The Walking Dead Book One
Written by Robert Kirkman
Art by Tony Moore and Charlie Adlard
Ok. The Walking Dead. But just Book 1. So that’s the first 12 issues. Vol 1 – Vol 2. If you wanna refer to anything after that – try and do so obliquely ok? I think I must be up to about Vol 26 or something by now? And I swear if anyone spoils what happens next I’m going to do them a violence…
If you’re playing that game where you have to choose between zombies, vampires, werewolves, ghosts and whatever then I will always always opt for zombies. Because – speaking totally frankly: I frigging love zombies (like: a lot). There’s just something about them triggers some sort of primal pressure point inside my brain and makes this big smile just burst across my face at the merest small mention of them. I guess if you wanted me to and rationalise it and I could say something like: What other monster ticks the boxes of so many fears? Fear of Death; Fear of Disease; Fear of Madness; Fear of Betrayal; Fear of Isolation; Fear of Crowds and (oh yeah) Fear of Zombies and all that: but – hell – the same way that some people love cars or love football or whatever: I just love zombies. I love them. I love them. Just their whole aesthetic and the fact one of the rules of the genre that you’re not even supposed to properly explain where they come from (apart from in the most oblique way): there is something about them that just does it for me.
Of course up until recently loving zombies just meant loving zombie films and in that it feels like I’ve managed to do better than most: I’ve seen the first four George Romero Living Dead films, 28 Days Later, 28 Weeks Later (which is way better than the first one – yeah I said it – come on fight me), Zombieland, Shaun of the Dead, Cemetery Man, Braindead, Planet Terror, Rabid, Slither, Zombi 2, Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead remake, World War Z, Pontypool, Rec 1 and 2, La Horde, Dead Set, and even – for my sins (and this is how hopelessly addicted I am) – a few Resident Evil films here and there (I know! I know!).
And then – along came the Walking Dead.
Emma mentioned in the Kingdom Come discussion just gone that The Walking Dead is basically one of the most popular comics out there. And well yeah: just going from anecdotal evidence doing Comic Forums and stuff: The Walking Dead is a comics superpower. It has it’s own gravity. It’s a law unto its own. (Especially – in my experience – among women. And like: is there any way I can ask this without coming across like I’m advocating toxic gender stereotypes etc: but 1. Has anyone else noticed this? and 2. What’s the reason behind it? Is there something about The Walking Dead in particular that appeals to women in general? Or is it just a popular comic full stop? But then I guess the question is: what makes it such a popular comic? Is it just that everyone else loves zombies the same way I do or what?).
Also: because well shoot: here’s the thing about The Walking Dead – (and the thing that makes people laugh when I sat at the Barbican Comic Forum): but you need to read like 8 volumes or so before it gets good.
Because when it starts: I mean – it’s just not very good is it?
Like: it’s just zombie cliché after zombie cliché and it all just feels very rote and standard. Like: I have a friend Esther (hi Esther if you’re reading this!) who got into it back when there were only like 2 or 3 volumes and I read them on her behest but just couldn’t see what the appeal was. It all just felt really white bread – you know? Zombies without any of the flavor that made it so tasty (the desperate apocalypticness mainly: like mostly I like my zombieness in big desolate cities full of empty skyscraper – and The Walking Dead just felt kinda like it was a suburbs / rural thing – I mean: there’s even a farm you know?!).
Like – if the Walking Dead was nothing but the first three books then I feel like it wouldn’t have anything like the sort of widespread popularity it has now (because well – duh): It’s all just a little bit zombies-by-numbers and there’s hardly anything there that an avid zombie-head (is that the right terminology?) hasn’t seen before many times elsewhere. It’s like at the start The Walking Dead is just something for people that hadn’t seen enough zombie films and so didn’t realise that it was stuff that had been done better elsewhere – like 28 Days Later only in comic form – you know?): in fact – the best way I can think to describe it – is that it’s almost like a made-for-tv zombie movie – there’s not much of a budget and everything that happens is pretty damn predictable (“oh no! zombies!”etc).
Plus: and maybe this is more important – at the start The Walking Dead doesn’t really feel like it’s about anything. I mean: yeah I know that trying to talk about what a story is about is as woolly as hell – like trying to describe the shape of a cloud or whatever. But early Walking Dead is just zombies because zombies are kinda cool or something? Without any real sense of the underlying dread that normally gets my heart beating faster.
But here’s the thing: The Walking Dead is one of the few things out there where Quantity ends up becoming it’s own kind of Quality. And the more of it there is – and the more it stretches out – the more interesting it becomes: and the new shapes it starts to be able to fashion itself into. Like: some police guy waking up in a world of zombies = yawn. But that same guy a few years down the line? And how life in a Zombie World will mess him up in all sorts of ways?
There’s that Robert Kirkman quote at the start of Vol 1: “I hope you guys are looking forward to a sprawling epic, because that’s the idea with this one… For me the worst part of every zombie movie is the end. I always want to know what happens next. Even when all the characters die at the end… I just want it to keep going.” Which all leads up to the promise that “The Walking Dead will be the zombie movie that never ends.” Which I’ll admit does kinda make it sound kinda awful. I imagine watching watching a film and saying to the person next to you: “oh man – when is this film going to end?” And then Robert Kirkman appears out of the sofa and says cheerful: “But this is the movie that never ends!”
But yeah – while lots of other long-running comics kinda feel like they’re long running because there’s money to be made: the cool thing about The Walking Dead is that it always feels like it’s moving with purpose. I mean – granted – there are moments that feel like empty wheel spinning – but you only need to give it a moment or two to find out the larger purpose behind it’s moving of it’s pieces.
Like: if I was going to compare The Walking Dead to two other things that I love a lot then it would be Lost and post-rock.
Lost because every every issue always ends with a big epic cliffhanger (even if you’re reading them in volume form like me – you can still spot the cliffhangers by the way that they’re almost always a full panel page with someone making a duh-duh-duh style pronouncement like: “We’re gonna have to: kill the dog.”) which I guess isn’t the worst thing in the world (and it does mean that it’s pretty addictive once you get started) but it does make things feel a little – I dunno – it’s not classic literature: it’s more cheap TV (not that there’s anything wrong with that because well – Lost is one of my absolute favourite things in the whole world).
And the post-rock thing? Well yeah – I mean: most especially Godspeed You Black Emperor in terms of the way that the story kind of rises and falls (not so much at the start – but more when : there will be quiet bits of characters just talking to each other and bumbling around – with a few minor keys here and there (people acting suspiciously or someone saying something that seems a little bit suspect): the sense of dread will build – slowly, slowly, slowly and then – blam! – the guitars get loud, the drums start pounding and: ZOMBIE ATTACK!
Of course some of you out might think of that as a bad thing – and you could (if you wanted to) level some of the typical post-rock moans against the Walking Dead: it all sounds the same, it’s just repetitive (quietquietquietLOUDquiet) and everything: because (yeah) one of the things that I heard sometimes from the (very few) people who don’t like the series is: it’s all the same – and what can you really do with a long-running story about zombies anyway? I mean – all they do is bite you and then you turn into a zombie and then that’s pretty much it – right? The scope for anything else seems a little – well – limited at best.
Well. Yeah. But also no.
But (ha!) I think that maybe I’ve already written enough to start with (but be warned: feels like I’m only just getting started) – but it’ll probably be best if let someone else have a go…
So. What do you think?
I had no idea there was a perception that TWD had a female skewing audience, but I wouldn’t either because I don’t pay much attention to men, lmao. I remember picking up the first trade on my first to the comic shop after returning from SDCC in 2006 and reading that introduction. It was a pretty novel idea that the time, but it was also at the heart of the zeitgeist both in and out of comics. I didn’t see Kirkman at the convention and more’s the pity because that was the year he ambushed Todd McFarlane at his own panel to ask when he was going to do another comic. “He writes that zombie comic you like,” Jim Valentino leaned over to tell McFarlane when he realized he was the only person in the room who didn’t know who the man talking was. As hot as TWD was back then, with I think three trades out, no one could have anticipated that Kirkman would ride that comic into becoming the biggest crossover phenomenon at Image since Rob Liefeld did that Levis commercial.
I did talk to Sophie Campbell and Tim Seeley that year, though, and they had somewhat similar things to say about The Abandoned and Hack/Slash. Campbell told me a lot about Romero, who I knew next to nothing about, and trying to tap into the social horror of his movies with the premise that everyone over the age of 25 turned into a zombie. Seeley obviously didn’t talk about Romero, but he did say a lot about how the idea of Hack/Slash was taking the final girl and sorting out what happens to her next. Everyone was fascinated with taking horror films and stretching them beyond their initial premise. (Seeley and co. were so successful at it that the Scream TV show gave them a shout out when that franchise used TV to decompress the slasher movie.)
That impulse, weirdly enough, is something I ran across in porn at around the same time. It was either Jim Powers or Rob Black who said that he thought about watching horror movies and wanting to imagine what came next, in terms of pushing the violence and the sexuality to the next level of explicit. Take whatever was cut out of the frame and expand on it. It was a seminal Generation X experience that was being discussed a lot in the mid 00s, apparently. Now Kirkman is the last one standing, keeping TWD going in print and TV simultaneously. Who the fuck could have predicted that?
I didn’t last very long with TWD because the idea of trying to hang on to suddenly useless hierarchies and social groups in a collapsing society didn’t interest me much. Rick is the hero and has what it takes to be the de facto leader because he was a cop and the center of gravity always seems to be around preserving the heteronormative nuclear family. It’s a very philosophically conservative narrative. It just cruises along, quietly feeding this pseudo objectivist power fantasy about the masses dying off and the truly rugged rising to the occasion. It’s the moment Rorschach whispers no stretched out to infinity. That’s why I like the Resident Evil movies. They were about a corporation accelerating the zombie apocalypse as an opportunity to consolidate global control.
I should point out here that it’s me saying that TWD is a hit with women. And that’s just based on an embarrassingly small sample size. It’s just back when I was doing the Islington Comic Forum and there were like four or five women who were all massively enthusiastic about it in a way that made everyone else go “wow.” Like they were proper – *bangs hands on table* “FUCK YEAH THE WALKING DEAD.” And for some of them (if memory serves) it was like the only comic they had read. Like: “Oh yeah. I just walked into the Library and I saw it and picked it up and I was just hooked.” And (even more) they’d also describe themselves as not really being into horror films or zombies or anything that. It’s just – there’s something about TWD. And yeah from every Library I’ve worked in – TWD is always the Number 1 most popular comic we’ve got. Which you know – is interesting (and this is before the TV show even).
But well like: I’m always massively suspicious and skeptical of generalizing about groups of people from individuals because – shit – even if there were a hundred women who were all big fans of TWD then does it really make sense to say there’s something about it that appeals to women? Like: maybe it’s just a popular thing and part of being popular means that lots of different people like it because duh. But also (LOL) from my experience: it feels like there is something there and my brain is itching because I want to try and understand it.
Like: is it what Emma said? It is because TWD is about persevering the heteronormative nuclear family? Is it because it’s a very philosophically conservative narrative feeding this pseudo objectivist power fantasy about the masses dying off and the truly rugged rising to the occasion? (There’s a part of me that wants to maybe tie this into the white women voting for Trump thing: but maybe that’s a stretch?). But then shit – I mean: there are different stages of TWD and the comic it is when it starts out is not the same comic it is by the time it gets to Vol 16. In fact like I’ve already said – it’s always been my policy to tell anyone who starts reading it that they really have to stick with it awhile before it gets good (cue: scoffing from the audience): at the start it’s all about family sure – but once it gets into it if anything it’s more about well: what makes us human? What makes us civilized? And is it possible to be civilized in a world that isn’t? And then: well – what happens after? Like yeah – Rick Grimes is a cop and he is a husband and a Dad but there’s lots of points further in where he advances by not being rugged and instead tries to be – I dunno – more humane. (Although – as in all things: the ending is the conceit so I guess it depends how that all works out for him. Like if the last volume is him all alone eating the bodies of his friends whilst lamenting that he should have manned up when he had the chance – then well yeah: that would be a whole thing huh?).
Of course thinking about this kind of thing makes me wonder: like what is it exactly that makes stories appeal to people? Like with TWD is it one thing that you can just point to (that would be great wouldn’t it)? Or is it – more boringly – a whole myriad of stuff all mixed together?
But yeah: you should read it up to Volume 8. See what all the fuss is about. Everything before that is just prologue. And you know: credit where it’s due – TWD is a really effective comic. It’s clear and tight and (maybe this is the black and white artwork?) but reading it is like skipping a flat pebble across a lake: it’s fast and quick and effortless.
I always thought the appeal of TWD was that it focuses on relationships, sort of like a soap opera with zombies. That’s certainly the major appeal for most of the TWD fans I know. They like seeing how characters develop and especially how their relationships develop.
In fact, I gave up on TWD when I felt like Rick wasn’t really changing any more, and everyone around him kept like, idolising him and excusing him. I don’t really know if this behaviour was what the book wanted the reader to feel too, ie see Rick as someone who’s never really at fault, but I did want a bit more conflict and progress in the narrative. At that point, some really gross character(s) had turned up and it was just feeling like torture porn to me. Combined with this weird sense of Rick as a Tortured Hero, I was just kinda done with the toxic masculinity of it all.
I was just saying the other day that one thing I don’t like about some of the fandom around TWD is that, I’ve known quite a few boys and men who like it primarily for the violence. Like Emma said, there’s the whole ‘WOULD I BE TOUGH ENOUGH TO SURVIVE THE APOCALYPSE’ thing but I’ve also seen dudes almost living vicariously through the super gross, hyperviolent characters. I don’t think that’s a fault of the book, that’s very much on those dudes and on how our society links violence, aggression and physical protection with masculinity and maleness, but it’s something that has helped push me away from the series. Kinda like with Game of Thrones, you have to be a very special kind of creator to continue drama that consistently makes viewers ask questions. Like GoT, from what I’ve seen, TWD reached initial popularity by asking its audience to question stuff like what humanity means, at what point do our ethical lines blur or break down, what do morals look like when you’re fighting to survive.
And like GoT, TWD (amongst the audience) seems to have mostly become about, what horrible thing will happen next? How far can this series go? Will it still be able to shock me – rather than asking why it’s shocking in the first place. Or why we need a constantly escalating level of violence to feel anything any more!
The thing about gender breakdowns and comics is that no one has any idea what the real representative numbers are because comics sold, either in comic book stores, or book stores, are counted in how many copies the retailer buys from the distributor. So the kind of granular market research yielding specific demographics is a pretty big mystery outside of guesses using social media analytics. Unless there’s something I don’t know about. TWD is a gigantic phenomenon that can easily outsell Marvel and DC both month by month in singles or in trade. It was just as unshakable as Raina Telgemeier while the NYT was running a bestseller list. So like, there are bound to be a lot of women reading the comic out there, but how that functions as a percentage of the readership is anyone’s guess.
The thing about discussing the first volume in relative isolation is that it doesn’t really get to the point where the central conceit has come into play yet. You can read any Spider-Man comic and get the sense of what a Spider-Man comic is meant to do, but where TWD actually reaches proof of concept is muddy. What I get out of Joel saying that you kind of need to stick around until volume eight is that you have to actually get through the “movie” before you can know what a zombie story that continues beyond the “movie” is. Hack/Slash never had that problem because it could start the story by simply introducing Cassie as a former Final Girl, the cultural shorthand was more flexible.
The other thing is that the broader patterns about the series’ dialectic about violence, how that links to performances of masculinity, and whether or not the narrative invites readers to live vicariously through the cruelest villains can’t seriously be discussed until Negan appears.
I like the Game of Thrones parallel a lot because GOT is just as much about the disintegration of social order as TWD is, without even having to bring the White Walkers into the conversation. What energized me about ASOIAF was that it brought high fantasy down into the brutality of the Wars of the Roses. When the story left the castles to show bad things were for the average Westerosi was when I was most fascinated, because that’s the kind of thing that the Tolkien tradition typically skims over. I think a big part of why I didn’t get the same sense of novelty out of TWD is because I read Y: The Last Man as it was coming out and, for all its flaws, was way more compelling to me. Probably because there was only one man and the speculative aspects of the book were about building a new social order out of the ashes of the old one rather than clinging to it because it’s all anyone has ever known.
I should say though, that the conservatism that I perceive in it isn’t a conscious partisan political fable. It’s the knee jerk, unconscious conservatism of perceiving white heterocentrism as the default.
I also wrote about the meta-narrative of escalating shock and violence in Game of Thrones in this Clean Room review.
While we are talking about zombies. I do like the Cracked.com mini series, it’s about five 5minute episodes about (I think it actually is TWD TV show) zombies from the Zombies point of view (they are pretty thick, but very nice and friendly).
Speaking of data analytics on readerships, libraries borrowing system might have some pretty interesting data. I don’t know if people are coded by gender there (probably not) and you’d have to be quite careful about people’s privacy. But perhaps a few high level non-disclosive facts about books … (are any of them seasonal in interesting ways? Can you see travel books being taken out in line with easy jet sales?)
When it comes to post apocalyptic scenarios and the collapse of civilisation and all kinds of horrible things happening, I always wonder what would really happen (same in Y the last man). I mean we do have records of hunter gatherers who also didn’t have police forces etc, and while their violence was pretty high in terms of rates (i.e. a tribe of 50 with one murder a decade would be a really high rate), I don’t know how that would feel in terms of day to day life. And with stories of Roman orgies (third century Christian propaganda) and droit de seigneur (seems to be made up in later writings, or people referring to the customs of other people far away) it seems we have a tendency to make up more stories than are found in real life. Not that invading armies don’t cause a lot of damage, but in real life it’s complicated, the red army raped everyone in Berlin, but also provided soup kitchens and started getting infrastructure going again (and, according to a novel, then provided free abortions). So I’m not saying history wasn’t horrible but that high levels of violence aren’t sustainable (at the most literal level, everyone would be dead), it’s more low grade violence and oppression that happened.
So I have to say I was never convinced the horrible violence in the book amongst ordinary people in their own country against their own countrymen (centuries of unity wouldn’t be wiped out over night). Maybe it could happen, maybe it wouldn’t, so ultimately it was more distracting than immersive (and still quite horrible). Just that phrase/context “until you figure out a way to commit suicide”… I felt really sick.
Now it’s true that everyone has PTSD and are probably scared all the time. That will certainly make things worse, and people tend to collect around a leader and so make worse decisions than if you had an open deliberative process. Perhaps the later stories get into that?
I gave up at the end of volume 1 as the violence was too horrible and the characters were too boring.
And thick, really really thick. Like if you find a body in the middle of the prison sitting on a chair, it might be a person or it might be a zombie wouldn’t you at least get a broom handle to poke them with! Why did three people stand in zombie grabbing distance!
Or if you want to capture and study a zombie why not contain them properly and talk it over with the others to get a solution everyone is happy with. Like a cage between the two fences, or something. Not inside the compound so when someone gets extremely angry and upset with the ridiculously risky experiment, the zombie can just accidentally get loose.
I just couldn’t work with people like that (i.e. carry on reading them).
I have a cynical take on TWD and an optimistic take. The optimistic take is that TWD is a fillibuster; with zombies. The cynical take is that TWD is Garfield; with zombies.
As a fillibuster, Kirkman is trying to live out some impossible dream – pushing the same story on and on, with oddly beautiful little character beats and interactions wrung out of an endless nightmare, some mad arthouse film experiment in really showing what the endless world of society in the post Romero world would be like. The world collapses, a small band of survivors try to make it to the next place, creating their own makeshift society in the interim. Time, zombies and Ricks weaknesses as a leader intervene and pretty much everyone winds up dead, in grotesque brutalising fashion.
