Time for bed. Wait! What’s that about a new CW superhero show?!

Image of the CW’s four superhero shows represented by Brandon Routh as the Atom, Grant Gustin as the Flash, Stephen Amell as Green Arrow, and Melissa Benoist as Supergirl.

So there I am. Laying in bed after a 10 hour day at work. Most of that time having been spent on my feet, bc as a server and bartender, I don’t get much in the way of sit down time at work. Thus, when I got home, the tired kinda hit me all at once (the mildly achy feet did too, which reminds me–I need gel insoles). I decided ‘what the heck’, it may be 9:30 at night, but I can go to bed when I’m tired bc I’m an adult and I can do whatever I want to (except launch all white supremacists, MRAs, and TERFs into the sun ). So I crawled into bed, got snug and comfy under the sheets, and grabbed my phone to check news before I fell asleep. After three or four stories, I could feel my body screaming “go to sleep little gay boy”. Juuuuuuuust as I was about to lay my phone down and rest my little gay head, I was forcibly–though pleasantly–wrenched out of my exhaustive state. What could possibly have caused such a 180° change?

The CW has picked up a pilot order for Greg Berlanti’s Black Lightning!

Continue reading “Time for bed. Wait! What’s that about a new CW superhero show?!”

Time for bed. Wait! What’s that about a new CW superhero show?!
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This looks SUPER promising

In 1985, DC Comics published the maxi-series Crisis on Infinite Earths. The purpose of the 12-part story was to streamline DC’s continuity, which stretched back to 1938 and involved multiple versions of characters from a near-infinite number of parallel universes. At the time, DC’s head honchos feared their history was an impediment to new readers and sought to eliminate multiple versions of characters and [what they thought were] confusing-and at times, contradictory-histories, by eliminating one of DC’s central concepts, the multiverse. In DC’s fictional universe, the multiverse consisted of an infinite number of parallel realities occupying the same space, but vibrating at different dimensional frequencies. The maxi-series saw the introduction of the Anti-Monitor, a being of immeasurable power who sought to annihilate every universe in the multiverse, leaving his home realm-the anti-matter universe-the only reality in existence. His efforts were opposed by his positive matter analog, the Monitor, as well as scores of heroes (and villains) from across multiple universes and timelines. In the end, the Anti-Monitor was destroyed (though he got better when the multiverse was later recreated), but his goals were largely achieved. Not only did he destroy all but 5 universes of the multiverse, but he had a significant role to play in the events that caused the DC Universe to be rebooted. In the wake of this reboot, only one universe existed and in fact, the multiverse was retroactively eliminated from the official history of DC’s fictional universe. Thus, in the history of this new universe, there never was a multiverse (making CoIE one of the few comic book stories I’ve ever read that retconned itself). Despite its flaws (and there are several), Crisis on Infinite Earths is near and dear to me-for two reasons.

Reason #1- My introduction to DC Comics happened in the midst of the Crisis. If I recall correctly (I was a wee child at the time, so my memory may be off a little), the first DC comic I ever owned was Crisis on Infinite Earths #3.

The cover to Crisis on Infinite Earths #3

I was sucked in. Who were these characters? What were they doing? What mysterious force were they battling? For all that these questions enticed me-contrary to the beliefs of DC management, this new reader wasn’t turned off or confused by multiple versions of characters or parallel Earths-the answers to my questions eluded me for years because I wasn’t able to make regular trips to the convenience store (back then, comic books were available at local 7-11’s or Circle K’s). I was able to make it back to a convenience store to buy Crisis on Infinite Earths #7. Which leads me to the second reason CoIE is dear to me.

The cover to Crisis on Infinite Earths #7

Reason #2- In issue seven of CoIE, the heroes from multiple Earths (and one or two from the future of one Earth) learn the history of the multiverse as well as the existence of the Anti-Monitor and decide to launch an assault on his base in the anti-matter universe.  Despite the presence of Captain Atom, Captain Marvel, the Ray, Firestorm, the Earth-1 Wonder Woman, the Earth-2 Green Lantern, the second Dr. Light, Jade, Lady Quark, Martian Manhunter, Pariah, Wildfire and Mon-El (of the 30th century super teen team, the Legion of Super-Heroes), Supergirl, and the Supermen of Earth-1 and 2, the heroes quickly come to realize their foe possesses power on a scale they were not prepared for. The Anti-Monitor possessed sufficient power to not only engage in hand-to-hand combat with the Superman of Earth-1 (who was able to move planets), but to actually hurt him. Indeed, he even rendered Superman unconscious at one point and likely would have killed him, were it not for the timely arrival of Superman’s Kryptonian cousin, Kara Zor-El, aka Supergirl.

Supergirl gave her life to save not only her cousin, but the lives of untold numbers of sentient beings in those universes that still existed. This was not a case of a female comic book character being fridged. Supergirl’s death wasn’t used to further the story of her cousin or any other male character. Her actions in this issue were character-driven and served to further the story’s plot. This was her story. Moreover, she died heroically, saving not just one, two, or three universes, but 5. When I read this story back in 1985, I was 9 years old. Be it Marvel or DC, 9-year-old me was unfamiliar with comic books. My understanding of the characters in CoIE #7 was limited to what I read in that comic. And yet that comic affected me so much that I cried.

