If They Be Worthy…

I have commented on the “new” female Thor on this blog a few months ago, but know it appears that last week’s Thor #5 hit a raw nerve with the fanbase. The long and short of it was that Thor scribe, Jason Aaron, used Crusher Creel (AKA the Absorbing Man) as the mouthpiece for skeptical fans that questioned why this particular woman was worthy to wield Mjolnir. He used “feminism ruins everything” as loaded phrase that was a thinly veiled accusation of misogyny. However, I already brought of the point that placing Mjolnir in the hands or the outright (temporary) replacement of any hero with another, particularly with a visible minority, is a tired cliché. After reading the pages in question I have come to a conclusion.

 

Lady Thor is not a character. Rather, she serves as an ideological mouthpiece bereft of any identifying characteristics. Her worthiness to wield Mjolnir is an informed attribute that violates the old axiom of “Show, don’t tell” and is a telltale sign of sloppy writing. It also particularly egregious when there are other Asgardian women who are capable warriors in their own right like Lady Sif and Valkyrie and both are fairly prominent in the Thor mythos and the Marvel universe in general. It is essentially an admission that Marvel has no faith in the character outside of briefly bumping up sales.

 

Speaking of which, compare the case of Lady Thor to the new Ms. Marvel AKA Kamala Khan, who received considerable promotion by Marvel and the mainstream press. While I have not been able to pick up Ms. Marvel, but I have glanced through the tale on my intermittent trips to the comic shop so see what she is about. Kamala Khan is a character with her own distinct characteristics; yes, Marvel heavily publicized her Muslim identity but she is more than the sum her parts. One quote from Ms. Marvel scribe, G. Willow Wilson, resonates with me.

 

“She’s very much the kind of girl who grew up staring wistfully at Manhattan, thinking ‘If only I could make it to the big city.’ Jersey City is not just the backdrop of the series, but very much a part of Kamala’s own journey.”

 

The operative word here is “journey” where Kamala is supposed to grow as a character and form her own identity as an individual. Her wish of making “it” in the big city makes her a sympathetic character, not just Muslims and young girls, but also anyone who dreams of becoming more than what they are.

 

Kamala’s idol, Carol Danvers also experienced growth as a character that culminated in her taking the mantle of Captain Marvel, having “began” life as a supporting character for Mar-Vell. Immortus manipulated and raped her; Rogue stole her powers and her memories; and she struggled with alcoholism but came out of those experiences a confident and stronger heroine. If I could equate one Marvel character to Wonder Woman, it would Carol Danvers, or rather Captain Marvel. Granted, given that she attained the rank of colonel with the USAF, referring to her as “captain” sounds like a demotion.

 

But I digress.

 

Heroes must undergo their own crucibles and struggles. However, I see no such struggle Lady Thor, she simply lifted Mjolnir without so much as a demonstration of her worthiness and appropriated the name. The fact that Marvel has concealed her identity has to the hollowness of the character and the revelation of her identity will be disservice to women in comics because either her creation was an ideological means to an end, or Marvel stripped an existing character of her identity in the name of “girl power.” Some like Ben Kuchera of Polygon praise this ham-fisted approach, but the fact of the matter that people of his mindset do not see women as people. They see women and other minorities as tools to further their own agenda and will deny the very existence of minorities that have the audacity to question their narrative.

 

How people decide to spend their money is none of my business. However, the events of Thor #5 confirm my fears for the (non) character and affirm my decision not to sink my money into another cynical attempt to temporarily increase sales. Such sloppy storytelling ultimately shows that Mr. Aaron and Marvel do not see women as characters, just other soundbox for their regressive values. Perhaps the bigger sin here is that Lady Thor diverts attention from worthier titles like the Ms. Marvel and Captain Marvel titles.

Platypus Musings: Mega Man #45

Warning: There be spoilers.

Circumstances forced me to be more selective of which comic books I buy since moving to Calgary last November. My most important prerequisite for a title is that it cannot be cynical in any way. I view comic books as a diversion from an increasingly pessimistic world wracked with strife, hence my appreciation for the Silver Age of Comics. Out all the titles I have read in the past few years, Mega Man is one of the few comic books that captures the optimism of the jet/space age and balances it with character depth and even delves into philosophical issues regarding artificial intelligence. While the latter is noticeably absent from Mega Man #45, the emotional impact of the issue is some of Ian Flynn’s finest writing to date.

