Let Them Eat Beefcake

October 31st, 2010

A recent Batman story had the character flung back into prehistory, where he communed with cavemen while dressed in underpants. The story was illustrated by Chris Sprouse, who is a superb draftsman in many ways, but he has a particular gift for archetypal square-jawed, broad-shouldered masculine men.

I saw Sprouse at a convention over the summer, when he had just got back the original art for the story. He could barely have had a chance to set up his table, and already one of the key images in the story had been snapped up by a collector. This is that image:

sprousebatman

Can you guess why it sold so quickly?

This seems to happen all the time. Any comic book image that presents a guy in a masculine, attractive, and preferably flesh-bearing pose will sell like a shot.

Partly this is because there is a hungry and under-served gay audience. I also met Archie Comics illustrator Dan Parent at a con this summer, shortly before the publication of the issue of Veronica that introduced gay character Kevin Keller, and the art for that story had already sold. It sold even before Parent got the art back from the publisher.

But it’s not just the gays, of course. Another artist at the same convention has a gift for drawing pretty fellas, and the poor guy doesn’t quite know what to do with the swarms of young women who come to him asking for commissions and throwing hundred-dollar bills in his direction.

Here’s a great unspoken secret about comic art. There are people out there who want to see hot guys. And they have money. And very few people seem willing to take that money from them.

Most comic artists today are honestly a little lost when it comes to the notion of attractive guys. Women are objectified all the time in superhero comics, and you’ll sometimes hear it said that the guys get exactly the same treatment. They’re hunky and handsome and dressed in skin-tight costumes. It’s the same, right?

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It’s not the same. Female characters are sexualised. Their sexual assets are amplified by their poses, by their costumes, and by their mutant anatomy. Males are not drawn sexy or sexualised. They’re drawn strong and hyper-masculine. That can lead to attractive images, but usually only incidentally – and accidentally.

I used to have a convention sketchbook where the theme was ‘beefcake’. It was not a huge success, because too many artists would visibly flounder and panic at the idea of drawing a guy ‘sexy’. Though they would try their best, and though most of them produced terrific sketches, most of them failed to grasp what ‘beefcake’ meant. Some put the men in cheesecake poses, or cheesecake outfits, as if just swapping out female anatomy for male would achieve the desired ends. Many of them made a joke of it, giving the character a funny word balloon, as if it were too embarrassing to commit seriously to the idea of an attractive man. Some of them just drew a picture of a man, and neglected to give him a shirt. And a very few of them did a great job. Mostly the gay guys. Or the lady guys.

For future reference, here’s what beefcake is about. It’s the sexualised presentation of masculine men. Men as sex objects. It is the masculine equivalent of cheesecake art, and it can be humorous and charming, but it isn’t a joke in itself, and it isn’t just ‘cheesecake with men in it’.

The men in beefcake do not lie down and stick their bottoms in the air, or bite on a fingertip and flutter their eyelids. Beefcake is not submissive. Even when the guy is beaten, bruised, or tied to a chair, he should be confident and defiant. (Beefcake icons like The Spirit and Nightwing are constantly beaten up or tied up. You usually wouldn’t see cheesecake that explored these motifs because ‘tied up’ paired with ’submissive’ moves you into different territory.)

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Beefcake guys may offer a knowing sneer or a glowing smile, but they do not offer themselves up the way cheesecake girls do. Rather, they present themselves. That’s a subtle but important difference. They are still there to be looked at, but they’re not there to be taken. They alsowon’t dress in nipple pasties and a scanty thong, but they should show some skin – not because they dressed up sexy, but because their shirt got torn, or they just finished swimming in the lagoon, or, hey, they just weren’t wearing a lot of clothes today. It was warm on the ranch!

A cheesecake girl coming out of the shower may blush and try to cover her curves with a too-small towel. She will playfully pretend she’s been caught out. A beefcake boy coming out of the shower will let his tiny towel slip a near-indecent degree while he smiles and wipes back his hair with a conveniently popped bicep. He hasn’t been caught out at all. (Importantly, neither image should cross the line into nudity. In my view, explicit nudity has no place in either beefcake or cheesecake art.)

You’ll notice that these suggestions play in to sexual stereotypes that are better left to the past in our real world interactions. However, these are still the fantasies that work. Fantasies were never meant to be the basis for polite social engagement or sound legislative policy. Fantasy is not correct.

I admit, despite the message, and despite my gayness, I love cheesecake art. I love the aesthetic, the joy and the wit. Just about every artist I see at conventions can manage a little cheesecake art. Most Artist’s Alley tables will have a cheesecake print or two. Evidently it sells.

I think it would be worth those artists’ time to try their hand at a little beefcake as well. It may push some artists a little outside their comfort zone, but that’s a good place for an artist to be.

So here’s my challenge to comic book artists. Make a print. One good beefcake print. See what happens. The audience is out there. You just haven’t tried to tap in to it yet.

And here are some final tips for achieving good beefcake. If you’re using an established character, steer clear of the leading man – he’s too squeaky clean. Go for the underdog or the bad boy; the Jason, not the Mark. Always remember that the V line, from the broad shoulders to the tight stomach, is as essential to beefcake as the hourglass is to cheesecake. And finally, steer clear of gags and punchlines. No-one wants to see a beefcake  clown. No-one.

Watch More TeeVee More!

September 21st, 2010

Pause the Tivo! It’s time for part two of my guide to the shows to watch (and maybe a couple to avoid) this new TV season.

Undercovers (NBC, Wednesday 8pm)

This is a new JJ Abrams joint, which is not quite the guarantee of success that a lot of folks think it is. He has more hits than misses - Felicity, Alias and Fringe have all found audiences, and Lost is obviously a phenomenon - but he does have misses. What About Brian lasted 26 episodes. Six Degrees lasted 13.

Undercovers is a show about two spies who are also husband and wife, hence the egregious title - they’re undercover agents and they’re under covers, do you see? They’re shagging! And the twist is that they work together, rather than trying to kill each other, so it’s totally not Mr & Mrs Smith. Assuming the show is any good, I hope it will add one more to Abrams’ hits column - but I have some concerns that it won’t.

undercovers

You see, Undercovers is attempting to do something bold and subversive that you simply don’t see on primetime. It’s trying to do a one-hour drama series with black people in the leads. This is a first for network television. More than 25 years after The Cosby Show first aired, a black man and a black woman sharing top billing in a drama is bold and new. Is America ready for it? Well, it bloody well should be, of course, but America has been known to let itself down before.