I was in tears because Supergirl-a character I knew very little about-heroically sacrificed her life so that countless others could live.

I’ll be 40 at the end of this year. Even though I’ve read thousands of comics in the years since 1985…even though I’ve read comics that were written far better than any issue of CoIE (including #7)…even though Superman’s cousin from Krypton has been reintroduced to DC’s fictional universe…this issue still brings tears to my eyes. Composing this post and re-reading the above pages brought tears to my eyes.

So yeah, there’s a spot in my heart for Crisis on Infinite Earths. Especially issue #7.

And that’s all due to Supergirl.

It is because of this love for Supergirl that I am excited at the upcoming series from CBS. I’m even more excited about the series after watching the recently released trailer and if you’re as big a fan of Supergirl as I am, you will be too.

Things I like:

  • First and foremost, I love, Love, LOVE the way ‘Kara’ is pronounced (car-uh). It’s how I’ve always pronounced her name and I disliked the pronunciation of ‘Kara’ in the CW’s Smallville (care-uh).
  • Despite reminding me of Meryl Streep’s character in The Devil Wears Prada, I enjoyed the portrayal of Cat Grant (Calista Flockhart). She provides a nice contrast to Kara.
  • I like that the show’s creators chose to cast a black man in the role of James ‘Jimmy’ Olsen, because Hollywood has a poor history of representation of African-Americans.
  • I like the chemistry between Kara and her sister. Despite the fact that Kara is literally from another planet, it’s clear that she and Alex have a strong-and friendly-bond.
  • The humor. At least in the trailer it feels like its, I dunno, earned. I don’t really know how to put it, but I’m turned off by traditional sitcoms and big-screen comedies. So often, they try too hard to be funny (or use way too many grade-school level jokes)
  • I’m going all caps here bc this is a biggie-KARA’S FIRST DISPLAY OF HER POWERS IN PUBLIC WAS AN ACT OF HEROISM! This is important bc in the atrocious Supergirl movie, she publicly used her powers for the first time to fend off sexual harassment (and most likely an attempt at sexual assault). Male heroes almost always get to debut heroically, and I’m glad to see that Melissa Benoists’ Supergirl gets to do the same.
  • I wondered how the writers were going to handle giving the moniker ‘Supergirl’ to a grown woman. I’m still not completely comfortable with it, given the infantalizing nature of referring to a grown woman as a girl, but I did like Cat Grant’s rationalization. And it’s not like Kara named herself. Perhaps in time, she’ll come to formulate an argument as to why she shouldn’t be called SuperGIRL (feel free to use mine)
  • I like that she doesn’t keep her identity a complete secret and I’m curious to see if the writers will address her attempts to keep her identity under wraps.
  • I like the idea that the ‘S’ is the El family’s coat of arms (for those who prefer it to mean ‘super’, there’s no reason it can’t have both meanings).
  • The special effects look amazing.

One minor gripe is the indiscriminate use of her powers against normal humans. Kicking a gunman through a concrete wall would likely leave them with serious back problems, if not outright breaking their back. Does she understand the extent of her powers and the potential harm she could bring to the humans she seeks to protect? Here’s hoping this is a plot point the writers plan on addressing.

But really, that’s a minor gripe in an otherwise excellent trailer. If the show can live up to the promise of the trailer, Supergirl will be on my must-watch list.

Supergirl  will air Mondays at 8pm (EST) beginning in November.


In honor of the show, here’s a fantastic piece of artwork by Mike Maihack:

This looks SUPER promising

Static show a good move toward greater racial acceptance

Static, aka Virgil Hawkins, is an African-American superhero created in 1993 as part of DC Comics’ Milestone Imprint.  The creators of Milestone, Denys Cowan, Michael Davis, Derek T. Dingle, and the late Dwayne McDuffie sought to add some much-needed diversity to mainstream American comic books. Deliberately patterned after Peter Parker (and taking his name from a black man denied entry into the University of Florida’s law school in 1949), Static is a comic book nerd, a video game aficionado, and a gifted inventor. After exposure to an experimental chemical, Hawkins gained the ability to manipulate electromagnetic energy and took the superhero name Static. Along with Hardware, Icon, and Blood Syndicate, Static received his own series as part of the debut of the Milestone Universe. Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons, Milestone Comics was a short-lived endeavor (they closed their comic book division in 1997, though they continue on today as a licensing company).  Static would go on to have his own animated series, Static Shockwhich lasted four seasons on the Kids’ WB! block.  He also joined the cast of the WB!’s Young Justice animated series with the second season. With the cancellation of Young Justice, and no longer having his own comic book, fans of Static were probably fearful that the character would languish in comic book limbo.

But worry not. Not only will he not be limbo bound, he’ll be the title character in an all new digital series. Warner Bros. (parent company of DC Comics) has unveiled Blue Ribbon Content, a new digital production unit. Blue Ribbon Content has several live-action, short form series in development. One of those series is Static Shock.

Static Shock — Writer/producer/director Reginald Hudlin (Best Picture Oscar nominee for producing Django Unchained) leads the creative team behind a live-action adaptation of Static Shock, featuring the African-American super hero Static, aka Virgil Ovid Hawkins. Static Shock is based on the Static comic co-created by the late Dwayne McDuffie with co-writer Robert L. Washington III and artist John Paul Leon, which was originally published by the DC Comics imprint Milestone Comics and, later, by DC Comics. Milestone Media co-founder/comic book artist/TV producer Denys Cowan (the original Static Shock animated series) is collaborating with Hudlin on the new Static Shock.

