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The Post-Game Show » fred phelps

Posts Tagged ‘fred phelps’

SDCC 2010: The Vindication of Dr Wertham

Sunday, 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

Tuesday, 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.