Those familiar with the Mega Man series should know the basic plot of Mega Man 3: Dr. Wily seemingly “reformed” after the events of the previous game and works with Dr. Light on the peacekeeping robot, Gamma. Eight robot masters went berserk and stole the eight energy elements used to power Gamma and the Doctors dispatch Mega Man to retrieve them. Once Mega Man retrieves the elements, Dr. Wily betrays Dr. Light and steal Gamma for yet another world domination scheme (of course!) As such, Wily’s betrayal was always going to be inevitable in the comic adaptation of the game.

While the march to Mega Man 3 was a long one with the Worlds Collide and a de facto Super Adventure Rockman adaptation, Mr. Flynn did not scrimp on characterization. Forgiveness was the prevailing theme for the past year of the title, particularly how Dr. Light and Mega Man unconditionally forgave Dr. Wily for his past crimes. Being and idealist, Dr. Light was willing to give Wily the benefit of the doubt and defend him when Dr. Cossack expressed his (rightful) suspicions over Wily’s “reformation.” Wily’s second thoughts about his plan in Mega Man #36 demonstrated some surprising depth to his character. That despite being an egomaniac, Wily still had some capacity for sympathy, which gave his personal crossing of the Rubicon an element of tragedy. Though Wily could have redeemed himself, subsequent installments in the video game series ordained that he would not. Factor in a slow burn over nine issues and the impact of Wily’s betrayal hits harder than any weapon could use against the Blue Bomber.

Dr. Light’s breakdown is especially heart wrenching and is one of the few instances where a comic moved me on such a visceral level. The only other time a comic did that was Aunt May’s death in Amazing Spider-Man #400 (which Marvel undid a few years later) and I commend Mr. Flynn for the delivery of a calculated tug at the heart strings. One of life’s harsh lessons is that even if you treat others the way you want to be treated, there is no guarantee the other party will reciprocate that sentiment. Ultimately, Wily’s ego and jealousy stood in the way of any chance for redemption, which made the central conflict personal. In previous story arcs, “stop Wily’s nefarious scheme of the week” was the thrust of each conflict now there is an emotional stake in Mega Man’s next confrontation with the madman, which gives me a vested interest in the story’s conclusion.

If there were one flaw with the issue, it would be Ryan Odagawa’s pencils. While passable for most part, it deviates from the art styles of previous artists enough to appear jarring. I have some issues with Gamma’s proportions but the layouts are solid. Evan Stanley’s moodier colors are also a departure from Matt Herms’ more vibrant hues, but it appropriate considering the overall atmosphere of the issue.

That said, I consider Mega Man #45 the penultimate issue of the series so far. While it definitely darker than previous issues, it illustrates an important aspect of the superhero genre: tragedy is a common motivator for the hero’s actions. Bruce Wayne would not become Batman without the deaths of Thomas and Martha Wayne. Peter Parker would not be fighting crime without the death of Uncle Ben. Wily’s betrayal shows Mega Man that he has no moral scruples and that Mega Man must stop him to prevent Wily from hurting others as he did Dr. Light. It will be interesting to see if the events of this issue will set the tone for the rest of the series. If you are not reading Mega Man then you are missing one of the most underappreciated titles in the industry.

Platypus Musings: The Wily Wars

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Ah, 1994. As I waxed in a previous post, I consider that year to be one of the most memorable in my thirty-plus years of existed. I traveled to Kauai as part of what one could describe as a grandiose family reunion, toured the American Midwest and Ontario, and most of all, solidified my identity as a Sega enthusiast. Unfortunately, it was also the same year that solidified my interest in the Blue Bomber, Megaman. My cousin and I played Megaman 2 endlessly when were staying at my uncle’s in Mississauga and I even got a taste of Megaman 6 when we visited the Nintendo pod at Ontario Place. Unfortunately, I found it difficult to reconcile my enjoyment of both Sega and Megaman because the latter was Nintendo exclusive. Imagine my excitement when I saw Megaman: The Wily Wars listed as future release in a Consumers Distributing catalogue…

…Only to face disappointment as the game never saw a physical North American release, though it was available on the short-lived Sega Channel.

While ROMs of the Japanese and European versions circulated on the Internet via emulation, I never found myself too immersed in the game when playing on an emulator. I am a proud console/retro gamer and it feels too unnatural to play the game on a keyboard in a tactile sense. Hence why I turned to the Virtual Console re-releases for the Wii/Wii U/3DS for my fix of the original three games. However, I found a reproduction cart of the game at the Calgary Comic & Entertainment Expo last year and did not hesitate in buying it. So how does the remake compare to the originals?