No word yet on when the series will debut, nor how long it will last, but this is good news for fans.

This is also good news from a diversity standpoint. Like Marvel Comics, one of the complaints about DC Comics is a lack of diversity. Traditionally, the monthly output of both companies has not seen many titles featuring African-American characters (or women, or LGBT people).  Certainly both companies are making strides in gender diversity (Marvel has 10+ books led by female characters, with DC not far behind), but they still have a long way to go in representing LGBT characters and People of Color.  This also holds true for both companies’ cinematic universes (although it should be noted that DC recently announced solo movies for both Wonder Woman and Cyborg, while yesterday, Marvel revealed its slate of movies for the next 5 years, which includes both a Captain Marvel and a Black Panther movie).

Diversity is important for a few reasons. Despite what some angry white men might think, exposure to positive, successful media images of African-Americans tends to improve racial attitudes. What this means is that the more people are exposed to images of African-Americans that represent them as well-rounded people who can be courageous, powerful, heroic, and successful, the more people begin to reject racial stereotypes. This can be seen in the success of NBC’s The Cosby Show, which helped change the way American viewed African-Americans.

Ever since television’s beginning in 1939, Blacks have often been portrayed as custodians, maids, servants, clowns, or buffoons. These negative perceptions started to appear in Black sitcoms such as Amos ‘n Andy (1964) and continued in the late 1970s with Good Times. For the most part, Black sitcoms portrayed negative views of Blacks until 1984 with the introduction of The Cosby Show. As a result of The Cosby Show, perceptions of Blacks on television were altered. Black roles of today have come a long way since Amos ‘n Andy (where Blacks were viewed as poor and living in the ghetto). Today, many Black roles avoid much of the racial stereotyping that was characteristic of shows such as Beulah and Julia in the 1960s; Sanford and Son and Good Times in the 1970s. The Cosby Show took the positive perceptions given in most of the earlier Black sitcoms and puts them into one show.

Racial diversity on the small screen is also important for young children. A 2012 study published in Communications Research found that “children are affected when they don’t see themselves on tv”.

In discussing the results of their findings, the authors point to three potential explanations:

  1. Male characters are portrayed as powerful, strong, rational, and the main character, while in contrast, female characters are portrayed as emotional, sensitive, and more likely to be a sidekick or love interest. In contrast to white characters, black male characters are more likely to be depicted as menacing or unruly, and black female characters are more likely to be shown as exotic and sexually available. As a result, young white boys have greater access to positive media representation. Social identity theory would argue that exposure to this coded messaging helps young white boys believe that anything is possible, and that they can attain, achieve, and be heroes.
  2. If television serves to reinforce gender and racial stereotypes, then social identity theory also predicts that the white girls, black girls, and black boys in the study used messages from the media to evaluate themselves, and that these comparisons can impact self esteem. In addition to messages kids get from family members, peers, community members, and other areas in their lives, if white and black girls and black boys also absorb messages from the media, it could impact their self esteem if they do not see themselves as successful, as main characters, or as heroes.
  3. If kids are watching television, this might be displacing real-life experiences that could otherwise build self esteem. (The study found that black kids watched 10 hours more of television than white kids did.) Arguably, these kids could be learning more about themselves through activities other than television, which could otherwise have raised self esteem. (The authors note that this theory does not explain why watching television hurts self esteem for girls and kids of color but raises self esteem in white boys who watch a lot of TV.)

Co-researcher Nicole Martins explained the contrast between white male, female, and black male characters on television:

“Regardless of what show you’re watching, if you’re a white male, things in life are pretty good for [people who look like] you. You tend to be in positions of power, you have prestigious occupations, high education, glamorous houses, a beautiful wife, with very little portrayals of how hard you worked to get there.

“If you are a girl or a woman, what you see is that women on television are not given a variety of roles. The roles that they see are pretty simplistic; they’re almost always one-dimensional and focused on the success they have because of how they look, not what they do or what they think or how they got there.

“Young black boys are getting the opposite message: that there is not lots of good things that you can aspire to. If we think about those kinds of messages, that’s what’s responsible for the impact.”

We need to change the messages being sent to our youth. We need them to know that no matter their ethnicity, gender, disability, sexuality, or gender identity, they can be powerful, successful, and heroic. A show like Static can go a long way to showing our youth that the sky is the limit.

Static show a good move toward greater racial acceptance

Diet Racism

With a headline like that, you’ve got to be scratching your head.  Just watch the video and all will be hilariously depressing in your world.

MAN: If there’s a “Black Entertainment Network,” shouldn’t there be a “White Entertainment Network?”

The above statement is like saying it isn’t enough that there are hundreds of channels on tv made by white people, for white people, featuring white people.  No, there must be a channel made by white people, for white people, featuring white people.  Where were these people in the early years of Nick at Night? It’s not enough that the vast array of television shows to this day feature primarily white characters?  Nope. They gotta have a tv channel all for them.  Because white people have suffered so much in the US.  They’ve been oppressed and marginalized for such a long time.  They’ve been denied representation across all media platforms, especially television.  Uh huh…

WOMAN: You know, I’m not racist, but I would never date an Asian guy. Blegh.