As I write that, it’s not necessarily a bad thing. I mean, there is the GOT audience that digs that thrill, that unsafe but safe world where all the bets are off, where anything can happen to anyone – but not the audience. The auidence is safe, watching the crazy unfold. Which considering that GOT and TWD are the biggest shows of the moment, that Dallas was the biggest show back in the day (who killed JR yadda yadda) says some pretty interesting stuff about the vicarious chaos we seek out in our stories. Fuck as I write this I’m accidentally persuading myself that TWD is interesting. But then I remember reading it and to me, it’s the same beat again and again and again. Society collapses, everyone dies, it’s horrible. And for me, what’s the point – why do I want to spend time investing time in a character when I know it’s going to end in grotesque pain masquerading as a comment that Lord of The Flies did in one book? It’s a beautiful concept – a story about the end of the world that never ends, it’s just a shame it’s a repetitive as real life.
Which is when I start thinking of TWD as Garfield – as a story long done, but keeps regurgitating itself not for any real purpose, but because it churns money and there’s a massive franchise empire that’s spawned out of it. While it churns out games and TV shows and TV show spin offs and fuck knows what else, it keeps spinning the same few wheels. It never adds anthing, it never builds into anything else. Characters don’t really develop, they’re pushed into shit situations, make understandably horrible decisions and society collapses again. It’s the zombie equivalent of Garfield spending 30 years explaining that he loves lasanga, hates mondays and enjoys pushing a dog off a table. They’re not bad beats, it’s just you’ve done them 20 times and I can’t be bothered feeling shit for the sake of you making money off of me by making a point as interesting as a 14 year old bitching about the Illuminati.
Killing your cast in a vicious suprise is bold once, maybe twice. After the third time, I’ve gotta question your internet history.
Put it this way, in the god knows how many issues of TWD there are – how much tonal variety has there ever been? How many formal story telling risks?
Also – I reread this and realised, my post is basically a depressing microcosm of TWD. I keep making the same few comments about it repeating itself and I repeat those and I complain and now I’m saying this to try and hope self awareness gets me out of the horrible bed I’ve made.
There’s a writer called Jonathan McCalmont that I really like. I think I might have mentioned him before in a previous discussion? (you should totally follow him on twitter!): he wrote a thing about Lost and Prometheus a while back that’s been totally swimming around my head: it’s called Prometheus (2012) – Calvinball Mythology and the Void of Meaning. (It’s good! You should go and read it!).
Like – there’s a part of me that wants to write a few thousand words on all the ways he gets things wrong about Lost and Prometheus (and trust me – it’s a lot): but instead it’s the thing he starts out with that I feel like is relevant to what’s been said so far:
Once upon a time, we watched films, read novels and enjoyed TV shows that could be watched in almost any order. Now, we read series of novels, watch trilogies of films and feel cheated if our TV series do not end by paying off storylines that span multiple seasons and dozens of episodes. As a culture, Westerners no longer crave stories… they crave mythologies.
I mean: it terms of defining our terms “mythologies” could mean a few different things: but for my purposes I’m just going to assume that he means “really big stories.”
And well: yeah. Just to state the obvious here: The Walking Dead is a really big story (over 150 issues and counting!)
Full disclosure: I am a sucker for mythologies. I love big EPIC things with a sense of oceanic depth (and LOL not just with stories but with music too). That sense of vastness – like standing underneath a starry night sky in the middle of an empty field. You know: that’s the good stuff. That does something to me. On some deep primal level that I just can’t get enough of.
So yeah: Lost, The Walking Dead, I watch Game of Thrones and you know: I think it’s kind of cool. Hell – I even read The Dark Tower because well: you know – it seemed like it had that big epic sweep kinda thing: even tho I knew how it ended and I knew that it was a massive let down. Because I dunno – people questing towards a Dark Tower that like holds up reality or something? That sounds kinda cool.
I was big into Space when I was a kid. Not so much astronomy and stuff. But more the stuff that talked about how big The Sun is. And that actually compared to most other stars – The Sun is kinda small. And then when they start talking about how big the big stars are. Well yeah: that kind of stuff just kinda blew my mind. But actually – ha: maybe that’s not why I like mythologies (altho yeah big stuff is cool). I think actually it’s more to do with the stuff that you can do with big narratives. The effects that you can only get when you’ve been telling a story on a larger canvas.
Towards the start of the Calvinball article Jonathan McCalmont talks about a thing from Tolkien called “the turn”:
This ‘turn’ comes in the form of the moment when we suddenly lose ourselves in a fictional world and cheer inwardly when the narrative logic of that world asserts itself upon the events of the plot. When a hero finally wins the day or the tragic queen finally dies, we feel a sense of consolation that is entirely lacking from the ‘real world’ we inhabit for much of our waking lives.
At the risk of being disagreeable tho: I’d argue that the thing that I love about mythologies / big stories like Lost, GoT and TWD is the exact opposite of “the turn.” For me: instead of cheering when “the narrative logic of the world asserts itself on the events of the plot” I instead cheer when the narrative logic of the world falls away from the plot. When the thing that you thought could never happen or you never even imagined could happen takes place. And well yeah – if you wanna give it a name then you can call it “the twist.” 🙂
I feel really cautious discussing this kind of stuff because I am super sensitive to spoilers and never want to be spoiled by anything ever and just want to watch each thing fresh with no idea what’s going to happen but – well: let’s just say for now SUBTLE GOT SEASON ONE SPOILER: there’s a thing that happens in GoT Season one that well is pretty much the epitome of a twist: the narrative thing that you think is going to happen suddenly – doesn’t. And the natural response is to stand on top of your chair and scream: OMG what the hell just happened?! And you know: this is the kind of stuff that hits most hardest with mythologies. Like: most of the time with a film or a novel or something small: the twists are obvious and you can (mostly) smell them coming. I mean: there was a point towards the end of the 90s when you had things like The Sixth Sense and Fight Club: but since that point – well: audiences are a bit more savvy or a bit more jaded or whatever: so mostly it seems like it doesn’t work. But hell: if you build up a narrative slowly and really get to know the characters and get a sense of the world and make it feel lived in and provide a sense of gravity then well yeah – it’s even more effective when you have those moments when the gravity is turned off.
And yeah: I’ll admit it – mostly “the twist” is that a character will die (mostly). But it’s interesting how that works out. Because the twist is all about doing the last thing you expect and well: because one of the main deep down assumptions you can have about a story is that every character will get to the end: having a character die in sudden fashion is always a “whoa” moment. It’s not physical violence. It’s narrative violence. It upends your expectations. In fact – most of the time violence depicted in stories is a type of narrative violence too because well – in the west: most of the stories we tell are the ones where the good guys win and the status quo is restored. I mean it’s even there in the example that Jonathan uses: “When a hero finally wins the day or the tragic queen finally dies.” But you know: this isn’t a natural feature of stories. My friend said in her culture most of the stories that people tell their kids have loads of death and stuff in them and well you know – why not? (Lol – I can’t actually remember which culture she said she came from and I don’t wanna say in case I get it wrong but you know: IT EXISTS). Like: if you came from a tradition where all the stories always ended badly – then for you the twist would be when someone didn’t die or when the good thing happened. Right?
But then yeah: I have the feeling that maybe this makes me an outliner because while I get a kick out of twists because from talking to people and listening to what they say and reading the things that various people have written here – most folks don’t want twists and they don’t want the narrative logic to drop away. They want the turn. They want the sense of consolation and the comfort that comes from the familiar and stable. I mean – I could make a small stretch here and you know: talk about mainstream DC/marvel superhero comics but I’m sure you can make it yourself. But also you know: pretty much every soap and sit-com that exists. Where nothing is different and everything is always the same. Which you know: seeing how the basic definition of a story is: “things change” I would argue are kinda anti-stories in that they’re pretty much “things stay exactly the same.”
And well yeah: TWD. I mean: I don’t want to give off the impression that I’m a major fan or anything. But I do feel like it’s been misrepresented so far a bit you know? I love what Emma wrote saying that the first few volume are the film that you need to get through because I think that’s exactly right. It’s scene-setting and kinda boring and dull and mundane (in terms of: you know – zombie apocalypses LOL). But you know: there are surprises. It does things that you don’t expect it to do. And it complicates itself in lots of interesting ways the further it goes (in fact now I think about it – for me the best Volume of the Walking Dead is always the latest one). And you know: a think a big part of that is because it keeps changing and growing and getting bigger and doing new things unlike most long running comics (I could name names but I won’t) which you know – establish a thing and then keep churning out various repetitions of that thing with only a few cosmetic changes here and there TWD gets deeper (but damnit – I can’t really say how and why without just spoiling it).
But then my next question after that is: well – does that mean that you should keep trying it even if you don’t like the start?
Well you know: I don’t know. Again – it kinda reminds me of Lost a bit. Where for long stretches of the first season I was watching it and thinking “this is as dopey as hell” and then just as I was like “maybe I should watch something else” it would have a twist or something that would make me go: “oh wow! Cool!” (Under appreciated Season 1 highlight: Hurley’s walkman dying on the beach). And TWD is a bit like that – I kinda think it’s dopey and dumb and so I lose respect for it and: oh wow. That thing it just did was really cool! It’s the low expectations of it that make me love it more.
I don’t really feel like I’m on Comics Twitter – but I’m sort of parked next to it? And it seems like the big thing this weekend is the Howard Chaykin cover. Short version: there’s a guy called Howard Chaykin who does a comic for Image called The Divided States Of Hysteria. His cover for an issue leaked early and – well: it’s violent and nasty and disgusting and all sorts of bad things.
And well: seeing how the bread and butter of The Walking Dead is violent, nasty and disgusting images it’d make sense to try and thread things together maybe? In the hope we all might learn something and get a little deeper?
I mean: at the moment it seems as if the critical consensus is that people should boycott or bring down Image which I can understand. Because well yeah: a lot of people are very distressed by the picture and reasonably so. The world is dark place – why make it darker? Why make things that will only upset people? That just seems like a dick move.
At the risk of making myself a pariah and unleashing the hounds of the internet upon me tho: I’m not sure I understand the argument that seems to be going around in response? That Image is bad because it’s for creators? Which I don’t know seems to be joining two different things together? Like: isn’t it possible to be against the Chaykin cover but still be for Image and the “Image Philosophy”? To say that when people are fuckheads then fuck them but creative freedom is still a good thing? Or are they too intertwined?
I’d be very interested to hear what you guys think about this.
I saw a great tweet that summed up my feelings about this and all the other shitty, harmful, oppressive things that get put out into the world in the name of ‘creative expression’.
“Everything in art is on the table because art is an important tool in understanding human experience but context matters, dumbass”
The idea of “for creators” is lovely but when you (or your company/brand/business, ie Image) stands for art over actual people, stands for damaging, unnecessary, violent expression instead of recognising the trauma this can cause or bring up – then who gives a shit? The issue most of my feed is chatting is that Image could have – should have – drawn a line because anyone can see how awful Chaykin’s work is. Chaykin can still create outside of Image – it’s not censorship to remove a platform. Image is complicit in this, and the argument goes deeper than ‘yeah but they stand for something good right?’
Mostly I am just exhausted at apparently having to explain why people and their lives are more important than a fucking comic book.
There’s a lot to unpack about the Chaykin situation and none of it is good. I have a uh, 3000 word opinion piece on it and why I’m boycotting Image over it coming some time today. So there’s that.James Stokoe really, for my money, has summed up the entire situation the most succinctly by saying that Image behaves like a printer when they should be behaving like a publisher, which is what they are.
Anyway Image published a Howard Chaykin comic replete with transmisogynistic violence during Pride month with a rainbow variant for it benefitting an LBGTQIA charity. Instead of apologizing and/or pulling either the comic or the cover, they doubled down on the rhetoric supporting the fiendish thing. That was three weeks ago.
Yesterday, someone noticed that the cover solicited for the fourth issue depicts the gruesome lynching of a Pakistani man whose genitals were mutilated and had a slur on the nametag of his work shirt.
The problem with the Image model is that it is built to specifically avoid criticism for choosing to publish stuff like this, foisting full responsibility for it onto the creators, hence James Robinson and the Airboy debacle of 2015.
Ok so I’ve read it. And i had a nap.
The nap was ok…but I dribbled on the pillow and it wasn’t long enough.I’m tired.
The book was slightly intriguing, mildly discomforting and full of characters I could read more about .it has the usual set up issue vibe for a larger story which I’m interested to know more about.
Much of the talk about it I’ve seen doesn’t really seem relevant to the actual full content on the pages of the book. Lots for all sorts of ppl to get potentially upset about but I think that might be missing the point of it? The short essay at the back is worth a read; it has things worth reflecting on. I’ll read the next one and see if it pans out. This isn’t a book to make anyone feel better about themselves. If that’s what anyone was expecting then i can only suggest looking elsewhere….and maybe not looking for it from every comic book out there….it’s just not gonna happen…and maybe that’s ok.
Bit late to the party on this one, but I’ve been thinking about the whole Chaykin debacle, and have some thoughts.
As far as I can tell, the criticism of Chaykin seems to be based on the idea that, regardless of what Chaykin intended to do, the fact that he represented the racist lynching of a South Asian man on the cover of a magazine is bad because it will [directly or indirectly through creating a climate of lynching-acceptability via culture] cause people to go racist and go around lynching people, or because people who have suffered racist treatment in the past will be upset via this depiction.
Furthermore Chaykin’s intentions – which seem to be [at least according to his statements] that he is horrified by racist crime, and that the cover and the series are a stark warning to his fellows on the left who he perceives as balkanised and caught up in in-fighting and denunciation meetings over ideological purity, of what is really at stake are the lives of marginalised communities who are the fodder in this in-fighting, because whilst the left call each other out, the right mobilise and carry out horrific acts – are utterly irrelevant.
So that, rather than taking Chaykin to task on whether his intentions are empirically right or wrong, or misguided, or ill informed, or successful, or unsuccessful or whatever, the important thing is that he drew a bad thing and this bad thing in itself, rather than reflecting life, creates the conditions necessary for the bad thing to happen in real life because one thing we know from things like Charlie Manson and Helter Skelter, or the overwhelming culture of satanism, murder and defilement in the Heavy Metal and horror fan community is that people’s actions are entirely predictable and their actions are in a strict one to one relationship to the depictions in the media that they consume.
Congrats, you managed to come up with the absolute dumbest take on this I’ve seen so far.
The biggest issue for me with the first book of The Walking Dead is with the first artist. Tony Moore, co-creator of the comic and many of the Walking Dead characters, was deprived of that official credit, and indeed the co-ownership of Walking Dead, which necessitated a number of legal fights and an eventual payoff during the success of the TV series. Tony says that, as with previous books with Robert he’d co-created, he believed he owned his half copyright share, signed a contract to help the TV show get made and then discovered contractually he didn’t own a thing anymore. And the (c) to him in the Image solicits wasn’t reflected in the comics’ indicia.
The more striking thing is that he was so wrong for this comic – and Charlie Adlard is so right. Tony is all button noses and cute stylised faces, Mike Golden/Art Adams texture on Adam Hughes layouts. Even when drawing the grossest stuff, when a zombie is tearing flesh from limbs, his style is too Disneyfied.
Charlie Adlard who has drawn every issue bar the first 6, is utterly perfect for this book, the harsh black and white reflectings simple moralities which get chipped away through the comic. His art, more throwaway, reflects the nature of the large cast of characters as they get mowed down. And his zombies are hollowed, soulless shadows that burst through the world. You can’t read humanity into them as you were forced to by Moore. Everything is so much grimmer and devoid of cuteness. And the book only starts to get really good when that change has bedded itself in.
There’s also the speed. If Tony Moore had stayed on the book, I doubt jt would have reached #60 yet. Charlie is as fast as Steve Dillon and that very utilitarian fact has increased production on the book, coming out at a soap opera rate. That has really helped the Walking Dead and has enabled side spinoffs, double ships, extra character origins elsewhere and the like which have helped the comic spread its influence.
I think Tony got a rough deal on the comic, and was screwed over when Hollywood came calling, not by the suits or the man, but his fellow creator on the comic. A Marvel executive told me that creators always screwed over fellow creators at the first chance they got, far more than corporate types ever managed to. Of course, that was before Marvel had to settle with Kirby’s estate for $30-50 million.
Tony’s work is beautiful to behold. But The Walking Dead flourished without him in a way it could not have with him. Harsh.
I think most people I meet are good people. Not all of them but most of them. Like: I don’t think people have evil in their hearts. I don’t think that they want to do things and I don’t think that they want to believe in things that hurt other people. Most people – their intentions are good.
Ever since that whole Chaykin cover thing kicked off – I’m being chewing it over in my mind like a dog with a squeezy toy. Just chewing it and chewing it and chewing it. I’m willing to admit that maybe this is because there’s something wrong with me and maybe I should just go outside and play in the park.
But you know: it’s fascinating and contains a lot of my permanent bugbears like identity and meaning and how arguments work and etc.
I’ve got questions:
Why do people talk to each other? I mean – back when we were younger I guess that maybe it’s possible it was possible to change our mind about stuff because you hadn’t really settled into the groove of who you are yet. You can be swayed. You can still change your mind about stuff. But then: after a certain point it doesn’t seem to work like that anymore. The wind changes and your brain gets stuck. Like: with all the Chaykin stuff – it seems like there’s been a lot of back and forth (not just here – but like on twitter and the internets etc): but has anyone changed their mind about anything? Has there been an argument or whatever that has convinced you of something that you didn’t already believe? In that case: maybe we’re doing something else when we talk about this stuff? Maybe it’s more a case of affirmation rather than conversation? Not: here’s my argument and why I think you should agree but more: THIS IS WHO I AM.
If it’s not too much to take and you guys don’t all just laugh at me then well: I think that I’d like to think of myself as an activist. I mean: I know I don’t really do anything. I mostly just sit around and read comics and then write things about it. But you know – I have my values and when I talk to people I feel like mostly I like to mess around and be silly and see if I can make them smile and also I like to try to get them to think about things and I’ve like to try to get them to believe the things that I believe. You know: that left-wing ideas are best for everyone. That a better world is possible. That utopia is not so far away. I don’t think I’m alone in this. I mean: don’t we all want other people to share our ideas / ideals?
Like: I think most people on the LGNN so far are good people and want to make a better world – we just disagree a little on how to get there maybe? Re: The Chaykin cover has two sides (and please jump in and correct me if you think I’ve got this wrong): there are those who feel that the most important thing is representation and identity and there are those who feel that the most important thing is creative freedom and creative rights. And each side feels like their thing trumps the other thing right? Or have I misunderstood things?
I saw this tweet today:
Does whatever a garbage can
‘Censorship!’ He decries
‘It’s a comics code reprise!’
Look out! Here comes Garbage-Man
I mean: maybe that means if I don’t say anything that’s not fully throated support of the idea that the Chaykin cover is violence to all minorities everywhere that makes me a Garbage-Man? I mean – maybe? Like: I sure hope not. I don’t want to be a Garbage-Man and I try my best to be a good person and support all people. Altho – I guess I disagree in that I don’t think that the important thing so much is comics covers and representation – but you know: material social conditions. And maybe that’s the bit where you stop reading what I have to say? I don’t know.
Erm – Emma: please don’t call Jeremy’s take dumb. I mean: you’re more than welcome to disagree with what people say (and LOL – I always encourage that) but it’s not nice to be mean to people. Like: I think every opinion that isn’t mine is dumb but I learnt a long time ago that it’s not very nice to say it. And you know: if you want to be an activist – isn’t the point to try and bring people onside? To build a collective? To get more people believing the things which are right?
I haven’t read any Chaykin. I tried reading American Flagg! a while ago but I didn’t really take to it. There’s just something about his style or whatever that doesn’t do it for me. I do think that’s it strange to base all this on a cover tho. Like if we’re having a conversation about “art” and “context” then erm – shouldn’t people wait until issue 4 comes out in September? I mean: am I going to get in trouble if I say: don’t judge a book by it’s cover?
