July 29th, 2012

HolyHandGrenade

Heeeeeeere, Chick Chick Chick Chick....

One of the things about public controversy is the fact that it goes past a line.  It goes from something everyone has an opinion about to a way for everyone to publicly declare, "I'M A MORON!"

Before I get to it, I want to frame this with an illustrating example.

Most of you know about my Hannah Singer stories.  For those who came in late, it's about a defense attorney for your soul who stands up for you after you die to save you from being condemned to Hell.  It's primarily a courtroom drama.

One of the most interesting lost sales I had was a guy who I explained the concept to him and he thumbed through the book.  He put it down and said he would never buy it.  He was a Christian, and was offended by the moralism of the stories -- he seemed especially annoyed at my suggestion that Atheists can get into Heaven if they've led a good enough life, they don't have to believe.  The only thing I could do was shrug.  We each had our beliefs, and ultimately, no matter how wrong each of us thought the other was, we had to live and let live.  He went off, probably to find someone to support who projected his beliefs, and I went back to working the crowd.

When it comes to doing things that make no fucking sense, religion is the most fertile breeding ground.  As we've seen with the sudden controversy surrounding the fast food chain, Chick-Fil-A.

Chick-Fil-A is a chicken chain based in the South that supposedly has great food.  I don't know, I've never eaten there, for reasons I will get to anon.  A few years ago, Chick-Fil-A decided to aggressively expand, and started opening restaurants here in the Chicago area (it's expansion is what prompted McDonald's to start offering "Southern-style" fare, such as the sweetened iced tea and the Southern Chicken Sandwich).  One Chick-Fil-A that opened in the area literally had people lined up down the block before it opened the first day.  I hate waiting in line, and figured I'd give it a try one day.

Well, that window closed pretty quick.  The company was founded by S. Truett Cathy, a Southern Baptist.  Longtime readers already know I have an axe to grind with Southern Baptists.  Cathy is a fundie and damn proud of it, frequently using his position in the chain as well as the chain itself to promote his views.  I found out about this during the hubbub over California's Proposition 8.  Cathy issued a "Who asked you?" press release stating that he supported Prop 8 on religious grounds and he didn't care if that cost him sales.  Well, that killed any appetite I had for Chick-Fil-A -- I'd go to Hooters for the food before I ever went there (seriously, have you had the Hooters chicken wings?  The sauce tastes like garbage, literally, and leaves a horrible aftertaste.  I've been told, "You don't go there for the food, Peter."  That?  I believe).  Apparently, people like me making our little social protest are in the minority.  Chick-Fil-A's are sprouting up in the Chicago area like dandelions.  And we can't even get a Checkers back.

Cathy apparently missed having an issue to promote his ethical superiority with.  He recently reiterated his stance that he felt gay marriage was wrong.  People like me just went, "Yes, we know, thank you," and went on about our business.  But somehow, the general public was caught by surprise.  There is now controversy in the Chicago area.  There's people like me who disagree and are refusing to eat there.  There's people who agree with him and are stating that is the primary reason they eat there.  We each are voting with our wallets.

And then, Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel got into the fray.  Rahm is saying that Cathy's stance is religiously intolerant and offensive and he should change his message, his ways, or just shut up.

So what's the problem?  After all, Rahm is doing the same thing we all do, saying what we think of someone's opinion and what they should do to change it, right?

The problem is Rahm has met with the Nation Of Islam's Louis Farrakhan.  The guy who says Jews are evil and Hitler was a great man.  For all the stupidity of Cathy's stance, he's not advocating the extermination of an entire religious/ethnic group.  I'd sooner have a prayer breakfast with Cathy than Farrakhan.  

Actually, I'd rather skip a prayer breakfast with either of them.  And you can now add Rahm to the "no call, no show" list.
Let Me Tell You Why That's Bullshit

Tomb Raper

It's gonna be another one of those "hate the world" days, I can just tell.

First, a little background for people who aren't immersed in comic books.  Comic books have certain cliches.  These things have become so common that, when you see them, you just shake your head and go, "That's the best you could come up with?"  For example, new comic book superheroes, their first heroic act depicted in a comic is usually stopping a mugging in an alley.  Comic books are chock full of these "drag and drop" writing elements, from stopping a mugging in an alley to bickering with teammates to "I'll kill you but first I'll tell you my evil plan" to whatever.