If you’re a Christian and you say this, you ought to be scared that your god will smite you.

MAN: Stop and frisk shouldn’t be a problem if you’ve got nothing to hide.

Get back to me when people of your ethnicity have been stopped and frisked in far greater numbers than people of other ethnicities.  Til then, shut yer face.

Diet Racism

The battle for diversity is ongoing and it’s everywhere

Science Fiction & Fantasy

Movies.

Television.

Comic Books.

Video Games.

For all of these and more, the word diversity has grown in importance.  Viewer, readers, and players are speaking up and demanding more and better representation-for women, LGBT people, People of Color, and other oppressed groups.

Laurie Penny writes about a culture war going on:

There’s a culture war happening right now. It’s happening in games, in film, in journalism, in television, in fiction, in fandom. It’s happening online, everywhere. And everywhere, sexists, recreational misogynists and bigots are losing.

They are losing, and they don’t know why.

I’ve been thinking a lot, this week and last week, about what it is that’s changing in culture, about what women are doing, and what is being done to us in revenge. I’ve been thinking about what happened to Jennifer Lawrence; about what happened to Zoe Quinn; about what happened to Anita Sarkeesian; about what’s been happening to every games and culture writer with the gall to be female or to defend feminism; and I’ve been thinking, unavoidably, about what’s happened to me, over the course of three years of harassment and abuse.

This a song we know by now. It starts and ends, almost always, with attacks on our sexuality, on our bodies as meat and function: our sexual and relationship history is broadcast everywhere, which is what happened to games developer Quinn, after an ex-boyfriend posted a disturbed, disturbing novella-length attack on everything she is and everything she stands for. The gamersphere then collectively wet its knickers over not being allowed to mercilessly slut-shame their chosen target without being called out, because freedom of speech.

The routine, the arguments, have become far too familiar. A woman or a handful of women are selected for destruction; our ‘credibility’ and ‘professionalism’ are attacked in the same breath as we are called ugly, slut-shamed for dismissed either as stupid little girls or bitter old women or, in some cases, both. The medium is modern, but the logic is Victorian, and make no mistake, the problem is not what we do and say and build and create.

The problem is that women are doing it. That’s why the naked selfies, the slut-shaming, is not just incidental to the argument – it is the argument. Underneath it all, you’re just a woman, just a body. You can be reduced to flesh. You are less. You are an object. You are other. LOL, boobs.

The problem is that women are creating culture, changing culture, redefining culture, and those cunts, those poisonous cunts, those disgusting, uppity cunts must be stopped.

She’s angry and she has every right to be.

****

Unacceptable.  That’s what Dana Hunter says about the ongoing battle against sexism and misogyny:

Now. This is going to be quite the nasty shock to some people who didn’t have any idea one of their heroes was an alleged sexual predator. And it’s going to be a nasty shock to people who heard the initial accusations, but figured it was all some big mistake, or hysterical Michael Shermer haters, and would all blow over. It must be horrible for them to realize it’s not blowing over, but blowing up. Well, that’s what happens when you don’t pay attention, and don’t listen to the people telling you there’s a problem, for years.

You’re going to want to duck and hide from the blast. But you need to steel yourself and face this squarely. Michael Shermer has had not one, not two, but three named women accuse him of inappropriate sexual behavior. Three women willing to face a shitstorm of abuse and possible legal threats in order to tell a reporter that Shermer did not-right things to them is not a minor matter. If you’re having that knee-jerk “this can’t be happening and Michael would never” reaction, you need to bite your tongue as hard as is necessary to stop it, and read that article thoroughly. Read it multiple times. Let it sink in.

Don’t say anything yet.

Read the timeline, wherein now-named people shared their stories, and still-anonymous people also have said Shermer victimized them, and named people not in the article have said Shermer harassed or assaulted them. Granted, these are not allegations that have been proved in a court of law. Shermer is stilllegally innocent, and will remain so unless he is convicted in a courtroom. But there comes a time when you need to take into account the fact that multiple people are saying similar things, and recognize that this is information you need to take into account before you spring to his defense. We do not need evidence beyond reasonable doubt when we’re considering whether to keep extending our respect to a person, and when we’re deciding whether to continue inviting him to speak, and whether he’s still welcome in our spaces.

As she says, we know more than enough information to be concerned about Michael Shermer’s predatory actions.  He is deserving of neither respect nor invitations to conventions.

****

Over at Gamasutra Leigh Alexander argues that traditional gaming culture and gamers as we know them are over:

Yet in 2014, the industry has changed. We still think angry young men are the primary demographic for commercial video games — yet average software revenues from the commercial space have contracted massively year on year, with only a few sterling brands enjoying predictable success.

It’s clear that most of the people who drove those revenues in the past have grown up — either out of games, or into more fertile spaces, where small and diverse titles can flourish, where communities can quickly spring up around creativity, self-expression and mutual support, rather than consumerism. There are new audiences and new creators alike there. Traditional “gaming” is sloughing off, culturally and economically, like the carapace of a bug.

This is hard for people who’ve drank the kool aid about how their identity depends on the aging cultural signposts of a rapidly-evolving, increasingly broad and complex medium. It’s hard for them to hear they don’t own anything, anymore, that they aren’t the world’s most special-est consumer demographic, that they have to share.