Zainabb and Emma – I mean: it seems like both you guys are sick of having to explain stuff. Quote from Zainabb: “Mostly I am just exhausted at apparently having to explain why people and their lives are more important than a fucking comic book.” And so maybe I should just shut up and nod my head (although I’ve never been any good at that): but I should admit that I just don’t follow the argument that you guys are making (maybe that’s makes me the dumbass?). Like: Chaykin made a cover and it upset lots of people. That bit I understand. So is the thing that: no one should make something that they know is going to upset people? Or you shouldn’t upset minorities? Like: serious question – would the cover be ok if it was a white person being lynched instead? Is it an argument that there should be no cover with violence on? Or just racial violence? Or sexual violence? And like: what about “torture porn” Crossed comics?
Like: because I’m fascinated about this stuff I’ve tried to speak about it with my friends. And one of the ones I spoke to just laughed in my face and said: “I literally couldn’t care less.”
Most of my twitter feed is about the Tories and Grenfell and the NHS.
Also the thing I don’t get with whats been said is that it seems like the consensus is that Image should pay for what they’ve done which just makes me go: erm – what? Like: Image is about giving freedom to creators right (which you know: I think is very much a good thing)? Like: don’t we all want more freedom for people to make the art that they want? Or is the argument that we want more corporate control? Because that seems kinda nightmarish to me. But then maybe I’m the only one chilled to the bone about a future where the only films are Star Wars and Marvel and DC.
I hope none of what I’ve written has made me sound like a Garbage-Man but hey you tell me.
Also: well – Rich I really liked what you wrote about The Walking Dead. And well yeah – it all feeds into each other right? Like The Walking Dead gets very violent at certain points right? So maybe there should be an argument to get it banned or whatever too? (Or if not – why not? Is it just because it’s not on the cover?)
I enjoy reading The Walking Dead.
I stopped watching the TV show because I found it repulsive without justification.
The TV moment was panel for panel from the comic show. But the comic, I believe, handled the moment better, it was a more skillful use of its medium.
I like the rhyming on Garbage-Man.
I have had my opinion changed by argument, often some road to Damscus moment where I leave with my world view changed. My old editor was good at that.
Addendum: oops. Dagnamit. I’ve had all this stuff swirling in my head and that email I sent didn’t get close to getting all my thoughts down and there’s an important one I wanted to add:
For those on the “Boo Chaykin” side: like – in terms of understanding: I think I can get closer if it’s not actually an “argument” that’s being made but more a feeling. And that’s not to say that logical arguments are better or more valid than feelings and emotions or vice versa: just to say that they’re different registers and well: it’s not possible to reach any kind of consensus if both sides are starting from different places.
Like if the Chaykin cover made you feel a certain way and that’s why you’re against it then that is something that makes sense. And would explain the vitriol I’ve seen directed against those who dare question it.
But I don’t know – maybe that’s condescending? It’s not supposed to be. I’m just genuinely trying to understand where it is you’re coming from.
Re: Rich. What opinions have you had changed by argument? And well: if it’s not too complicated: what were the arguments?
Joel, It’s quite ok for Emma to call my take dumb, writing as I am from a position of intellectual disadvantage.
Beneath the sarcasm there was a point though – people seem to have dismissed Chaykin’s defence without comment, preferring to simply tar the guy as a transphobe or a racist etc- and with it Chaykin’s defence of his actions, and, at least, that part of the context of the message and his intent has been brushed aside. Chaykin’s work is polemical, and that he has a message he’s trying to convey, and the question I wanted to try and hint at was, is the message itself without merit? Has the message, which is pretty explicit even down to the provocative title of the series (not to mention the extended essays in the comic), been lost in accusations about Chaykin’s character? And if Chaykin was guilty of all that he’s been accused of, does it affect the validity of this message, or does the message stand alone? Finally, if he does have a point, is the fact that people are concentrating on (in my opinion) the easy part – the nature of specific images out of context of the whole – a sign that he’s failed in successfully puting his point across, or a sign that he’s managed to hit a hot button to Streisand effect the whole thing a sign of viral marketing win? The reaction to Chaykin’s images, means at least that the message is pertinent, even if it is not valid.
I’m not a believer that specific images in a sea of contradictory images contribute of themselves towards a culture of permission – My own view is that culture exists in a feedback loop with the individuals in that culture, that it not only creates, but also reflects – and that the Mary Whitehouse argument for removing specific images does not stop the bad stuff from happening, and depicting horrific acts can equally stop the bad stuff happening by drawing attention to it – and there exist a litany of examples on which I’m basing my view. Which means that I can’t quite buy into the idea that the images within the context of the relationship between authors intent and the pre-existing conditions of society contribute to harm beyond the minds of the young and the impressionable. I understand that I’m in the minority in that regard, so far as this thread goes, and I doubt my facetious examples of Charlie Manson / Helter Skelter and the prevalence of murder within Heavy Metal communities will do anything to sway minds. Nor should it, you’re all far more intelligent than I when it comes to this kind of thing, and I suspect I’m too dumb to really grok the insidiousness of systemic injustice.
Anyway on to the walking dead. Someone said something interesting the other day – that TWD had moved from being a story about the dissolution of society, to one about the creation of society – is that something that has arisen from the long soap opera form do you think? The need for some kind of direction beyond wandering from set piece to set piece? Have you guys already touched on that?
Agree with Rich here – my argument is often changed through argument. Discussions / arguments are good. being exposed to contrary viewpoints is good, at the very least to test your own views, at the very (most? best?) to come away changed.
Joel, to answer your question (i think):
The Invisibles completely changed my life,my mindset and maybe even my values…hopefully for the better…reading it was like having a challenging but thrilling conversation with my own self /brain/beliefs. ..I can’t talk to everybody on the planet but that book certainly helped me understand some (real) people who I may have not understood before. Or rather , it forced me to re-examine what I thought about certain other types of people and at least hold some new /different ideas along with the existing ones..
I guess this is what i look for when I read comics sometimes…like the Chaykin book..and when I engage with other humans on this forum etc,when social anxiety isn’t getting in the way.
For me, conversations with ideas from books and from people can come in different shades… sometime you get affirmation, sometimes challenges, humour, debate, attempts to see things from another’s perspective and also sometimes i just laugh at my own jokes because that’s the best.
The main thing I dislike about lgnn is that as soon as there is diafreement between people I just want to invite them round for tea.. but that’s not always possible so we just hide behind our keyboards…
Ok I’m off for another nap. I’m still tired
When I was a precious young teenagers, I changed three of my peers’ minds about the acceptability of homosexuality. A fourth I was unable to change but I believe his husband would do that later in life.
I used to be the person who hated cosplay and thought cosplayers were “getting it wrong”, not appreciating the characters they dressed as, “fake fans”. It took a good long discussion and back and forth about twenty years ago before I realised how totally wrong I was and I was a fool.
It was rather well pointed out to be how wrong I was about argumentation itself, how I am too often in it to win, rather than be right. It’s a psychopathic trait, but once I was able to realise that and challenge it, I’ve been a lot happier. I slip all the time, and the internet is a bugbear for that, but it’s helped me be less of a dick and learn to appreciate the love that’s all around, more.
To me question at the core of this debate has always felt like: Is it about intent or effect?
But I think that if there is an editorial bar of responsibility on Image, it shouldn’t be this strict. Does that mean some work, arguably detrimental for a broader social good gets through and taints discussion? Most likely. But to me, that kind of approach, where you impose potentially broad limits on free expression to enforce a social good not only puts a likely homogenous few in charge of what is a socially “good” work fit for commercial publication, it means the stories and the discussion we exchange with each other will be forever neutred. Basically – it does what an “Internet Freedom” bill drafted by the MPAA does in the name of combatting piracy.
To me, it’s always been about direct hate and incitement of violence. It’s a high bar, but I can’t see an ideal balance between individual free expression and popular ideas I mean.
Appropriately or not, I always abstract these arguments. Even if I agree that what is depicted is morally/socially “bad”, I’m more wary that if we go around insisting that central cultural institutions, be they publishers or censors, be empowered and obligated to actively make judgements on “what is okay”, it makes us all poorer. It robs us of the capacity to talk to each other about ideas and expressions, it offers a definitive example to what a specific expression means or intends – something that I feel is possible far more rarely than we’d like to believe. It means that someone can say “this = bad = can’t exist”, and while that can stop offal from /r/The_Donald, I think it’s more likely going to cost us the capacity to challenge, engage and educate each other with new ideas.
Saying the cover is awful, that you won’t buy it, that it’s wrong is a far different thing from saying this cover shouldn’t exist and you should actively work to make sure that it effectively doesn’t. There’s a distinction between exploring and challenging something than just going “you bad, you no exist now.” It’s the logic of the people who said Grand Theft Auto made us violent and thus should be banned and while I am yet to be persuaded of it’s validity, I’m fairly clear that it’s really fucking annoying.
The best take is Abidali’s, that this exchange suffers immensely because we can’t do it over tea. I also agree with his views on napping and would like to fund research on the matter. But LGNN offers something else, it offers people who broadly seem willing to explore weird new ideas about stories, culture and society the chance to engage with each other in mad long form prose dripping with the inane and the brilliant in equal stead. You get to edit your ideas, test them out on yourself before you express them on others – and that has a unique power all of its own. I should probably edit this.
And not to be rude Emma, don’t just call someone dumb, it’s boring. At least like, swear or do a graphic drawing or something. Anything.
Is the new Chaykin comic any good? American Eagle always felt like one of those comics that should have been amazing to me but was only really kind of good. It was fun and satirical, but it never hooked me – kind of like an American attempt to seize on the Judge Dredd train. Shit, Stallone’s Judge Dredd movie should have been an American Flagg adaptation.
Can we talk about Baby Driver? Baby Driver was great. Not quite at the hypius maximus it got, but it was amazing. (Look if we’re talking intensely about Chaykin in a TWD thread, I’m going to talk about something that made me smile. Ah man, that sound track, so damn tappy.
Decorum and whatnot in discussions are important, but you have to push at it sometimes, so like, I don’t think I was really out of line.
The thing is that conversational spaces are important for all the reasons mentioned, but you also have to be mindful of the dynamics of them. It’s good to test out ideas and refine theses in venues like this, I do it all the time, but the question becomes how much of it is flip or knee jerk thoughts that put people with more vested interest into the position of having to provide background and context that isn’t otherwise sought out, creating a borderline exploitative assymetry?
The current talk about TWD and the recent one about Transmetropolitan are my favorites we’ve done lately, smashing success imo.
But discussing Chaykin right now, is mostly flip and myopic, also, imo.
The whole thing about DHS is that Chaykin, and his publisher, Eric Stephenson are saying this is to spark conversation, but the conversational prompt is a flaming bag of dog shit on your front step! Even worse, the bag itself is an ersatz rainbow hued one that says “Happy Pride Month” on it!
Stephenson and Chaykin have both said they want the comic to heal rifts on the left, but on a very basic level, this is not how you start a productive discourse. I mean like, look at all the effort Joel puts into the preambles to start these discussions. There’s none of that whimsy or honest self reflection in any of what Image has done in and around DHS.
When we talked about Islam in comics, the chosen work was Ms Marvel, not Holy Terror or uh, Fukitor, you know?
But there is also the question of the ethics of profiting from white depictions of black, brown, and queer pain. As a prompt to discuss that, I would suggest reading into the controversy surrounding the painting of Emmett Till by a white, female artist being included in the Whitney Biennial, which has very clear parallels to the DHS #4 cover.
The point about the flaming bag of dog shit sounds like tone policing. Maybe their provocation comes from a place of righteous anger?
It could be argued that if Chaykin’s whole thesis is the harm wrought by infighting / division and denunciation at the expense of unity and fighting the real enemy is the very real prospect of physical violence, then is there a better time than a month that celebrates how far we’ve come by remininding us how much there is to lose? I don’t want to presuppose that was their intention, it may well have not been thought about at all, but that possibility exists all the same. I don’t agree that this is flip at all – if anything, in this respect, it seems to be extremely salient.
As for the point about people with more vested interest into the position of having to provide background and context – that seems to be a kind of insular argument from principle. The assymetry exists solely because the material conditions exist, one can either complain about the unfairness of the assymetry or realise that it exists on the basis that other people don’t have the same experience and unless it is communicated to them in terms they understand then they will never know the other side of the story – and whilst those people make up the majority and thus have a larger voice then acting otherwise does not in any way do anything to resolve the assymetry.
“Why are you unhappy?”
“You should know why I’m unhappy!”
“I’m not psychic!”
As for whether something is exploitative or done purely for the profit motive, I think the circumstances are far too complicated to brush aside in such a simplistic manner. Dickens’ work was instrumental in bringing an end to the workhouse, by this same logic employed here Dickens was exploitative and seeking only to profit from his writing on the back of lived experience of the poor ,and his work should never have been published. This is clearly not the case. This is the point Chomsky makes when he talks about how Post-modern academia props up oppressive regimes by refusing to take pragmatic steps to end them.
Do I lose cool points if I admit that I almost did a cry when I opened up my email this morning? Like: compared to what I’ve seen written elsewhere on the internet (which obviously is probably not a representative example because you know: I’m only one person and all the latest research says the internet is a big place) it seems a lot more civil and thought-out: and just – I don’t know – more open and thoughtful.
Someone said once that twitter is so awful because it’s basically putting people who would otherwise never meet in close proximity with each other but the only way they can communicate is by shouting through a letterbox. And so eventually it just becomes people working out what’s the coolest way they can say “you’re wrong” to someone else. And yeah – fuck – I don’t want to blow my trumpet or anything: but the LGNN just feels way more healthy you know? The conversational equivalent of sitting in a park.
(Altho – like Abs said: I also wish I could invite everyone out to tea because that would be the best and feel nicer – and like: well – I think humans have a hard time saying things that hurt each other in person which is why the internet can be a tough place sometime: because there are screens separating us all – sad face. But well also: hey – there are Comic Book Groups all over London and I hear there’s a particularly good one in the Barbican every third Thursday of the month…).
Re: Decorum and whatnot
Just because I want to talk about the flip-side and get it off my chest: I’m not a totally 100% believer in always being polite and etc. Like: I think when there are people in massive positions of power who perpetuate actual harm to other people. You know: politicians or journalist / opinion makers with trash ideas that make the world worse for other people in material ways. Like: if someone has had their lives made worse by those people (which to my mind is pretty much all of us living in the western world LOL) then yeah – fuck call those people dumb (altho like Amir says: do it in an interesting cool fun way please lol).
And well yeah: hopefully not to be too obvious and not to be too out of line and not to speak on Emma’s behalf (she can obviously do that for herself) but: it makes total sense if your experience has been one of oppression and having your voice be marginalized and quashed to want to crack some fucking skulls when there’s another flaming bag of dog shit to add to your already high enough pile thank you very much of flaming bags of dog shit. So yeah: to me it’s completely understandable to want to lash out and call people dumb (or worse) if they don’t agree with you. Like: it’s a dark and completely unfair fucking irony that the people who have been hurt the most by the inequalities of society are still told to hold to the same standards. It’s like: ok we’re going to serve you dog food and make you sit on the floor but you still need to hold your knife and fork in a polite way ok?
So like yeah: I think that I get it (maybe? But please correct me if I’m wrong?) – but LOL also: I don’t think that Jeremy’s take was that dumb. In fact I don’t think any of the takes that I’ve ever read on the LGNN are dumb. I mean – I disagree with most of it. LOL. But I don’t think any of it is dumb. Because well: here’s one of the other points I wanted to make: but – I honestly believe that if you raise the level of the debate then all the nasty mouth-breathing stuff gets left at the bottom. (I’m worried that I’m totally tempting fate by writing this but what the hell): like the LGNN is open to everyone. Anyone that wants to take part in the conversation is open to do so. And so far (fingers crossed) we’ve never had a problem with anyone being racist, homophobic, transphobic etc. Because well – (and for some reason I’m putting this in a nice way) the type of person that believes that kind of stuff is not going to get on well with the kind of in-depth discussions we do here.
Or (putting it in a less nice way): dumb fuckers don’t like it when people talk about things in a smart way. 🙂
Also: well – (hopefully this isn’t going to sound too flippant) but seeing how Amir brought it up: you know what I actually found more offensive than the Chaykin cover? Fucking Baby Driver. I mean: you know – if you want to critique shit instead of going after Chaykin: of which it seems like from the stuff that’s been said here so far is actually on our fucking side and is trying to draw attention to the what’s wrong with our world (even if it seems like he obviously screwed the pooch with that): like have a go at Edgar Wright who has all the cultural capital in the world and decides to spend it on a piece of white bread hetero-normative slice of semi-nostalgic bullshit that’s all support for the status quo. But hey you know: it’s nice and safe and ipods and car chases and whatever.
To be clear: I’m not for artwork or entertainment that’s going to needlessly hurt people. But fuck – I would like to see something that will offer at least somekind of provocation.
And well yeah: I think I agree with the last thing Jeremy said – like: is the point that comics with the Pride flag on it should only have stories where nice things happen in them? Or maybe it’s that all the comics should all be produced by LGBTQ people? In which case: Chaykin was fucked before he even started.
Re: Walking Dead and “Someone said something interesting the other day – that TWD had moved from being a story about the dissolution of society, to one about the creation of society – is that something that has arisen from the long soap opera form do you think?” = yes. 🙂 It’s a big long story and it moves and evolves as it goes along. But – LOL: maybe The Walking Dead ship has sailed……..
No, it’s parasitically expecting someone to do a disproportionate amount of the intellectual and emotional labor necessary to move the dialogue forward. Just like what’s happening right now with the creative team of an as yet unpublished comic paying for Image staff to attend LBGTQIA sensitivity training and also announcing that it’s taking place to the public.
Is Pride Month an ideal time for examining progess for the LBGTQIA community and what’s currently at stake? Obviously. For LBGTQIA artists. Not Howard Chaykin, who is a straight interloper with a long and well documented history of demeaning portrayals of trans women in his work.
Thank you, Emma, for mentioning the importance of recognising group dynamics and how these interact with existing power and structural dynamics in our society. Jeremy, it’s not really about “being psychic” but entering into any social interaction with the knowledge of exactly what you said: that other people have different experiences. In our current society, this also means understanding that some people have experiences of being alienated, marginalised, and oppressed. This can mean that certain conversations can place stress or labour on us. For instance, I have to explain many basic parts of my existence and lived experience on almost a daily basis. Entering into new spaces means doing the dance all over again. And while I certainly don’t expect anyone to magically understand my personal experiences or my specific relationship(s) with our society’s power dynamics, I find it helps massively when I’m interacting with people who at least respect that this is relevant and who are mindful of this fact. For instance, I prefer being around men who pay attention to how much/often they are interrupting or speaking over women, or white people who are aware of how much they outnumber POC in a room.
Like any marginalised person, I’m not always going to have the energy to educate the people around me. Most of this Chaykin conversation has felt like people generally not directly affected by the cover asking for education from those who are. I doubt that’s the intention from most but – and this sums up my feelings on “intention vs effect” – it nonetheless feels draining to me, particularly when some of these questions could have been answered by some wider reading beyond everyone’s individual Twitter feed. In fact, I’m struggling to follow this thread because of the effect it’s having on my mental and emotional health. My problem, certainly, but one I face frequently in most spaces.
Ultimately, respecting and striving for an understanding of the dynamics within a group is necessary because it’s built on a foundation of compassion, not on knowledge. It’s not about ‘knowing’ what everyone has gone through and having an intricate and full knowledge of ALL of the oppression EVERYONE has faced EVER, it’s about creating space for people to feel comfortable to share their experiences when it’s relevant and appropriate. It’s about accepting we can’t possibly know everything about everything, we can’t presume people’s experiences with oppression and hurt, and we can grow from learning about individual experiences, if someone wants to share that (and they don’t have to.) And it’s about understanding that, in order to learn about people as individuals, we have to provide a space and atmosphere that feels safe enough for them to open up in and talk about what matters to them.
Unfortunately, I instead often feel (in various spaces) that if I casually mention something shit that’s happened to me, or to one of my friends, that is explicitly due to power imbalances (i.e. misogyny, racism, queer hate, Muslim hate) I then have to spend an hour or two explaining or – in some groups – actively defending my/our very existence or experience. Which is dehumanising and depressing. And it’s something I have to do regularly, which literally takes hours off my life.