It is certainly beautiful from a graphical standpoint; the Genesis’ superior palette makes the classic “trilogy” more vibrant than its NES counterparts. Plus, the added power of the Genesis allowed for more detailed backgrounds, tiles, and sprites, which is quite apparent in the original Megaman where the backgrounds were mostly solid colors with a few exceptions. Wily Wars adds a nice rippling “heat wave” effect for Fire Man’s stage or scrolling clouds for Elec Man’s though the graphical enhancements for Megamans 2 & 3 are not as eye-catching. I would say that I prefer the look of Wily Wars to Megaman 7. While the SNES packed more of a punch in the graphics department, Megaman 7 was my least favorite of the classics because the larger sprites made the screen appear more cramped and the cartoony look always seemed more exaggerated whereas Wily Wars seemed more balanced and the colors bold compared to 7’s semi-pastel look. Megaman X still outshines this game though not only in graphics but also music, which bring me to my next point…

Say what you want about the Genesis; it may have lacked the sound chip the SNES possessed, but it could send Nintendo packing in the right hands. Listen to Yuzo Koshiro’s soundtrack for Streets of Rage, Masato Nakamura on Sonic the Hedgehog and its sequel—hell, Tommy Tellarico pumped out some good tunes for Global Gladiators and Disney’s Aladdin, which outshone some the SNES’ best music. None of that is present in Wily Wars, which I would describe as serviceable but generic for the Genesis. I like to believe that each Megaman game had its own character. 2 had an exciting, blood-pumping track that made you believe you kick the gate open when you stormed Skull Castle; but it sounded much more subdued when I played Wily Castle 1 in Wily Wars. While the quality varies, the general feel from the music is something I would expect from a middle-of-the-road Genesis game and not something that is of Capcom’s caliber.

I suppose I can blame of that and the game’s other “quirks” on its troubled development, which Keiji Inafune described the debugging as a nightmare (according to Megaman Complete Works.) Though I can only speculate, I assume that many of the game’s drawbacks are a result of the developer’s unfamiliarity with the Mega Drive’s hardware. The biggest of them is slowdown, which is very prevalent in the game though it is your saving grace against the Yellow Devil without the classic pause/resume trick from the NES original. Oddly enough, the Wily Wars is easier than the originals in some respects. Remember how a game over meant losing your E-Tanks in Megaman 2? That is not a problem because of Wily Wars’ save feature. Otherwise, the Wily Wars difficulty is identical to the originals’, even Megaman 1’s unforgiving difficulty.

Though what makes Wily Wars a must have for me is the inclusion of Wily Tower. Wily Wars draws many comparisons to Super Mario All-Stars and for good reasons (graphical and audio upgrades), thus Wily Tower functions as the Lost Levels in that it offers extra content. However, unlike Lost Levels, you need to unlock Wily Tower by completing the first three games, which separates the diehards from the casual players. It (and a bout of insomnia) motivated me enough to slog through Wily’s domain in the game: a gauntlet of four robot masters fought consecutively with no health refills with one that can clip off a third of your lifebar in one hit if your jumps are not pixel-perfect. It was worth it so I could mix and match weapons and items from the first three games to use against three new bosses and another Wily castle. Though brief, it feels like the game tosses you a bone for playing through the slowdown.

So in the end, was it worth the twenty-year wait to plug it into my Genesis? As a fan of both Sega and Mega Man, I would say yes. More fair weather fans would be better off playing the NES orinals, the devoted can go download the ROMs, and the truly diehard should either import or by a reproduction cart. It is an interesting if not obscure piece of Megaman history that deserves at least one glance.

When is a Warrior Justified?

Marvel rocked the comic book world last Tuesday when they announced the mainstream Marvel Universe (AKA 616) would come to an end in Secret Wars after fifty-year years. What this means is still anyone’s guess but in all probability resemble a fusion of DC’s Crisis on Infinite Earths and the original Secret Wars from 1984. However, I digress as the primary reason why I mention is because a comic blog I follow, Robot 6, profiled an artist who rendered their own “reboot” of the Marvel Universe to better reflect its diversity. While diversity in of itself is not “harmful and “bad,” it is problematic when mold to suit a particular ideology. The artist, who goes by the moniker “Calvin,” is immensely talented (I particularly enjoy his rendering of Pulsar AKA Monica Rambeau) but I noticed one thing: there are no white men.

Such a complaint may seem frivolous at first, even absurd, but I fear that “diversity” is becoming a codeword for “no white cishet males allowed” (as Social Justice parlance goes.) It essentially represents a toxic strain of fandom that is not only infecting comics, but also the media as a whole where the only acceptable prejudice is against white males. First and foremost, I stress that Calvin is perfectly within his rights to create and post what he desires and I am not trying to say otherwise. It is that I have always found it ironic that a certain group describes themselves as progressive, but reactionary in their thinking. Do Caucasian males face systematic oppression? Of course not, but it is not “justice” when social justice “warriors” use diversity as a bludgeon: it is petty vengeance, and it demeans ultimately minorities.