It’s worth noting that they chose two especially attractive people to play the leads, which might mitigate their possibly scary blackness. If redneck America is ever going to let a black man into their homes, it’s going to be a sexy black man who looks good to their daughters. Wait, that’s not right…

Hellcats (CW, Wednesday 9pm)

A show about cheerleaders is guaranteed light frothy fun, right? This show should do for dance what Glee did for singing - make it brainlessly chipper! Except, two episodes in, I’m of the opinion that the cheerleading routines in Glee are actually better than the cheerleading routines in Hellcats - and while Hellcats certainly isn’t heavy drama, it lacks Glee’s campy joie de vivre. The pilot had its charms; the second episode was a snooze. Let me say it again; this is a show about cheerleaders. It should never be a snooze.

Hellcats is also boringly heterosexual, which just makes no sense to me. It’s not like the show is strenuously trying to avoid clichés - the main characters are the anti-pep rebel and the preppy Christian. If you’re giving me cheerleaders, I expect gay cheerleaders. It’s almost as if Hellcats is trying to keep its tongue out of its cheek, which is surely its natural habitat. Cheerleaders.

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Nikita (CW, Thursday 9pm)

There have been many Nikitas. There was the 1990 Luc Besson movie. There was the 1993 US remake with Bridget Fonda (Point of No Return). There was the 1997 TV show La Femme Nikita, which always aired at awkward o’clock in the UK, probably on ITV. It was one of those shows for insomniacs, full of actors you’ve never seen anywhere else, and with that odd whiff of cheap desperation that usually marks a show out as Canadian. (Imagine my surprise when I learned that Highlander: The Series was not Canadian.)

This new show is the fourth Nikita (fifth if you count Khrushchev), and it’s still about a down-on-her-luck young woman who is trained as a government assassin, but in this series Nikita has gone rogue and means to bring her former handlers down. It’s a colourful premise, but the first episode proved pretty tedious in its execution. Sexy deadly lady ninjas! That’s almost as much of a no-brainer as cheerleaders!

Supernatural (CW, Friday 9pm)

This is the sixth of Supernatural’s five seasons, which in itself is a little eerie. This show was meant to die last year. Now it is undead!

I love Supernatural, but I actually wanted it to end last year. There was a five year plan. An arc. Despite mediocre ratings, the show actually got its five years and played out its full arc. It was going to be that rarest of things, a TV show that tells its whole story and then gets off the stage of its own accord. Now that’s not going to happen. Now the show is going to trot on for another year, maybe two, and get cancelled. Probably on a cliffhanger.

So, I’m braced for disappointment. But, on the other hand, we do get another season of hot boys fighting demons - and that’s a no-brainer concept that they actually followed through on. With a new showrunner in charge, and a fresh slate on the Apocalypse, this sixth - and probably final - season should offer up some surprises. Bring it on, zombie show.

Dexter (Showtime, Sunday 9pm)

If you didn’t watch last year’s fourth season of Dexter, you’re a damned fool. With Jon Lithgow as the Trinity Killer, the show achieved such a high that everyone involved was probably slightly dreading coming back for the fifth season. That was it. That was the peak. And now the show has to come back from that.

I’m actually looking forward to the new season, because although it can’t hope to match the last, it is starting from an enviably strong position. I’m confident that it will plateau, rather than crash. I don’t know what’s on the cards for the plot this year, but there’s a lot to deal with - seriously, if you haven’t watched season four, you have to do it now - and there’s an epic cast coming on board, including Julia Stiles, Shawn Hatosy, Chris Vance, Jonny Lee Miller and Maria Doyle Kennedy. Exciting!

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Desperate Housewives (ABC, Sunday 9pm)

This show is now in its… I’m going to say seventh season, which means it has gone through all kinds of peaks and troughs - a sterling first season, a weird sophomore slump (the Applewhites), an awkward attempt to settle into its own soap rhythms, and a moderate return to form in the last couple of years - hampered by some weird stunt nonsense. And I’ve stuck through it all these years, because… well, I’ve never really asked why. Maybe that’s why? That, and Bree Van De Kamp Hodge.

And now I get my reward, because this season there is a new housewife, and she’s played by Vanessa Williams, Mz Wilhelmina Slater herself. There has always been a Vanessa Williams-sized hole in this show, and now that Ugly Betty has finished, Williams’ arrival on Wisteria Lane feels like destiny. This cannot go wrong.

And then I remember the cheerleaders, and the ass-kicking ninja women, and how TV messes everything up. Please don’t mess this up for me, TV.

Watch More TeeVee!

September 15th, 2010

TV is full of antioxidants and Omega-3 oils. That’s science. Experts say that you should consume at least five hours of television every day. It is a historical fact that people who died of plague, smallpox and scurvy had close to zero traces of TV in their systems, whereas 99% of Olympic athletes watch at least some TV as part of their training regimen and/or lives.

So we’re agreed that TV is good for you. Now that the new TV season is starting up in the US, it’s time to ask what shows you should be watching as part of an idiocy-controlled diet. And here I am to tell you! Specifically, I’ll tell you what I’ll be checking out this season  - and what I’ll be avoiding. After that, you’re on your own. I’m not your personal fitness instructor.

This post deals with Monday and Tuesday nights. I’ll be back for the rest later.

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90210 (CW, Monday 8pm)

Let’s start with a terrible idea; Watch 90210!

No, don’t watch 90210. Watch House, or Chuck, which are both on at the same time (not that anyone watches shows in their timeslot any more). You don’t have to watch 90210. I’ve never heard anyone say anything good about it.

I’ll be watching it, but only out of a sense of blogger obligation. A spoiler follows. That young man in the photo above is Trevor Donovan. As you have surely already worked out with your extraordinary deductive skills, he is a former Abercrombie & Fitch model and former daytime soap actor. If there is such a thing as ‘too blond’, he is the Joseph Goebbels propaganda poster boy for the concept. And this season, his character is coming out as gay.

This is new. They never make the All-American jock the gay guy. Yet this year we may see it happen on two shows (and I won’t tell you what the other one is). Whether it’s the pudgy guy, the artsy guy, or the flaming guy, the gay guy on TV is almost always the most ’sexually unthreatening’ guy on the show. That’s not to say that gay characters are never objects of lust - everyone on TV is sexy to someone - but it’s never the actual pin-up guy. I’ll be watching 90210 this year to see how they handle it. You don’t have to. I’ll probably let you know.

