Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The State We're In

Okay, I was going to write about how I'm in the middle of Tim Eldred's Grease Monkey and it's a fantastic piece of work but I'll have to post on it some other day. Instead I made the mistake of reading a rather poor excuse for comics criticism on another blog and it has me generally pissed off. I'm not going to mention the blog or the poster because I really don't need an internet nemisis or anything right now. Needless to say you've probably read it as well and will probably figure out what I'm writing about shortly.

Basically it was a dismissal of Allison Bechdel's Fun Home for reasons that don't make sense or even exist as valid reasons other than misogyny, sexism or homophobia. I don't believe that was the author's intent or that the author is, in fact, a horrible person. See what I did there? I made some horrible claim about someone then said they probably weren't bad. It's a lame attempt to cover my ass by throwing out accusations then pretending I don't mean them. It is not a valid criticism or valid argument and it disappoints me to see that pass as criticism on a "mainstream" comic blog.

I'm all for opinions that are different from mine. I don't have a problem with people who don't like the things I like. What I do have a problem with is writing a dismissal in the form of a critique. Whether through laziness, indifference or intent. I guess I just expect more from comic bloggers.

I know I'm not the best comic critic in the world. I know I don't back up every argument I make and sometimes I make general statements but I try not to assume what the "con" side of an argument is thinking to support my own argument. It's simply unfair. Yes, I may question their wisdom or fling, hopefully, funny and sarcastic language in their direction but I don't assume.

What has me riled up the most is the general dismissal of the quality of the work based on everything outside the work. The sex and sexuality of the author, the publisher, the genre are all reasons why the book isn't "good" which simply baffles me. We claim to hate it when media other than those already connected to comics write about graphic novels and throw in those old reliables - comix, comics aren't for kids anymore, and hey look it's not all North American superheroes. Yet, when one of our own does a worse job we simply roll our eyes and wait for the flame war in the comments section. Me, I'm just utterly disappointed in both the author and the site. They are both capable of better, I've seen them do it and enjoyed reading thier contribution to the comic book community.

I encourage different opinions because they allow me to see things in a new light and have lead me to works I normally wouldn't gravitate towards. I encourage general dismissal, especially when done honestly, but more so when done humorously. But what I don't tolerate is backhanded criticism hiding behind compliment. "It's good but it only got accolades because she was a lesbian" isn't criticism, it's homophobia.

This whole situation feels a lot like any artistic (or other shared) community that just isn't ready for success. Some of the community look upon anyone with success as if they compromised their ideals and that they simply sold out. That the people who do things in a manner other than some Platonic Ideal are dismissed in an attempt to take power away from the successful creator. Only in this case it isn't simply the work or how it was published but the actual author herself not existing in the same physical and sexual form as the majority of creators. She isn't dismissed as an incapable storyteller but because she wasn't a white guy working for a comic publisher. Maybe the comic publishers all passed on her book and the book publisher took a chance only to be rewarded? I don't know the history here, do you?

We're talking about art. The best works of art are the ones that define and/or defy convention. Being a leader in a pack means you are different and those differences are what make you recognizable and, yes, better than the pack. Fun Home is a fantastic piece of art and to dismiss it simply because of the publisher, sex or sexuality of the creator isn't doing the creator harm - she's lived with that bullshit her entire life, I'm sure - it's doing the entire comics community harm. Claiming a work isn't good because the creator isn't a white guy who slogged through comic publishers without huge promotion budgets is precisely the type of argument that keeps comics from reaching a larger audience. Yes, comic publishers are putting out good comics, but there's a lot of crap too. The internet would actually crack in half if the crap stopped.

I'm not going to make an argument in the comments section for that post. I'm simply going to remove the link to that blog on my sidebar until the level of discourse raises to a level that I find acceptable and respects the diversity and unique nature of our medium instead of proving we are unnaccepting and ineloquent stereotypes. Way to break down barriers.

I do think that we as an unofficial online community are capable of better. For the most part we all get along even when we don't agree. Yes we hurry posts and make factual errors but for the most part we try to back up what we're saying and more often than not we have fun doing it. I for one am trying my best and the only way I can think of encouraging the rest of us to hold up a fine standard, isn't to start fights, but to make my position clear and to simply remove links to sites that just aren't trying anymore or are just flat out offensive to me. Yes, it's subjective and I don't want everyone to be like me, but at least it's honest and I think clear to everyone why I'm angry at the lack of quality criticism witnessed on that site.

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