We also have to scrutinize, closely, the baffling, stubborn silence of many content creators amid these scandals, or the fact lots of stubborn, myopic internet comments happen on business and industry sites. This is hard for old-school developers who are being made redundant, both culturally and literally, in their unwillingness to address new audiences or reference points outside of blockbuster movies and comic books as their traditional domain falls into the sea around them. Of course it’s hard. It’s probably intense, painful stuff for some young kids, some older men.

But it’s unstoppable. A new generation of fans and creators is finally aiming to instate a healthy cultural vocabulary, a language of community that was missing in the days of “gamer pride” and special interest groups led by a product-guide approach to conversation with a single presumed demographic.

Traditional gaming culture is dying a slow death. Let’s work on accelerating that.

****

In the wake of Janelle Asselin receiving rape threats for criticizing the cover to Teen Titans #1, Andy Khouri over at Comics Alliance sends a message to her harassers:

You see, each of these women — and they’ve been echoed by others including Kate Leth and Heidi MacDonald — explained something to the Seattle crowd that I thought I knew but never truly understood before:

This isn’t their problem, guys. It’s ours. We have to solve it.

Sexual harassment isn’t an occupational hazard. It’s not a glitch in the complex matrix of modern life. It’s not something that just “happens.” It’s something men do. It’s a choice men make. It’s a problem men enable. It’s sometimes a crime men commit. And it is not in the power nor the responsibility of women to wage war on this crime.

It’s on us.

How do we fight this war? We stop enabling. We check ourselves and, when necessary, wreck ourselves. Do you know a guy who’s hate-following women on Twitter just to troll them? You check him. Do you know a guy who’s writing disgusting screeds to women journalists because they don’t like the same things he likes? You check him. Do you know a professional whose discourse with women in his field is loaded with gender-specific language and condescension that could enable further abuse? You check him. Are your Twitter followers identifying you as a sympathetic ear for their sexist views? You check yourself. Is your website’s message board a cesspool of ignorance and hate? You check it like you actually give a damn. Do you know a guy who’s sending rape threats to women for any reason? Oh, you report that guy.

Let me make it plain:

A woman objecting to the content of a comic book — even if you think she’s dead wrong — does not rise to the occasion of vicious name calling and rape threats.

Nothing does.

That guy I quoted above, the one who wrote Janelle that loathsome communiqué? He was right about one thing. Men are the cure — but we are the cancer too. It is wholly and rightfully and crucially up to men in this society and especially in this subculture to speak out and watch out. To end the cycle of bullying, harassment and violence. To recognize the grotesque irony of degrading women over matters of heroic fictions whose lessons about fairness and decency we’ve supposedly been studying since we were just little boys, and to start putting those ideas into practice as grown-ass men.

That’s what these characters are meant to have taught us, and yet the frequency with which women in our industry and fandom are abused and threatened demonstrates that as men we’ve forgotten that very first lesson of the very first superhero.

Remember what we were taught. Remember what we’re supposed to believe in. How can we love these stories and characters so much as to make them a part of ourselves, a piece of our identities as boys and now as men, and behave any differently? Doing otherwise is doing it wrong.

Sexism. Harassment. Misogyny. Not with my superheroes. No, that’s some fake geek guy bullsh*t right there.

A-fucking-men.  I am not going to give up comics and leave them to the misogynistic asspimples and I’m not going to throw my hands up and concede the fight to them either.  I’m going to continue to do what I can to fight back against the hateful bigots (like blog about it, which, contrary to what some people think, is one way to fight back against the tide of hate).

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Over at her blog,  N. K. Jemisin discusses confirmation bias and bigotry in the Science Fiction & Fantasy culture:

And here’s the thing: us fantasy readers are particularly susceptible to confirmation bias because we tend to be binary thinkers. Just look at the works that have become bestsellers in our genre: how many of them contain a force of good and a force of evil? A Dark Lord versus warriors of light? A Shadow in the East versus the good Men of the West? This is comfort food for most of us — yeah, me included. Binary thought was our formative meat and milk. And even though a lot of us have moved on to accept shades of gray since — as GRRM fans can attest — there will still come a point where we’re faced with facts that threaten us on some level of privilege. When that happens, a lot of us default back to these formative modes. We react to the ego-threat with confirmation bias and other cognitive defense mechanisms; we double down and raise shields and prepare to defend our psychological selves to the death. Us vs Them. We stop thinking, in other words, and lose our goddamned minds.

So if you catch yourself getting upset when someone puts something in a fantasy that “doesn’t belong” — women in positions of power who aren’t sexualized, for example, or people of color in a part of the world where you think they never “existed”*, or a trans woman in a patriarchial society, or an important disabled person in (this! is!) Sparta, or whatever… Take a breath. Calm down. Do some research. Don’t immediately reject the contradictory information, and don’t assume that the person giving it to you is trying to hurt you. Ask yourself why you feel hurt, if you do. Why is this making you so mad? Why is it so important to you that Things Were Just Like That Back Then? Why does it bother you so much to realize things weren’t like that? We can’t always control our reactions to psychological threats, but sometimes understanding why those reactions happen can help us at least short-circuit them before they really blow up. It takes work, but you can shake it off.