Hawaii Five-O (CBS, Monday 10pm)

This is the third time CBS has tried to make a star of Alex O’Loughlin, an actor with good abs and no charisma, and if they can’t make America love him with this heavily hyped remake of a well-known show, it’ll be time to put him out to pasture wherever Martin Henderson is now. The pilot was hugely expensive, so it might be worth checking out, but I don’t expect I’ll stick around. I slightly resent that they cast white guys in the two lead roles, and cast ethnic actors as the sidekicks (a Korean-American and a Korean-Canadian).

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The Event (NBC, Monday 9pm)

The officially designated Lost replacement is being promoted in the most frustratingly nebulous way. “It’s a mystery show! We can’t tell you what it’s about! Watch it anyway!” It’s a technique that didn’t work for Flashforward, and I think there were other recent mystery shows that were so short-lived that I don’t even remember them. Lost didn’t open big because it was a mystery show - no-one knew it was a mystery show when they started watching it - it was a hit because it started with a spectacular plane crash, and because the set-up posed some specific, definable questions.

That said, Lost has left a gap in the schedule. I suspect audiences don’t want to watch two mystery shows in one week, and that’s why nothing else could survive alongside Lost, but The Event stands a better chance than most of finding an audience hungry for New Lost. It also boasts a strong cast including Laura Innes, Blair Underwood and Željko Ivanek, and eye candy in the form of dreaaaammy Ian Anthony Dale (above) and Jason Ritter, who dances a delicate line between ‘hunky’ and ‘eerily like his dead father John Ritter’.

Glee (Fox, Tuesday 8pm)

If you don’t know how you feel about Glee by now, there’s no hope for you. It’s back, and this time it’s Britney, bitch.

Raising Hope/Running Wilde (Fox, Tuesday 9pm)

What I’ve come to think of as the ‘Verbing Name’ Comedy Hour. The concept of Raising Hope can be ascertained from the title - it’s about a young man left raising a baby. It’s a cringe-inducing concept, but I saw a preview a few weeks ago and found it surprisingly funny and endearing. It’s from the same creator as My Name Is Earl, and it has the same wit and intelligence - and it has Martha Plimpton and Garrett Dillahunt.

The other Verbing Name show is from the creator of Arrested Development, and stars Will Arnett, so you don’t really need to know what it’s about. It’s probably hilarious.

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The Good Wife (CBS, Tuesday 10pm)

This returning show was a very pleasant surprise last year. Juliana Margulies? Chris Noth? Lawyers? Surely it’s a show for mothers to watch with a large glass of Chardonnay? And so it is, but I know I’m not the only thirtysomething male who happily uncorks the Chardonnay every Tuesday evening for this splendid show.

Although The Good Wife is another lawyer show, its emphasis on footwork rather than court cases helps it to stand out. But that’s just a sweetener; what really makes this show work is its ripped-from-the-headlines main story. Margulies plays the scorned wife of a scandalized state’s attorney, a character based on disgraced former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer. That creates a great driving conflict for Margulies to sink her teeth into, making her the most compelling female character on TV right now - and she’s brilliant in the role. The cast also features some wonderfully subversive characters played to perfection by Christine Baranski, Alan Cumming and Archie Panjabi. It’s an exceptional ensemble, and I’m unashamedly excited to see this show return.

Excuse me, I need to buy more Chardonnay.

Mr Right: Conservatives Go Gay

September 1st, 2010

An entertainingly graceless bitch-fight is playing out in a little corner of the American right that you probably don’t pay much attention to. It began when gay conservative group GOProud announced that Ann Coulter was headlining their ‘HomoCon‘ event. GOProud chair Christopher Barron boasted of the event, “The gay left has done their best to take all the fun out of politics, with their endless list of boycotts and protests. Homocon is going to be our annual effort to counter the ‘no fun police’ on the left.”

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Ann Coulter, you may remember, was what we had to rile against before Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck eclipsed her relevance. Sadly for Coulter, her involvement with this event led to her being dropped by another, WorldNetDaily’s Taking America Back National Conference. (How far back they plan to take America is not clear, as American history does not have a Middle Ages.) WorldNetDaily was aghast at Coulter’s participation in HomoCon, accusing her of “legitimizing” sodomy and same-sex marriage.

There is an exquisite irony in these conservatives boycotting Coulter for her involvement in an event that advertises itself as an alternative to left-wing boycotts and protests. GOProud is getting a first hand taste of the hate and intolerance that the left is fighting against when protestors like Dan Choi chain themselves to the White House fence - a protest that GOProud’s Barron sneered at.

Still, GOProud are consistent in their do-nothing attitude to gay rights. Earlier this year they held an event at the San Diego Manchester Grand Hyatt, owned by Proposition 8 supporter Doug Manchester, thus stepping across the picket line at an ongoing boycott of that hotel. GOProud believe in letting other people do the ‘no fun’ stuff like trying to advance their rights, while they get drunk lining the pockets of the bigot who wants to take their rights away.

The contretemps between GOProud and WorldNetDaily is noteworthy for a few other reasons. Coulter’s response to WorldNetDaily was to say that she “speak[s] to a lot of groups and do[es] not endorse them” - in other words, she’s not necessarily on GOProud’s side, but she will take their money. She also called out WorldNetDaily for their absurd birtherism - the site has been nicknamed WingNutDaily - which gives us an idea of how far out on the fringe these people are. Even on the right, only the nuttiest of nuts are ready to attack the conservative gays in this way.

The American  right’s views on homosexuality are shifting just as the American electorate’s views are shifting. Several high profile conservatives have come out in favour of gay marriage, including Dick Cheney, Laura Bush and Bill O’Reilly. Even freshly minted pseudo-televangelist Glenn Beck concedes that opposing gay marriage is not a fight worth having. One of the two lawyers that tore down Proposition 8 was George W Bush’s former solicitor general, Ted Olson, who brilliantly framed the conservative case for gay marriage. Even the judge who overturned Prop 8 was a conservative, nominated by Reagan and the elder Bush.

The arguments against gay marriage, gay rights, and even homosexuality in general, are grounded in religion and ignorance, not in politics. Gay rights fit perfectly with the small government/personal liberty philosophies of the right. This week Steve Schmidt, the former campaign manager for John McCain, became the latest conservative to argue in support of gay marriage, suggesting that marriage promotes social stability. In his view, gay marriage is a family value.