And in fact, compassion underlies why this conversation is so exhausting to me. Dickens’ work is based on compassion towards the poor. He humanised people that his readers might not have seen in that light before. This is opposed to being as violent as possible to marginalised folk in a world that’s already dolling out this violence to them. Granted, my perspective is based on the images I’ve seen only and therefore limited, but nonetheless, there is no compassion in these images.
Also, can we just expect better from creators? Please? If we’re going to criticise Edgar Wright for producing bubblegum normative bollocks, then we can’t also say, “well, Chaykin has creative freedom so this is just what happens.” I believe in freedom of creative expression but I also believe in creators facing consequences for putting shit out into the world. And I mean that in terms of both harmful, oppressive work that “maintains the status quo” and also hackneyed, boring work like this cover that rely on shock tactics and traumatising the people it’s supposedly out to defend. It’s not provocative or controversial, it’s just violence. For a hell of a lot of people, there’s nothing controversial about that, it’s just a part of our lives. I want more from my art, I want compassion and exploration and creativity and silliness and I want a basic understanding of how the world works before we start talking about how it could work. I want more, and I want better.
My contention about the Pride covers before any of the titles hit the stands was that Image should have invested more in publishing LBGTQIA creators under their roof than indulging in corporate philanthropy that will only tangentially impact the industry. Begin change at home.
The fact of the matter is that the majority of LBGTQIA writers, artists, colorists, and letterers working on Image books are doing so on a work for hire basis and are not the credited creators who own the intellectual property.
So Pride month at Image (and Marvel and DC and everywhere) has been about marketing the depiction of almost completely straight conceived of and controlled depictions of LBGTQIA characters. Which is ludicrous, because Pride is about LBGTQIA self determination, not enabling the enriching of straight people for their depictions of us.
It’s honestly more than a bit annoying to be hearing now that there ought to be stories where bad things happen to queer characters when the group is talking about Howard Chaykin’s work, but I was more or less the only contributor willing to argue that same point when Blue is the Warmest Color was under consideration.
Granted, Fun Home was also recently under discussion if I recall correctly, so that also answers that point and reinforces what I’m saying: that there are far better works capable of creating and sustaining dialogues about these issues than anything Chaykin has or likely ever will produce, and we need not look further than Joel’s curation for this list to find it.
Not sure if the last post went to just one person or not – apologies for repost if you’ve already got this:
“No, it’s parasitically expecting someone to do a disproportionate amount of the intellectual and emotional labor necessary to move the dialogue forward.”
If you’re claiming that cisgender hetero people can not viscerally understand the plight of the oppressed because it is outside their realm of lived experience, then you are also making the same requirement if you want to see progress. If you’re also claiming that cisgender people aren’t allowed to explore these kind of themes, even from a point of ignorance or from a mistaken avenue, you are doubly making this requirement.
For Zainub – it may well be tiring to have to explain it over and over again – but wishing thing were otherwise won’t change the material conditions we find ourselves in. Take heart that this is a transitional period in history where these marginalized voices are being brought into the mainstream which is largely ignorant of the issues, and if it is absorbed into the mainstream, then you won’t have to have these discussions over and over again – but this process will take a long period of time – maybe a decade or more for the educated young who have largely internalised these kinds of issues to make up the mainstream.
“Is Pride Month an ideal time for examining progess for the LBGTQIA community and what’s currently at stake? Obviously. For LBGTQIA artists. Not Howard Chaykin, who is a straight interloper with a long and well documented history of demeaning portrayals of trans women in his work.”
But that’s precisely Chomsky’s point. The tendency for post modernists (particularly post modernist academics) to be insular and elitist – to look down on the dumb and to speak in secret Derridean tongues that only they and members of their in-group understand (if it’s intelligible at all). if it is to be a pragmatic force for change, then it has to be understood by those that wield power in society to appeal to their moral sentiments as human beings (which can be shown to exist otherwise the oppressed would be wiped out within an instant without compunction), otherwise it becomes a tool for obstruction of justice – at best a system to sublimate resistance – at worst a system that ignores the reality of the complexity of the external world in favour of a grand mythological narrative, and, bearing in mind the conditions that exist in the outside world, by refusing to meet the external world perpetuates harm.
In this respect, the Dickens point, still stands. You’re claiming that Dickens was a parasite when it’s quite possible that he was a symbiote, and that his succour helped enable the workhouse to come to an end, and, as part of a movement, enabled a change in societal attitudes towards the poor. Sometimes life is morally gray and bad actions have good consequences and vice versa.
” It’s not provocative or controversial, it’s just violence.”
But it clearly is controversial because there is controversy. And it clear is provocative because it has provoked. And it’s not just violence – it’s a depiction of violence, and a symbolic act and is designed for a specific purpose to convey a specific message. Violence in any form is not “just” violence. Violence is a means to achieve some end, it does not exist abstractly. That may seem like a semantic point – but it’s an important one. To eradicate violence, we must understand why it exists. In other words – the purpose for which violence is being used.
“I want more from my art, I want compassion and exploration and creativity and silliness and I want a basic understanding of how the world works before we start talking about how it could work. I want more, and I want better.”
And you can have all those things! The existence of Chaykin’s book doesn’t wipe out the existence of those other things. There is room for diversity in art. No one is saying you have to consume this particular comic book – but requiring a form of art, that you dissaprove of, to not to exist is something entirely different.
If it’s hackneyed – blame the writer for his poor craft! If a person thinks it lacks compassion, what does that say about us? Why don’t we feel just for the sole reason that this is a human being? Why do we need a context and a certain kind of composition – a certain kind of presentation to feel compassion and empathy? maybe that’s the entire point? Like Alan Moore said about Crossed – that even though Crossed features amongst the worst violence depicted anywhere – it is also a profoundly moral book.
That’s a misapplication of Chomsky. He’s also a thinker fundamentally ill equipped to unpack the capitalist exploitation of queer identity.
If I’m “wishing” for anything, it’s for people in positions of relative power to also take responsibility to make change instead of placing it all on marginalised and oppressed people, saying “it’s ok, just trust us, you’ll get what you need in good time.” I think anyone is capable of empathy and relating to experiences beyond their own, but some people make less effort with it than others. For example, instead of me having to explain Intersectionality 101 every time I’m in a predominantly white or cishet space, those people could actively seek out the work of marginalised people across a variety of intersections. Instead of Chaykin’s work gracing Image’s Pride cover, we could have work from an actual queer creator. It’s not about whether Chaykin’s work EXISTS, it’s about the context in which it exists, and the fact that there are potential alternatives. Also, if I go into a comic shop and I see this cover, my choice of whether to consume it or not is taken from me. I’ve seen an image that affects me in specific ways in which it does not affect the creator, and much of his audience. And therein lies a big chunk of the lack of compassion.
Maybe if we didn’t have to consume work like Chaykin’s quite as much, our “material conditions” would improve in turn. I know that my friends who regularly and actively consume work by marginalised creators (which is not always in the mainstream because of our existing power structures) are people I am happy to be around, people who don’t exhaust me, or place disproportionate emotional labour onto me.
“Controversy” to me is not marginalised people asking for our oppressors to stop committing violence against us. But I suppose from the oppressors’ perspective, that is controversial, sure.
As for violence, just as with intent, I think understanding it is helpful, but I frequently see a priority placed on intellectualising it, on trying to gain some kind of logical knowledge. It’s a reflection of what seems to me to be a societal devaluing of emotion, but that’s a whole other thing and there’s too much in this convo that’s trying to boil things down to X or Y, FREEDOM or CENSORSHIP, EXISTS or DOESN’T EXIST and again, Google is a warm capitalist friend in these conversations.
(Also there’s something in using academic language and philosophical theory to explain why we shouldn’t be elitist that makes me want to burst into hysterical laughter.)
It’s a summary from a talk I happened to watch this morning where he’s in debate with a french post modernist about the value of post modernism, incuding Foucault’s conceptions of power and so on. If the argument is that only LGBTQIA people can talk about or explore LGBTQIA issues, and only in and on their terms then it’s a recipe for disaster. Society at large needs to understand the issues at stake – and part of the process of understanding is it a) needs to be put in terms of reference that they will understand and b) they need to go through and be part of the discoursive process.
I suspect that if we haven’t already, we may be at risk of losing everyone if I ask this but I disagree that he’s “fundamentally” ill equipped – do you mean it may have to do with issues around his work concerning universal grammar and the implications for moral relativism / social construction?
“If I’m “wishing” for anything, it’s for people in positions of relative power to also take responsibility to make change instead of placing it all on marginalised and oppressed people, saying “it’s ok, just trust us, you’ll get what you need in good time.For example, instead of me having to explain Intersectionality 101 every time I’m in a predominantly white or cishet space, those people could actively seek out the work of marginalised people across a variety of intersections.”
I don’t really understand why you think anyone would when it’s not within the realm of their experience? Why would they even know it exists or that they even need to seek it out? People follow and seek to represent their own interests, and are often caught up in those, which are often onerous enough. The only way they gain information on someone else’s experience is tangentially through the things, experiences and education that happen to fall in their path – bumping into people or through media.
” I’ve seen an image that affects me in specific ways in which it does not affect the creator, and much of his audience. And therein lies a big chunk of the lack of compassion.”
There is social space, and that social space is filled by a plurality of competing views and interests. it’s not realistic to expect not to see things that won’t trigger someone, purely through the numbers and complexity of things that can trigger someone. For you it may be this particular image, for another person it may be something else. Not to mention, sometimes it’s *good* (productive) to be triggered. Anger is an energy and all that. No one wants to see you or anyone suffering for any reason, but sometimes unpleasant things must be shown in order to overcome them in reality – and whilst you may be at a level of wokeness that is greater than culture at large, the rest of culture has to catch up.
I feel like I’m going to be quoting Stephen Fry on offence and all that here.
“”Controversy” to me is not marginalised people asking for our oppressors to stop committing violence against us. But I suppose from the oppressors’ perspective, that is controversial, sure.”
I don’t believe marginalised people asking for oppressors to stop committing violence against you is controversial – but then that appears to be exactly what Chakykin is also asking for – that is not the where there is controversy, at least not within the confines of who is likely to read the book. No one appears to be intellectualising violence – not even Chaykin. It’s clear from the image and what he’s said and the context of the book that he is disgusted by physical (as opposed to depicted) violence and wants people to have a visceral reaction.
I never once argued that only LBGTQIA people should be allowed to write stories about LBGTQIA people and I’m not going to further engage in a conversation where I’m willfully misinterpreted that way.
There’s nothing wilful going on. It’s certainly not my intention to misrepresent you in any way. There’s not really any point to doing so as the whole thing would be in bad faith, which, ultimately would be a waste of time.
Using phrases such as “a straight interloper” certainly gives that impression – and, in conjunction with other, strains of argument which seem to be based on the same principle, such as those levelled at Lionel Shriver, is not an unreasonable interpretation.
It goes without saying that this disagreement is not about you or I, but about the issues and our understandings of them – there’s nothing personal in it. On that note, it’s probably a good time for me to step aside as my voice has been heard enough.
Ok. Let’s all have a cup of tea yeah? I’m going to put the kettle on…
*puts kettle on*
Stating the obvious: It’s not nice to see people get upset. Which I guess is the point of all of this? Trying to stop people getting hurt and/or upset? Or maybe the point we all keep missing? Or something else maybe?
I’m going to try and act as a peace maker here. But I’m not sure if it’s going to work (and maybe it’s a bit arrogant for me to try? I don’t know. People have referred to me as a moderator and maybe the power is going to my head? Or also: ha! Maybe there’s no peace to make and we’re all actually good? In both cases: well – oops! Sorry).
But anyway – wish me luck!
Like: I confess – for me my idea of fun is thinking about arguments and thinking about how they work and taking them apart and trying to understand them. Don’t know if I’ve said this before (most probably yes): but when I was a kid I thought if I went and studied Philosophy then I’d be able to win any argument ever. That I could look at an argument and understand how it worked and then just be able to say to people: “Well – you see. X plus Y actually equals Z. And not 3 like you so mistakenly thought.” and people would look at me and nod their heads and go: “Oh. Now I see I am mistaken. Thank you kind sir.” And they would go off on their way happy that they had learnt something and I had shown them the error of their ways.
Just to be clear: not that I had a big fixation on winning (although maybe a little bit – it is fun to win after all): but more that I just wanted to be able to have direct access to the big shimmering ice-cold diamond called “THE TRUTH” and I wanted to be able to make TRUTH slushies and then give them to other people for free. Because you know: I thought that would be cool.
Also: well – I guess maybe I believed that being able to understand the world would give me some kind of peace? (In fact I feel like that’s what I believe now: that understanding how the world works and why it does the things it does and people and why people do and say the things they do is the best way to have a quiet mind / a sense of peace). And you know: socialism is our only hope etc (or whatever).
Ooh – kettle’s done. Who wants tea?
I mentioned before about my twitter use. I’m not a massive tweeter but I do use it a bit. Do you know that thing where you follow people when you join but it’s all a bit pick and mix? Well – there’s this one guy that I can’t remember why I followed him but more and more the stuff that I hear him say (well tweet) just makes me nod my head like it’s on a spring. I don’t know if you know him already but his name is Freddie deBoer. He’s an American dude who is very passionate about left-wing ideals and I kinda love him because I’m in love with left-wing ideals too and he pretty much expresses all the things that I think and feel.
There’s an article he wrote last week that I’ve kinda been toying with the idea of posting in it’s entirety. It’s about free speech on campus but if you change the word “campus” to “comics” it feels like it’s basically all exactly the same. It’s called There’s no pro-campus censorship theory for me to debate. I would recommend everyone to read it because well – it says a lot of things in a cool and clear way and maybe it can help us all to understand each other a bit more?
I’m resisting the urge to just post the whole thing but I think this line (and idea) is very important:
Politics is about principle, not about teams.
I love this. If I could – I would kiss it. Because it’s something that’s been floating around the back of my mind for a really long time and then – well: Freddie deBoer went and put it on the page for me so I could understand it – so that’s cool (thank you Freddie!).
I mean: it’s always been my approach anyway – you know: what are the principles that we should believe in? That will make the world better? That will help us all to get along with each other? And well yeah: if you have principles then that should help you get where you want to get to – right?
(Of course: I realise that looked at from the other way of the lens: maybe this is because I’m an unwitting member of Team Garbage Man and I just don’t realise it or whatever? Well ok maybe it’s possible I guess…)
But then: there’s a part of me that feels like we’re all on the same team here no? More stating the obvious: the reason you’re here and reading these words right now is because you’re a comics fan. And everyone who’s written something has that same thing: they love comics and they want to express that love by thinking about comics and writing about comics and trying to project that love of comics out into the world. And well you know: I think that’s a really cool thing and should be celebrated. 🙂
Also: as well – like I said before: my best guess / gut feeling is that everyone in the LGNN Book Club is politically “on the left” you know? We all want equal rights and respect and recognition for everyone. Fully Automated Luxury Communism. And shit – I think that most people here react in horror and disbelief in the idea that the things they think or say are repressive to minorities because – hell – nobody wants to be that person.
And well the Chaykin cover thing seems like a perfect storm where all of a sudden* this group that should be unified over it’s love of this one thing (comics) is now split in two and at each others throats sorta (I’d love to make a Civil War reference here – but oops: I know that the majority of people here think that Mark Millar is the ultimate Garbage Man so I won’t).
*altho oops – actually I guess it’s more complicated than this tho – like: Image had the transphobic Airboy in 2015 and there was all the outrage about The Divided States of Hysteria #1 so: you know – there’s a whole narrative there about how Image are crappy and bad. Which LOL actually ties in well with what we were talking about at the start of this thread with The Walking Dead (remember that?) and the whole thing of like: how much do you need to know about something before you start criticizing or critiquing it? You know: like – is it possible or fair to talk about the Chaykin Cover in isolation? Or does it need to be discussed in terms of the “Image are crap” narrative?
I don’t know. Or I don’t know – it’s complicated yeah?
But hey: here’s the thing that I wanted to do / wanted to try. Because well yeah – just between you and me: I’m not really on the Boo Chaykin side because well I’m a leftie and I believe in the principal of free speech (Quote: “To suppress free speech is a double wrong. It violates the rights of the hearer as well as those of the speaker.” – Frederick Douglass) but you know I want to understand the Boo Chaykin side because (oops) still so far I feel like I don’t. When I was drafting this in my head I thought that maybe I’d just be like: well ok guys you know – what are the principals that you’re putting forward here? But then: oops. I realised that maybe that had the danger of sounding too combative maybe? And you know actually – maybe what was needed was to try and see things from the other side? So like: what follows is an attempt to try and see things from the Boo Chaykin side and to be like: you know – there’s stuff that we probably all do agree on? And maybe it would help if we work from there to try and get somekind of consensus maybe? (I mean: I know t’s unrealistic – but a guy can dream right?)
If I do get this wrong then please point out the parts that I do – but you know keep in mind that I’m not trying to cause offense ok?
So: just keeping it about the Chaykin cover and not going on to the other Image stuff: it seems that the main thing is that people who have seen the cover have been hurt by it. Ok. That bit I understand. And obviously – hurting people is bad and no one wants to hurt people. So – what should be done?
Some suggestions that I agree with:
(You know: starting off on trying to find the common ground like):
1. There should be trigger warnings on covers showing graphic images.
This one I agree with. I mean: that’s something that would make sense and something I think most people would agree with too? Like: if an image is 18+ then yeah: it should be kept out of the way of people who’ll feel distressed seeing it.
2. There should be more creators from more diverse backgrounds
I agree with this too mostly. More creators from more diverse backgrounds is cool because it means more perspectives. Only I don’t think it’s a good that people from x background should only write or create stories about x people. You know: people writing about different experiences and different perspectives can only be a good thing – no? Even if they get in wrong it’s still a learning experience. But lol – this is actually a whole thing in itself right?
3. We should critique and criticise the things you don’t like / disagree with
Hell yes to this one too. I mean: the LGNN Book Club is basically just a critique of everything (LOL). And I know that even the stuff I love has problematic elements. And you know: criticising something you love isn’t a bad thing. In fact – it can even be a good thing because you know: it can help you understand things better innit and etc. Like: fuck – if someone wants to write a thing about the Chaykin cover is the latest of a long line of simplistic representations of Muslims and minorities in general then hell yes – I will retweet that with a smile on my face and a song in my heart.
(Oh! Speaking of! THIS SO SO SO MUCH: “Back in May, at the Roundhouse Poetry Slam, the brilliant Suhaiymah Manzoor-Khan took to the stage to denounce the importance of being one of those good Muslims, as opposed to one of the bad ones. I refuse to have to prove my humanity to you by cracking a smile, and saying how “I also cry at the end of Toy Story 3”, she said, her voice shaking with intensity and focus. I won’t try to tell you about “the complex inner worlds of Sumeahs and Aishas.” “No,” she insists, “this will not be a ‘Muslims are like us’ poem. I refuse to be respectable … Because if you need me to prove my humanity, I’m not the one that’s not human.””)
4. Overthrow Capitalism et al
LOL. Yes. Obviously.
I hope all of this is helping to give a sense of what side I’m on and where I’m coming from? (Fingers crossed).
Ok. Here’s the stuff that I don’t agree with:
5. We should ban comics that hurt minorities
I haven’t read all the articles about the Chaykin cover but from the ones I have read and from what’s been said on this thread so far – this seems like something that people are kind of swimming around but no one’s actually said? (I could be wrong about this tho). I mean: hey there are books and books and books about free speech and etc and as far as I can tell (and what my politics tells me) is that free speech is good and things shouldn’t be banned unless they cause real physical harm. Like a few things I’ve seen have done this thing where they mention a horrific incident of violence and then say: and then there’s this Chaykin cover. But well the Hypodermic needle model (“a model of communications suggesting that an intended message is directly received and wholly accepted by the receiver”) is pretty much bunk at this point right? And well – banning things is never the answer and free speech is good.