And if you’re a writer, and you catch yourself getting defensive when someone suggests you add something to your fantasy novel that “doesn’t belong”… again, take a breath. Do some research — beyond the basic stuff you got in high school history class, that is. (You should be doing that anyway. It’ll improve your worldbuilding.) Write whatever you want, of course; handwave the historical evidence if you feel like it. But own your decisions, if you do so. Recognize that the Things Were Just Like That excuse is just that — an excuse. Existential angst manifesting as unjustified certainty. You wrote what you wrote because you wanted to write it that way. And if you don’t like what these choices imply about you… well. Then you’ve got some work to do, too, haven’t you?

Neither women nor People of Color need an excuse to be present in SF&F books.  They are part of reality as much as white men are, and moreso that aliens and otherworldly creatures.

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In the UK, broadcasters are facing a bit of pressure.  People want diversity.  Actors, writers, and directors want to see quotas introduced as a way to increase diversity on-screen:

The Act for Change Project has been launched by performer Danny Lee Wynter and Sheffield Theatres’ artistic director Daniel Evans, with the goal of getting broadcasters to better reflect the UK’s diverse population, taking into account gender, disability and those from a black, Asian or ethnic minority [BAME] background.

It was triggered by a trailer for ITV’s drama output, entitled Where Drama Lives, which failed to include any BAME actors.

This week, a conference was held at the Young Vic in London, which offered an opportunity for the industry to share ideas on how best to tackle the lack of diversity on UK television.

One of the measures put forward – which attracted overwhelming support from attendees – was to have quotas that would force broadcasters to ensure a percentage of their output features performers from diverse backgrounds.

The conference heard how representation of BAME people on television had fallen from 31% in 2006 to 5.4% today.

Speaking at the event, Syal said that attitudes within the TV sector were not changing, and that performers looked to the US for work because of measures in place there which ensure programmes feature actors from a BAME background.

“We have all been talking about America and how we look to America because they seem to be doing it properly,” she said, adding: “America did the enforced quota and I’m sure people didn’t like it at first. But I just think that sometimes, if attitudes aren’t changing, you’ve go to lead people that way.”

****

Yes, there’s pushback.  The racists. The misogynists. The homophobes. The transphobes.  These are the people decrying a black Human Torch. They’re the ones calling for Anita Sarkeesian to be raped. They’re the ones in Hollywood who continue to create a toxic culture for LGBT people.  These are just the vocal opponents. The loudest ones.  The ones we see.  There is another group opposed to change: the enablers.  The people who by not opposing the bigots, support the way things are.  These are the people who make excuses for how things are. The people who argue that “both sides are unreasonable”.  The people who just want it all to go away. The people who are fine with the status quo.

My message to all of them: we aren’t going away.  We deserve to have our voices heard and we will continue to demand that you hear us.  You can work with us to help create a world where we are all represented, or you can continue to stand in our way.

But we will not back down.  

The battle for diversity is ongoing and it’s everywhere

The battle for diversity is ongoing and it's everywhere

Science Fiction & Fantasy

Movies.

Television.

Comic Books.

Video Games.

For all of these and more, the word diversity has grown in importance.  Viewer, readers, and players are speaking up and demanding more and better representation-for women, LGBT people, People of Color, and other oppressed groups.

Laurie Penny writes about a culture war going on:

There’s a culture war happening right now. It’s happening in games, in film, in journalism, in television, in fiction, in fandom. It’s happening online, everywhere. And everywhere, sexists, recreational misogynists and bigots are losing.

They are losing, and they don’t know why.

I’ve been thinking a lot, this week and last week, about what it is that’s changing in culture, about what women are doing, and what is being done to us in revenge. I’ve been thinking about what happened to Jennifer Lawrence; about what happened to Zoe Quinn; about what happened to Anita Sarkeesian; about what’s been happening to every games and culture writer with the gall to be female or to defend feminism; and I’ve been thinking, unavoidably, about what’s happened to me, over the course of three years of harassment and abuse.

This a song we know by now. It starts and ends, almost always, with attacks on our sexuality, on our bodies as meat and function: our sexual and relationship history is broadcast everywhere, which is what happened to games developer Quinn, after an ex-boyfriend posted a disturbed, disturbing novella-length attack on everything she is and everything she stands for. The gamersphere then collectively wet its knickers over not being allowed to mercilessly slut-shame their chosen target without being called out, because freedom of speech.

The routine, the arguments, have become far too familiar. A woman or a handful of women are selected for destruction; our ‘credibility’ and ‘professionalism’ are attacked in the same breath as we are called ugly, slut-shamed for dismissed either as stupid little girls or bitter old women or, in some cases, both. The medium is modern, but the logic is Victorian, and make no mistake, the problem is not what we do and say and build and create.

The problem is that women are doing it. That’s why the naked selfies, the slut-shaming, is not just incidental to the argument – it is the argument. Underneath it all, you’re just a woman, just a body. You can be reduced to flesh. You are less. You are an object. You are other. LOL, boobs.

The problem is that women are creating culture, changing culture, redefining culture, and those cunts, those poisonous cunts, those disgusting, uppity cunts must be stopped.

She’s angry and she has every right to be.

