few examples, and different takes can be taken from art according to one’s own life experiences.

Take me, for example: I’m a cis, white, abled bodied male, so the views and critiques I could take away from a movie would be vastly different than someone who is black, trans, and female.

This is why there’s been discussions of cop shows as copoganda, from CSI and Law & Order to Brooklyn-99. I’ve read critques from a feminist POV about the lack of leading women with their own movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and ones that question that further, looking at the diversity of women and the lack of women of colour in the MCU on a whole.

(And before anyone comes in and says it, no, Gamora and Nebula do not count. Green and Blue people aren’t real, even if one of them is played by Zoe Soldana.)

And of course, there’s discussion of the diversity of people behind the scenes, such as was April Reign’s coining of the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite when looking at the line up of winners at the Academy Awards back in 2015.

I say all of this to add further context to the importance that we critique the media we watch, especially in this darkest timeline in which we live where there’s a domestic terrorist attack in the US just about every other week. The premise of the Joker movie, about a nice guy who has a bad day and simply snaps, is disturbing to say the least, because of the real world parallels we see weekly, if not daily, in the news.

Parallels such as the self-proclaimed Incel who drove his van into a crowd in Toronto, killing 10 people, who was in turn inspired by another ‘Nice Guy’ who had a bad day, Elliot Rodgers. Incel culture in and of itself reeks of white male privilege and the rage over being unable to lay claim to women and the coveted prize of sex. If you’ve the stomach for it, I’d recommend the website We Hunted The Mammoth and click through the Incel tag for more on the disturbing behaviour of these men.

Those of us who are critical of the message of the Joker movie, which points very strongly to the Nice Guy Who Has A Bad Day take, worry about how many men will take heart to this, and then enact on it.

As the US Military did recently with this warning to their troops who might be seeing the movie.

And if you don’t think people don’t act on racist, sexist, messages in our media, look no further than the screening of “Birth of the Nation”, a movie made BY the KKK to inspire more recruitment into the KKK, at the White House itself. The KKK received a boom in size after that, which continued on until another piece of media, the Superman Radio Drama, tore apart its veil of secrecy and metaphorically pantsed the organization.

And these are just the examples I can think off the top of my head while casually writing this. Others have put significantly more time and effort into looking at the messages in our media and across more than just movies that enforce terrible racist stereotypes as well as outmoded and harmful standards of beauty.

Don’t even get me started on the genre of films I consider to be Transgender Pain Porn.

All being said, for Todd Phillips to plug his fingers into his ears and yell “Lah lah lah, I can’t hear you, you’re all wrong!” speaks to his ability to accept any kind of criticism, which is as flimsy as wet tissue paper. It also says volumes about his lack of understanding of the messages art can have.

Quite frankly, I’ve never heard of the man up until now, and I honestly have no intentions of watching or supporting any of his work. If I wanted to watch a tone deaf, whiny, self-entitled dude who can’t stand that no one wants to appreciate his genius and understanding, I’d dive head first into the Rick and Morty fandom.

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The Superhero Issue That Taught Me Compassion

So, it started off with a tweet I saw from Tess Fowler, an amazing artist whose work I’ve enjoyed, asking a simple question about the comics medium:

And I replied with the following, speaking purely from the heart:

Marvel_Two-In-One_Vol_1_86

Ben and Flint enjoying a brew instead of throwing fists.

This issue in particular has always stayed with me, even if I forgot some of the details when I first got it. Unlike a lot of my friends who are fellow comic lovers, I never had much of a mind for detail in who drew and wrote what and when, so some research was in order.

Written by Tom Defalco and drawn by Ron Wilson, Issue # 86 of Marvel Two In One was a comic I had picked up as part of a four issue reprint Marvel had done in the 90s, even though the original had first been printed in April of 1982, during the reign of Jim Shooter as Editor in Chief. Back in the 90s, and this is only my hypothesis for I’ve not found any proof about it, Marvel was reprinting a lot of classic Marvel titles, from the origin stories that brought us Spider-Man, Iron Man, the Fantastic Four and others, to wholesale series such as Classic X-Men and Classic Spider-Man, possibly because Marvel was getting close to going bankrupt.

At any rate, I picked up the The Thing mini-series because I liked Ben Grimm and how un-superheroic he looked. Maybe it was something I was picking up on, being a fat kid in high school who didn’t look like any of the six pack, beefed up, superheroes I admired but unable to articulate why.  I was more drawn to the characters who were, for lack of a better word, ugly.

Like Ben Grimm, rendered into a rock like golem by cosmic rays, or Bruce Banner, transformed into the Hulk from absorbing gamma radiation.

I could understand Ben Grimm’s frustration at being mocked for his appearance, as I’d been mocked, bullied, and picked on for being fat. He was someone I wanted to see happy and loved and cherished, because it meant I could be too.

And it was Ben Grimm who taught me kindness and compassion, although it took me a few more years after high school, and a couple courses in Feminism, to better and more thoroughly apply such a profound lesson.

