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.
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.
Over the last weekend, the showrunners of HBO’s hit show, Game of Thrones, David Benioff and DB Weiss, announced a new series called Confederate. It would be set in an alternate reality wherein the Confederacy won the war to keep slaves, and is set in the present day.
Needless to say, many people thought this was a bad idea.
After all, one has only to walk around the Southern US to see confederate flags still proudly flying over state houses and monuments to prominent Confederate and KKK members being protected by racist groups.
In fact, here’s a SHORT list of the kinds of brutal acts black people in America have been subjected to since slavery ended in 1865:
A white woman lied about the bruises she received, bringing the wrath of white men down upon a town, resulting in the death of 8 black people and the deserting of the town.
Black men were infected with Syphilis and purposely left untreated in a clinical study that lasted from 1932 to 1972.
Laws that reinforced racial segregation in the Southern US, part of the Separate but Equal school system.
And those are just a few, without even looking at lynchings, the killing of unarmed black men and women by police nowadays (made all the more evident by the rise of social media), the erasure of the roles of black women such as Marsha P Johnson in the LGBTQ movement (looking at you and your movie there, Roland Emmerich), Ronald Reagon naming single black moms as Welfare Queens, and the demonization of former US President Barack Obama.
So why a series about a racist movement headed up by racist to keep their free labour? Well, the showrunners, along with the two lead writers, had an interview with Vulture.com to tell us why.
It’s an interested interview, to say the least, but quite frankly, Twitter User Ana Mardoll had an excellent thread on just why this show idea is bad, along with a breakdown of the interview itself.
I think the first part of the thread says it all, because any good story would present us with three dimensional characters instead of caricatures, but there was nothing good in being a slave owner. In being a slave owner, you are, well, a slave owner.
It’s much like being a Nazi. Once Nazi enters into your character description, there’s no amount of writing that’s going to make most people view you as anything other than human scum.
And believe you me, we know that slavery was bad and that slave owners were bad to own slaves. This is not a discussion to be headed up by a couple of show runners who had a questionable display of sexual violence in their hit show and very little people of colour in it.
In fact, John Boyega had something to say about that too.
Part of me can’t help but think that this idea comes about thanks to white privilege. After all, white people do not like with the legacy of slavery in the same way that black people do. We benefit whereas black people are still struggling to be seen as human and worthy of protection, respect, and basic human dignity.
So who else could come up with such a show than two white dudes? It comes across as nothing more than a privileged class playing intellectual exercises with the lived experiences of marginalized people, something I’ve seen play out online time and time again.
“So… what about if some rape threats were false?”
“Here’s an idea… like, what if a child was dying of cancer, and about to fall into a volcano… and he was white… would it be okay for him to say the N-word?”
“Look, it’s not blackface, it’s cosplay. There’s nothing wrong with dressing up as a dark Elf…”
“Now, I’m not saying I’m racist but if you just look at history…”
And, god forbid, if this show does get made and other networks look to copy the idea (so as to make money), what would come next?
What if the British Empire hadn’t fallen and kept a hold of China, maintaining their opium imports, by the BBC?
What if Australia had become a successful penal colony, by the ABC?
Good lord, I feel I should stop. I’m afraid I might give people ideas…
You know, more often than not, and mainly because I’ve been a superhero fan of the Big Two for so long, I’m used to either Marvel or DC Comics making colossal mistakes with regards to representing people from marginalized groups.
Why? Well, not only does the first issue feature a transgender woman being beaten to death, but the cover of the 4th issue was to feature a Pakistani man being lynched.
Thankfully, the cover has been pulled and replaced with something else, of a bald eagle flying alongside remote piloted US Military drones, but the fact remains that someone saw the cover and signed off on it, thinking it to be a good idea.
They also thought it to be a good idea to depict a transgender woman being brutally beaten and murdered.
And Image’s defense, as produced by President Eric Stephenson, is this:
“Rooted in the worst aspects of reality, this is indignant, rebellious fiction, designed to make readers both angry and uncomfortable,” Image Comics President Eric Stephenson said in a statement when the first issue returned to press. “But more than that, it’s intended to provoke thought about how and why things have reached a state where the tools for progress — discourse, understanding, cooperation — are shunned in favor of treating anyone with an opposing viewpoint as an enemy combatant.”
This is, without a doubt, one of the most disingenuous things I’ve ever read from a comic book publisher since serial sexual harasser Eddie Berganza begged female fans of Supergirl to stay on board for the series back in 2007.
Because here’s the thing, Eric, we are already having discussions on racism, islamaphobia, and violence against transgender people. Transgender people themselves are talking about this because, surprise surprise, it affects them a whole hell of a lot more than cisgender people like you and me.
We don’t need nor want yet another cisgender white guy to tell us these things. A quick look on google can tell us these things, and more importantly, we can find sources from and by marginalized communities.
In fact, here are some examples:
These are just a few of the examples of me spending a couple minutes on Google, so really, having glorified violence against transgender and Middle Eastern people in a comic by a writer who whines about identity politics does absolutely nothing to further the discussion. The defense of provoking a discussion is nothing more than that; a flimsy defense.