****

Unacceptable.  That’s what Dana Hunter says about the ongoing battle against sexism and misogyny:

Now. This is going to be quite the nasty shock to some people who didn’t have any idea one of their heroes was an alleged sexual predator. And it’s going to be a nasty shock to people who heard the initial accusations, but figured it was all some big mistake, or hysterical Michael Shermer haters, and would all blow over. It must be horrible for them to realize it’s not blowing over, but blowing up. Well, that’s what happens when you don’t pay attention, and don’t listen to the people telling you there’s a problem, for years.

You’re going to want to duck and hide from the blast. But you need to steel yourself and face this squarely. Michael Shermer has had not one, not two, but three named women accuse him of inappropriate sexual behavior. Three women willing to face a shitstorm of abuse and possible legal threats in order to tell a reporter that Shermer did not-right things to them is not a minor matter. If you’re having that knee-jerk “this can’t be happening and Michael would never” reaction, you need to bite your tongue as hard as is necessary to stop it, and read that article thoroughly. Read it multiple times. Let it sink in.

Don’t say anything yet.

Read the timeline, wherein now-named people shared their stories, and still-anonymous people also have said Shermer victimized them, and named people not in the article have said Shermer harassed or assaulted them. Granted, these are not allegations that have been proved in a court of law. Shermer is stilllegally innocent, and will remain so unless he is convicted in a courtroom. But there comes a time when you need to take into account the fact that multiple people are saying similar things, and recognize that this is information you need to take into account before you spring to his defense. We do not need evidence beyond reasonable doubt when we’re considering whether to keep extending our respect to a person, and when we’re deciding whether to continue inviting him to speak, and whether he’s still welcome in our spaces.

As she says, we know more than enough information to be concerned about Michael Shermer’s predatory actions.  He is deserving of neither respect nor invitations to conventions.

****

Over at Gamasutra Leigh Alexander argues that traditional gaming culture and gamers as we know them are over:

Yet in 2014, the industry has changed. We still think angry young men are the primary demographic for commercial video games — yet average software revenues from the commercial space have contracted massively year on year, with only a few sterling brands enjoying predictable success.

It’s clear that most of the people who drove those revenues in the past have grown up — either out of games, or into more fertile spaces, where small and diverse titles can flourish, where communities can quickly spring up around creativity, self-expression and mutual support, rather than consumerism. There are new audiences and new creators alike there. Traditional “gaming” is sloughing off, culturally and economically, like the carapace of a bug.

This is hard for people who’ve drank the kool aid about how their identity depends on the aging cultural signposts of a rapidly-evolving, increasingly broad and complex medium. It’s hard for them to hear they don’t own anything, anymore, that they aren’t the world’s most special-est consumer demographic, that they have to share.

We also have to scrutinize, closely, the baffling, stubborn silence of many content creators amid these scandals, or the fact lots of stubborn, myopic internet comments happen on business and industry sites. This is hard for old-school developers who are being made redundant, both culturally and literally, in their unwillingness to address new audiences or reference points outside of blockbuster movies and comic books as their traditional domain falls into the sea around them. Of course it’s hard. It’s probably intense, painful stuff for some young kids, some older men.

But it’s unstoppable. A new generation of fans and creators is finally aiming to instate a healthy cultural vocabulary, a language of community that was missing in the days of “gamer pride” and special interest groups led by a product-guide approach to conversation with a single presumed demographic.

Traditional gaming culture is dying a slow death. Let’s work on accelerating that.

****

In the wake of Janelle Asselin receiving rape threats for criticizing the cover to Teen Titans #1, Andy Khouri over at Comics Alliance sends a message to her harassers:

You see, each of these women — and they’ve been echoed by others including Kate Leth and Heidi MacDonald — explained something to the Seattle crowd that I thought I knew but never truly understood before:

This isn’t their problem, guys. It’s ours. We have to solve it.

Sexual harassment isn’t an occupational hazard. It’s not a glitch in the complex matrix of modern life. It’s not something that just “happens.” It’s something men do. It’s a choice men make. It’s a problem men enable. It’s sometimes a crime men commit. And it is not in the power nor the responsibility of women to wage war on this crime.

It’s on us.

How do we fight this war? We stop enabling. We check ourselves and, when necessary, wreck ourselves. Do you know a guy who’s hate-following women on Twitter just to troll them? You check him. Do you know a guy who’s writing disgusting screeds to women journalists because they don’t like the same things he likes? You check him. Do you know a professional whose discourse with women in his field is loaded with gender-specific language and condescension that could enable further abuse? You check him. Are your Twitter followers identifying you as a sympathetic ear for their sexist views? You check yourself. Is your website’s message board a cesspool of ignorance and hate? You check it like you actually give a damn. Do you know a guy who’s sending rape threats to women for any reason? Oh, you report that guy.

Let me make it plain:

A woman objecting to the content of a comic book — even if you think she’s dead wrong — does not rise to the occasion of vicious name calling and rape threats.

Nothing does.

That guy I quoted above, the one who wrote Janelle that loathsome communiqué? He was right about one thing. Men are the cure — but we are the cancer too. It is wholly and rightfully and crucially up to men in this society and especially in this subculture to speak out and watch out. To end the cycle of bullying, harassment and violence. To recognize the grotesque irony of degrading women over matters of heroic fictions whose lessons about fairness and decency we’ve supposedly been studying since we were just little boys, and to start putting those ideas into practice as grown-ass men.

That’s what these characters are meant to have taught us, and yet the frequency with which women in our industry and fandom are abused and threatened demonstrates that as men we’ve forgotten that very first lesson of the very first superhero.