The basic plot is that Ben Grimm is angry and frustrated, and, upon hearing of The Sandman being at large once more,  finds him at a bar, and challenges him to a fight!

And Sand Man surrenders.

This shocks Ben, so much that he buys a round of drinks and simply… listens to Sandman, who tells him his name is Flint Marko, talk about his life and the choices he made and the mistakes befallen him that lead him up to that moment.

Just having a superhero comic where the team up is of two men talking about their problems instead of fighting or joking or brushing it aside really opened up my eyes not just to how much more a superhero comic could be, but in how men could do things differently. It was, in a way, one of the first instances of positive masculinity that didn’t deal in the language of violence.

That’s always stuck with me over the years, that sometimes if we just listen to people who might appear to be bad, we find decent human beings who make mistakes and, finding themselves in a deep hole, are unable to climb out without a helping hand.

And I’m not talking about truly ugly-hearted people whose minds are coloured with bigotry, ignorance, and racism, as the Friends of Humanity and the Red Skull’s are, but people who simply struggle to survive.

The issue ends with Ben giving Flint twenty bucks and wishing him well, hoping that he stays on the straight and narrow, and thus began the start of Flint’s heroic journey, all because someone decided to listen.

Superhero comics have taught me a lot over the years, such as with great power comes great responsibility, how bigotry and racism should have no place in our society, as well as how far a little kindness and compassion can go. I like to think it’s part of what’s shaped me into (I hope) a good person.

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.

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!

Spider-Man Homecoming – A Review

Hey everyone!

Fresh off the viewing of this movie with my niece, who is as big a Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) fan as I am, I’ve had time to think about this movie, and, well, you might not like those thoughts.

Because I left the theatre feeling pretty underwhelmed.

Why?

Because I’m pretty sure I paid for a ticket to see a Spider-Man movie, not an Iron Man movie, and that could be a reason why a shared, cinematic universe has its weaknesses.

Now, before we go any further, I will advise everyone that there are majour spoilers ahead, so read at your own risk if you haven’t seen the movie already.

Alright then, away we go…

Continue reading “Spider-Man Homecoming – A Review”

On Internet Harassment & Vidcon

It’s been over a week since Vidcon has come and gone, and the discussion on one of its highlights (for lack of a better word) is still ongoing, as I discussed in a previous post.

Everyone knows it by now, that Sargon of A Cad attended a panel Anita Sarkessian was on alongside other content creators such as Franchesca Ramsey and Kat Blaque, taking along with him several of his cronies friends circlejerk back patters like-minded companions to sit and occupy the first two to three rows.

Alexandra Erin had this wonderful thread on what went down that I invite everyone to read and think about, especially if you think that there was nothing wrong in what Sargon did.

Anita herself recounted what went down as well as sharing her thoughts on the matter on the Feminist Frequency website.

On Vidcon, Harassment, and Garbage Humans

And Polygon has an excellent article talking about the situation that I also highly recommend.

Anita Sarkessian’s Astounding Garbage Human Moment 

Now, as for the other side, those on the side of Sargon and his ilk, one thing I’ve been hearing said is the sarcastic reply of;

“Oh, sitting at a panel is harassment?!”

“Attending a con is harassment now?!”

And a friend on Facebook pointed out what this line of argument is, which is to take a single action out of context of what’s happening around it, making the person they’re debating against appear to be overly sensitive. By doing this, they hope to appeal to a lot of ‘centrists’ and other middle to left leaning folk and get them to listen to their side.

Except, attending a con and sitting in at a panel is harassment, because it’s part of a pattern of abuse that Sargon and his ilk have partaken in for years now. Heck, with this little stunt at Vidcon, I believe we can add stalking to Sargon’s list of actions taken against Anita.

This is someone who engages in targeted harassment while winking at his fans not to harass others, and it reminds me entirely too much of the actions taken by Anti-Abortion, Anti-women protesters who publish the private information of doctors and patients at Abortion clinics and take pictures of the license plates of their cars.

“Someone should really go and talk to them!” they shout from the front lines to their supporters. “Here’s how to contact them! This is where they live! Not that you should do anything violent or anything, but well, we can’t control how others might react or think or do!”

And then clinics are bombed, doctors are shot, patients are harassed.

It’s the same line of thinking not just with professional harassers like Sargon, Thunderfoot, and Davis Aurini, but with the hate movement Gamergate, when they’re not trying to derail the conversation with cries of virtue signalling or talking about how it’s really about ethics in video game journalism.

They may not tell their followers to harass and attack, stalk and send death and rape threats to basically anyone who they deem a threat to their hobby, but they sure as hell aren’t doing anything to prevent it either.

And what I find worse, and yes there is a whole other level of garbage to garbage humans like Sargon, is that they get paid for this.

Screenshot_35

This is a screengrab right from Carl’s patreon page. Over 6300 dollars a month he gets for him to rant on about how feminism is a cancer, make false accusations over articles he can’t even be bothered to read from beginning to end, and cherry pick from debates to support his own side.