Don’t think anyone has mentioned this yet – but OMG: am I the only one here who remembers the 90s and the right-wing were trying to ban every-fucking-thing in the world? You know: women kissing women on TV or black character acting too uppity and not showing enough respect to their betters or violent computer games corrupting the nations youth etc etc etc. Banning things doesn’t work. Like: fuck – if it did then I’d be in favour of it. If banning violent pictures stopped people being violent to each other because it didn’t put the idea into their head in the first place then I would be first in line to sign the petition.
But shit – maybe no one is suggesting this at all? You tell me.
6. Image should apologise / say sorry
I mean this one I kinda get. When someone hurts you it’s nice if they say sorry. Definitely. And shit – several different people have told me at several points that I say sorry too many times (the English disease). But – well: companies are not people. And official apology doesn’t really mean anything no matter how it’s worded. Because well – publishers and etc are just there to make money. And that obviously sucks (and how much better would a socialist utopia be – right guys?) but then – I dunno – maybe we should concentrate on that and how money underpins everything in our sick sad society instead of getting upset that a company is making money in a way that we might disagree with? But yeah – an apology is just tokenistic bullshit and doesn’t actually do anything right? But hey – feel free to disagree…. (I’m sure you will).
7. We should shame Image and Image editor Eric Stephenson until they change their ways
This one I kinda get too. But also: I don’t know seems kinda self defeating? Going again to Freddie deBoer he wrote a short thing called “marginalized people don’t need politeness, they need power” and there’s one bit that I want to underline several times in red ink:
Shaming culture teaches people from dominant groups that policing their language and thoughts is sufficient to achieve change. But you cannot be polite enough to black people, as a white person, to undermine white supremacy. You cannot be respectful enough to women, as a man, to dismantle patriarchy. You cannot celebrate LGBTQ people sufficiently, as a straight person, to reduce homophobia. Instead, tackling these things requires fighting for changes that will actually cause you real diminished status, as a member of a dominant group — reparations, equal pay laws, legalization of the undocumented. Thus shaming culture, though derided as too harsh on white people, men, and cis/het people, actually lets us off the hook.
I mean: this. A thousand times this.
Like: again (I hope that we’re not just going around in circles but who knows?): but if you want to affect the things that affect us all – we all need better tactics: and instead of fighting individuals I feel like it makes more sense to fight the systems. I mean: LOL. Obviously that sounds very pie in the sky and if this was a few years ago I’d say maybe you’re right. But guys – come on: the left is on the insurgence! Now is our time!
But in order to get there – we need allies and communities and we need to reach out. And we can’t do that if the only thing that we think can unite us is our identities or our teams or whatever you want to call it. We need things that everyone can get onboard with. And if you’re dismissing people because they’re Garbage Men or whatever: well – you’re never going to break out from your circle and bring more people in.
And yeah: you can dismiss everything that I’ve written here and say that I’m for the side of evil or whatever. But well: you know – I’m trying my best here to be understanding and to reach out. And maybe if both sides of this can find some common understanding then that would be cool?
I mean: shit. Sorry. I totally didn’t mean to write so much but it kinda got away from me. And there’s more that I want to add but I’ll just click “send” and maybe someone else can sort it out?
The Walking Dead, is all about change. And that is what makes it so unsettling.
And its endlessly posing questions – how would you cope with this, and that.
Once you have got the basics – the variations on it are endless. Thankfully they
have kept away from someone doing dumb things. Everyone is hyper vigilant – and
that makes it even more disturbing. When Sophia goes missing is probably the best
example of this. I have so far enjoyed the graphic novels and the TV series.
Hello! Yes, I’m new here, so this is mostly to introduce myself.I just picked up TWD so I can read it and contribute to the conversation proper. 🙂
I’m not a fan of the TV series *at all* though I’ve heard the comic is better. I also find it daunting to start a series with hundreds of back issues, which is why I haven’t made the attempt until now, and why I don’t read established superhero stuff.
I like horror comics and I read Kirkman’s Outcast, though I’m a few months behind. (I usually prefer binge reading to reading each issue as it comes out. I prefer binge watching television also.)
Um. What else. Let’s see.
I’m not in London, I live in Sweden, though I have family in London and visit sometimes.
So, I guess I’ll jump right into the Chaykin portion of the conversation, since I’ve read the first issue of Divided States of Hysteria anyway.
On Saturday, July 1, 2017 at 9:34:30 PM UTC+2, Abidali Fazal wrote:
> Ok so I’ve read it. And i had a nap.
> The nap was ok…but I dribbled on the pillow and it wasn’t long enough.I’m tired.
> The book was slightly intriguing, mildly discomforting and full of characters I could read more about .it has the usual set up issue vibe for a larger story which I’m interested to know more about.
> Much of the talk about it I’ve seen doesn’t really seem relevant to the actual full content on the pages of the book. Lots for all sorts of ppl to get potentially upset about but I think that might be missing the point of it? The short essay at the back is worth a read; it has things worth reflecting on. I’ll read the next one and see if it pans out. This isn’t a book to make anyone feel better about themselves. If that’s what anyone was expecting then i can only suggest looking elsewhere….and maybe not looking for it from every comic book out there….it’s just not gonna happen…and maybe that’s ok.
I think my impression was pretty similar to yours.
I found the first issue heavy on backstory and setup. I think trying to introduce five unrelated protagonists was too much in so few pages, while also set up the alternate contemporary American dystopia and lay out the inciting incident with the terrorist attack.
I think I would have preferred a more coherent story focusing on F. Villa and the terrorist attack, and then introducing the other characters as they enter the storyline.
As it stands, I don’t really understand a lot of what I think was supposed to be dramatic tension with Villa trying to alert his superiors to the attack, and why they would dismiss it. And then suddenly he has a team and drones to track the terrorist and I just don’t understand how we got from A to B.
I also thought the specific personal motivation of the terrorists went largely unexplored, and I would have liked to understand more about them in this issue. Obviously they’re Islamic extremists but, to me, Erikia was also the most interesting character introduced in the book, and I’m sorry she won’t be a regular. She was the character who I found most complex and compelling, anyway, and I would have liked to read more about her.
I’ve often noticed how mainstream American discourse about Muslims and Islam is centered on South Asian/Middle Eastern/North African immigrant communities, and largely neglects the existence of the African-American Muslim community, and I felt like in Erikia, Chaykin draws attention to this. (And I also wonder if the choice of her name isn’t a nod to Ericka Huggins, and the history of Black radical activism in America.)
To see Erikia, a Black American feminist, become an Islamist suicide bomber was an interesting commentary on the way fundamentalists and extremists exploit communities that are already marginalized and disenfranchised in wider society and I thought the treatment of the terrorists, especially, was more nuanced than I would expect in a comic, especially an American comic, where the cultural prevalence of an overly-simplified black & white world view, where things are uniformly good or evil (right or wrong, left or right, red or blue, etc.) usually prevails.
I also find an underlying subtext of the ideas that good people can do bad things, bad people can do good things, that morality isn’t cut and dried, and that the good and bad things we do are done in the context of the options the society we live in allows us. And those options, and the outcome of our actions, depends a lot on who society says we are, and that sometimes it feels like violent expression is the only way to break out of the role we’re assigned.
I’m not loving the book, but much of the work in art and literature I find most thought provoking, I don’t love uncritically or even find abrasive. I’ll probably read at least to issue #4 (the one with *that* cover) because I want to put the artwork in the context of the accompanying story.
Prior to this, my only reference for Chaykin was his work as the writer of Grey Mouser and I’d have been hard pressed to remember his name. It’s unlikely I ever would have looked twice at this book if not for the furor over it, and now I’ve read the first issue of DSoH, and all of his Midnight of the Soul series, which I preferred artistically to the first issue of DSoH, and also Mighty Love, which I really enjoyed.
One thing I’ve realized, reading some of Chaykin’s other work, is that beneath his stylized pulp-action comic illustration, what he’s saying tends to explore some very dark elements. Even Mighty Love, ostensibly a superhero rom-com, has some very dark underlying points about how we participate in corrupt systems.
I think Chaykin’s artistic style lends itself best to a kind of retro “golden age of comics” setting, like in MotS. I also thought the opening of MotS, with the parallels, was beautifully constructed, as are the recurring flashbacks to the concentration camp.
It occurs to me that maybe some of the upset over cover #4 which is grounded in the idea people think Chaykin’s “making a joke” out of lynching might be partly based in misreading his art style, it might have read differently in that regard if drawn by someone with a grittier style. Because I don’t think that cover was intended as a joke.
FWIW, my opinion is the #4 cover was a commentary on the way American culture stereotypes Muslims and how the hate-based rhetoric in American political discourse is dehumanizing Muslims and making them a target for violence in the same way that dehumanization has historically been used to create an atmosphere where violence against certain people is socially acceptable.
I could probably write a few thousand words on the first issue and the symbolic elements in the artwork of the original #4 cover and what I think Chaykin might be saying about contemporary American culture (like “hate and lynching are as much a part of American culture as apple pie” as suggested by the prominence of the restaurant sign advertising dessert in the background) but this is already wicked long.
God, I hope that didn’t make you all hate me and I promise my next post will be on The Walking Dead.
Nice to meet you all.
If we’re actually talking about Divided States Of Hysteria #1, I wrote a piece on BC about how Chaykin is pushing the same buttons he always has, but that in the interim the keyboard layout has changed and he is creating something he doesn’t intend.
I also think the point of Howard’s book wasn’t specifically to court controversy, but to express his rage and disgust at the state of the world, more specifically the state of politics in the U.S. The book’s narration starts off pointing the finger at an American tradition of lies. The message is very clearly that there is something wrong with the United States and that people are reacting in extreme ways as a result. Everyone feels powerless, and these characters choose to assert power over their situations in less than traditional ways, which is what leads to their arrests. Then New York City is destroyed, and we learn that it’s actually not Muslim Jihadists responsible but other insidious forces with no allegiance to religion or ideology. A theme is eventually established that we can either stand together or fall separately. It’s not called Divided States of Hysteria by accident.
The actual reaction though? The exact opposite of his intent, through his own clumsiness and broad brushstrokes which makes the book a failure.
I think Chaykin’s prepared statement and subsequent pseudo interview have made it clear that the comic was received exactly as intended.
Yes, the goalposts have moved since Black Kiss and American Flagg and whatever else, but Chaykin is well aware of what the landscape is and what it takes for a fading star like his to achieve notoriety. Nothing was left to chance and as Si Spurrier observed on Twitter, the racial slur on the nametag is the smoking gun. There’s no wiggle room there.
There’s also no wiggle room in the fact that Eric Stephenson has allowed a series of brutally transmisogynist depictions to go unaccounted for while also projecting the image, pun fully intended, of being an LBGTQIA ally by using rainbows on social media and, this year, introducing pride variants into the mix. Chaykin’s history of grotesque depictions of trans women is very well known, I’m pretty sure Bleeding Cool ran a piece about it very recently, so why DHOS #1 was ever considered for a pride variant is beyond me.
There’s putting a pride variant on DHOS #1 despite the trans panic scene, there’s Airboy, and there’s John Layman harassing a trans woman critic right out of the industry for calling out the running man-in-a-dress “joke” in Chew for a start.
Image can publish whatever it wants, but no one gets to profit from claiming to be an ally to my community while also publishing material that viciously dehumanizes me, so I’m not reading another Image comic until Stephenson resigns.
I may be giving Chaykin credit for depth of political understanding that he doesn’t deserve, but from what’s on the page issue #1 I thought that it was an Islamic terrorist act he was showing, and that the point he’s highlighting is that despite the flag it waves, extremism (irrespective of ideology) is an ally of extremism.
Unless you’re suggesting it’s intended to portray a false flag attack by radical black activists?
I took the medical student Aarif explicitly stating his ethnicity would mark him out as suspicious in a climate that equates Asian and Middle Eastern men with Islamic terrorism to indicate it was an Islamist attack, along with the comments the women made to each other and Erikia donning a headscarf before they blew themselves up. I understood it in the context of how, in the real world extremist groups target marginalized segments of society for recruitment and use them to commit acts of terrorism in their own countries.
But again, it’s possible I could be giving Chaykin too much credit, and he just wanted to be offensive by drawing black women blow themselves up for Allah.
Personally, I don’t think that, though. I think it’s an observation on how terrorist groups recruit from marginalized groups, how fragmentation and balkanization of group identity makes groups vulnerable to that kind of exploitation. Whether it’s white nationalists recruiting from economically disadvantaged white populations, or foreign groups like Daesh targeting immigrants and muslims in Western countries, though I think Chaykin’s focus here is on his own house, commenting on how division manifests into extremism in the left.
To me, it was also worth noting Chaykin came of age during the era of violent left-wing extremism in the US, at a time when the Weather Underground, the Black Liberation Army, the SLA, etc. were actively committing terrorist attacks. Something like over two thousand domestic bombings were carried out in the United States between 1970-1972. (Don’t quote me without fact checking that number though. It was a lot, anyway.) I feel like that context may inform some of Chaykin’s commentary, anyway.
I do understand why this book upsets people, especially people on the left. Much like I understand why Piss Christ violently upsets Christians, to make a comparison with another piece of art that infuriated many people in the creator’s own identity group. But I disagree that the vehement negative reaction marks it as a failure.
“Left” is a very tricky thing. When Joel, writing from England, says he can probably comfortably say that participants here are leftward leaning, that, to me, means Corbynite and adjacent. Whereas Jeremy Corbyn is considerably to the left from the United States’ most left leaning prominent politician Bernie Sanders, and also further left than Emmanuel Macron or Justin Trudeau, the later of whose country I’m writing from. I vote further left than Trudeau’s centrist Liberals.
Either way, to me, Divided States of Hysteria is Suicide Squad fan fic calibrated to be as crude and blunt as possible. The trans woman character that Chaykin has said is the moral center of the comic is clearly its Harley Quinn. The black sniper is just as obviously Deadshot.
Alternatively, you could look at the second American civil war angle and say he’s following what Brian Wood and company did with DMZ for Vertigo a decade ago. All Chaykin has in this comic is shock factor. The rest is fragments of things other people have executed better. We would never have looked twice at DHOS if it hadn’t been so specifically cruel and ill timed.
I am going to try and reply as to what I think the intent was, not what I believe the effect was. This is not me playing Devil’s Advocate – or rather that is not my intent, it may be the effect.
Yes, the goalposts have moved since Black Kiss and American Flagg and whatever else, but Chaykin is well aware of what the landscape is and what it takes for a fading star like his to achieve notoriety. Nothing was left to chance and as Si Spurrier observed on Twitter, the racial slur on the nametag is the smoking gun. There’s no wiggle room there.
There is wiggle room in how the word is intented. In the US, it is not received as a severe racial epithet. In the UK it is one of the worst. Stephenson is an Anglophile though, so he would have known how it would go down over here.
There’s also no wiggle room in the fact that Eric Stephenson has allowed a series of brutally transmisogynist depictions to go unaccounted for while also projecting the image, pun fully intended, of being an LBGTQIA ally by using rainbows on social media and, this year, introducing pride variants into the mix. Chaykin’s history of grotesque depictions of trans women is very well known, I’m pretty sure Bleeding Cool ran a piece about it very recently, so why DHOS #1 was ever considered for a pride variant is beyond me.
For a while Chaykin was the only creator who did portray trans characters in mainstream comic books on a regular basis. And portraying them in pulp fiction, using them with all the fetishistic tropes he could lay his hands on. For some, this was better than nothing. He hasn’t changed his approach, while everyone else has. The character in DHOS is an example of that revenge trope, someone who has been raped/abused/assaulted and uses that to justify murderous revenge. For some, that is a symbol of empowerment and I think that’s what Howard thought he was doing, and justfied that cover. It did not work.
There’s putting a pride variant on DHOS #1 despite the trans panic scene, there’s Airboy, and there’s John Layman harassing a trans woman critic right out of the industry for calling out the running man-in-a-dress “joke” in Chew for a start.
Layman recently reposted his own experience being harassed out of comics by Chaykin himself.
Image can publish whatever it wants, but no one gets to profit from claiming to be an ally to my community while also publishing material that viciously dehumanizes me, so I’m not reading another Image comic until Stephenson resigns.
A defensible and consistent stance. I don’t believe that will happen for a decade, however. And even then I expect he would be kept on as an advisor/recruiter, or even made partner. His decision to publish The Walking Dead – dammit, back on topic – will keep him in whatever job he wants to be in for sometime.
I rather like his use of media as background noise, interrupting the events, breaking down the comic book form and reality, as something always buzzing under the surface. As a device, I think it worked well and is very stealable.
I’d noted the Suicide Squad aspect but not the specific characters being referenced. I guess you also have a Poison Ivy too?
Great analysis Frankie. I think you may well be onto something with Chaykin’s coming of age informing the BLA, SLA, WU, Yippies, Steal this book etc. The left wing extremists in the US (and Paris / Europe) were most definitely Marxists / Lenninist Revolutionaries / Maoists, many of them working in tandem with, or funded by Soviet Intelligence, so most definitely left in the “traditional” sense (although as Emma points out “Left” is a broad church).
I agree that offence is not enough to say it’s a failure. I don’t even REALLY know if offence was Chaykin’s intention, I suspect it was tangential – “speak and be damned!” etc..
Regardless of whether or not it’s artistically a failure, it appears that Chaykin is angry about something himself, and that the “shocking / offensive” nature of his work more comes from his own sense of anger, shock and frustration – and maybe Image’s choice to publish more stems from the fact that, no matter how hackneyed the form of his work or how badly expressed, or his inability to understand certain marginalised voices, it’s saying something (that might be) nevertheless important for people to hear at this time in history that few, if any, are saying.
Good point to clarify. When I used “left” in this discussion, I’m using it in the context of American politics, since that’s the cultural framework for the story. In our government too, Bernie Sanders & co would be centrist (and Clinton would be to the right), and I also vote well to the “left” of that. 🙂
My understanding of the American usage of “left” is as an umbrella term for social and/or economic liberals and progressives that’s commonly used to cover everyone not under the “right” umbrella of social and fiscal conservatism. Though in speaking to individual Americans, personal position is often much more nuanced.
Alright, so since reading Joel’s email I’m responding to, I’ve had the cup of tea, then an energy drink, and then another, cause I could right away see this getting long and complicated. So here it goes – Joel, you were hoping someone would come along to sort it out. I don’t know that I’m here to do that, exactly, but now I’m pumped up with an amount of caffeine I told myself I would no longer subject my body to, so here goes.
To begin with, I think there’s a number of concepts that have gone undefined for too long, leading to some misunderstanding. One of them is offence – as in, causing or taking offence, being offensive, etc. The purest meaning, in my mind, is offence vs. defence – that is to say, an attack, causing harm. Most people understand the term to mean an annoyance, something you don’t like being said, but I’d say that’s an inaccurate portrayal of what the people upset by the Chaykin cover are talking about. The definition of offence as attack is, I think, much more illuminating. Like most attacks, offensive words and images can be direct or indirect. Direct offence would be personal attacks, impugning the character of another person, advocating for physical harm to come to them, etc. Indirect attacks, however, are (I guess unsurprisingly) much less commonly understood to be attacks. This would include using stereotypes, or stereotyped portrayals of an entire group to perpetuate a negative public view of individuals belonging to the group, denying the reality of historical oppression, or, as is the case with Chaykin, causing real hurt to real people by exposing them to images of what Chaykin himself believes to be a real danger to them. The image isn’t offensive because it’s not fun to look at. It’s offensive because it is a direct depiction to people who feel themselves to be in physical danger of the grizzly specifics of the danger they feel themselves to be in. It’s saying “this is what society holds in store for you”. It doesn’t matter if that statement is factual. It doesn’t matter if that’s the intent of the image. That’s the direct result. I don’t think it ought to be a controversial statement that that is, by definition, a violent act.