Case in point, in the description for Fantastic Four, it reads:

The original Fantastic Four disbanded after internal conflicts rose to unbearable levels. Reed Richards had grown jealous of Susan’s natural ability to lead and he feared her brilliant mind surpassed even his intellect. However, it wasn’t until Reed’s poor judgement and leadership led to the death of Johnny Storm. Refusing to take blame for the death, Reed lashed out at his companions, which ended Susan and Reed’s relationship. Reed then left with Ben Grimm and their current whereabouts are unknown but rumors tell of Reed’s mental instability and the possibility of him planning a villainous revenge plot.

What galls me about the description is that Susan Storm’s (AKA the Invisible Woman) worth as a character predicates on the demonization of Reed Richards. Granted, depending on the writer, Reed Richards is either a completely insensitive jerk or generally nice, but absentminded, professor. His Ultimate counter even turned to the dark side. Meanwhile, Susan was the backbone of the team for much of its existence. It is true that Stan Lee and Jake Kirby portrayed her as a constant damsel in distress with a power that was only initially good for hiding, however she did gain the ability to project invisible force fields and even use them offensively. However, when you compare her to the socially inept Reed, hotheaded Johnny, and self-loathing Ben Grimm, she was the calmer head that kept the team grounded, especially Reed. Her growth into the “First Lady” of Marvel Comics is remarkable as TV Tropes confirms:

Sue Storm/Invisible Woman from Fantastic Four is the poster girl of this trope. (Literally— See the top level page.) Originally the Invisible Girl, she was very meek,  and her power was only personal invisibility. She was so useless (not many opportunities for stealth came along), the best her writers could say in response to constant fan outcry against The Load (even in-universe) was, “Having a pretty girl around makes the boys fight harder.” Her force field power was added (less than two years after her introduction), and she gradually became better and more versatile with it, especially under John Byrne. More dramatic was the shift from her original meek personality to her current confident one, which her new choice of codename signifies. These days, Doctor Doom himself considers her the strongest of the Fantastic Four.

What Calvin did to Susan Storm was ultimately condescending and sexist. Not because any overt hostility towards her, but because she is worthless in her current role in the comics. Reed Richards needs to be a mustache-twirling villain that Calvin needs to “rescue” her from. Similarly, Johnny’s death appeared to be an inversion of the “Women in Refrigerators” trope where its sole purpose is to facilitate Calvin’s hatred of Reed rather than advance Susan as a character. It is not a valorization of Susan as such; it is more an ingrained sexism that white knights mask with ostensibly benevolent intentions, which is anything but. The inclusion of Robbie Reye, Kamala Khan, and She-Hulk also carries the unfortunate connotations that the line-up serves more as an affirmative action checklist rather than including the characters on their own merits. A shame too, considering I always liked She-Hulk as a member of the team.

I admit that I am being very liberal in my interpretations of Supreme Marvel; however, much of the reasoning behind “diversity” in media is the exclusion and demonization of others based on the actions of their predecessors. Yes, Eurocentrism and sexism caused much suffering for minorities, but prejudice against a certain group does not erase those crimes. There are two idioms that come to mind: “Trouble with an eye for an eye is that it leaves everyone blind” and “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” For example, slavery is not solely a European phenomenon; the Arab slave trade lasted into the 1960s yet there is no widespread condemnation of Arab crimes against Africans and Europeans since the seventh century. Likewise, this willful blindness shows a fundamental intellectually dishonesty within the SJW sphere.

Human nature has a dark side that does not recognize pigmentation, ethnicity, or creed. I am not suggesting that Calvin should have made white men the most prominent characters. If he truly a proponent of diversity, he would have recognized they have a role to play. They do not need in a dominant role; the inclusion of Sam Wilson (AKA the Falcon) as Captain America is a logical choice considering his history as a partner of Steve Rogers and the bird-of-prey motif fits with American iconography. What I would have hoped for is more balance; not a reactionary hatred that oppresses minorities more than any human could.

Why Write?

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When you ask, “what is the oldest profession?” to a random passerby on the street, chances are the answer they will give you will be “prostitution.” To that I say, “fair enough.” However, I believe the aforementioned quote by Alan Rickman proves to me that storytelling and authorship has to be in least the top five. It also gives me reason to contemplate my appreciation for the fantastic—particularly superheroes—and my desire to craft my own tales about them. I very much agree with Mr. Rickman that stories fulfill a very human need. Moreover, I agree that stories reveal who we are, which particularly resonates with me because I cannot help but inject a little of myself into my works.