The next thing to keep in mind is the inherent misogyny of mainstream entertainment.  Although a lot of progress has been made, for the most part, women still exist in the media for the entertainment of male readers and not to be themselves.  Men simply are heroes.  Men simply are competent.  Men simply are.  Women need reasons and excuses to be what they are.  Women aren't strong because they are strong, they are strong because of some trauma in their histories that makes them react that way.  That isn't even their real personality, it's just a reaction to keep the world at bay for fear of being hurt again (see also:  tsundere).  The US version of Prime Suspect, the female central character was changed from simply being a good detective to she was sent to the department as punishment for having an affair with a superior officer.  Producers felt it would add an extra layer as she proved her worth and everyone realized they were wrong to not look past her history, but it's still pretty insulting.

Women aren't allowed to simply be.

Everybody still with me so far?  That's good!

In comics, there is a general cliche for why women become superheroes.  The reason is frequently one of two things -- either A) they lost a family member to violent crime (revenge) or B) they were raped (revenge).  I point out that the 90's revival of The Huntress had both:  her mafia crime lord family was killed, and she had also been raped.  She couldn't simply be someone determined to stop the evil around her, oh no.  She had to be motivated by some outside force to do so.

Offensive?  Yeah.  But what do you expect from an industry that routinely uses violence against women as entertainment for readers and as a cheap plot device to motivate male characters?  This is where the whole "women in refrigerators" thing comes from.  Women in comics are the red shirts on Star Trek -- they are there to be used and discarded.

And now, my situation.  My mentioning to others that I'm working on a Toob Raider comic book has brought about a revelation that frankly makes me sick, and it concerns the source material, Tomb Raider.  Eidos Interactive created the character of Lara Croft back in the Sega Saturn/PS1 days.  Now, yes, she was clearly intended to get a rise out of the guys and guys reacted with the immaturity everyone expects.  But plenty of girls started playing the title, too, because they could project through the female character.  Lara Croft was one of the first true crossover successes in video games, a gutsy competent adventurer who was brave, smart, and strong.

Crystal Dynamics got the brief to start devving the Tomb Raider games, and found themselves stuck in the past.  With the advancements in 3D adventure games, Croft still had her tank-like control scheme and standard "find the switch" environmental puzzles (I personally think 2 was the high point for Tomb Raider adventures).  After The Last Revelation, an attempt was made to reboot the franchise, take it in a fresh direction, give the controls a proper update (FINALLY!), and make the franchise the leader instead of the also-ran again.  Well, it's not working out so well, so they are deciding to reboot the series again with Tomb Raider -- Crossroads.  And things were looking good.  The trailer ran at E3, people were talking, and anticipation of the new game was rising.

And this is where we hit the grass.

Alpha work on the new Tomb Raider project started in 2010.  And in June of this year, we got an update.  Producer Ron Rosenberg  of Crystal Dynamics revealed that they were trying to make the character of Lara Croft even tougher and give her more backstory to make her more "real".  And how are they going to do this?

Lara Croft is going to be raped.

No.  I'm not kidding.

One of the levels in Crossroads has her cornered by island scavengers who will attempt to rape her.  Oh, don't worry.  She won't be raped.

If you can beat the level.

“She is literally turned into a cornered animal," Rosenberg explained. "It’s a huge step in her evolution: she’s forced to either fight back or die.”  Realizing that maaaaaaaaaybe some people might have a problem with this, Rosenberg further explained that, despite the open misogyny of the comics and all the Rule 34 of the character, this is not meant to project certain sick fantasies, oh Heavens no!  "They’re more like ‘I want to protect her.’ There’s this sort of dynamic of ‘I’m going to this adventure with her and trying to protect her. She’s definitely the hero but, you’re kind of like her helper. When you see her have to face these challenges, you start to root for her in a way that you might not root for a male character.”

...wat?

This kind of "I'm a male and must protect her" not only wasn't necessary to begin with, but is extra insulting, in that it basically says that without a male motivated to protect her virtue, Lara Croft is doomed.  Doesn't matter that, in the first game, we saw she not only found but possessed the Ark Of The Covenant, even Lara Croft needs a big strong man on her adventures.

And not to belabor the obvious, but rape is one of the most frequent things the entertainment industry trots out for conflict for female characters.  It cuts back to my complaint that the things that happen to women in stories are things that would NEVER happen to guys.  Power Girl's ongoing series, for example, had a villain trying to swap his mind into her body and a space prince who wanted Power Girl to bear his children.  The Tomb Raider comic book frequently features Lara Croft being thrown through the air by an explosion while arching her body sexily and one time going undercover as a belly dancer in a harem.  That shit doesn't happen to Batman.  And men are never at risk of rape or being used.  When beaten up, villains walk away from men.  They don't take them and confine them so they can be further abused.  Women are constantly being treated as possessions and maybe not always, but frequently must be rescued.  Usually by other superheroes.  MALE superheroes.

I've heard women tell me that we guys just don't understand women and we never will.

Things like this make me think they are right.