And people happily give him the money for it.

I mean, look at that tagline: creating arguments. If that’s not a tacit admission of constructing drama rather than further intellectual discussions, I don’t know what is.

No, not all the harassment comes from Sargon and his followers, and this started LONG before Anita Sarkessian ever created Feminist Frequency or its huge, successful Kickstarter on Tropes Vs Women in Video Games. Heck, harassing women has long been a thing in our society and is online and offline. Ask any woman, and more than likely they’ll tell you about the harassment they face in every day life, from the simplest “Hey, smile for me!” to being followed in cars and into coffee shops, being begged and threatened for phone numbers and dates.

So it certainly struck me when someone on Twitter pointed out that Anita did was to confront her harasser in person, to call him out in public and point out what he does. That is a hard thing to do for some, because they’re very aware of their physical safety, and I can only commend Anita on her bravery and restraint.

Lord knows if it was me, I might have jumped over the table and started a riot, seeing the face of my harasser smirking at me.

But then again, I’m a guy, and my privilege is that if I were to do that, I’d be praised and celebrated. As a woman, Anita Sarkessian, and women everywhere when confronting the sexist and misogynistic bullshit that permeates their lives, has been called any number of names based on the sexism that calls such women screeching, irrational, and overly emotional, to name a few.

Of course, Hank Green, one of the founders of Vidcon, has his share of the blame to shoulder. He should have been aware of who was attending Vidcon, both as attendees and panelists, and not put Anita Sarkessian, Kat Blaque, and Franchesca Ramsey in danger.

And while that might seem like an overly dramatic reach, partly because I doubt Sargon himself would ever want to face the consequences of taking any physical action against Anita (or that he would want to personally, seeing as how responses to feminists are his bread and butter) , one has to take into account the kinds of people that Sargon and his ilk cater to.

In short, much like the fiasco at SXSW back in 2015, Vidcon shows us that online harassment is a very real thing, and that women are REALLY fucking sick of telling everyone it is.

 

She said what to who at Vidcon 2017!?

Hello everyone, just a short article today on what I’ve been hearing semi-exploding on twitter with regards to a panel called Women Online that was tabled by Anita Sarkeesian and Franchesca Ramsey, Rosianna, and Alli Speed.

According to tweets I’ve been seeing from Franchesca, well, THIS happened:

Specifically, one Sargon of A Cad showed up. Anyone that knows him knows that one of his popular targets is Anita Sarkeesian, and in a discussion about harassment, she called him out on the part he plays in order to keep that Patreon Money coming in.

And you know what? If anyone deserves to be called a garbage human, it’s Sargon, a man who can’t read an article from beginning to end, cherry picks the information to support his own ignorant views like another of his ilk, Thunderfoot, and is more concerned with appearing to be right than to be informative.

And if anyone deserves to call him that, it’s Anita Sarkeesian.

Essentially, she, Brianna Wu, Zoe Quinn, and a few others are the scary bogeywomen that Sargon and his ilk have been targeting for years now, raking in the cash and all but telling their angry followers to harass them into submission, to say nothing of the death and rape threats that they have received.

Be it Gamergate, Gamers United (You know the ones complaining that white people are the bad guys in Far Cry 5), or the Rationals on youtube, it all feels the same to me; anger at times a changing and vying for some perceived golden past where they ruled all, instead of starting to share even the smallest space with people who aren’t straight, white, cisgender, and male.

Or heck, even just some guys looking to capitalize off that anger and make some money.

I try not to bother with Sargon, and the so-called ‘Rationals’ because every argument they present is without any kind of compassion, thought, or a more complete understanding of whatever situation they’re talking about. For them, hate and drama is what sells, not an honest discussion on matters ranging from sexism to online harassment and systemic racism.

And frankly, after all that Anita has gone through, from the bomb threats,  the harassment, and hell, even some of the comments on her Facebook page whenever she drops a link to anything, I’m amazed that Anita didn’t call Sargon even more colourful words in a speech that would have had Samuel L Jackson nodding approvingly.

He may not have done the bomb threats, but Sargon is representative of the harassment women, people of colour, LGBTQIA people and everyone whose identity crosses those identifiers face.

But of course, that’s a privilege Anita lacks. As a woman, saying anything with any kind of anger would mean having the shrill, angry, emotional accusations leveled against her, whereas if a man did the same, he’d be called passionate.

And this accusation gets worse the darker your skin gets.

So, in short, and if this has proven true, then Anita showcased a level of control that’s pretty bloody admirable. Hopefully, in the next day or so, either someone, or even Vidcon itself, will release a video of the panel showing all that has happened, if only to prove a counter point to Sargon’s inevitable whining video that’s carefully cut and edited to make himself look like a poor, defenseless victim.

Update:

A clip HAS come out, and it’s even more glorious than I could have expected. YESSSS!!!!