The next loose topic I wanted to talk about is personal responsibility, personal ethical lines. I think what frequently gets ignored when we talk about structural issues is the personal responsibility of everyone involved in the system. Corporations are not people – you are right in that, Joel – but they ARE run by people. People who have personal responsibility, same as you and I. Them being at the head of a corporation doesn’t/shouldn’t remove that responsibility from them. My responsibility as an individual consumer is similar to that of a critic, to that of a creator, and that of a publisher. We all act in accordance to what we believe to be right. True, we can at times wave some of our personal responsibility when we are acting as agents of a system – “I don’t agree with this personally, but I am acting on behalf of a system I believe to be of greater importance than my own personal beliefs, and am therefore setting my views aside”. Even in that instance, however, a person is using their personal responsibility to make a decision that in their personal view, their belief in the system they’re acting as part of is greater/more important than their other beliefs. So, a creator chooses to write or draw something with a particular point of view, the publisher publishes it, making a decision that the point of view, as well as the specific artistic expression is worthy of being published by them, and the audience assesses it, choosing to then to critique it, recommend it, allow it to inform their future buying decisions, etc. The entire chain is a series of decisions where a person is making a choice. Unless their choice is entirely lacking in intelligent thought, the choice would then presumably have some sort of a defensible rationale behind it.
I hope we can all agree that me exercising what small amount of power I have to criticize a creator’s work does not rise to the level of censorship. For starters, I do not have the physical ability to censor anyone, even if I do express my view to a publisher that they made a mistake in publishing something, or to a creator that I dislike the work they’ve created. It is somewhere around here that the argument about freedom of speech tends to break down, but I’m having a hard time pointing at the exact place where. The argument, it seems, is that in criticizing something, saying that it shouldn’t exist, I am advocating for the creation of some type of stringent rules that would make it impossible for it to exist, when that is simply not the case. What I am doing is trying to get the people hiding behind a corporation (made of people) to accept some personal responsibility for what they’re putting out. I’m trying to get creators to see that their creations have real world effects (those entirely unwilling to accept this, whose frequent refrain is “what do I know, I just make funny books, I don’t affect anything” baffle me to no end – why, then, waste your time?). I’m trying to get publishers to accept that they play a role in deciding what specific art sees the light of day. Editorial decisions are not all censorship. A choice whether to publish something or not is not always censorship. A publishing house is fully within its rights to look at something and say “that’s vile. I won’t have anything to do with it. You’re free to do whatever you want with it, cause at no point did you sign anything that says your work is ours, because we’re Image, but we’re not gonna touch it with a 10 foot pole. Not because it’s going to be unpopular, but because only an asshole would publish it, and I would rather that neither me personally, nor my company is seen as assholes.”
This view that Image cancelling a book would amount to censorship is difficult for me to understand. What, exactly, places Image under the obligation to publish a specific comic? It doesn’t seem to be the quality of the book, right? It seems to me that their current criteria for publishing something is “are the creators popular enough to justify this?”. So is the system that you’re defending really that “once someone is famous enough to get in the room with Image, they have a fundamental right to be published by them”? I’m not saying that publishing known authors is an invalid way for a publisher to act – it’s pretty damn reasonable, in fact – but it only makes sense if we accept that getting published is absolutely not a right! It’s something that happens with a combination of talent, hard work, luck, and commercial success. And that being the case, it should be pretty apparent that arriving at the point in your career where one might be published by Image is definitely not a guarantee to be published by them in perpetuity. If lack of popular success is a reasonable barrier to being published by Image, why wouldn’t being a Garbage Man, or promoting actively harmful views and ideas be? Alternatively, if none of those are valid barriers, I’d like to announce my new Image title coming next month entitled Fuck Howard Chaykin: The Internet’s Understanding of Free Speech Says Image Has to Publish This or Else It’s Censorship. Similarly, Image is under no real obligation to cancel a title because of criticism. But it’s both prudent for them, as a business, to address the concerns – whatever form their response takes – and, as people, to take on the criticism and use it as an opportunity to determine if mistakes were made, and avoid them in the future.
I also want to respond to Joel’s description of his motive for studying philosophy. It seems to me there are two different ones being expressed – a desire to be able to formulate arguments well, and a desire to access Truth. And while arguing – and arguing well – can occasionally lead to uncovering what truth is, a problem I myself had with academic philosophy is that it generally seems unconcerned with the actual truth, and focuses instead on sophistry. Arguing well for the purpose of winning an argument; making, in the process, untrue things appear true. What Jeremy brought up – the inaccessibility of certain rhetoric on the left – is a valid concern. Discussing things with people that are experienced sophists is one of the most frustrating things in the world. You can’t compete, because they’ve had the training to become efficient arbiters what a valid argument is, so they can always just attack your failure to argue the right way without addressing the point being made in the slightest. The most frustrating result, however, is the (frequently unintended) attack on the possibility of the existence of truth as a concept. Considering all points of view (despite not agreeing with them) is a laudable goal. Saying that all points of view are equally valid, that “maybe everyone is right” is either disingenuous, or shows a fundamental lack of belief in the possibility of Truth. Is harming another person a bad thing to do? Either it is, or it isn’t, in my view.
This comes back to the Freddie deBoer’s article you linked to, on the issue of “censorship” in colleges, and his concern for the shutting up of conservative students on campus. He seems to be suggesting that anyone who’d like to speak at a college, or is famous enough to, or who any portion of the student body would like to hear speak, is entitled to do so. That to suggest that they shouldn’t speak because of the content of their speech amounts to censorship. Would he argue for the right of a flat-earth theorist to speak at the hypothetical college as much as he would, for example, for Milo Yiannopoulos’? That climate deniers should be given equal platform to actual climate scientists, to create a sense of balance and get Republican lawmakers off the colleges’ backs? If so, it is clear that he either doesn’t believe in the existence of truth, or claims that all points of view, even ones that are patently false, unsubstantiated, outdated, or riddled with deliberate lies, must be given equal weight and platform as those that promote reason. Alternatively, if he suggests that certain scientific untruths – likevegetable lambs and spontaneous growth of rodents are too preposterous to be spoken about seriously in college, while others, such as white supremacy aren’t, he’s merely showing that while both are equally untrue, he values certain truths over others, and certain people’s lives over others.
There’s a lot of that kind of “strategic” ranking or rating of both truths and people’s lives going around. It seems, the argument goes, that the important thing is that the “left” wins over the “right”. Of lesser importance is the impact of such a win on any individuals. A vanquishing of the capitalist, imperialist right would mean the solution of everyone’s problems everywhere, even if that victory is achieved at the cost of an alliance with people who are racist, sexist, transphobic, homophobic Garbage Men. The aim of everyone on the left is to build alliances, not piss any potential allies off by suggesting they may be doing anything wrong, ever, to listen to and address the grievances of oppressors while being just a little less concerned with those of the oppressed, cause that’s unpopular. That maybe if the left weren’t so concerned with identity politics, weren’t allying themselves with unpopular concepts and movements like “black lives matter”. Hilary might’ve won. We need things that everyone can get onboard with (everyone meaning – everyone other than the people critiquing the Chaykin cover, I guess?). That type of argument seems to me to go pretty directly against the whole “politics is about principle, not about teams” thing. Which, I like. It’s a nice way to put it. But what you’re doing is trying to get me to switch my allegiance from people I care about, people hurt by assholes like Chaykin, to a version of “the left” that welcomes those Garbage Men in with open arms – “Come on in! We might not agree on whether trans people, or people of color, or queer people like myself deserve any sort of dignity or respect, but we can sort all that stuff out after we beat the Right! We don’t mind not having rights or dignity until then.” Frankly, I’m not interested in an alliance with those people, and I suspect I wouldn’t much care for a world where that version of the Left wins, so I guess I’m sorry if I’m preventing our team from winning? I suppose I’m all about that principle, instead.
Finally, I want to talk about this ongoing thing about “who gets to tell whose stories”. Frankly, we’ve talked about this on the forum before, so I don’t want to retread things too much, but I do want to highlight something that’s jumped out at me of late. Chaykin, and his ilk, insist that they’re able to handle marginalized characters just fine. That there’s no substantive reason to claim that there’s any measure of sensitivity that would be lacking in the portrayals of marginalized people in their work. And then, when they miss the mark – as anyone is, frankly, likely to do from time to time – they wash their hands of any responsibility, cry political correctness and censorship, and express no willingness to change. Have you read Chaykin’s response to the controversy? He basically called his critics cucks and left it there. If you’re going to claim that you are able to provide unstereotyped, sensitively crafted marginalized characters, then be willing to prove it by accepting criticism from those marginalized groups when you get it wrong. You don’t get to have it both ways. Or, rather, you do – you’re still gonna get published (obviously), you’re just not gonna be very well liked on Twitter.
Not wishing to be the fly in the appointment on this thread, fascinating as it, but what book are we reviewing again?
We seem to have strayed a long way off topic!
The Walking Dead, Book 1. It’s about things that just won’t die. XD
I find it less obnoxious than the television series, which left a bad taste in my mouth with its pandering to conservative American values and its use of black characters as Red Shirts.
I’m not in love with the art so far, but I’m struggling to describe why.
I thought my irony there was high viz – not sure which I like best any more;
I find the TV show utterly miserable now which I never did about the comic.
The art in the first vol (maybe not all?) was done by Tony Scott who is not as good as Charlie Adlard who took over and is far more visceral.
Having re-visited book 1 I also found the dialogue (text whatever) very clunky and wooden which I hadn’t remembered….
There is room for multiple interpretations of Chaykin’s body of work regarding trans women by trans women for sure. I’m a fan of Chuck Palahniuk’s Invisible Monsters for approaching its trans characters on the same level as his cisgender ones, which is definitely a contentious opinion. I get it.
Where I take specific issue with DHOS #1 starts at how that narrative, the notion of a trans woman perceived as a deceiver who gets violently attacked when a cis male sexual partner sees her genitals, is pretty much the only narrative I’ve seen in my whole lifetime. I was eight years old when The Crying Game came out, for reference.
I’ve read Chaykin’s latest statements about that character and that sequence, and that aspect of his intent was never really in question. I got it, but it’s a very visceral and specific kind of trauma that calls up a very primal fear for many trans women that shouldn’t be tossed around casually.
There’s a subset of pornography that deals in eroticizing that scenario and I read that intent in Chaykin’s narration, which to me, felt deeply out of place and dehumanizing.
There are other ways to frame that scenario and one I would point to specifically as being much more considerate and sympathetic to a trans readership was what Tim Seeley and Marley Zarcone executed in their lamentably short lived Vertigo series Effigy.
In that instance, the character had been established as trans well in advance and it was made clear that she, a sex worker, was going to be framed for the murder of a client under similar circumstances. There was time to metabolize what was going to happen before it did and to choose to put the comic down before it happened without compromising the integrity of the story.
Chaykin has had decades to work through this and he still chose to calibrate it for maximum shock. In my opinion DSOH #1 is less cruel than Chew and far less cruel than Airboy #2 (which featured repeated slurs and really grotesque cartooning that clearly mocked trans bodies) but it’s still unecessarily careless and retrograde.
It really sucks that it might be a decade before I read another issue of Motor Crush, but a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do.
A sign of greater wokeness comes from watching older films. Everyone remembers the transpanic of Ace Ventura and Crocodile Dundee, but most forget it in Trainspotting.
Plenty of books – including Motor Crush – get translated and published in French a few months after US publication, and with better printing too. Another option.
I’m not really an “inspirational quotes” kinda guy but I did see a few a while back that said something like: “”when the revolution is for everyone then everyone will be for the revolution”” which I kinda loved and made me do a little “fuck yeah.”
I know that I’m labouring this point a lot – but I do think that most probably we all on here pretty much share about 98% of our beliefs. But you know: because we’re humans we’ve gotta bash each other’s heads in over that last 2% right? “Constantly escalating levels of violence” – right?
I really like Emma’s last email. I think it’s pretty obvious that me and her butt our heads together a lot (ouch) but I read what that I was like: “fuck yeah.” I also really liked Dziugas’s email too – in fact (oh my god you guys) I really love all of your fucking emails: I just you know – don’t have enough time to reply to them all and my fingers get tired…
I said before (quoting Freddie deBoer) that I was into “principles over teams” but actually thinking it over a bit more maybe that’s not quite right? Because actually I’m quite into the idea that we’re all on the same team and should all try our best to be united. To put the best case forward that will enable us all to create a better utopian future? Like: I pretty much guarantee that the vast majority of people out there would like to live in a world that’s not racist and sexist and transphobic and shit: it’s just we tend to fight a lot between ourselves as to the best way to get there (LOL).
I’m not sure that Emma will appreciate this (oops sorry Emma!) but I kinda feel that the best approach to bringing people onside is to do with the nuance she used describing the DHOS #1 scene. But shit (and this is point where we probably diverge in our views) but I feel like there is (or should be?) a difference in intensity between “transphobic” and what Chaykin does in DHOS #1 (and maybe the cover for DHOS #4 too?): like – call it “lazy writing” or “totally cliché” or “socially harmful” or maybe just “shitty” or maybe a combination of all the above?
I know that I’m wading into hot water here and maybe I should know my place and keep my opinions to myself? But here’s the thing – I WANT YOU TO SUCCEED. I want a world where comics are more inclusive and are better and aren’t leaving people like they’ve been harmed and are upset. And I want a world completely rid of transphobia and racism and sexism and etc. I’m just disagreeing on how to get there. And like: this isn’t directed at Emma in particular (altho obviously it seems like it because so far I’ve directed it all at Emma and said her name several times): but just the whole of Comic Twitter or whatever you want to call it. I mean from my POV (and this could be totally wrong because I’m just one person) but there’s been volcanic rage against anyone not fully on-board with the idea that Chaykin is trash (Garbage Man etc) and yeah I understand – Twitter isn’t for doing nuance. And you know: people get pissed off and angry and hurt and they want to express that…
But hey: my experience – I tried to talk to one big comics name person on Twitter because I disagreed / didn’t understand their point about how Image (creators are good) ethos (because well they seemed to be against it and well – I think creators rights have been hard won and should be celebrated etc): and well yeah – the person (who I won’t name) was rude and dismissive and condensing like a motherfucker and accused me of arguing in bad faith and etc so at the end my take-away feeling was basically just: “well – fuck you too then.”
And shit – yeah. I get the emotional reasons. And if you’ve spent your whole life being marginalized and having the power differentials go against you – not to mention having to deal with Nazis and MRA’s on twitter then maybe you can’t be a shiny happy person all the time. But you know my question is to those people: what is it that you want?
I want to expand a message of inclusion and community and find our points of agreement and build upon that. And maybe if we help each other then that’s the point we can get to?
On July 8, 2017 2:11:48 PM GMT+02:00, London Graphic Novel Network wrote:
>I’m not sure that Emma will appreciate this (oops sorry Emma!) but I
>feel that the best approach to bringing people onside is to do with the
>nuance she used describing the DHOS #1 scene. But shit (and this is
>where we probably diverge in our views) but I feel like there is (or
>be?) a difference in intensity between “transphobic” and what Chaykin
>in DHOS #1 (and maybe the cover for DHOS #4 too?): like – call it “lazy
>writing” or “totally cliché” or “socially harmful” or maybe just
>or maybe a combination of all the above?
I have some thoughts about that scene. (Of course I do.)I don’t think Emma’s criticism is unfounded, especially in the wider context of stereotypes in media representation. My favorite representations of minorities and marginalized people in fiction focus on them as individuals, rather than defining them by their identity as a member of a marginalized group.
I’m willing to give Chaykin some leeway here; as I understand what he’s said in interviews and editorials, one of the issues he’s tackling is that very tendency to divide and define ourselves and others by identity groups.
What I thought was most powerfully disturbing in that specific scene wasn’t the attack itself. I’d be genuinely surprised if anyone was shocked by the idea johns assault prostitutes, regardless of the sex or gender identity of the prostitute. I mean, we live in a world where there’s an entire Law and Order spin-off dedicated to all the myriad ways women can be violently sexually abused. I thought the most disturbing parts of that scene were in the details.
That Chrissie was convicted of statutory rape for having a relationship with a 14 year old when she was 16, and that when she’s arrested, her mug shot is taken using her male name are heartbreaking details that hammer home how deeply the system not only fails to protect Chrissie, but assists in victimizing and erasing her.
Obviously that would be common knowledge and experience for people who are trans, and I understand why that scene, beyond the overt violence, could elicit a visceral reaction. I think it’s worth considering also that Chaykin may have hit closer to the heart than people realize. I’ve seen a number of people reacting with anger to the Chrissie scene say not only that it’s a stereotype, or encourages violence against trans people, but also “We don’t need to be reminded of this!”
And I question whether something that’s *just* a crappy rehash of a tired stereotype would reach so many people on an emotional level.
I don’t think this portrayal is intended to demean people who are trans; I think the intention is sympathetic. But I also don’t think Chaykin is writing this for people who know that kind of systematic violation in a personal way. In the podcast interview I listened to, he summed up his audience as men in their 50s who are still reading superhero comics. Whether that’s actually who his readers are or not, that’s who he seems to think they are.
I think criticism of his work is legitimate
but I also think “you are not my audience” is a legitimate response to that criticism.
There’s the wider question, which probably goes beyond the scope of this already off-topic discussion, of the problem of “nobody is creating for me” but I don’t think attacking creators or publishers who are putting out work for another audience is useful or going to solve that problem.
>I know that I’m wading into hot water here and maybe I should know my
>and keep my opinions to myself? But here’s the thing – I WANT YOU TO
>SUCCEED. I want a world where comics are more inclusive and are better
>aren’t leaving people like they’ve been harmed and are upset. And I
>world completely rid of transphobia and racism and sexism and etc. I’m
>disagreeing on how to get there. And like: this isn’t directed at Emma
>particular (altho obviously it seems like it because so far I’ve
>it all at Emma and said her name several times): but just the whole of
>Comic Twitter or whatever you want to call it. I mean from my POV (and
>could be totally wrong because I’m just one person) but there’s been
>volcanic rage against anyone not fully on-board with the idea that
>is trash (Garbage Man etc) and yeah I understand – Twitter isn’t for
>nuance. And you know: people get pissed off and angry and hurt and they
>want to express that…
I think there’s a huge difference between criticizing, even attacking, a creator’s work – the content, the execution, the message, the physical object – and personal attacks, be they verbal or physical, on the *creator.*
It’s the same difference between opposing an -ism or ideology and attacking the -ists, the people who believe in it.
This distinction seems to be in increasingly short supply, and I think the rhetoric of “garbage humans” is pandering to the lowest common denominator on one’s own ideological team, whether that’s the far-right applying “garbage human” terminology to Jews and immigrants, racists applying it to people of other ethnicities, or the left applying it to the people they’ve designated ideological enemies.
It serves the same purpose in all cases–to dehumanize the target, to make them an acceptable focus for abuse and violence, and perhaps most importantly, to create a dynamic where the speech of the target is dismissed not on the basis of the content of the speech, but on the basis that it comes from a “garbage human” whose ideas and opinions have no value.
I’m not a fan of “garbage human” rhetoric. I don’t make a big fuss over it because what’s the point, the people using it don’t care, I’m not the dog they’re whistling for. (I’m probably a “garbage human” to boot.) But I do notice who uses it–on both sides of the aisle–and I quietly remember that.
On July 7, 2017 6:54:18 PM GMT+02:00, Andy > wrote:
>I thought my irony there was high viz –
Your irony was sublime. 🙂
>I find the TV show utterly miserable now which I never did about the
I watched until season 3 when Lori died. Just to see her die. I could go on for ages about all the things I didn’t like in the show; suffice to say, I was rooting for the zombies.
>The art in the first vol (maybe not all?) was done by Tony Scott who is
>not as good as Charlie Adlard who took over and is far more visceral.
I feel like the art lacks depth. But then, I don’t know if that’s a fair assessment because I’ve just read Monstress and Chaykin’s Time² and MotS and reread some Blacksad, all of which are full colour and visually dense.Maybe my main criticism would be that it feels like a missed opportunity for worldbuilding and ambiance and to set emotional tone.
