Friday, June 15, 2007

The Roots of Outrage

To paraphrase (because I don't have the exact quote on-hand) Joss Whedon, "I don't want to create characters people like. I want to create characters people love."

Over at the Newsarama blog, Lisa Fortuner comes at the "Heroes for Hentai"/"Mary-Jane: Thong Launderer" from an angle I should've seen myself but, in my general apathy towards characters I don't own and am not immediately working on, managed to miss.

"It amazes me that it never occurs to certain people that the problem is not one of jealousy or lack of attraction, but of identification with the character."

I'll admit, my initial reaction to the whole thing was "If you don't like it, don't buy it." I also questioned the wisdom of publicly criticizing, much less angrily denouncing, the company or creators involved for making aesthetic decisions based on business considerations, on the grounds that that sort of online noise is free publicity for what the one complaining considers distasteful. That's almost an "At Best" possibility, too--there also exists the possibility of a kneejerk backlash from people who don't see what the problem is at all and think the ugly fat chicks should just shut up.

I don't think anyone should shut up about anything. I do think that the internet is, with rare exceptions, not the ideal place to advocate for one side of a divisive idea--there's just too many a-holes out there looking to rile people up. I know I've taken a few shots at people who think Harry Potter's promoting witchcraft to children, and I don't even particularly like Harry Potter. Certainly not as much as I like pissing off people I think are idiots.

So I came to the whole thing with the more "meta" outlook being someone who makes these things on a regular basis by necessity has to some degree, rather than someone who invests in comics solely as heroic fantasies. It's been years since I stood in front of a mirror and shot Greedo (first), and regardless of their rating, there's no way H4H is aimed at nine-year-olds, or at a female audience. Which, as it features a lot of butt-kicking women protagonists, non-direct market logic would lead one to think it ought to be.

In spite of that, Misty Knight likely has female fans who identify with the characters (maybe even some male ones), as do Colleen Wing and almost certainly the Black Cat. And those people are seeing their heroes brought low in a crass attempt to cater to a different audience--in fact, to the most disturbing elements of stereotypical direct market mainstream audience.

No wonder they're upset.


1 comment:

Unknown said...

From what Ive seen this is a HUGE factor in the extent of the reaction to some of thes incidences.

In my opinion, its exacerbated (Sp?) by two factors:

If you're not demographically 100% "mainstream" (i.e. all of white, male, straight, culturally Christian and American) then the number of kick-ass heroes available to you are pretty few, and so you get used to rooting for/identifying with the ones you can find, who often were either created as exploitation characters or are turned into exploitation characters for the mainstream audience, or else they're created as an example of diversity and then the first ones to be sacrificed on the altar of dramatic conflict.

One of the advantages of mainstream priviledge (if you'll excuse the jargon) is that we get such a wide variety of heroes into whose skin we could step, that losing one or two here and there doesn't make a dent, plus this buffet of characters means many mainstreams like me can satiate our hunger to identify with the heroes at a moment's notice, if it does happen to pop up again.

On top of that, it seems to me that super-hero stories in general have a strong appeal for many politically active people (I've noticed it in particular with politically active feminists), because the heroes' struggles can be taken as fantasy allegories for the challenges of creating political and social change.

That's a level of enjoyment that many professedly non-political readers don't get from comics.