Then there’s former RNC chair Ken Mehlman, a loathsome hypocrite who helped devise the party’s anti-gay strategy while keeping his own homosexuality under wraps. He can never make amends for his atrocious behaviour, but he is now another high profile advocate for equality. Then again, Mehlman claims that gays should have voted Republican in support of the right’s anti-Jihadist stance, so there may be depths to his ignorance yet to be tapped.

None of these conservatives are running for public office, of course, so they can safely move to the left of Barack Obama on gay issues. We’re still waiting for a conservative heavyweight to face the electorate on a marriage equality platform. Even so, same-sex marriage might never again be the wedge issue that it was in the 2000 election. No wonder the wingnuts at WorldNetDaily are so upset.

While gay rights may ultimately fit the conservative narrative, it seems that even right-wingers can’t quite stop themselves thinking of civil rights as a left-wing issue. Look at the inadvertant revelation in their odious HomoCon flyer, in which they refer to Ann Coulter as “the right wing Judy Garland”. The implication is that Judy Garland belongs to the left. Garland was a lifelong Democrat, yes, but she was not a political figure; she was and is the definitive gay icon. Giving her up to the left is a tacit admission that gay culture and gay rights are firmly established as the province of the left. By invoking Ann Coulter as their icon, GOProud have knocked over their queen.

Hot Blooded: True Blood’s ‘Barrage of Homosexuality’

August 25th, 2010

I do not particularly care for Anna Paquin’s nipples.

annapaquinWork-safe Anna Paquin (nipples not pictured)

But we’ll get to that later. Recently, a man who plays some kind of sport for some American sports team or other tweeted, “Caught up on True Blood. Not a fan of how they get u hooked with the 1st 2 seasons then bring on a barrage of homosexuality.”

Management must have clamped down on him in a hurry, because he quickly apologised, but the incident was enough to prompt Zap2It to ask if it was possible to be a fan of True Blood and a homophobe. (Though they used the term ‘anti gay’, which is the sensitive way that homophobes would like us to refer to their homophobia, because it’s so prejudiced to call them homophobes.)

One reader replied that he/she was “using the fast-forward button more and more as the shows morphs into nothing but a gay porn fest”. Another objected to the gay storylines “because in some instances they are pointless and obviously just added fluff on this show”. Another said, “Whenever there is any gay sex scenes (which is often) I switch channels for a minute or two”.

Apparently I’m watching the family edition of True Blood, because I’ve missed the gay porn fest. The guy who says there are often gay sex scenes, and who changes the channel whenever he sees one, has been changing the channel a little prematurely, because thus far - in three seasons of the show - there has been only one all-male sex scene. One. I rather doubt this fellow was changing channels at the first glimpse of Sapphism. In bigot maths, one gay sex scene is ‘often’.

For the record, that one sex scene - between vampires Eric and Talbot - was very obviously edited down to as few seconds as possible, and it ended with a literal ‘penetration = death’ metaphor. It was not a positive sex scene. So the number of romantic male-male sex scenes in three years of True Blood? Zero.

The scene certainly was not fluff; one character seduced another so that he could get close enough to kill him, as revenge for the murder of his family. In any other show, the introduction of gay sex as an entrée to death-by-phallus would set off alarm bells about the show’s attitude to homosexuality.

True Blood gets more of the benefit of the doubt than other shows, because it has a gay showrunner in Alan Ball, a positive central gay character in Lafayette, and a generous attitude to the display of male flesh, as epitomised by Ryan Kwanten’s Jason Stackhouse (though that’s probably meant to serve the show’s huge female audience rather than the gays). Even so, the show is not as gay-friendly as most people tend to believe.

It’s true that the show has got a lot gayer this season, but it still approaches the subject with a dainty touch that it doesn’t apply to other sexual relationships. Lafayette has been living like a monk for two seasons. Now that he finally has a boyfriend, the pair of them seem to be the only couple in the show to do their canoodling off-screen. They spend an astonishing amount of time lounging around indoors with their clothes on.

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There was also Sam’s dream about Bill, of course. People who drink vampire blood sometimes have sex dreams about the vampire. We know that Lafayette had these dreams about Eric, but we never saw it. Sam’s dream about Bill was hilariously porny in tone, but the characters didn’t even touch, let alone kiss. Finally, the latest episode showed the gay villain of the season in bed with a rent boy - but there was no sex scene, only another violent penetrative death.

Then there was the relationship between Eric and Godric in season two. This was an intense loving relationship between two men, but it was never presented as sexual, even though similar relationships have been, especially when they involved two women - Maryann and Daphne; Sophie-Anne and Hadley; even Pam and Yvetta. The same season showed an entire town engaging in Bacchanalian orgies, but it was all inexplicably heterosexual.

As the orgies suggest, True Blood is a shameless show. It is not shy about straight sex or nudity, either male or female. Nor does it skirt around the existence of gay characters or gay relationships. It’s just a little coy, and a little evasive, about showing male-male relationships off with the same salacious indulgence. True Blood is a gay-friendly show - one of the most gay-friendly shows I’ve ever seen - and I don’t mean to hold it to a higher standard than lesser shows, but it’s so revealing that even this show applies a double standard. When audiences accuse the show of becoming “gay porn”, it’s easy to understand why.

The reader who couldn’t tell the difference between ‘once’ and ‘often’ also said of the gay sex scenes; “As a straight man it is hard for me to watch a male sex scene. It repulses me.”

Sir; I have seen more of Anna Paquin’s nipples than I have ever wanted to see, and it does not please me in the least. However, I assume that you rather enjoy it, so I’m prepared to put up with it as a kindness to my fellow man. Maybe you could show me the same generosity?

Some Thoughts on the Proposition 8 Ruling

August 4th, 2010

Today’s Proposition 8 verdict is truly momentous. In ruling that the 2008 ballot proposition was unconstitutional, Judge Vaughn Walker did not end the fight for marriage equality in the US, but he took a huge step towards that inevitability.

Ezra Waldman at Towleroad offers some excellent analysis, highlighting Judge Walker’s admirable attention to detail. Walker’s ruling lays out the evidence with such clarity that the appeals court would break its back trying to reach a different conclusion.

The major talking point in opposition to the ruling have been as follows: First, the courts should not overturn the will of the voters. Second, the judge is gay, and therefore biased.