Without revealing too many intimate details of my past, I admit that I was the kind of child whose head was up beyond the clouds and somewhere in the stars. Superheroes where always a part of my daydreams; I used to imitate swinging from building to building like Spider-Man from the 60s animated show (and confused my poor grandmother in the process on trips to the playground.) The makeup of them changed throughout childhood as I found inspiration from other series like Mighty Morphin Power Rangers and Samurai Pizza Cats, believe it or not. The core fantasy around them remained the same: I was the hero and my friends would fight evil with me and we would save the world on a daily basis.

Very little of that changed over the years. Prodigious began life as a blatant self-insertion fantasy where I was the star of the show with my friends, family, and even psychological hang-ups along for the ride. Flare was my avatar in this universe and represented my own desire to returned to what felt were more carefree times in childhood—complete with amnesia for a blank slate. The story evolved over time as some friends drifted away and disappeared from my life altogether and thus the characters resembled my friends, family, and myself less and less. It was originally just about me and my friends, but the idea for a “superhero school” in a town that makes Eerie, Indiana and South Park appear normal crept in. It became less about my friends and I saving the world and more about whatever skewed thought crossed my mind.

It feels that Prodigious is becoming more about the absurdities I see in world where it appears that the lunatics are running the asylum. Case in point, the (seemingly) willful ignorance that afflicts the denizens of Apex Falls, especially the mayor, Norman Blanche who could see Bigfoot riding a chimera bareback in front of him and find a way to deny that it happened. I see that cognitive dissonance is pervasive throughout society such as those who claim to stand for “social justice,” for example. As I have stated in the past, I am sympathetic to #gamergate. Not because I believe that the movement stands for journalistic ethics (anymore, at least) but because of how their opponents lack any sort of self-awareness. Opponents of #gamergate claim that their opposition to the movement is to stop harassment and/or threats to women and minorities. Yet, as this video reveals, they will harass their opponents with doxxing and swatting; threaten them with violence; and attempt to incite mass murder with impunity in the name of ideology. People like them deserve savage mockery because they have no sense of irony. It is not just “social justice warriors” but humanity as whole, where groups refuse to turn that critical lens at themselves. It ties to what Rickman said about needing stories to tell us about who we are.

Despite how Flare and the world I created around him evolved beyond what I had intended as an indulgent self-insertion story, I was never able to completely separate him from myself. Perhaps it is possible that he is a facet of personality; I was a timid kid who never stood up for myself and instead retreated into fantasy to escape the bullies and taunts. Who is to say there is not an element of truth in that fantasy? After all, Aunt May said in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2.

“I believe there’s a hero in all of us. That keeps us honest; gives us strength; makes us noble.”

Everyone wants to believe that they are the heroes of their own story and I like to believe that Flare is my heroic persona. He is able to be strong and brave when I cannot; he is brutally honest; and despite being an impulsive brat, he is still noble and selfless. The only times you comes out is when my fingers touch the keyboard. Men like Joseph Campbell have deconstructed the hero myth, which seems to have transcended the cultural boundaries that otherwise divide the human race. Stories are the one thread that ties us together as a species and it is for that reason that I write. Even when I feel distant and isolated, Flare is my way of bringing everyone else into my world where anything is possible.

The Prodigious Files: The Cosmic Knight Dynasty

Cosmic Knight is an… interesting hybridization of two rather disparate characters. In his original incarnation I envisioned him as the Prodigious version of DC Comics’ Starman complete with storied legacy and his “cosmic lance” taking the place of the Gravity/Cosmic Rod. However, the later incarnations would utilize powered armor in their crusade against evil (as hackneyed as it sounds), which effectively bring them closer to Marvel’s Iron Man in that respect. With a the added tweak of transforming the Prodigious world into an amalgamation of several dozen parallel Earths, why not scrap the initial concept and build from the ground up? What makes the stellar sentinel particularly important to the overall series is that his grandchildren are central to story so his “dynasty” deserves a detailed history.

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#GamerGate: The Players and the Played

Hammer, meet nail.

Paula Wright

The #GamerGate controversy reached a new high (or low depending on your perspective) recently when one of its main protagonists, the radical feminist and cultural critic, Anita Sarkeesian, was featured on the front page of the New York Times. Ironically, in view of the focus of her criticism about passive female characterization in video games, she herself was cast as the “damsel in distress”, under threat from active male protagonists.

