Pokémon is a long-running television series, currently spanning nearly 1000 episodes since its Japanese debut in 1997. Like many such cartoons, it also encompasses a number of feature-length films, set between the episodes of the series and occasionally referenced thereafter. The nineteen Pokémon films are a fascinating oeuvre in their own right, because they return repeatedly to themes particularly dear to me and to other autistic, indigenous viewers.
Reading The Way of the Heathen, first and foremost, reminded me of why I fell in love with Greta Christina’s writing. A series of meditations on weighty topics from an atheist, science-loving perspective, The Way of the Heathen is the antidote to religious insistence that we have no answers for what it means to live a life well lived, and a much-appreciated bridge between the scientific and the sublime.
I feel like I have a special relationship with grief.
A writer for Charisma News wrote a listicle of reasons he believes in, not just a Christian deity, but the one he specifically gleans from his reading of the Bible. Lists like this come in two forms (scientific “mysteries” and trite emotional manipulation), and this one somehow managed to be both of them, which makes it oddly fascinating to deconstruct.
CN pretty much every kind of bigoted abuse but mostly racist, instructions to suicide, MRAs/libertarians/edgelords being themselves.
As expected, answering 27 Questions has induced a steady influx of anti-humanist nonsense into my comments queue. I’m better prepared than most to receive this onslaught, because I’ve watched this happen to people far more important and interesting than me for a long time, I’ve read what the various subsets of atheist dirtbag are about, and I feel no need to let them get close enough to get under my skin. They have no surprises for me, and nothing to say that far more articulate bigots haven’t said before. They can whine endlessly about how, in this heat, taking away their freeze-peach is a super mean thing to do, the kind of thing only a crate of hippos would dare make standard policy, and I can look at the other things in my spam folder and derive amusement from the idea that they think I’ll ever take them seriously.
Y’all are dangerous, not interesting. Understanding yourselves is a big step toward becoming better people, and I’m glad I could help.
With that in mind, this comment stuck out at me for how impressively it missed all the points.
My parents claim they have an honest relationship with me. I hesitate to say they think so because the claim is so bizarrely impossible that them “thinking” their way into it seems like the real stretch.
Do you think I’ve been honest with you about me, Mom and Dad? Do you really think me knowing I was trans for almost two years before I told you is the aberration, the break from our pattern that signaled a loss of trust? I don’t believe that for a second. I think you twisted and turned your way into this narrative because it let you harp on how I handled my disclosures for a while, instead of having only your own bigotry to lean on as a reason why my being Alyssa instead of [deadname] is a crime against family honor. I think you built this skein in your minds because it was important to you to feel a certain way about your children, and that it has less than nothing to do with me.
Some of the online atheosphere’s most noisome abattoir drippings all got together to lay out some questions they want “SJWs” to answer. (Some other folks addressing their foolishness here and here provide that context without giving them pageviews). Giving serious answers to unserious questions is a hobby of mine, so here are some interesting thoughts for uninteresting drivel.
The classic Western-fantasy adventuring party, appearing across a wide variety of media and baked into what Dungeons and Dragons in particular expects adventuring groups to be capable of, consists of four very different characters. By default, there is a “fighter,” who wears armor and specializes in swordplay or another close-range martial art; a “wizard,” who is a combination mobile artillery piece, library, and miscellaneous magical toolkit; a “rogue” or “thief,” whose specialty is stealth, lock-picking, smooth-talking, acrobatics, and similar skills; and a “cleric” or “priest,” who provides the favor of the gods to their allies, usually in the form of magical healing and defensive magic.
That last person raises difficult questions about the overall shape of the fantasy universe, which every D&D setting tries to answer one way or another. It’s not difficult to imagine a fantasy world where the term “cleric” means something more like what it means in our world, and refers to someone an adventuring party might visit afterward for wound-tending and soul-cleansing rather than a steadfast and magical battlefield ally. Ivanhoe is probably the work of fiction most famously within this tradition. But most Western fantasy assigns clerics and other agents of the divine power well in excess of the demonstrated abilities of real-world religious figures, including the power to raise the dead on demand, instantly heal deadly injuries multiple times a day, and brandish holy symbols to disperse zombies. The deities of a fantasy world that is home to this kind of priest are, thereby, much more powerful than the god of Ivanhoe and any deity associated with real-world religious practice, and have far more direct and overt effects on the world at large.
Humanism is shorthand. It’s a start, a summary, and a statement. In a world of ideologies that refuse to recognize my humanity or that assert that it has no value, it is a bold and clear assertion:
I matter, because I am a person.
There are a lot of reasons to point out media that fail this or that marginalized group. The euphemism “problematic” acknowledges media that traffic in stereotypes, show gut-wrenching physical or emotional violence for shock value, discuss the mere existence of marginalized groups as though it were funny enough to be the punchline of jokes, or otherwise promote the deadly ideals of kyriarchy. It’s largely a matter of public record that it’s not really possible to totally eschew “problematic” media. Our ability to even recognize things as problematic is dependent on the axes of oppression of which we’re aware, so one person’s seemingly innocent pleasure is another’s dehumanization-for-entertainment. Additionally, many problematic tropes are so entirely because they are pervasive, dominating depictions of members of the groups in question, rather than because they are directly insulting or damaging, and so can only be redeemed by other depictions becoming common enough to offset their impact.
There’s something that gets lost in discussions of problematic media, however, and that’s how they can be a necessary stepping stone for people on their way to better things.