In keeping with all the arguments put forth by the pro-Prop 8 side, both points are nonsense. It is the duty of the law to protect the weak against the powerful, and the minority against the majority, and in this case the ruling establishes that Proposition 8 should never have been put to the vote in the first place. Courts are meant to overturn the will of the people, when the expressed will of the people is to remove rights and freedoms from an unprotected minority.

(While we’re on the subject of the majority vote, I note that some are hailing this ruling as a victory for California, by California. It isn’t. It’s a victory for the anti-Prop 8 defendants, their lawyers and their experts. California still bears the black mark of the Prop 8 vote. While Prop 8 passed by only 52% to 48%, that was with turnout of just under 80%. Almost two-thirds of all Californians who were eligible to vote were happy to see gays stripped of their rights in their state. You can’t spin that; you have to own it.)

As to the suggestion that Walker should have recused himself because of his homosexuality, this is an impossible argument for the bigots to win. First of all, it’s central to the ‘protect marriage’ argument that gay people are not losing anything by being denied the right to marry the person they love. If the bigots then contend that Judge Walker stands to gain something personally or financially by overturning Prop 8, that shows that they know their argument is bunk.

It’s also the Prop 8 advocates’ contention that gay marriage undermines straight marriage, on which basis a straight judge would also have a personal prejudice. Then there’s the question of whether religious judges should recuse themselves. What happens if/when this case reaches the Supreme Court? Do the six Catholic justices all recuse themselves? I’m perfectly happy for this case to be decided by Ginsburg, Breyer and Kagan. (Then again, maybe they won’t let Kagan play either.)

Obviously, from where I’m sitting, I can’t find fault in Walker’s ruling, and nor would I want to. If he’s potentially biased, I’m proudly so. Still, I think even an objective reading of the case in support of Proposition 8 would conclude that it offered nothing of substance. What few experts they were able to call were not able to offer any evidence in support of their cause, and in many cases their arguments helped their opponents. Any verdict other than the one delivered would have looked highly questionable.

Let’s Hear It For the Bi

July 28th, 2010

Update: See end of entry.

Quick, name a current bisexual celebrity. You have until the other end of this picture to think of one.

duncanjames

Ba-da, ba-da, ba-da-da-dum. Time’s up. Who did you think of? Was it Megan Fox? Anna Paquin? Angelina Jolie? Ooh, ooh; Lady Gaga? Lindsay Lohan? Was it Drew Barrymore? Pink?

I’m willing to guess that you probably didn’t think of Duncan James, even though that’s his picture you just scrolled past, either because you’ve never heard of him, or because you wouldn’t recognise him even if he was standing right in front of you.

You may have spotted the pattern in all those other names I mentioned, all of whom are self-identified bisexuals. Most famous bisexuals are women. It may in fact be the case that more bisexuals in the general population are women -  it’s a common enough assertion that female sexuality is more fluid than male - but even so, male bisexuals do exist, and a good male bisexual is hard to find. In terms of current celebrities, Duncan James is about as famous as it gets.

Sure, there are actors who came out late in life, or who were outed post-mortem - Brando, Clift, Olivier, Dean - and there is a handful of musicians who have sort-of come out as bisexual, but have also sort-of come out as ‘rejecting all labels’ - David Bowie, Billie Joe Armstrong, Mika. It’s easier to come out if your identity hinges on being ‘alternative’, or if you’re, well, dead. Male bisexuals are otherwise fairly invisible, and it’s not hugely difficult to work out why this might be. It’s harder for guys in the public eye. People are generally more accepting of bisexual women.

On the one hand, the idea of women who like boys and girls has huge value in a pop culture dominated by the tastes of straight men. Female bisexuality is titillating, so it’s credible and cool. On the other hand, any guy who comes out as bisexual is usually labelled ‘gay and in denial’, and guys who sleep with both men and women aren’t considered trendy; they’re considered a health risk, and banned from giving blood in otherwise civilised countries.

It’s therefore rather big news that Tom Hardy came out today, especially because of what he came out as.

tomhardy

Hardy is a rising star. He’s not a big name yet, but his role as Eames, the slightly swishy forger in the movie Inception, has already elevated him above his usual world of BBC dramas and low budget British indies. He’s the star of the remake of Mad Max (and let’s face it, that’s pretty well timed given the state of the former Mad Max), and just this week he landed an action/romance role in McG’s forthcoming spy comedy, This Means War, opposite Chris Pine.

Today, Hardy is quoted in the Daily Mail as admitting that he has had sex with men. The matter-of-fact manner of his revelation is extraordinary. When asked if he’s had same-sex experiences, he said; “Of course I have. I’m an actor for fuck’s sake”.

Hardy may have outed most of Hollywood with that admission, but he didn’t exactly come out as bisexual. He came out as someone who used to experiment with same-sex relationships, and he says that these relationships don’t “do it” for him any more. This is perhaps an unprecedented statement for a young, good-looking actor courting leading man roles in Hollywood blockbusters. He just confronted the unsuspecting mainstream multiplex audience with the notion of male sexual fluidity!

It helps that Hardy is quirky, of course. He’s British; he has tattoos; he’s a self-confessed recovering alcoholic and crack addict. He was never going to be Zac Efron. Hardy also has a fiancée, and a son, and an ex-wife - none of which prove straightness, but, taken in concert with his frankness, would seem to indicate that he’s not a gay man in denial. He can’t easily be dismissed.

So, this is kind of a big deal.

It’s not the biggest deal.One day, an actor of the calibre of ’80s-era Tom Cruise will come out as gay, and it will not destroy his career, and that will be the big leap forward - and it may happen ten years from now, or it may happen tomorrow. In the meantime, we’re likely to see incremental steps towards that level of acceptance, and Tom Hardy’s admission is one of those small steps. Tom Hardy can be the action hero, and the sex symbol, and he can unabashedly admit to a little youthful experimentation. Tom Hardy just changed the world a little bit.

Update: Commenter Ásta has pointed out that the interview with Hardy was given last year - a fact that has been omitted in most of the coverage. It’s possible that Hardy wouldn’t give the same interview today, and it will be interesting to see if he distances himself from it while he courts the mainstream.

Beyond that, the full interview adds more detail, but it doesn’t change what we know. Hardy isn’t interested in guys today, but he did experiment in his youth. “To me it just doesn’t compute now; I’m into my 30s and it doesn’t do it for me and I’m done experimenting”. Male sexual fluidity, especially expressed as frankly as this, is perhaps what the bigots fear the most.

