Archive for the ‘media criticism’ Category


Dresden Files… hmm, maybe I’ll pass

July 7, 2011

Random folks have mentioned I should check out the books, and maybe the RPG.

Of course, red flag #1 is that it sounds like the books use the classic “ZOMG scary people of color!” trope while not actually having POC characters.

Of course, that’s just the usual cluelessness, but then, there’s always white privilege defensiveness that nails the coffin:

Jim Butcher tweets:

Why do some people not understand than I’m the real person, and that the fiction I write is… well, fiction?

Fiction means make-believe. I’m not a goddamned socioeconomic historian

I did respect them, actually. Up until the “fuck you Jim Butcher” part.

I take that back. Up until the part where they play the racist card. 🙂

Ah, yes, the racist card. Because a book in modern, urban America which only has white characters, and people of color are non-characters, shadows scurrying in the dark, who live in urban Mordor, where agony and suffering hangs in the air like the glare of Sauron is totally a reasonable accident.

Naturally you’d need to be a socioeconomic historian to not trip over that one!

And it’s totally exploring new fictional space and not at all related to real world racism how people of color aren’t people but actually just dangerous threats who live in scarytown… oh wait.

I think this wry observation might explain his response:

….we must first explain to you something very important about white people. When we are asked to talk about race, we tend to freak the fuck out all over the place. The reason, of course, is that talking about race is dangerously close to acknowledging the existence of racism, and if white people acknowledge the existence of racism, we might have to DEAL WITH racism. SOMEONE MIGHT EVEN CALL US RACIST. Which is actually the worst thing that can happen IN THE ENTIRE WORLD. It is worse than meteors of fire falling from the sky and eradicating the entire earth, worse than a lake of magma opening up and swallowing the North American continent, worse than an army of demons emerging from the depths of hell bearing many hot pokers with which to poke us. THAT IS HOW BAD IT IS. Surely it must be worse than EXPERIENCING racism, right? RIGHT? IT’S TOTALLY WORSE.

Naturally, some folks will go, “But you didn’t give his books/game a chance!” and I have to wonder why I should be putting money towards creators who can’t be bothered to have me, folks around me, or people like us, in the biggest collective sense, as people?


Why is there hate in my fun?

June 17, 2011

For all the talk of “Politically Correct Censorship”, it seems that you can say a lot of misogynist stuff and still get paid to write about how to bring women into roleplaying.

They’ve just pulled down the article, but it really says a lot about the whole process that it got put up in the first place.

“Best person for the job”

I’m totally against employers digging through people’s blogs, tweets, and facebook pages, but let’s be honest: if this guy is spewing these views semi-publicly, I don’t think it would have been that hard to figure out with a simple conversation or two.

“We’re doing an article on bringing women into gaming- why are you more qualified than the women who already work for us, and have written articles for us, on this subject?”

That’s not PC-policing- that’s trying to find someone qualified for the task, which is something an editor should be doing at some point the process.

This is one of those cases where you could easily assume that a woman probably would have more knowledge on the subject… but I’m sure it probably never really came up or was considered in the process – just slammed through to make sure DDI has enough content.

“We’re following the market!”

It’s always interesting the way “following the market” is used as an excuse, but only in one direction. When people ask why (games/movies/books/whatever) pretty much focus on straight white males, they say, “We’re following the market!”

But, if the people who aren’t straight, white, males, complain and take their money/viewership elsewhere, then suddenly they’re in the wrong? I thought they weren’t part of the market you were going for, anyway, right?

And, when companies do decide to listen to people complaining, who are threatening to take their money elsewhere, aren’t they, indeed, following the market?

I’m reminded of David Gaider’s inclusive market comment on Bioware Games:

The romances in the game are not for “the straight male gamer”. They’re for everyone. We have a lot of fans, many of whom are neither straight nor male, and they deserve no less attention. We have good numbers, after all, on the number of people who actually used similar sorts of content in DAO and thus don’t need to resort to anecdotal evidence to support our idea that their numbers are not insignificant… and that’s ignoring the idea that they don’t have just as much right to play the kind of game they wish as anyone else. The “rights” of anyone with regards to a game are murky at best, but anyone who takes that stance must apply it equally to both the minority as well as the majority. The majority has no inherent “right” to get more options than anyone else.

When we look at the use of “following the market” it’s used as a good thing when it’s about marketing to straight white men, and it’s never mentioned when talking about marketing to more than just straight white men – instead we get stuff like being “PC police”, oversensitive, censorship, etc.

When 51% of all people are women, 10% are LGBT, and, at least in the US, 28% of us are folks of color… straight white men aren’t actually a majority market (more like 31-32%). Shouldn’t we be flipping that terminology around?

Isn’t doing stuff like turning characters of color into white people a form of censorship? Isn’t removing gay male relationships from media and games a form of political policing? Isn’t getting upset that people asking for more than a constant focus on a “minority market” being a little oversensitive?