>Having re-visited book 1 I also found the dialogue (text whatever) very
>clunky and wooden which I hadn’t remembered….
My recent reading makes this a hard assessment without making what might be an unfair comparison. It does tend to be heavy on dialogue and light on any kind of exposition or internal narrative.
I agree with Kirkman that the most interesting thing about a zombie apocalypse is how people act and react when the established norms and social order no longer matter or function.
I feel like some of the crisis moments he uses to show these are rushed though, that they come without enough build up to make them properly impactful. Like when Herschel has his breakdown and kicks them off his farm. His barn full of zombies escaped and ate some of his kids, but as a reader these weren’t characters I had any emotional investment in. I don’t remember if any of them even spoke. So when Herschel’s having his breakdown it doesn’t really have any emotional impact on me as a reader.
And the only real insight into Herschel’s character is the one conversation he has with Rick and the fact he’s keeping zombies alive in his barn instead of killing them. He’s horrified that he might’ve shot someone when he orders them to leave, presumably because that’s not the kind of person he was. But as a reader, during that scene, I have no reason to believe that this isn’t just another facet of Herschel’s character. A violent temper is not mutually exclusive with keeping your zombie son and neighbors in the barn because you can’t cope with the idea they’re really all dead.
Have you guys seen Silence?
No – not the the comics podcast: the Martin Scorsese film with Andrew “Pretty Boy” Garfield.
I watched it on Friday night and well – I guess because all the Chaykin stuff from here has been rattling around my head I kind of ended up connecting the two.
I’m not going to spoil Silence if you haven’t seen it – but there’s this bit where this people are going around torturing Christians (which is apparently all based on reall historical shit – but I don’t really know anything about that LOL): but before they can torture them they need to smoke them out first – because you know: how can you tell if someone is Christian or not?
So what they do is: they get a picture of Jesus and they put it on the floor and then they ask their suspect to step on it. Simple.
Altho – wait. What the fuck?
I mean: I know that I’m a godless heathen that has nothing but a lump of coal where my soul should be: but I just don’t get it at all. Like: if there was a choice between being tortured to death or having to step on a picture: I know which one I would choose every time.
But then: that’s the wild and crazy thing about humans right? Thanks to our beliefs and all the stuff inside our heads we endow the things around us with meaning: and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a starker illustration of that than with this stepping on the Jesus picture thing. I mean: it’s not even the real Jesus. It’s just a picture. Just a depiction and yet still – some people choose the meaning of it over their own lives. Which – wow. Yeah. That’s a heavy thing no?
Of course this got me to thinking about the Chaykin cover because well yeah – I’m not sure if either side of the boos versus the yays managed to make much progress into the inner sanctum of the other sides beliefs. Because well: how can you? If you were talking to someone who would choose torture and death over stepping on the picture then I’m not sure there’s much you could say in a tweet or an email that would get them to reconsider. For them the picture of Jesus is Jesus and stepping upon it is as unthinkable as stepping on the Moon. And for those who say or think or believe (however you want to define it) that the Chaykin picture is racist or racism or etc then well – maybe there’s no way to cross that rubicon. There’s no argument that can bring those from the outside in or those from the inside out.
The bit about whether you would stand by your religion in the face of torture is a proper theme, covered in the bible.
I’ve also read the idea that if a religion makes hard demands of its adherents, it impresses and converts bystanders. So if you consider a religion as a meme then making people die for their religion might not help the people but would help the religion.
Indeed I suppose any long term tradition, venerates whatever conditions are needed to keep that tradition alive, whatever the human cost. Like land in England. The landed gentry cared a great deal about having the family acres, not selling them and passing them down, because if they hadn’t they wouldn’t have and then they wouldn’t have been the landed gentry anymore.
The theme of standing up for ‘the truth’ was done brilliantly in The Others (the Nicole Kidman one with ghosts). The little girl is learning this bit in the bible and is saying exactly what you say. ‘Why not just lie, this stuff isn’t worth dying for!’
Then she says she has ‘seen’ a ghost and her mother insists she hasn’t, and punishes her until she will admit that she was wrong and didn’t see/hear anything. But the truth, that she did see a ghost, is a matter of principle and she won’t say what her mother wants to hear just to get out of her punishment. I don’t know if she made the connection herself, but she now had brilliant insight into why some truths are more important than an easy life (though admittedly she wasn’t going to be killed over it).
Of course there are real life examples too, e.g. Mormons refusing lifesaving blood transfusions.
I saw a Gresham lecture last year by a judge who the doctors called in to ‘force’ a teenager to accept a lifesaving blood transfusion (he had cancer, it was being treated, but he needed a transfusion to survive the treatment).
The judge spent ages listening to all parties and really getting into the roots of their beliefs. And he even told the boy that, as the person called in to judge the case, he could give him a metaphorical certificate to give St Peter to say he had been told he ‘had’ to take the blood transfusion.
So after submitting the judgement, that the boy should have a blood transfusion, he sat back all ready to deal with the appeals from the family’s lawyers, but there weren’t any. The family accepted the decision and the boy took the blood transfusion and lived.
There’s a sad sequel as the cancer recurred around 10 years later, the boy had the same choice to make as an adult, and this time he really did refuse a blood transfusion and died.
So I think the point is that listening to, and understanding people, is quite important.
Have to say, if TWD structurally went in mad directions like chats like this did, I’d still be reading.
On Baby Driver:
Please note the following musical soundtrack for this response –
“Who doesn’t like hats”
Pretty much sums up why I dug it. It made me laugh and despite deliberately existing in a story religiously dedicated to generic crime story structure and character archetypes it kept surprising me and making me laugh. And I mean, anyone whose learnt what “in” and “out” mean on editing software has to just sit there in awe of the craft on display. Rhythm, pacing and tension in the story manipulate excitement and humour (the latter in turn endearing us to the characters, forcing us to invest in archetypes and the turns the story forces them to take).
Also Richard Brody citing the Mike Myers joke as an example of weak dialogue may technically be true in that it doesn’t directly offer deep character insight, but for this story it functions beautifully as an example of something more important – abject hilarity. Come on Brody, you laughed at that joke, you had to. (I assume he was waiting for me to elucidate my view on a film he didn’t really like). Plus Hollywood “sweeteners” as an image? UGH – how obvious can you get.
Baby Driver is almost an art house film, in that it’s less concerned about a surprising plot or deeply intimate characters. It’s art house in that it’s often a technical experiment – can I tell a story in a very particular way? For Wright, he’s asking if he can edit a story to music to give it a sense of speed and excitement. Can his rhythmically ADHD camera and editing textures carry a story? Turns out it can. Sure he did it with a generic plot, but it’s not like those archetypes weren’t manipulated, especially since it delivered so many delicious surprises. It bleeds with really funny, surprising jokes that exist often because of the genre they’re playing off but because its edited to the point it has perfect comic timing.
I guess the thing about the Cornetto trilogy in comparison to this is that they married familiar genre structures to characters that would be interesting outside of the plot – whereas with Baby if they focussed on the music compositions he does, probably wouldn’t be that interesting. A man trying to get his girlfriend back and survive a zombie apocalypse. A master urbanite exiled to rural England finds himself trying to uncover a secret criminal conspiracy. Baby’s characterisation is the soundtrack, the rest of them are archetypes. Perfectly cast archetypes who say hilarious things. (Come on, the mute chats are glorious comedy). The love story is ridiculously underdrawn, existing simply because Wright religiously designed the most All American love story you can imagine – a pair of white, straight young models running away together after meeting in a roadside diner devoid of identity that’s wound up in the middle of a city. I guess the advantage of that is that it gives Baby a motivation, a goal and a more urgent reason to escape. It would have been more interesting if they didn’t have element, that it was all about the “good” father figure compelling him to leave and the “bad” father figure pushing him to leave. But at least we got some fun genre images out of it and a love story by notes over words.
I don’t buy that Wright has a lot of creative capital in Hollywood. It took 3rd party financing for this to get made. Wright is respected but after Scott Pilgrim, it looked like he was in a Charlie Kaufman place – respected, but far from profitable. I’d be hopeful that Wright tries to tell something next time that is surprising in it’s substance rather than it’s procedure. In the UK, yeah it would be easy for him to wander into channel 4, pitch some bold social dramedy and do whatever the fuck he wanted from there but if he doesn’t want to, if he’s more interested in playing with genre and exploring how we make stories, I’m down with that.
I made it all of 30 seconds into hearing Damon Albarn talk about Brexit, even if I have a Plastic Beach poster on my wall, spent all my money in Margate and spent the last 3 months obsessively consuming the output of Kong Studios. But when he makes those songs, it sounds beyond incredible. Point being – I will always be convinced that a new example of Edgar Wright storytelling is insanely exciting, but I’m not sure that I’m immediately interested in his political views on a potential two state solution.
But yeah, I really enjoyed Baby Driver and I want to see it again. It’s not his best, but it’s an interesting genre experience because of how fun it is. The new Spider Man is funny but goddamn is it visually the most bland thing I’ve ever seen. The fights are boring to look at and there’s only really one scene actually gives you a sense of tension. There’s fun dialogue and characters and performances, often really fun – but it’s so dull to look at. And it uses an old Spoon song – which is the definition of damning yourself with faint praise.
I don’t like hats.
(Didn’t JFK kill the hat?)
The midnight deadline for this whole thread is fast approaching and well yeah: I’m amazing and impressed by every single contribution so far. It’s been actually emotional. So that’s been cool. And you – thanks everyone.
Here and there I keep seeing things by people saying that there’s no “real conversation” to be had about this stuff (eg another fake conversation) and I guess there’s two different ways you can think about that. But for me at least I kinda feel that your assumptions are the things you should question the most. And well: yeah – I mean I think this is the most long (and vibrant) book we’ve done so far for the LGNN so saying that there’s no real conversation to be had feels – well – kinda disingenuous maybe?
But then: here’s also the thing – I don’t think Howard Chaykin is all that good. Like: a friend leant me a copy of DSOH #1 (WHOOP! Shout out to you dude!) and well yeah – even tho I sat down and tried to read it – I just got… bored. Something about it just didn’t sit in my brain and keep my attention. I mean – it wasn’t activity bad or anything – it just… well: there wasn’t really anything that I thought was that good either. And as for the Chaykin cover – I mean: I don’t really feel like it’s that good either you know? I mean: my first thought when I saw it was: “oh wow. That’s a bit too much maybe?” But it was more like being back at school and seeing someone draw a crazy picture that just wants to get a reaction (actually: LOL full disclosure – that kid was actually probably me: but whatever – that’s another story). And yeah: in and of itself – I just think that the Chaykin cover was more yawn-worthy than anything. But – fuck me – the conversations and ideas surrounding it? Well: yeah – I feel like I could write a book about it all and still keep going… I don’t think that makes it a good work of art or anything. But the reactions and the ideas that it kicked off – well yeah: all of these things are both interesting and very much worth discussing and understanding because well yeah – otherwise I think we’re probably all fucked as a culture (LOL – maybe we are already).
And if all of this has been a “fake conversation” – well hey: thank you for all for being fake with me.
Re: Baby Driver. I mean: well yeah shoot. There’s lots of things that Baby Driver does good. Don’t get me wrong. Editing and funny bits and music and etc yeah. Ok. I mean it’s nearly 2 hours maybe. And if we’re going to break it all down into bits then shit – we could be here a while (that I feel is the big problem with most things: most things are big and take time to talk about and you know: there’s not enough time. Like if you wanna talk about everything that Baby Driver does: I honestly think we could talk for a day or so to make sure we get it all done you know?). But you know: if you want to grasp the nettle and get to the root of my issue with it it’s this: what’s the ideology that it espouses? You know: what does Baby Driver believe in? If instead of a film it was a person – what would that person say? And well: most of the things that person would say wouldn’t really be all that much worth listening to: because – like I said: it’s very heteronormative. It’s very very very white (not just the characters – but you know like you said Amir: roadside diners devoid of identity etc): plus well: it’s moralistic as fuck. Crime doesn’t pay. Be a good citizen. Authority always wins. STATUS Q! STATUS Q! etc.
And well – you know what I like? And you what I think art should do? (Or maybe rather I should say: I’m more tickled by or whatever): but yeah – I respond better to things that aren’t so moralistic and simple and instead challenge me and push me in new and cool ways. Going back to Silence again (oops sorry no – still not the podcast) I mean shit – you know one of the cool things about Silence? It kinda doesn’t resolve in the ways that you think it would. It doesn’t have a “message” that you can write down on a piece of paper you know? It’s slippery. And it says more than you think it does. I mean: when I first watched it I was like: that film is actually better than it realises it is. Like: I kinda felt like it was doing things that Martin Scorsese didn’t even realise (SPOILERS the final shot of the film kinda seems like says one thing: that belief and faith are important and will keep you strong. But when I watched it: I kinda felt it as a nihilistic fuck you: everything is meaningless and all we have our symbols that mean nothing separate from our consciousness. And well: I don’t know – part of me feels like maybe Scorsese realised he was doing that and part of me feels like maybe he didn’t. But then also: I don’t feel like that’s the point. Because the film made me think and feel those things – and I think that is the point you know? Films and arts and comics and whatever are these complex objects that will affect and effect us in all sorts of cool ways: and that’s why I keep consuming them and wanting them to be better.
I read this after I watched Silence: Film Crit Hulk SMASH: Martin Scorsese Will Let You Be Wrong which captures some of my feelings and thoughts about it. And like yeah – it uses the really good example of Wolf of Wall Street: where – when it came out there was a big outcry about how dare anyone make such a film that glamorises and exalts the excesses and monstrosities of Wall Street? And you know: SPOILERS in order for it to be a properly moral film Leonardo DiCaprio should have got his comeuppance at the end.
But shit – you know what? That’s such a rudimentary way to approach things that I have trouble wrapping my head around it. It’s like trying to pick up a peanut with a JCB or something. Because – well dur – depiction isn’t endorsement you know? And if you think it is: if you think that things are just that simple and the only way to make things better is just to show all the good things then well – I don’t know how we can even begin to have a conversation.
In regards to the ‘fake conversation’ thing, I definitely had a different reading of it, which is something I’ve felt for this entire conversation. So who knows, maybe all of our different perspectives and worldviews are just really entrenched, or maybe I’m just reading everything wrong, or maybe it’s something else, or maybe it’s all of it, but to me, that piece was about how, when we talk about “controversy”, the conversation often gets clogged up at the wrong point.
For instance, a bunch of people on here were talking about free speech and censorship when that was never the point. In that blog article, the author points out that this Chaykin “discussion” isn’t about that – yet that’s what consistently and continuously gets spoken about. It’s about empathy and power, and how those with more power frequently make use of our existing power structures and dynamics to harm others. It’s not just about making the mistake, but about how you respond and/or make amends (which could mean, y’know, doing better next time) and it’s about the context in which you’ve made that mistake.
If I’m being honest, I’m personally coming away from this discussion (both on here and in my limited exposure to it elsewhere on the Internet, mostly Twitter!) feeling like we had the opportunity to learn some important lessons about empathy and power structures and how to make a point well and how to make a point about hurting some people without actually hurting those people – and I feel like most people who don’t already get it still don’t. In part, because the wrong things got focussed on and also maybe just because some arguments (Censorship! Image! Empathy!) are our Bible-stomping.
The Wolf of Wall Street is a great example because I feel like different people are going to respond differently and accordingly to that film, right? Like, I think it’s an excellent film – very long – but hilarious and ridiculous and it highlights exactly why I would never, ever in a million years want to subscribe to that hyper-capitalist way of life.
And then someone else who really loves money and bitches and coke is going to watch the exact same film and go, “Oh, shit, that’s what I want to do!”
To me, including all that imagery is part of the point of the film. To me, it’s part of what informs the “moral” of the story. But to someone else, it’s irresponsible, or it’s Nirvana.
I think we can understand (or learn to understand!) context but I often find that people are unwilling to do so, if they generally don’t need to. If they’re not personally affected by something (e.g. threats, slurs, depictions of violence, personal tragedy, trauma, etc. etc.) then often they just say, “Get over it. I’m fine with this so you need to be, too.” Never mind the social, historical, interpersonal, or emotional context or situation. You know, I think part of The Wolf of Wall Street’s genius IS its depictions of money-hungry, misogynistic, OTT, discompassionate arseholes – but would I show it to the young people I used to work with? The ones who idolised this exact behaviour, with no willingness to be critical? No, because I’m not a moron.
But I also totally missed that outcry to give it a ‘happy ending’. In fact, I basically never see overly-simplistic calls like that so it always just… doesn’t seem like an issue to me. With that bias in mind, all I really want is to stop seeing my friends (and like, millions of strangers I don’t even know) being hurt whilst simultaneously having to educate the people hurting them. I just want everyone to pull their own weight in making the world better, in making our media better, just because they give a shit. I would also like to stop hearing “censorship!” every time a creator does something shitty and gets criticised for it, or their publisher gets criticised for it – because that ain’t censorship, bruh. Plus, we then spend two weeks having a conversation on censorship and free speech instead of what the issue actually is: why is it so hard for some people to stop hurting others? Why is it so hard for some people to empathise? And why won’t those people make an effort to get better at it, to listen to the people they’re hurting, instead of asking us to explain and validate why we feel hurt?
But these are the eternal questions and after weeks of this Chaykin nonsense, I don’t feel any closer to hope or answers, I am just Tired™. Ideas and conversations are important but so are experiences and emotions. Asides from the fact that, for some reason, many people often separate “logic” and “reason” from “real life” and “feelings”, I’ve had many, many “interesting debates” in my life and I’ve seen little to no change from it. There comes a point where it’s not enough to talk about what’s right or wrong but to actually embody your values and work for change. I personally believe that positive change relies on active empathy, compassion, and listening – and these aren’t things that come naturally for many people. It’s hard work to learn and understand this stuff and I just don’t see many people who genuinely want to. Most of what’s been discussed around Chaykin just seem to be obstacles to actually making things better, and it’s disheartening.
Anyway, this discussion has been emotional for me too, and rarely in a good way, so who knows – maybe the point of The Wolf of Wall Street is that we should all become selfish, quaalude-popping, boat-hopping stock traders, and we’re all just doing life wrong. (I know my life would be much better if I was secretly Leonardo DiCaprio.)
To clarify, I think some of the concepts and conversations that have spun out of the Chaykin “discourse” are really important, valid, and complex, and worth exploring. However, these points are built off – and discussed around – a foundation of hurt and power imbalance. Therefore, in many cases, what would be (to me, at least) a Good Conversation to have in a different context, is started here almost by saying to the people harmed by this cover/series/Chaykin’s attitude: “you need to prove that your hurt is valid.”
And that’s what I mean when I say I feel a distinct lack of empathy and active listening. Chatting about free speech, Chaykin’s intent (or intent in general), whether his message was smart or not – all of these things are good discussions to have, but in context, they often just sound like a defence of Chaykin’s “right” to hurt people, and that just misses the whole entire point.
Hi again everyone
I want to echo Joel’s thanks for contributions to this far-reaching discussion.
For me personally, it’s been painful, infuriating, challenging and also highly educational. I really hope I understand a tiny bit more now about other people and their perspectives than I did before. This to me is all about genuinely seeking to understand others, and accept others without necessarily having to agree with them…I think this is some of the stuff that allows positive progress and building of bridges to happen.
If I may, I’d like to offer my perspective on one very tiny aspect of the discussions this month, which I only want to do because I’ve been encouraged by others to have my voice heard and lower the risk of it being co-opted by others, even if others have meant well in speaking out. I want to preface what I say by expressing my gratitude for anyone who wants to combat prejudice and hate crimes of all types in whatever way they want to do it, especially when it relates to the comics world and it’s role in wider society. I also want to make it clear that I only speak for myself here, and I base this solely on my personal experiences, with all the limitations and biases that brings with it.
It was briefly mentioned that Chaykin’s cover depicting the lynching of a south Asian man, was drawn with a badge on him saying “paki” and that this was a “smoking gun” and that “nothing was left to chance..”