SDCC 2010: The Vindication of Dr Wertham

July 25th, 2010

Over half a century ago, psychiatrist Dr Fredric Wertham warned about the corrupting influence of comics. He drew special attention to the ‘injury-to-the-eye’ motif, a common comic trope showing eyes being threatened by sharp objects. It was Wertham’s belief that such gruesome images were encouraging delinquency in America’s youth. “The injury-to-the-eye motif is an outstanding example of the brutal attitude cultivated in comic books”, wrote Wertham, adding, “it causes a blunting of the general sensibility.”

soti-eyemotif

It took about 55 years, but yesterday, one nerd finally stabbed another nerd in the eye. If only Dr Wertham were alive today to see the promise of his fearmongering realised!

The incident happened at the San Diego Comic-Con, and reports are fuzzy, but it seems that two nerds were fighting over seat-squatting in the big hall where the major movie panels take place. And they weren’t even good seats! The police said it was off to the side of the hall! The good news is, the attacker stabbed the victim in the eye with a pen, so comics can still be tied to a culture of literacy in America’s youth.

It will be tempting for the nerd blogs and forums to read far too much into this incident over the next few days. Questions will be asked about security at SDCC (no more pens at book signings!), about the ethics of seat-squatting, and about whether rooms should be cleared between panels - though those questions are raised every year anyway.

There’s also bound to be some attempt to define and expand upon the phenomenon of ‘nerd rage’, and to link this incident to the sort of frothing, intemperate anger that manifests on online message boards, where fanboys in the comfort of their homes thoughtlessly and senselessly hurl out violently invective at writers and artists whose work they don’t appreciate.

These people are not representative, they’re just loud. There’s an inclination in some professional quarters to dismiss all online criticism because of this vocal but unpopular minority, and that’s a shame. The crazies are easy enough to identify, and their impotent anger should easy enough to dismiss. Let’s remember all the people at San Diego this weekend who have never stabbed anyone in the eye.

godhatesnerdsPhoto source.

This incident is the second brush with real-life news at this year’s Comic-Con. The first occurred on Thursday when the bigots from the Westboro Baptist Church went through with their promise to picket the convention. I’m told they lasted about half an hour, and photos reveal that they were substantially outnumbered and outclassed by the counter-protesters, who revelled in their sin of idolatry with signs boasting, ‘All Glory to the Hypno-Toad’, and, ‘Magnets How The *?*! do they work?!’ Nerd pride!

In terms of actual comics news, I’ve been disappointed by how little of interest seems to have seeped out of the convention. Last year’s big announcement from Marvel was that they had acquired the rights to Marvelman - and what an exciting rollercoaster of Marvelman comic releases we’ve had since then! This year, Marvel was a little more stealthy in hinting that it will be bringing CrossGen books back into print.

CrossGen was a publisher with promise. It boasted of having the money to present a serious challenge to the market dominance of Marvel and DC, and it offered up an interestingly diverse slate of titles. Of course, the money thing turned out to be an exaggeration, and the line folded in 2004. Disney acquired the assets in bankruptcy court, and with Marvel now owned by Disney, there was already some speculation about a CrossGen revival under Marvel.

Hopefully that’s what we’re going to get, and if this means new CrossGen books, that’s great. If it only means reprints, that’s also kind of great, just not as great. One thing that I’d really like to see the major publishers get better at is repackaging and republishing old out-of-print material - both their own and other people’s. And wouldn’t it be nice to be able to buy some more Marvel trades that don’t have ‘Dark Reign’ or ‘Siege’ on the cover?

The big ‘other media’ news yesterday was the formal unveiling of the frighteningly handsome Avengers movie cast.

avengerscast

That’s Robert Downey Jr, that SHIELD agent guy, Scarlet Johansson, Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, Samuel L Jackson, Jeremy Renner, Mark Ruffalo, and writer/director Joss Whedon. More pertinently, it’s Iron Man, that SHIELD agent guy, Black Widow, Thor, Captain America, Nick Fury, Hawkeye and the Hulk.

This is a much stronger cast than I think anyone ever expected, for a movie that seemed unlikely to ever get made. It should be manageable, though, as all the characters bar Hawkeye will have been introduced by other movies (and even Hawkeye is likely to cameo somewhere, probably in the Captain America movie). It also seems plausible that the Hulk (now played by Mark Ruffalo) could be one of the threats in the story, in keeping with Marvel tradition.

Two things jump out at me about this cast. First, there’s no Don Cheadle/War Machine. That actually makes sense; what’s the value of having two Iron Men in an already crowded ensemble? On the other hand, that makes it a very white cast, but it’s fair to say that the Avengers have always tended a little towards the Aryan. As great as it would be to have Black Panther or Luke Cage in there, I’d rather they were introduced in their own movies first.

Second, there’s only one woman. I would hope that they can add at least one more to the roster, and given Joss Whedon’s penchant for nerd madonnas, I’m sure he’ll find the room. Whedon has confirmed that Ant-Man won’t be in the movie, but Wasp still could be, and as Thor already brings magic into this world, it wouldn’t bend the genre to introduce the Scarlet Witch. Ms Marvel could be a lot of fun - I don’t think ladies with the basic Superman power set have been shown on-screen since Supergirl. I assume they’ll save Mockingbird for a Hawkeye spin-off.

I also have a couple of reservations about this movie. It’s going to be released in 3D, but there’s no word on whether it will be shot in 3D or converted. I’ve yet to see a live action 3D conversion that worked, and besides, I’m already bored of 3D movies - I suspect I won’t be the only one by the time this movie comes out in 2012.

I’m also reticent about Whedon as writer/director. Like Avengers comics writer Brian Bendis, Joss Whedon is very talented, but like Bendis, he has a very distinctive voice as a writer, one that tends to overwhelm the voices of the characters. I don’t think Bendis’s idiosyncracies serve an ensemble cast very well, and though Whedon has had better luck with ensembles, he still feels like an awkward fit for the Avengers.

Of course, Bendis’s Avengers books have been a big success for Marvel, and Whedon’s Avengers will likely be a huge hit as well. That’ll be one in the eye for me.

The Gay Menace

July 20th, 2010

The above video is from the National Organization for Marriage - the same whiny hate group that gained some notoriety for its support of anti-gay ballot propositions like Proposition 8, but which is perhaps better known for its hilariously awful Gathering Storm ad. (”The clouds are dark, and the winds are strong, and I am afraid.”)  The group is currently touring the US, spreading their gospel of intolerance.