Putting white male gamers on trial, or something

I think NK Jemisin says it best:

I’m getting really, really sick of the idea that respecting your fellow human beings is somehow restrictive or oppressive or damaging to creativity, productivity, the genre, whatever….When you complain about political correctness, we hear “Man, if only we were still back in the good ol’ days, when I could stomp all over other people with impunity!” That’s what you really mean, so why not just come right out and say it?

If the point of gaming (geek media, fandom, whatever) is about having fun, why is it always a problem when we ask to be included in that fun and not abused in the process? Is fun a limited resource that we have to conserve like we’re going to hit Peak Oil or something?

The idea that other people being respected, or included, is a problem, only makes sense if you’re saying your fun relies upon disrespecting and self-segregation.

And if that’s the case, the question is who’s really the folks making unreasonable demands here?


Womanist Musings & The Unbearable Whiteness of Being

January 27, 2011

Womanist Musings has a damn good post on The Unbearable Whiteness of Being, dealing in part with romance, but also with fantasy in general:

If one purpose of fantasy is providing escapism from a flawed world, it is absolutely necessary that everyone has tools to construct a fantasy world where they can be affirmed for everything they are, including their race. As we walk through a world where whiteness, thinness and cis-genderism is worshipped, for many of us, fantasizing about a better life where we are whiter, thinner, and more ‘normal’ is the insidious deepening of psychic wounds that eventually catch up with us.

The power of storytelling and imagination is great – it is the ceiling of possibility for many- what you cannot even imagine, you cannot aim for. The problem of internalized racism is for many, it’s impossible to imagine success or happiness without whiteness. This is the end result of constant bombardment of the white normative (and, really, white supremacy as a normalized ideal).

The flip side of this, when we look at media creators and publishers, is the inability to come to terms with what they’re making and why. When challenged on it, the two big excuses are either “We’re targeting our market!” or “We’re only making what we know!”

Given that many Western countries are multicultural these days, who is their market again? Is it, indeed, solely decided by skin color, and if so, what does that say? Or, if they only know living in segregation, a world without us, or us as horrible stereotypes, what does that say as well?

It’s like watching a 5 year old kid make excuses for bad behavior, but the excuses only dig a deeper hole.

(See previously –Debunking White Fantasy)


Into the Far West getting the side eye

December 12, 2010

Into the Far West had me hesitantly excited, after all, Wuxia + Wild West is a good idea, and one which stuff like The Good, the Bad, and the Weird show you can do in awesome ways.

…but then:

What is the role of American Indians or analogues group in the setting?

There is no analogue. For three reasons:

1) American Indians did not feature for the most part in Spaghetti Westerns — usually due to a lack of Europeans who could convincingly play them. The stories just didn’t concentrate on that part of the West, as a result — which added to the Spaghetti Western’s odd sense of dislocation.

2) There is really no accompanying analog in Wuxia stories — and we’re shooting for the overlap between the two genres.

3) RPGs already have some frankly troublesome issues surrounding portrayals of minorities/”the other”, and I didn’t want to contribute to that. You’ll also note from our artwork that we’re going with a cross-cultural look to our characters — similar to the BBC’s decision of “colorblind casting” on their series.

…so… you trust yourself enough to incorporate wuxia, and asian influences without being problematic… but not Indians?

This is sounding a lot like Patricia Wrede’s Thirteenth Child where people want a twee Wild West without all those troublesome Indians.

In this case, asians are being used as the Model Minority even in a fictional fashion to replace the scarier Indians.

I’d imagine if you’re building a setting that is not-earth, why not include Indians? Indians who aren’t losing a war of genocide and displacement, in fact, a world without such a war?

To repeat the Penny Arcade analogy about the power to create and making wackness:

“This is like having the ability to shape being from non-being at the subatomic level, and the first thing you decide to make is AIDS.”

Sigh. I’m tired of having to keep coming back to the options of either invisibility or stereotypes. For a hobby “limited only by your imagination”, people seem to have rather narrow confines.


It took many hands to make this

July 5, 2010

Glockgal's Cartoon on Failbender

And, essay to go with it.

My frustration with media is that this keeps happening, over and over. So many people point to it as an “isolated incident”. No, you don’t have 100 years of cinema involving whitewashing and hundreds of people working on a film and it’s an “accident”. And then it happens over and over.

This, is, to be expected with large media- the more money at stake, the more money in the pot, the more many hands want to be in it, the more restrictions people put on what you can do. That these choices are inevitably racist and sexist has a lot less to do with “what sells” and mostly to do with what people are willing to sell.

On the flip side- this is why I’m just as critical of independent media- because you don’t have investors, company executives or marketing team pushing for you to put in problematic elements- it’s you and your small crew, if even that. You can’t say you lost control – you did this yourself.

When you put out work that says, “Fuck you!” don’t be surprised when people yell “Fuck you!” in return.