Another terrible defense came up yesterday from writer Kaare Andrews, in this bizarre twitter thread:
“Nudity with meretricious purpose and salacious postures shall not be permitted in the advertising of any product” Comics Code 1954
— kaare andrews (@kaareandrews) July 4, 2017
Reciting old moral codes from the Comic Book code, put in place after Fredrick Wertham’s book “Seduction of the Innocent” came out in 1954, appears to be Karre’s response to criticism over the violence depicted against transgender and Middle Eastern people. After all, as one person said to me in defense of Karre:
It’s not even addressing criticism. Criticism is “free speech.” It’s addressing the sudden conversation and willingness to create…
— Seth Adams (@sethomatik) July 4, 2017
a new “code” or editorial power that controls what you want to publish. That’s a knee jerk reaction and dangerous and history.
— Seth Adams (@sethomatik) July 4, 2017
So, we have two problems here:
- Criticism is not censorship. This has long been a problem hard for dudebro gamers angry over women and minorities talking about representation in video games to udnerstand, and it’s certainly a problem for comic book fans, seeing as how comic books have long catered to straight white dudes.
- Marginalized people do not have nowhere near the power to censor anyone, nor were they looking to censor Image Comics and Howard Chaykin.
Instead, what was being sought was to tell Image Comics just what in the hell was wrong in depicting these images of violence against marginalized communities. Islamaphobia is on the rise, and violence against transgender people in fiction has been around so long it’s a terrible, crude joke. It’s pretty much well known as transgender pain porn, where in the sole existence of transgender people is to show us how much misery is in their lives.
In fact, here are two good threads on Twitter about Image Comics’ grossly ignorant decision to showcase the violence against marginalized communities that I highly recommend you read:
When cis white men put racism and transmisogyny in their comics, they are under the illusion their audience is entirely cis white men. pic.twitter.com/t8RwDTbRE5
— Thal ❤ (@thalestral) July 4, 2017
I have so many thoughts on the Howard C cover and “controversial” media in general that victimizes marginalized comms so here we go:
— Desiree Rodriguez (@BoricuaDesiree) June 30, 2017
And Alexis Serios had this thread of comments to talk about where the line is with regards to bigotry and transphobia in comics:
Honestly, what will it take for us to stop supporting publishers like @ImageComics just cuz some good people also make money?
— Alexis Sergio (@TransComics) June 30, 2017
So what to do about it?
Well, as others have done, we point out why what Image did was wrong, the responsibility they have as a majour publisher to do right by marginalized communities, and to not hide behind such flimsy defenses.
We, as in we straight, white, cisgender people, listen to said marginalized communities when they talk about their very real lived experiences. We don’t wait for some white dude to say “Hey, this is bad, hmmkay?” before agreeing and doing something.
And yes, I recognize the irony considering how I am, myself, a straight white, cisgender man.
And if comic companies like Image, Marvel, and DC don’t want to listen, then we do what I’ve seen also used as a defense for them to make our voices heard, and vote with out dollar.
As such, and to end this article on a more uplifting note, here are some comics you should support!
She’s the writer of Wish, a webcomic about a transgender woman who is brought back to life and is granted super powers. Alexis also contributed one of many amazing threads about diversity in our media, comics creation, and listening to people who aren’t straight, white cisgender dudes.
She’s a writer of Bowled Over, a cute story of girls of various, diverse backgrounds falling in love. She’s also a pretty darn good artist who discusses fat activism.
A Canadian comic about a diverse group of people who crash land on an abandoned amusement park world alongside alien royalty, I found their booth at the Calgary Expo and the artwork and story instantly grabbed my attention. I also appreciated that their booth had buttons featuring bisexual, asexual, and transgender flags.
Written and drawn by Chloe C, this is the story of a free loving hippie and her sleep obsessed friend who grow and develop and learn while interacting with a wealth of other people.
An illustrated and comic book artist, Katie drew one of my favourite comics ever, Princess Princess Ever After, a story that deals with fat shaming, gendered roles, and fighting ogres and dragons.
A story of a bouncer dealing withoverly entitled white people, racism, and just trying to get through life. Humourous and funny, it is also touching and poignant at times.
When I first saw the trailer for Horizon Zero Dawn, the amazing landscape, the robotic wildlife, and the cool gameplay took an immediate backseat to my first thought, which was:
“Why is a white woman playing at Cherokee princess?”
(Seriously, Aloy as a kid has fucking feathers stuck in her hair, what the hell…)
Hello everyone, in this video I take a look at Captain America: Sam Wilson Issue #17, and the complete and utter failure to understand what social justice activism that Nick Spencer satirizes.
Since, you know, satire is supposed to punch up, not down.
I’d also recommend people check out this article by Gavia Baker-Whitelaw on the comic as it has some additional insights into just how badly Nick Spencer screwed up and why.
Hello everyone, and in this 60th episode, I review the hard sci-fi book by Doug Sharp called Channel Zilch.
While overall a good, fun story, it’s undercut by an unfortunate case of yellow fever/geek dream fulfillment in one of its main characters.