Well, speaking as someone who has been called paki and a lot, lot worse (for me), always accompanied by physical violence, and always when I’m outnumbered, for the last 30 years or so, starting when I was a kid, I’d like to applaud the creators of that specific cover for making it exist. Although it was difficult initially to see, and it initially brought back to mind many terrible experiences, I do still want this kind of image, including the paki badge, and the message it is intended to give (according to the creators themselves) to keep on being portrayed and projected, right into the heart of mainstream culture. As long as I (and many of my friends) keep getting targeted in the ways that were depicted in that cover, I want those types of images to keep appearing. Not a single one of the people who have done this to me (outside of work) have ever been subtle or polite enough to hold back from calling me a paki or a terrorist or Shia piece of shit who deserves to die (yes, even non-whites and Muslims have been the perpetrators on many occasions, and have declared that I should be “eliminated”), when they’ve targeted me personally for physical harm. To my mind, there is no need for that cover to hold back – no one who tried to hurt me ever did.
It is no smoking gun. What it a smoking gun for me, is to have sat in court several times, whilst the perpetrators of these crimes against me face their accusers, and we all watch over the CCTV footage of what they’ve done to me (or tried to do) together. Then we’ve gone through the process of trying to explore why they did this.. Exploring the roots of exactly why the hell those things happened to me is the smoking gun that I really want to know about. I can’t believe I used to think like this, but I used to think that maybe I was “asking for it” or in some way to blame! Any attempts to cover up the wrong-ness that really goes on just serves to make those incorrect thoughts grow stronger. I have worked hard to drop the victim mentality for something less harmful/more useful to me, but it disheartens me when I see what I feel like is a denial of my experiences in art/comics.
From my own experiences, it often it comes down to social & familial neglect, ignorance, lack of education, narrow world-views, enforced world-views from a young age without the chance to challenge them, people projecting their own personal problems (often socioeconomic) on to me, people looking for an elusive level of certainty in themselves and their lives, through creating an “other” they can blame for everything that is wrong etc etc. Those are the smoking guns I’m really concerned about. Hell, I’m probably susceptible to perpetrating these crimes against others too. I guess we all have to stay aware of the possibility…
The paki badge, I’m afraid to say, for me, is just a mirror reflecting my life experience. I don’t want it denied – I want the light shone right on it and for it to be exposed fully, so we can deal with it properly and effectively (whatever that is…). Don’t worry so much about whether the paki badge or the rest of that image offends me…it doesn’t really. It was a bit shocking, but I’ve found ways of dealing with that. I know others may not I am sorry for that. But what offends me a lot more, are the continued and potentially increasing frequency of the common real-life events of violence and discrimination against me that it is trying to portray.
When this email is over, let’s work together to stop that shit happening so much, not for my sake, but that of my young nieces and nephews. Last summer, one of them, just a little ‘un, was abused on racial/religious grounds at a local swimming pool and not a single adult person did anything about it. It went on over several weeks. Only when my sister speak out on social media about it and involved her friends/family and the police for support was something done. Equally, I’ve had some really severe, relationship-shattering arguments about LGBTQ rights, refugee rights, Islamic sectarianism and poverty with people in my extended family, leading to some seriously awkward gatherings since then, which fill me with anxiety, but I’ll suck that up and keep speaking up about it because the alternative, to be silenced or self-censor for fear of offending some, will mean it takes a LOT longer to get these things dealt with for the people that it affects negatively the most. I’m not saying this to earn brownie points (no pun intended) – just to highlight the fact that sometimes our communications have to be challenging in order for the larger wrongdoings in society to be brought out into the light and kept there long enough to work on really fixing, even though it’s really tough and sometimes personally painful to do so.
I do acknowledge that engaging others in genuine discussion and debate through open-mindedness and active listening and asking the right questions can be more effective than just generating controversy, but sometimes the only way some people with power will even being to stop talking and start listening (I’m talking to you, prejudiced asshole uncles, aunts, cousins, bosses, and all the random people who’ve attacked me, my friends and family over the years) is to shock them out of their nasty little bubbles.
The fact that a corporation is responsible to some degree for getting the lynching image published and distributed, and that they will have various mixed-motives, some perhaps less than honourable, has been really interesting for me read about and I keep those ideas in mind. But right now, that’s how at least parts of mainstream comics works and that’s what I have to work with. If a better way emerges, I’ll embrace that too…but I suspect we have to take a multi-pronged approach to get shit done.
I’m sorry this has been an extremely long email about something that was only mentioned very briefly ages ago in this email chain, but it’s the one thing I have deeply personal and life-altering experience of, and I was encouraged to say something about it. It’s the first time I’ve written about it ever. I’ve started listing all of my own and my families/friends experiences of it, and t might even make a hilarious/horrifying comic book. I feel like I could have drafted something better structured and more concise but I’m afraid I have limited time to do so.
You’re all invited round for tea J
PS: sorry if I offended anyone by this – that certainly is not my intent…if I have, and I can help remedy that in any way, please let me know.
PPS: true story – when my family escaped Uganda in the 70’s from genocide as refugees, they landed in freezing cold south shields, where it was so unremittingly and viciously windy, the trees along the coast grew AT ANGLES. After some time in a refugee camp run by the military, they were housed in temporary accommodation. The social workers were amazing. They remain friends with us even now. When the National Front decided to let their dogs loose on my aunts whenever they left the house, and followed up with letters to the local papers demanding that my family be deported etc, some locals wrote back to those same papers and pleaded for a more compassionate approach. My grandad was so moved by this display of support and kindness that they reached out to one of the authors of the supportive letters and they also became life-long friends, working to get the family settled and reading to kids every weekend, thus helping them brush up on their English.
So, as previous hard-skeptic of all this discussion and blah blah on the internet, thinking its all pointless, I’m reminded of how talking/discussion can be a force for good. I think this thread has been ok.
I don’t really buy into the idea that it’s a fake conversation, so much as mutual misunderstanding. One of the thing that frustrates me when I watch any of these so-called poltiical youtube videos on “both”* sides of the political spectrum is that they all seem to be arguing with strawmen – the right misrepresent the left’s argument, and vice versa. Part of that is a refusal to define terms, part of it is a multiplicty of different dimensions of thought, some of which aren’t being expressed by one side of the argument, some of which is and part of it is genuine misunderstanding I think.
I live in hope that rubbing up against views different to ones own, if handled respectfully and with some thought can lead to better understanding though.
* As Vladislav Surkov points out in Without Sky the idea that political positions can collapse into two linear dimensions is a fallacy.
RE: Censorship. It’s a perennial thought when people feel viewpoints are being suppressed or “shouted down” / drowned out with noise. I don’t think it’s been the focus here, though.
Some people clearly, maybe not within this discussion here, but within the wider society clearly were talking about censorship, and I think it is to those people that certain parts of the conversation here were addressed. it would be more accurate to say that yet others were talking about the suppression of speech, such as the publisher’s moral obligation not to offend, or (lack of) right to choose what to publish. Strictly speaking this isn’t a censorship issue (as the legal right is still maintained and the kickback itself is freedom of speech), but there are calls for suppression of platform and suppression of publisher’s choice – either through boycotting (economic suppression) or intimidation (specific threats), both of which impinge on a certain aspect of freedom of speech (maybe justifiably – free speech has never been free).
There clearly is a difference between saying that what someone is saying is morally wrong (with justifications) and simply a blanket call for it not to be discussed or even spoken at all, so in that respect the issue of whether this in itself is a form of censorship is not irrelevant.
Talking about power, if you have the ability to suppress a form of speech, or a platform, then it could be argued that you have greater power than another segment in society who do not also have that ability, at least within that specific arena. I don’t think there’s been any specific conclusion on these issues as I don’t think it was really the focus of discussion. I certainly don’t have any firm conclusion, myself. other than the issue is more complicated than people are making it out to be.
“If I’m being honest, I’m personally coming away from this discussion (both on here and in my limited exposure to it elsewhere on the Internet, mostly Twitter!) feeling like we had the opportunity to learn some important lessons about empathy and power structures and how to make a point well and how to make a point about hurting some people without actually hurting those people – and I feel like most people who don’t already get it still don’t. In part, because the wrong things got focussed on and also maybe just because some arguments (Censorship! Image! Empathy!) are our Bible-stomping.”
I think there may well be important lessons about empathy and power structures here, but these haven’t been conveyed in a way that allows other people beyond an in-group to comprehend them fully. Part of the complaint appears to be that people cannot understand why other people do not think the way the complained does, and furthermore that the complainers entrenched views are absolutely and unequivocably right (that goes for both sides of the wider debate).
Certainly my focus has been on whether Chaykin has something to say, whether that something is valid or true in an empirical sense, rather than on the surface form and presentation of his message – and the frustration I feel is in part, it seems, at least demonstrative of his message, that people are caught up with the depiction and not the meaning – in part because for some the depiction is the act, itself – which seems to be a point I have trouble getting my head round.
Part of this seems to boils down to an extremely important basic philosophical point of view that people are malleable entities, that are formed deterministically by hierarchical power systems in tandem with the propaganda* in the environment that causes people to behave in a certain predictable way (those that espouse this also excusing themselves from the equation as they are clearly far too intelligent and woke to be suckered into thinking the way the powers that be / the system wants them to think) . In this way the depiction is the act because one gives rise to the other in a linear fashion.
* Propaganda here meaning both propaganda in the traditional sense – i.e. top down messages encoded within culture to further specific views and actions, and also what Jacques Ellul calls horizontal propaganda – namely the beliefs and practices that are necessary for the functioning of society – the education system, work system, popular culture and so on.
I think another part of the issue is that these embedded philosophical points are taken as a given, and those that accept them are frustrated when they meet people who either have not internalised these basic philosophical axioms and so have different frames of reference. I mean have you ever noticed how Tories regard socialists as Evil? That mystifes me. I mean how can you even get to that viewpoint about a philosophical point of view often regarded as being for bleeding hearts (but let’s forget about Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao, Caucescu etc.. because they weren’t true scotsmen, I mean socialists.)? The other, frustrating thing is that in order for someone to get the same frame of reference, sometimes you have to explain (mansplain if you’re male), in order to reach either the shared points of reference, or the actual underlying bones of contention. Some people take this to be condecension when it’s for the sake of clarity.
Secondary to that is whether Chaykin is right in his main contention that the left need to pick their battles and unite if they are going to survive against the rise of the alt-right who don’t really care about identity politics – or to put it another way can the modern day intersectional left, with all the attendant conflicts of interest of the different intersections, and the requirement of non-compromise win against a larger force that only has one objective? Do principles Trump pragmatic realities?
“Ideas and conversations are important but so are experiences and emotions. Asides from the fact that, for some reason, many people often separate “logic” and “reason” from “real life” and “feelings”,”
It’s not really a case of logic and reason, more of empirical reality. Logic and reason are only valuable if the underlying assumptions on which the logic and reason are based are empirically true.
Our mental conceptions need to accord with empirical reality in order to have empirical validity. One can have the idea of a teapot floating in space, but the idea does not bring it into objective existence. The fact that non real things can be brought into being in the realm of the mind does not in any way mean that they exist beyond the limits of one’s mind. Similarly the danger of ideology of any kind is it acts like an operating system that embues meaning in our everyday world and enables us to understand what is around us. If the operating system is faulty then our interpretations will also be faulty, unless we can bring the operating system into accord with the only reliable benchmark of reality we have – empirical (and consensus) reality.
Feelings are an extension of the operating system, if the operating system is broadcasting a message saying that we are in a hostile environment, even if there is no real objective danger, then we will feel like we are in danger, even if we are not. The good thing is things like CBT, where one challenge one’s own conceptions can help to get us back to some manner of empirical reality.
Because of this feelings are not a good benchmark of empirical reality. They are important because they can communicate genuine dangers in the environment, but only if the operating system is not faulty. The questions here, then need to use logic and reason as tools to assess whether the operating system accords with reality.
So for example, with that in mind – it could be that, as Emma expressed above, the only depictions I see of myself in popular culture are ones where my kind are being killed. This makes me believe that I am likely to be killed and so I live in fear. Which is a fair thing to say. It’s not the same as saying that the depiction is going to lead to you being killed, which appears to be what people are arguing. As, said before, the depiction, may well stop people being killed as it draws attention to it, and makes people outside the in-group, the intended audience, realise the fear that some people go through (worth remembering that Chaykin’s characters were based on the experiences of trans people he knew), in the same way that Dickens drew attention to the plight of the poor.
“calls for suppression of platform and suppression of publisher’s choice – either through boycotting (economic suppression) or intimidation (specific threats), both of which impinge on a certain aspect of freedom of speech” – Boycotts are suppression of freedom of speech now? So to pass your bar for un-suppressed freedom of speech, not only does Image have to publish Chaykin in perpetuity, but I have to buy it, or else I’m economically suppressing his right to speak? Or, I’m allowed to not buy it, but only if I don’t like it for reasons of taste/aesthetics, but not if I dislike it for political reasons? Or I don’t have to buy it, but I shouldn’t speak publicly about the reasons I’m not buying it? What’s the standard here?
And once again – I’m not saying that people are deterministically programmable beings. That violent images will cause people to do violence. Instead, I’m saying that certain violent images – such as if someone were to send around photoshopped images of real people being tortured – ARE violence. Not all of them, and not to everyone. There is certainly gray area there, and I can understand disagreement on whether this specific one is. But that’s the point I’m trying to make. It’s not about whether it causes violence. It’s about whether it has any effect on anyone other than causing them hurt, which is in itself violent. And I get it, CBT, great. But that’s like saying that virtually any unkind act to another human being is fine, cause “hey, it’s their own problem if they can’t get over it, maybe they should go into therapy to learn to deal with my bullshit better”
I have some other thoughts, which I’ll try to get to as we wrap up, but this just came in as I have a few minutes.
I think when we get beyond the obvious (abuse, advocating violence) the metric of “hurting people” is problematic for deciding what’s a valid (or fake) conversation or acceptable speech.
First, I think everyone hurts everyone else. I don’t think there’s a single person I’ve known for any length of time in my life who I haven’t hurt at some point — not even through malice, but through a careless remark or act, or one that was meant well and taken out of context or with misunderstood intent. Or one that was understood and found objectionable. And I would be surprised if that’s not true for most people. And I think that’s just part of being a human who lives among other humans.
I also think that there is an objective, measurably reality but also a subjective experience of reality. We control very few of the things that happen in the objective reality outside ourselves. But we do have some control over how we respond; I think we’re responsible for our own emotional reactions.
And I think there are a lot philosophical problems in defining an individual’s subjective emotional reaction as “harm” caused by the creator of the artwork or expressor of an idea.
At a more abstract level, when I drink a cup of coffee, someone somewhere has been hurt through systematic exploitation to put that hot beverage in my cup. Probably a lot of someones. When I buy a piece of consumer electronics, someone somewhere — probably China — is hurt by unfair labor practices, economic exploitation, maybe by unsafe working conditions, to make the components inside. The food I eat, the clothes I wear, the entertainment I consume, my entire lifestyle is supported by people who are exploited and hurt in a calculable, physical way.
In the course of this conversation, I’ve been very aware that having the means and leisure to participate, living in a society where I have the luxury of discussing whether what a guy draws in a comic book is “harm” is an extremely privileged position. Which kind of puts things in perspective for me.
It’s been a lovely, if challenging, discussion. I don’t think there’s a single person who hasn’t said something I’ve found worth considering (whether I end up fully agreeing or not) and I appreciate being included. Very glad to have “met” you all.
Obviously, harm is subjective. But I really dislike this concept of emotions as somehow separate to an ‘objective reality.’ I really don’t buy into the idea that anyone can be unbiased or truly objective, or that we aren’t constantly making decisions based on reactions to our emotions as well as beliefs, values, identity, and theory. We don’t have control over how we feel – the control you’re talking about is over our response to how we feel (which we can learn, absolutely.) And again, nobody is saying you can avoid harm altogether or you can avoid hurting absolutely everyone. We all make mistakes, we all hurt people somehow, but we can make choices about how we then respond to those actions. I can make small decisions in my purchasing behaviour to be less harmful, for example, but then I’m limited in that by my financial situation. Generally, to buy ethically is expensive, so you’ve just gotta draw your lines and do what you can. Maybe that shifts over time, if possible. Similarly, when I’ve hurt people in the past, well – I can’t undo that, so my reaction is not just to feel guilty forever or to write it off because “we all do harm” but to learn from that mistake and try to do better next time, something that Chaykin doesn’t seem to be doing/have done.
Abs, thank you for sharing your experiences. I think your point about not hiding or avoiding difficult imagery or trauma is a very important one. For me, as someone who’s also experienced racial abuse, the context and approach makes a big difference to how I feel about images like this. A good example – in a different medium, though – is the way Mad Max: Fury Road approached sexual abuse. I always see the argument made for aggressive depiction of that abuse, be it in films or comics or books or TV. One justification is that ‘people can empathise better’ (which people?) and another is ‘we need violent images to understand violence.’ However, a big part of the narrative in Fury Road is that the women have been sexually abused, yet we never see a second of the act. Instead, we understand their trauma through characterisation, compelling narrative, and – that magic ingredient – empathy. This isn’t a tactic that works for every story or across every medium, of course, but it’s an example of a more thoughtful, sensitive, and compassionate approach, and it’s effective.
Personally, I’ve never met anyone who’s been shocked out of their bigotry. Always in my experience, whenever someone has moved beyond their bigotry, it’s through empathy. Normally through regular open-minded interaction with people from different backgrounds and experiences, via physical interpersonal interaction or via media and stories. This is why I think it’s really important to try to understand where bigotry comes from, because I think 99% of people have at least some empathy, and if we can target the underlying issues, we might be able to also help those people access their empathy. I don’t know, maybe that’s idealistic, but it’s happened before.
I also think it’s important to know where your own lines are, because some people prioritise a lot of other stuff over empathy and other people. Not just stuff like survival and their own issues, but stuff like revenge, their country, ‘discourse’, and success. And maybe it’s possible to get through to those people but sometimes it’s at your own expense and it has to be OK to say that you can’t do all the work for another person.
The example of those people writing into newspapers is a good example of standing up for your values and actually doing something. They could have just chatted about their views in the comfort of their own home but they shared those views on a public platform and it made a huge difference. I’m sure it came out of years of talking and theory, too – I absolutely believe that discussion is useful and valuable – but if that’s all they’d ever done, it might not have had any real world impact. That’s the good stuff right there.
I’ve been following this discussion silently, feeling I haven’t had much to contribute – but Zainabb, I think you’ve really got to the heart of the matter there, as have Abidali’s personal stories a few messages back. Our emotional responses are as much a part of “reality” as an intellectual constructs, and the goal here isn’t to never offend, but to respond with empathy rather than defensiveness when we inevitably do (a variant of the old “it’s not about staying on the path, but getting back on when you fall off”).
And crucially, I think the onus is on the white male cishet dudes like me who don’t face the daily grind of prejudice in our faces day in day out to go the extra step in maintaining the levels of niceness and civility rather than demanding it of everyone. Speaking personally, I’ve got a minor disability, so I know a bit about how prejudice works, but I’m generally greeted with misguided sympathy rather than misguided hatred, which must be a wholly different experience. Maybe the closest analogy I can come up with is hunger – being hungry is a background level mood affecter, and it’s so much easier to be reasonable and laid back on a full stomach. So by analogy it’s so much easier to be reasonable and laid back and lovely without background prejudice in your face continually? Does that make sense to anyone?
So, wishing you all peace and love, with due respect to those who have to struggle the hardest to get there, and a nudge to those of us with the privilege to find it coming easier to us.
PS: I haven’t read, or seen, the Walking Dead, nothing to add
PPS: Chaykin – his defensiveness is sad. I haven’t read his recent stuff, and don’t feel particularly inclined to on the strength of this discussion. Some of the things he was doing in the 80’s and 90’s were a very strange mix of sophisticated-n-ground-breaking and cheap sleaze at the same time. He obviously had a lot of talent, but he could have done so much more with it.