The video tells the harrowing story of a mother who was bullied by marriage equality advocates at a NOM event in Albany. Bullied! First, they blocked her view of the event. And then they set her on fire.

Sorry, typo; first they blocked her view of the event, and then only some of them were considerate enough to turn around when she wanted to breastfeed her baby.

This was a happening so heinous that NOM felt it was worth making a video about it. “Gay marriage protesters” bullying and intimidating a “mother with young kids”. And at a peaceful rally, no less. Spot all the manipulations there; first you should be outraged that they were gay (well, ‘gay marriage protesters’, but you know where the emphasis is here), and then we’re told that the woman was a mother - mothers are always good - and that she had her kids with her - sweet innocent babes who have never harmed anyone, poor souls! And it was a peaceful rally; no-one tried to water the tree of liberty with the blood of tyrants all day.

nomprotest1

Of course, the marriage equality protesters were also peaceful. They did not threaten anyone. They did not push, provoke, or abuse anyone - if they had, you can be sure NOM would have said so. The video makes it quite clear that they simply stood still and refused to move. They played by the same rule book as NOM, yet what NOM was doing was peaceful and what the marriage equality side was doing was ‘bullying’.

(Should they have looked away when the lady breast-fed her child? I’m sure I would have, but no-one is obliged to look away if you breastfeed in a public place.)

The point of this video is to paint NOM and their supporters as victims. This is their favourite role to play; long-suffering martyr guardians of traditional values trying to preserve their way of life against the deviant infidel. This was also their position in the Proposition 8 trial, the verdict for which should come in any day.

Yet when it comes to showing the world the face of their oppressor, the best they can manage is some people obstructing a woman’s view in a park - oh, and someone gave their tour bus a flat tyre. They know they can’t prove that gay marriage invalidates or weakens their own marriages or their families. They know that it won’t corrupt their children or destroy their churches. They know that it won’t do anything worse than offer some stability to people they don’t like. So they show you people with umbrellas, standing in a park, and ask you to be afraid.

Contrast that to what organisations like NOM are doing to gay people in the US. They’re demonising them, spreading lies about them, damaging and marginalising their families, driving up their tax bills, taking their rights away and keeping them from enjoying equality. Clearly they are the bullies, but their best cover for this is to try to convince you that they’re the victims.

Here’s another video from another NOM event. This is the voice of the National Organization for Marriage. This is as coherent as it gets. See if it makes sense to you.

On the subject of incomprehensible right wing protests; it’s San Diego Comic Con week again, and this year the show may receive a visit from the grand wizard of all bigots, the Lady Gaga of hate, Mr Fred Phelps himself. His Westboro Baptist Church is expected to be at the convention centre at 1:15pm on Thursday because - and I swear, this is their given reason - comics are full of false idols.

Obviously these are trivial-minded, sensationalist, publicity-hungry people. I rather doubt they believe in anything other than the importance of their own celebrity. Even so, the horrific ideas that they promote are dangerous - though they probably make far more converts against them than for them.

Counter-protests are likely - my favourite is the proposal for Glee fans to assemble to sing ‘Hate On Me‘ - but the best idea came from comic writers Kelly Sue DeConnick and Matt Fraction and their GodLovesBatman initiative. They intend to donate $100 to AIDS research if the Phelps clan makes their scheduled 45 minute appearance, and more if they stick around longer. You can read all about it here, and you can make a pledge of your own. I will happily match their $100 pledge.

Ironically, the Phelps clan will also be also be protesting at the Manchester Grand Hyatt in San Diego on the same day, because Al Gore is appearing there. As long-time readers will know, the hotel has been the subject of ongoing protests and boycotts by gay rights activists because its owner was a major donor to Proposition 8, though the comic industry has seemingly never participated in that protest. Doug Manchester claims to have repented, and pledged money to support civil unions, which is rather like claiming to renounce racism and demonstrating your sincerity by paying for blacks-only drinks fountains.

Airbender: The Mickey Rooney Club

July 4th, 2010

M Night Shyamalan’s new movie, The Last Airbender, is not getting much praise from critics or from audiences. As of this writing, it’s averaging 8% on Rotten Tomatoes, 20/100 on Metacritic, and a 4.7/10 user rating on IMDB. Those are seriously awful notices; even Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen had ratings of 20%, 35/100 and 6/10 respectively. GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra scored 35%, 32 and 5.8. Even Sex & The City 2 fared better.

The movie will probably perform well at the box office this weekend, even up against the titan of a new Twilight movie. It should even make its money back in the long run, and I wouldn’t completely rule out the possibility of sequels. Even so, Last Airbender will be hailed as one of cinema’s great critical turkeys, alongside Oliver Stone’s Alexander (15%/39/5.4), Halle Berry’s Catwoman (10%/27/3.2%), and John Travolta’s Battlefield Earth (still worse than Airbender, at 3%/9/2.3).

airbenderlogo

This critical floppage is The Last Airbender’s second claim to infamy. I talked about its first back in one of my first posts to this blog back in January of last year. The Last Airbender is based on the cartoon series Avatar: The Last Airbender, set in a fantasy world that draws heavily on Asian culture. None of the characters in the series are Caucasian, but all of the actors picked to play the four central roles were Caucasian. Fans were inevitably outraged, and they protested, and one of those four key roles - that of the main villain - was re-cast with an Anglo-Indian actor. This did little to quell the protests.

I don’t know to what extent the movie’s critical drubbing is informed by disgust at the cast whitewashing - it’s mentioned in many reviews, but the movie seems to struggle under a weight of other problems, including soulless performances and forced 3-D. At the very least, I suspect the race controversy preconditioned critics to be unsympathetic to the movie’s flaws, and served to ensure that many of the cartoon’s fans - who ought to be the movie’s greatest cheerleaders - would be its loudest opponents. This video from ReelzChannel shows people dressed as characters from the cartoon lining up to say that the movie “sucked”. (Fans can be notoriously critical of adaptations of their favourite works during production, but they usually come around when they actually see the movie, if it has any redeeming qualities at all.)

Shyamalan responded to the race controversy in an interview published at IndieMoviesOnline, opening with a familiar gambit; “As an Asian-American, it bothers me when people take all of their passion and rightful indignation about the subject and then misplace it.”

This is the minority author as the sole arbiter of minority identity. Last time we heard that response, it was from Torchwood writer Russell T Davies on the subject of Ianto’s death on that show, and that time it was even less elegantly expressed; “We’re talking about issues in my entire life here, not just one small television program. … [Critics] should simply grow up, do some research, and stop riding on a bandwagon that they actually don’t know anything about.”