Remember what we were taught. Remember what we’re supposed to believe in. How can we love these stories and characters so much as to make them a part of ourselves, a piece of our identities as boys and now as men, and behave any differently? Doing otherwise is doing it wrong.

Sexism. Harassment. Misogyny. Not with my superheroes. No, that’s some fake geek guy bullsh*t right there.

A-fucking-men.  I am not going to give up comics and leave them to the misogynistic asspimples and I’m not going to throw my hands up and concede the fight to them either.  I’m going to continue to do what I can to fight back against the hateful bigots (like blog about it, which, contrary to what some people think, is one way to fight back against the tide of hate).

****

Over at her blog,  N. K. Jemisin discusses confirmation bias and bigotry in the Science Fiction & Fantasy culture:

And here’s the thing: us fantasy readers are particularly susceptible to confirmation bias because we tend to be binary thinkers. Just look at the works that have become bestsellers in our genre: how many of them contain a force of good and a force of evil? A Dark Lord versus warriors of light? A Shadow in the East versus the good Men of the West? This is comfort food for most of us — yeah, me included. Binary thought was our formative meat and milk. And even though a lot of us have moved on to accept shades of gray since — as GRRM fans can attest — there will still come a point where we’re faced with facts that threaten us on some level of privilege. When that happens, a lot of us default back to these formative modes. We react to the ego-threat with confirmation bias and other cognitive defense mechanisms; we double down and raise shields and prepare to defend our psychological selves to the death. Us vs Them. We stop thinking, in other words, and lose our goddamned minds.

So if you catch yourself getting upset when someone puts something in a fantasy that “doesn’t belong” — women in positions of power who aren’t sexualized, for example, or people of color in a part of the world where you think they never “existed”*, or a trans woman in a patriarchial society, or an important disabled person in (this! is!) Sparta, or whatever… Take a breath. Calm down. Do some research. Don’t immediately reject the contradictory information, and don’t assume that the person giving it to you is trying to hurt you. Ask yourself why you feel hurt, if you do. Why is this making you so mad? Why is it so important to you that Things Were Just Like That Back Then? Why does it bother you so much to realize things weren’t like that? We can’t always control our reactions to psychological threats, but sometimes understanding why those reactions happen can help us at least short-circuit them before they really blow up. It takes work, but you can shake it off.

And if you’re a writer, and you catch yourself getting defensive when someone suggests you add something to your fantasy novel that “doesn’t belong”… again, take a breath. Do some research — beyond the basic stuff you got in high school history class, that is. (You should be doing that anyway. It’ll improve your worldbuilding.) Write whatever you want, of course; handwave the historical evidence if you feel like it. But own your decisions, if you do so. Recognize that the Things Were Just Like That excuse is just that — an excuse. Existential angst manifesting as unjustified certainty. You wrote what you wrote because you wanted to write it that way. And if you don’t like what these choices imply about you… well. Then you’ve got some work to do, too, haven’t you?

Neither women nor People of Color need an excuse to be present in SF&F books.  They are part of reality as much as white men are, and moreso that aliens and otherworldly creatures.

****

In the UK, broadcasters are facing a bit of pressure.  People want diversity.  Actors, writers, and directors want to see quotas introduced as a way to increase diversity on-screen:

The Act for Change Project has been launched by performer Danny Lee Wynter and Sheffield Theatres’ artistic director Daniel Evans, with the goal of getting broadcasters to better reflect the UK’s diverse population, taking into account gender, disability and those from a black, Asian or ethnic minority [BAME] background.

It was triggered by a trailer for ITV’s drama output, entitled Where Drama Lives, which failed to include any BAME actors.

This week, a conference was held at the Young Vic in London, which offered an opportunity for the industry to share ideas on how best to tackle the lack of diversity on UK television.

One of the measures put forward – which attracted overwhelming support from attendees – was to have quotas that would force broadcasters to ensure a percentage of their output features performers from diverse backgrounds.

The conference heard how representation of BAME people on television had fallen from 31% in 2006 to 5.4% today.

Speaking at the event, Syal said that attitudes within the TV sector were not changing, and that performers looked to the US for work because of measures in place there which ensure programmes feature actors from a BAME background.

“We have all been talking about America and how we look to America because they seem to be doing it properly,” she said, adding: “America did the enforced quota and I’m sure people didn’t like it at first. But I just think that sometimes, if attitudes aren’t changing, you’ve go to lead people that way.”

****

Yes, there’s pushback.  The racists. The misogynists. The homophobes. The transphobes.  These are the people decrying a black Human Torch. They’re the ones calling for Anita Sarkeesian to be raped. They’re the ones in Hollywood who continue to create a toxic culture for LGBT people.  These are just the vocal opponents. The loudest ones.  The ones we see.  There is another group opposed to change: the enablers.  The people who by not opposing the bigots, support the way things are.  These are the people who make excuses for how things are. The people who argue that “both sides are unreasonable”.  The people who just want it all to go away. The people who are fine with the status quo.

My message to all of them: we aren’t going away.  We deserve to have our voices heard and we will continue to demand that you hear us.  You can work with us to help create a world where we are all represented, or you can continue to stand in our way.

But we will not back down.  

The battle for diversity is ongoing and it's everywhere