Ostensibly, headlines like this are a direct validation of her work. Sarkeesian asserts that video games directly contribute to a culture of gendered violence in real life and – hey presto – there it is!  

But are radical feminist claims about games promoting violent norms really correct?  Studies of violence in video games say no. Last year the U.S. Supreme Court evaluated the evidence and came to a disappointing conclusion for people, like Sarkeesian, who are fond…

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The Moral Hypocrisy of #StopGamerGate2014

I truly wish that I did not feel the compulsion to write on the unfolding GamerGate saga but recent events have given me cause to reconsider. Last night, the #StopGamerGate2014 hashtag trended on twitter after developer Brianna Wu had received threats from an as-of-yet unknown party. While there is no evidence that anyone affiliated with GamerGate issued the threats, that has not stopped the StopGamerGate crowd from painting all “gamers” with the same broad strokes. Prominent YouTube personality, MundaneMatt, recently had something of a Howard Beale moment decrying the embellishments and outright lies spread by the StopGamerGate movement. I leave my own tweet here for everyone else for see. I will be the first to admit that my comment was mean-spirited  and unnecessary. However, I believe that it I must show it and explain that it was out of sheer exasperation at the hypocrisy I see in it. Especially when you consider that many supporters of StopGamerGate are equally guilty of harassment as the people they criticize. Yet too few within that movement call them out on their behavior.

They have reduced the words “harassment” and “misogyny” to meaningless buzzwords to silence their critics. Do I believe that Anita Sarkeesian, Zoe Quinn, and Brianna Wu were telling the truth? Yes, yes I do because the Internet is full of vile cretins who will hide behind their anonymity to harass, belittle, and threaten others. Do I need to bring up John Gabriel’s “Internet Dickwad Theory?”

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The fact of the matter is that it is impossible to conclusive prove that the trolls who threatened these woman were associated with GamerGate because that movement is far from organized and is an unruly mob at worst. Moreover, to tar all gamers with the same brush is disingenuous. “Gamers” are not a monolithic or homogenous entity. My definition of the work gamer is simply a person who plays video game; there are RPG gamers, FPS, casual, hardcore, and it covers spectrum of people of different races, ethnicities, creeds, and sexualities. Hundreds of millions of people across the planet plays video games, and a maybe a few dozen threaten Ms. Sarkeesian et. al? Is it fair to hold those millions to account for the actions of a millionth of a percent? I suspect there other forces at play here.

I was born in the year 1984. I am all too familiar with the moral panic over the violence present in games like Mortal Kombat and Doom in the mid to late 90s. Many self-anointed moral guardians claimed that these games, along with other facets of youth culture, motivated or “trained” the Columbine High School shooters to carry out their heinous actions. Similarly, disbarred lawyer and activist, Jack Thompson, when on a similar crusade against games like the Grand Theft Auto series during the aughts. We are now in the “New Tens” and we have a new breed of crusader claiming that developers and gamers are fundamentally sexist and/or misogynist.

Yes, I have just compared Anita Sarkeesian to Jack Thompson, and I am not the first person to do it.

Do Ms. Sarkeesian’s criticisms in Tropes vs. Women have merit? To an extent, perhaps. Back in my misguided youth, my compatriots and I used to joke around about how you could solicit the services of prostitutes in Grand Theft Auto III and then kill them in a grisly fashion to get the money you spent on them back. However, does that inform my attitude towards women today? No. It does not because I learned such behaviors and attitudes are abhorrent. However, as JJ McCullough observed in his rebuttals to Ms. Sarkeesian, her methodology is spotty and allegations of her cherry-picking information to suit her confirmation bias exist.

I do not have a problem with feminism; I hold a great deal of respect and admiration for the first and second waves of feminists that struggled for legal and workplace equality the turn of the 20th century to the 70s. However, I have come to believe that third-wave feminism has become a toxic strain of a once-noble ideal. Sarkeesian and her ilk embraced an ideology that believes we exist in a “rape culture” where everyone with a Y chromosome is out to rape women and the fight against “the patriarchy” completely inform their world view. Ms. Sarkeesian’s confrontational manner in approaching a perfectly valid conversation on sexist imagery in video games has no doubt contributed to Gamers’ defensiveness on the subject. Not that it justifies the threats made against her and her compatriots, but this anger and indignation does not exist in a vacuum.