Never mind that critics of Davies were often gay, and critics of Shyamalan have often been Asian; because Davies is gay and Shyamalan is of Asian-American, it is the audience’s ‘misunderstanding’ that’s to blame, and no reflection on the author or director’s insensitivity.

shyamalan

Shyamalan’s justifications don’t improve thereafter. He insists that the villainous character recast from white to brown is “the actual hero of the series”. Last time I wrote about Avatar: The Last Airbender, I admitted that I hadn’t seen the show. Now I have, and I loved it - I would say it is easily one of the best TV shows of the ’00s - and unless Shyamalan has changed the story radically, I know which roles the characters play.

When he says, “They immediately assume that everyone with dark skin is a villain. That was an incredibly racist assumption which as it turns out is completely incorrect”, he’s being disingenuous. Fans of the show know which characters are the villains, and it happens that all the major villains in the movie are dark-skinned, though all the dark-skinned characters are not villains. Some of the villains do go on journeys towards heroism, and ultimately commit some of the most heroic acts in the story, but they can’t steal the title of ‘hero’ from the guy that kids know is the hero; the one whose role is to save the world.

The second justification? “What happened was, Noah Ringer walked in the door – and there was no other human being on the planet that could play Aang except for this kid.” Ringer is the white actor picked to play the Tibetan-looking lead character. Judging by reviews, there are in fact other actors in the world who could have played Aang at least as well. Shyamalan’s hyperbole is not a convincing defence.

Third justification: There are four tribes in the series. Shyamalan cast three of them as non-Caucasian and one as Caucasian, so his world is one-quarter Caucasian, which he considers very fair and balanced. Of course, one of those tribes is extinct in the series, so his world is really one-third Caucasian. Eithier way, the real world is less than one-fifth Caucasian, so Shyamalan gave white folks an upgrade. More crucially, his defence here is that he cast the background characters as non-Caucasian. As a response to the criticism that he made the three heroic leads Caucasian, it’s hopeless. Aang should appear Asian; Katana and Sokka (below) should appear Inuit. All three are played by white Americans.

katarasokkaWhite People.

Shyamalan also says, “The Last Airbender is the most culturally diverse movie series of all time.” Well, that’s nonsense; I doubt there’s an ethnicity you can name that James Bond hasn’t run through a crowd of.

Fourth: “The art form of Anime in and of itself is what’s causing the confusion.” Here, Shyamalan has a point, sort of. Avatar isn’t anime, but it is influenced by Japanese animation, and the simplicity of character design in animation - and in line drawing in general - does allow people to see themselves in characters regardless of ethnicity. They can say that a character is ‘just like me’, and pretend to be him or her in the playground.

Movies don’t allow for that sort of ambiguity, so Shyamalan had to pick a side - and he picked white kids. This was a movie that kids from non-white ethnicities rightly thought they would be able to own, to identify with without having to reach for it, and Shyamalan chose to take that gift away from them and give it to the white kids. Non-white kids have long had to look for heroes they can identify with regardless of skin colour, because they’re not being served and they don’t have a choice. White kids, it seems, will never be asked to stretch themselves in that way.

Shyamalan also says, “If there’s an issue with why Anime does not put particularly specific Asian features from the PC Asian types that people think should be there … take it up with Anime animators. It has nothing to do with me.”

This is not right at all, but it’s a common enough trap, and one that I’ve fallen into myself in the past, before learning more about anime and manga. Because drawings are easy to identify with, we tend to see the familiar elements and ignore the unfamiliar ones. Many people have said that the lead character, Aang, ‘looks white’. His skin is pale and his eyes are wide.

lastairbendercastNon-White People.

Aang does not ‘look white’ if you’re Asian. Anime characters do not look Caucasian if you’re Asian, unless they’re meant to be (in which case they’ll probably have big ugly noses, because that’s how Caucasians are often viewed by Asians).

It’s ignorance and presumption to say, ‘if I can see my race in this character, this character can only be my race’. This video brilliantly (but rather hurriedly) skewers that presumption by pointing out exactly how Anime characters look Asian if you’re Asian. Anime characters have rounded Asian faces and Asian bone structure; their round eyes are an animation convention that doesn’t signify any particular race; and plenty of Asian people are pale-skinned.

Japan does prize pale skin as an aesthetic ideal, but that has nothing to do with aspiring towards a Caucasian look, any moreso than white people getting tans is due to ethnic insecurity in the West. Sailor Moon is not white. Ryu from Street Fighter is not white. Aang is not white.

But Aang is also not Tibetan. None of the characters in Avatar: The Last Airbender are actually Asian, or Indian, or Inuit. Avatar is set in a fantasy world; the characters could look like any ethnicity, so why shouldn’t they be white?

This is the most willfully pig-headed justification anyone could offer for the movie’s casting, and Shyamalan is wise enough not to lean on it, but others have made the case. The setting of the series is explicitly inspired by Asian (and Inuit and Mesoamerican) cultures, from buildings to clothing to calligraphy to iconography to hairstyles to weapons to fighting styles to codes of conduct to matters of faith. This isn’t a secret, and it isn’t disputed, so you would need to make a compelling case to explain why the culture should be heavily Asian but the people should not be. That case has not been made.

The case against making that change is simple; Why take heroes away from minority kids in the West who don’t have a lot of heroes in Western culture that they can aspire to? Why make that change at all? There isn’t even a sound business explanation, as none of the actors cast have any box office cachet. The business argument may simply be that audiences are inherently racist, but that will surprise the makers of the hugely successful new Karate Kid movie, with its black and Chinese leads.

It’s true that sometimes characters in fiction are changed from Caucasian to another race, and few people complain, but the clear difference is between adding to the diversity of our entertainment culture, and taking away from it. Caucasians have little cause to protest the former; non-Caucasians have good cause to agonise over the latter. That pained reaction is exactly what we’ve seen from the whitewashing of The Last Airbender, and the outrage is entirely merited.

A lot of fans of Avatar: The Last Airbender will be celebrating the movie’s critical excoriation this weekend, and praying that it under-performs at the box office. Even if the movie meets expectations, the message has been sent that fans and minority groups will not take this sort of thing quietly, and movie studios will do well to show more sensitivity in future. Hopefully the studios and the filmmakers will listen. More likely, they’ll just keep making poor justifications.