Gazing into the world of Nerdism in the past week, it would be hard for any commentator to make a summation of events and not come to the logical, bracing conclusion that the sub-culture is on fire; a war of political correct liberalism, white knights and third wave feminists are fighting a battle to be heard, to engulf and transmogriphy a medium to their modern design standards – while a hard-line of right wing extremists are batting back with a ferocity to halt proceedings – said ferocity attributed to the galvanisation of the once silent majority through anonymous internet politics.
The Hugo Awards, a tradition so engrained in sci-fi as to be sacrosanct, have been violated if George RR Martin is to be believed; broken beyond repair. The sci-fi awards were, in recent years, according to authors movement founder, creating a blacklist against right leaning authors – the Orson Scott Cards of the world – where their work was judged by their individual standing rather than the quality of the prose. The rights response was single-minded and devastating with a bought ballot in favour of the right amidst a campaign nicknamed #SadPuppies, a subterfuge play and somewhat misguided effort to re-establish a classic sci-fi era that may have only ever existed in the minds of these disenfranchised.
It was #GamerGate all over again as the left bit hard on the bait, threw its toys out of the pram and played to a blatant plot by rightist extremists. Click bait slate hate was quickly picked up by the media desperate to exploit a razzle dazzle war of the sexes, races and orientations. The left ran a social smear campaign that threw buzzwords like ‘sexism’ and racism’ about with rabid effectiveness. The smears were disproven in embarrassing EW revisions that gave the game away as anything other than a bid for media click-through, while any point that Correria and his supporters ever had was washed away in a tit for tat battle. Hits were scored and received on the virtual battlefield, eventually infiltrated by the truly dreadful followers from an already vilified camp. What followed were grammatically painful slurs on an opposition just waiting to be martyred; the latest victims of textual verbosity.
The painful reality is there may indeed have been a point hidden beneath all the Sad Puppy vitriol and TV’s Jonathan Ross experienced its piercing tip the year previous. A neophyte writer in the sci-fi/horror genre, Wossy, set to present at the behest of authorial superstar Neil Gaiman, instead was booed off presenting duties by hate filled tweets that questioned his politics and heavily suggested his not so closet sexism. Wossy reneged the Hugo’s offer, and bowed out amidst the claims. Odd accusations for a man whose wife is the highest profile female screenwriter in Hollywood, or perhaps she writes her scripts from the kitchen?
George RR Martin was barely through a scathing blog companion to the Hugo scandal and the subsequent fan lambasting for taking that precious time to advocate their rights (when he should have been novel-ing. A paradox, no?) when #ChoGate broke, and the internet spewed rage anew. It was the latest industry scandal wherein industry legend and Cheesecake specialist Frank Cho was hauled across the coals by the same bitter harridans you were just sentences ago feeling sorry for. Posting a sketch of Jason LaTours’ rejigged Spider-Gwen in the now infamous Milo Manara pose (and featuring Spider-Man’s wide eyed appreciation of her off-screen posterior, below) Cho saw an avalanche of hate and outrage from vocal moral-mobsters aghast at his defiling of the much deemed progressive female character.
Cuss filled anti-Cho rants from series artist Robbie Rodriguez were to follow before Marvel (presumably?) muzzled his advance, while either side of the debate seethed and spat via social media in all its varying forms. MarySue bloggers gritted their teeth, rolled their sleeves and reminded the tried and tested adage; just because you can, doesn’t mean you should, while sex-ified Cosplayers fell on their polythene swords for the cause of modern women’s Lib.
Unrelenting Cho re-affirmed his stance, staunch and willing to break the internet for the right to cheesecake expressionism. Fellow artists stepped hard to show solidarity; Industry powerhouses Rob Liefeld, J Scott Campbell and Joyce Chin (Shock, Horror! She’s a woman) amongst others took to the feeds to throw in their own ten cents in support of Cho while the radicals, like any extremists, refused to bow down to logic over fervent unsupported belief. Eric Larsen spun in his virtual grave as so called SJW’s further attempted to smother perceived un-PC pageantry in mediums they’ve encroached upon with ticker tape morality on a high ground entirely of their own warped manufacture. The argument simmered and threatened to cool. But just when you thought it was over Nerd Jesus, and feminist Wolfe Tone Joss Whedon (below) inadvertently entered the debate.
With his tweets regards Jurassic World’s backwards exchanges not nearly faded into obscurity, Age of Ultron publicity tours reaped further sound bites and quotes compounding his already impressive array. Sentiments to the effect of; 140 character tweets describe insubstantial morality boiled into black and white heralded a milder touch absolving of previous exchanges. The verbal massaging of frayed relations between Whedon and right swinging actor Adam Baldwin seemed to work out the knots of pre-suspected tension. But Baldwin said otherwise with a 10K charity incentive, daring Whedon into an internet debate with Feminist Scholar and first wave advocate Christina Hoff Sommers. This mere Tweets after Whedon’s advocating and advancing of Feminista and misandry vox populi Laurie Penny’s sci-fi short in the days following the accusations of the left working on the moral whittle at the Hugo’s.
So here’s the rub; Radicalism of either side is stepping in to make its claim in a war of gender politics through a culture and mediums where inclusivity is increasingly a police-state. Stories are becoming skewed and vetted; messages to the neo-liberal millennial’s embedding the sins of their forefathers, a stab back at the mistakes of a colonial past. Truth; there’s been plenty of mindless, violent and misogynistic fare. Truth; anything worth reading is a reflection of the time, the people and its politics. But when the new content is less a question asked of the reader, more a bludgeon by which they are guilted into agreement, then these are not stories but doctrines. Not entertainment, but dogma and enforced belief, the deviation from which denigrates the values of free choice and stamps on expression and pragmatic creative endeavour. If a balance isn’t struck, an accord between the warring sides of a double blinkered debate, then creatively marginalised, sanitised and worthless output awaits.
Muscle men with ray guns and buxom vixens lose all purpose without the pursuit of human agenda, while sententious maxims are nothing without the substance of entertainment to give them bulk and weight. Some consumers want Hillbilly theatre in spandex, baby oiled heroes of the printed page and their equally disproportionate cheesecake femme sidekicks. The modern, morally ‘would be’ erudite wants inclusive tales that abandon context and genre moulds for idealism and the annexing of offending artistic turpitude.
The cynic might suspect the publishing and comics industries of playing both side against each other for the maximum profit. Female Thor might outsell guy Thor; women read it to be empowered, men to be outraged. The reality is that the erasure of one identity is going to be facilitated at the cost of the other. If Bill Maher’s decade long predictions regards modern Americana are to be swallowed like the (some would say bitter) pill they are, then have faith it will be the masculine that dies, historically so, to be survived by the feminine.
Rights and left camp non-extremes are finding themselves ever pushed towards the middle. The only universally effective method for change lies with these consumers, their most effective weapon their ability to vote. As consumers, with their pockets. Change or preservation, or something new entirely can only be elicited by the catalysing of the silent majority on issues that are being radically led by the cultural nose by parties non representative of the whole. A genre’s direction hangs in the balance and it’s the responsibility of the financially invested fans to guide its fate not based on either side’s dogma, but the truth of what they actually enjoy. If you don’t enjoy it, and don’t support it, then don’t buy it. The money men in the big offices have ears only for ‘ka-ching’s,’ the swell of the mighty greenback, and in an underselling industry those ears are listening hard. Pay them for the pleasure of being heard then. And f**k who says what on the internet.