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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.

Platypus Musings: Thoughts on the Quinnspiracy

First, I must confess that I do not follow the current generation of video games or gaming journalism and have not for years. To be brutally honest, I feel that I live in a time warp where the nineties never ended and thus I pay more attention to what Nintendo releases on the Virtual Console and retrogaming from the fourth to sixth generations. However, I find the controversy over Zoe Quinn and her exploits has aroused my attention because of the firestorm that erupted from it. To the six or seven who have not heard about it yet–Eron Gjoni, Ms. Quinn’s former boyfriend aired his dirty laundry about how she cheated on him with five other men. Something I would not normally condone because of how petty and vindictive it is but the interesting part of the post is one of the men she slept with was her boss, Joshua Boggs, another was Nathan Grayson, who writes or wrote for Kotaku and RockPaperShotgun, and the other three being independent developers. With Ms. Quinn being an independent developer herself, now (in)famous for Depression Quest, the implication now is that gaming journalism and the independent gaming scene itself is rife with neoptism, elitism, and no one is familiar with the term “conflict of interest.” It appears that the masses are rising up against them and the aforementioned Kotaku, RockPaperShotgun, as well as the Escapist, Destructoid and other gaming news sites are circling the wagons.

Another thing I must make clear is that I do not identify myself as a feminist. Like the good reverend Martin Luther King Jr., I believe that people should be judged by the content of their character and not the color of their skin or the the chromosome they had received at conception. This group called The Fine Young Capitalists wanted to start a production that would promote female developers, something I actually believe would be an excellent opportunity for any woman to get her foot in the door– except Ms. Quinn torpedoed it. TFYC stated that they would create concept art for them to pitch their game, people on the Internet would vote on what game they wanted, and TFYC would produce said game without cost. The winner would receive 8% in royalties and the rest would go to charity. Somehow Ms. Quinn deemed this “oppressive” because “they expected women to work for free.” Apparently Ms. Quinn refused to consider that being the winning entry would look good on the winner’s resume. I mean, people use volunteer work as experience on their resumes doing things they feel passionate about, why not games? In any case, Ms. Quinn destroyed a perfectly good promotion that benefited women to suit her ideological ends.

As Internet Aristocrat mentioned in my previous link, the gaming media has taken a “social justice” flavor that paints the vast majority of gamers as misogynistic troglodytes. The trouble with so-called “social justice” and its acolytes that dub themselves “warriors” is that their thinking restricts itself to binary think. From what I have seen on Tumblr (and needed to take a cold shower afterwards), Social Justice Warriors (SJWs) believe there are two categories of people: the oppressors, who are typically white cis males, and the oppressed/victims, who are everybody body else. The oppressors are responsible for everything that is wrong with society (i.e. the patriachy, for one) and the victims are not responsible for their actions because it is always the oppressors fault and never theirs. In the case of Ms. Quinn, she intertwined her professional life, something that is largely public, with her private like when she got under the sheets with Boggs and Grayson who were contemporaries of hers. Yes, Eron Gjoni did a something horrible by exposing her infidelities, but it solely Ms. Quinn’s fault for compromising what little professional integrity she had by sleeping with (allegedly) five guys. However, I believe that Zoe Quinn sees herself as a perpetual victim of “the system” and thus absolved of any responsibility of her actions. In some ways her mewling over her private life is an implicit suggestion that she sees herself as an inferior in need of an army of (mostly white cis male) white knights to defend her. An irony that is not lost on me because the idea of a woman dependent on males to defend her honor strikes me as very anti-feminist.

In the end, I believe that video gamers are tired of the gaming media talking down to them and decrying them for being misogynists over actions of trolls. Forbes writer, Paul Tassi, seems to be indicative of how detached gaming journalists are from their audience when he says:

In truth, no one wants you to be completely unbiased, as that’s usually inescapably dull. They just want you to have their bias. Right now, the general consensus of the games press is to be extremely biased against those who use terms like “White Knight” and “Social Justice Warrior,” often the same people who will harass and threaten and psychologically destroy those in the industry, or often the press themselves.

And yet it is so easy to look the other way when Zoe Quinn send her pals in the video game press corps to ban a group that wanted to showcase women in video games from Twitter and dox one of the organizers.

Their hypocrisy is galling, but at least the gaming press will learn a painful lesson (assuming they are capable): those that sow the wind will reap the hurricane. The media is nothing without the trust of its reader/viewership and in their attempts to suppress an honest discussion of this issue by issuing bans, the they only make themselves appear guiltier.

As for me, I think I will go play some Super Metroid  because as a misogynist white cis male gamer, I hate playing a game with a woman as a protagonist.