Like Ms. Sarkeesian, Jack Thompson had received harassment and death threats in the past but the reaction to it by the gaming press at the time was ambivalence. Granted, Mr. Thompson’s antics did not endear him to gamers or the press, but where was the outrage then? Part is has to do with my belief that Ms. Sarkeesian, Ms. Quinn, and other feminists inside the industry positioned themselves in a place within the industry that grants them a great deal of privilege. After the threats leveled against her when Tropes vs. Women first appeared on YouTube, all Ms. Sarkeesian has to do to deflect criticism is accuse her critics of misogyny and harassment.

What I find ironic is that while Ms. Sarkeesian criticizes the “damsel in distress” trope present in Super Mario Bros. with Princess Peach’s multiple kidnappings, she, as well as Zoe Quinn and Brianne Wu, show no hesitation in weaponizing the trope to suit their desires. People generally fear being labelled a misogynist or sexist in today’s increasingly politically correct atmosphere, hence many will gladly jump on the feminist bandwagon to appear “progressive” and “enlightened.” Ms. Sarkeesian, et al. exploit the well-meaning chauvinism of men like Bob Chipman, Joss Whedon, and several other prominent male celebrities out for progressive credibility and that is the problem.

#StopGamerGate, from what I have observed, is largely, if not entire composed of affluent white people. I have read personal accounts of how video games were a source of comfort for people who suffered abuse and prejudice in their childhood years. What touched me the most was the testimony of a user named Docheisenberg on the KotakuInAction subreddit.

Due to redistricting, I was assigned and had to commute to a public school in an affluent, largely white neighborhood. Wasn’t a great experience. I was bullied by kids with money and status. Being a working class vietnamese kid going to public school only a few years removed from The War was not fun. I caught crap from racist teachers just as much as I did from other kids. I got called a lot of things; a lot of them racist, but the one that stood out was when they’d call me “Apartment Boy” because of where I lived. That certainly drew a line in the sand. It and other things were why I got drawn in to games and geek culture so much; it was a chance to explore and dream of worlds better than reality. Better than having rich white people treat you as something less than human, or condescend to you about how inferior your culture is and tell you how they want to “help” you. I can’t decide what was worse, the blatant discrimination, or the half-assed ideological imperialism.

I bolded “ideological imperialism” because that is what #StopGamerGate is. The reason why the #NotYourShield hastag exists is because of minorities are tired of a small group of privileged, white, middle class children trying to co-opt their voice. GamerGate may not be perfect, but it is a diverse group that encompasses people of various persuasions whereas StopGamerGate is very much conformist in an ideological sense as evidenced when their gaming media circled the wagons in August. Combine that with their blatant chauvinism and hypocrisy, it is little wonder why I am exasperated.

Perhaps it is an unserious debate by unserious people, but maybe it is time for both sides to stop demonizing each, find some common ground, and discuss the issues as Boogie2988 proposed. However, that will require compromise on both sides, which is part of adulthood as well as an end to the accusations and threats on both sides. Given how polarized both sides are, I do not know if that is realistic.

“Misogyny” and the new Thor

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I return after month of hiding from the mob in the Canadian tundra… actually, I jest because I have not had much to say on anything as of late, however, I found this article on the new female Thor that debuted this week. The gist of it is this: writer/comedian Brett White implies that a certain segment of the fandom is upset that a woman wields Mjolnir because of an innate male fear of feminism as evidenced by this quote.

 There’s a real noticeable difference when the hero’s replacement is a woman. I think that’s because it takes the already strong resistance to change that a lot of predominantly male comic book fans have and multiplies it by “misandry” to the power of “feminazi.” There’s a whole misogynist vocabulary that comes into play when the new hero is a woman. (…) I would be surprised if the same men that are uncomfortable with the idea of a female Thor are not also uncomfortable with the idea of having a woman for a boss. The fear that a female Thor is going to replace the male one seems to run parallel to the fear that feminism means women destroying men.

Let it be clear that I loathe it when identity politics drips into popular entertainment. First, I concede that there are many fans who resist change. We are a rather conservative bunch; we generally accept one definitive version of character, though it varies from fan to fan. By that I mean we have had several versions of the Flash, Green Lantern, Hawkman, and the Atom because of the split between the differ epochs of comic book history. Case in point–Barry Allen is my definitive Flash because of my affection for the Silver Age but many fans prefer Wally West because he was the Flash they grew up with in the Modern (post-Crisis on Infinite Earths) Age. However, with the Marvel heroes, there has been only one definitive version of their primary heroes since the 1960s. While Steve Rogers, Tony Stark, and Thor were “replaced” at various parts of their history by the likes of John Walker, Jim Rhodes, and Eric Masterson, such substitutions were temporary and the originals resumed their roles.

I find it highly disingenuous that Mr. White cries “misogyny!” when fans get upset over a woman replacing a man in the role of a hero. Where were the complaints when Carol Danvers took on the mantle of Captain Marvel? I seriously doubt anyone took issue with it because Carol Danvers was a member of Mar-Vell’s supporting cast before becoming a hero in her own right. Factor in her time as a United States Air Force officer (though she earned the superior rank of Colonel, so she outranks Captain America), it made sense for her to inherit the role though Monica Rambeau  set the precident of a woman holding the title. If this new “Thor” was Valkyrie or Lady Sif, I would have less reservations. Both are part of the Asgardian mythos Marvel built and it would make sense if they were able to lift Mjolnir. As Thor #1 (2014) does not reveal the identity of the new “Thor,” I shall withhold judgement.

In any case, I ask Mr. White and Thor scribe Jason Aaron this question: why should I be invested in this character? Comic book fans have long memories and we know this changeover is ultimately temporary. Thor 3 is currently on Marvel Film’s slate and its highly likely that Thor Odinson will become worthy of lifting Mjolnir again and this as-of-yet unnamed character will share the fate of Beta Ray Bill. Likely placed on the shelf and becoming little more than a footnote in Marvel history twenty years’ time. Perhaps I do not know the little details but they are irrelevant compared to the broader strokes. Mr. White may make claims about sexism and talk down to his audience for ideological reason but misogyny is not the problem here, it is cynicism on the fans’ part because the House of Ideas has gone into the recycling business.

Platypus Musings: #GamerGate, A Perfectly Valid Question

I never thought I would agree with the Guardian on anything, but this article by Keith Stuart makes a lot of sense. Particularly this quote:

And ultimately, those members of the gaming community who distrust the games press, have a really wonderful option: make the alternative. Instead of constructing strange conspiracy theories and flooding games sites with vitriolic comments, withdraw entirely. Make your own game sites. It has never been easier – or more viable. Because however much you mistrust them, the big gaming sites serve the needs of millions of gamers who don’t worry about the relationships between the press and the publishers – who just want approachable reviews, cool videos and funny list features; that’s their choice. They can’t be denied or derided either. So the best, most positive option, is to create something else.

I seldom visit Kotaku, Destructoid, or IGN and I never even knew Polygon, Gamesutra, and many other sites involved in this debacle even existed before Zoe Quinn’s ill-advised DCMA request turned the video gaming world into a raging inferno. Why even visit these sites when it clear that the people in charge of them have nothing but unbridled contempt for their audience? Maybe it is time for those on the gamer side #GamerGate to write their own “Declaration of Independence” and make their own websites by the people, for the people (so to speak) or look elsewhere for honest reviews. Many of the reviewers I trust are people like AngryJoe and  YouTubers like BalrogTheMasterKwing, and many others who are not involved in this, to my knowledge. In any case, the gamer faction should not patronize these sites at all, even if they have AdBlock on. Visiting these sites only lets these people know we are still looking at their articles. Why give them that pleasure?

As for another point Stuart makes:

The games industry is a global, multi-billion dollar giant, fuelled by money, not dogma. There will be no social justice revolution.

Let us be completely honest here. Is Nintendo really paying close attention to this controversy? Is Sony? Is Microsoft? I am guessing they are not because the “Social Justice Warriors” are a niche market at best. People like Zoe Quinn, Patricia Hernandez, and Anita Sarkessian by deride games as sexist and oppressive, but guess what? The late Roger Ebert (rightly) savaged Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, but that did not stop the film from grossing over $800 million worldwide. The impact Quinn and her ilk make in mainstream is akin to a ripple a pebble makes in the Pacific Ocean; not a big one. Perhaps it is time we, as gamers, walk away from this. There is nothing to gain by engaging with ideologues who compare gamers to ISIS and the Nazis. That only makes them look foolish in the end because gamers are not committing genocide like ISIS is doing to religious minorities in Syria and Iraq or what the Nazi did in the Second World War. There is no comparison to be made, and the “Social Justice Warriors” are losing the argument if they are making such claims.

The gamer is not going extinct despite those on the SJW side of the debate would like their readership to believe. Not any more than film buffs or bookworms are these days. As long as video games exist, there will always be gamers of various stripes. People like Quinn and Sarkessian may believe they wield a lot of power but their influence is negligible beyond their sphere. Nintendo will keep producing games where Mario and Link save the princess; people will still obsess over World of Warcraft; and Call of Duty and Battlefield will still sell by the wheelbarrow-full regardless of how much the SJWs crow about sexism or whatever their agendas. Let them have their indie festivals and let us go back to the games we cherish,

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