The White Powder of Story / The Dark Side of Narrative
These are the days of the reign of the masturbatory story; made simply to tickle readers for a time, leaving them wanting more.
I don’t understand why so many authors are overjoyed with feeding humanity’s addiction. Don’t they care about anything besides themselves? Or, aren’t they aware that helping society survive better/advance equals new, greater benefits for themselves?
"I just want to see my purposeless drug on the shelf beside [famous person’s] purposeless drug."
"I’m so grateful I’m able to almost make a living via helping saturate the market with even more purposeless drugs."
It must seem so melodramatic to read me say how ashamed I feel to be amongst so many purposeless drug makers. I must seem so arrogant. So ignorant.
I’m not going to bicker on someone else’s post, but I wanted to share this with my followers. This is a follow up to my response to the angry white male nerd that replied to Ginger Haze’s comic about comic shops. I really identified with her experiences, and really took offense…
I was thinking about what you said back in Ohio, about how marketing to males often means intentionally excluding females. I think this is true for a lot of comic shops- their clientele and staff are intimidated by women, and don’t want to share their store with these intimidating creatures. The inclusion of women mean these men can’t feel safe. This isn’t because they’ve necessarily been abused by women, but because they are uncomfortable in their own skin, and to them, any interaction with any woman is an opportunity for rejection.
And if you think about it that way, it’s heartbreaking. ‘Home’ isn’t safe enough, they need to be surrounded by males (I refuse to call them ‘men’ in this context) who are just like them. There’s no need to change or improve, no need to learn how to communicate with other people with other interests, no need to accept or respect any sort of diversity. This club is made up of members just like you, and presents no challenge to fragile egos.
It has little to do with comics or heroes, I’ve seen American otaku behave the same way, I’ve seen model builders do it too. It has to do with a small sense of self, and a self limited world experience.
Women and people of color are always forced to accommodate, often forced to listen, and so we are better able to tolerate situations that may be personally uncomfortable because it’s outside our usual comfort zones. We usually don’t demand that others unlike ourselves leave just because it makes us feel safer, though we may not always be immediately welcoming. This is just a generalization, an explanation for why comic shops that only cater to a white male clientele may not feel ‘safe’ when someone outside that type enters, shops, and asks for help with their purchases.
Paul Dini is interviewed on Kevin Smith’s Fatman on Batman podcast this week and during it he explains from personal experience how Hollywood devalues female viewers and female characters. Dini was, of course one of the creators on Batman: The Animated Series. He has also written and produced a number of other animated shows including Batman Beyond in addition to writing comics. The Emmy award-winning creator also had a live-action show targeted to younger viewers call Tower Prep.
In the interview, transcribed by Agelfeygelach Dini talks about the change in how Hollywood views the audience for animation (this starts around 41:00.- bold is mine)
But then, there’s been this weird—there’s been a, a sudden trend in animation, with super-heroes. Like, ‘it’s too old. It’s too old for our audience, and it has to be younger. It has to be funnier.’ And that’s when I watch the first couple of episodes of Teen Titans Go!, it’s like those are the wacky moments in the Teen Titans cartoon, without any of the more serious moments. ‘Let’s just do them all fighting over pizza, or running around crazy and everything, ’cause our audience—the audience we wanna go after, is not the Young Justice audience any more. We wanna go after little kids, who are into—boys who are into goofy humor, goofy random humor, like on Adventure Time or Regular Show. We wanna do that goofy, that sense of humor, that’s where we’re going for.’”
Okay, so they want younger kids. But wait, it gets worse.
Dini talks a bit about Young Justice and how it had a sophisticated mythology (he calls them “Buffy style stories) but now they have to be, based on his interactions and observations, funny and … NOT FOR GIRLS… (warning f bombs ahoy!)
So apparently there’s a debate raging across the Internet. Who’s the most important in comics: writers or artists? Why don’t reviews talk about the art? Why do writers think they’re all that? How do you make a living doing this? And so on.
It may surprise those of you new to the comics scene that…
Blog Post: My definition of Art (it's okay if you disagree)
First of all, this post deals with semantics, and whenever semantics are involved, we all go, “well that’s not what MY definition of [thing] is!” So, in order for me to better be able to communicate with you, please try to figure out what I really mean by the words that I’ve chosen to represent what I wish to convey.
My definition of Art: A dramatized intellectually practical idea.
Art not only can be entertaining, but it fails to be good Art when it is NOT entertaining. However, Entertainment by itself isn’t innately Art. Likewise, the odd/specific way you entertain yourself or others isn’t innately Art either, (so no more of that bullshit, “He’s an ARTIST” when referring to the creative way someone literally masturbates.)
Entertainment can be its own important thing, where the goal is reducing stress during a break period, or after a hard days work. When Art is involved, however, Entertainment becomes a tool in Art’s tool box (a tool that should always, 100%, be employed). Much of what people today would label as Entertainment often pretends that it is Art (that it is intellectually practical to you, and therefore worth your time) by shoehorning a tiny character arc (or otherwise) into a corner of an otherwise completely unrelated and often nonsensical work. *looks at Damon Lindelof as he types this* It’s actually become a unspoken tradition of the entertainment industry, however, so I can see why things are the way they are.
But I hate the way things in the Entertainment industry are, so let’s continue.
As a tool at Art’s disposal, Entertainment is a list of devices that attract observers to the Art, and maintain the observers focus until the idea can be completely and cleanly conceived.
My definition of Dramatize: when you take an idea and you show it in its human condition savvy environment; in other words, when you simulate how it affects we humans (and therefore why it’s both intellectual and practical).
For example, a dramatized idea about greed (let’s say, “Money isn’t everything”) might be a painting of King Midas in his court, on his throne, surrounded by gold objects, caressing his daughters cheek lovingly. The imaged is “taken” a second after he touches her, so we can also see both how she’s beginning to clearly turn to gold, and his horrified response to this on his face.
I warn you, a few alterations to this example painting involving the hand locations of other characters (etc) may change what the observers PERCEIVE the idea to mean, in this case, “keep your hands to yourself.” Therefore, Artists need to make sure they are always first and foremost CLEAR.
The second most important thing is to “render” the idea as believable as possible — for you are trying to convince the observers that this idea is applicable to them, and no observer is willing to care about an idea that seems based on faulty reasonings, or shit tier evidence.
I’d like to suggestion, through all of this, then, that a painter who paints a historical battle, especially an over-the-top rendition of its reality, is no better than Michael Bay making Transformer films. Yeah. That’s right. I said it.
Caveat: there are recognizable problems with all these ideas, I realise. This is just where I am with them at the moment.
Blog Post: Our time is important: Story; don't waste our time
I’m really happy when I think a story is trying to tell me something it thinks is important, and I’m really upset when I realise the story isn’t actually trying to tell me something after all. Usually, it’s only interested in exchanging positive feels for currency.
We all need positive feels; especially some of us in particular, so when we walk away after consuming a story, we tend to feel we got our money’s worth.
Not me, though.
Don’t get me wrong, I like positive feels. But there was a time when many of the stories we’d get to consume also meant something important to us. They’re stories that make us feel something in our heart just thinking about them now; stories like Frances Goodrich, Albert Hackett, & Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life, Reginald Rose & Sidney Lumet’s 12 Angry Men, and Joe David Brown, Alvin Sargent, & Peter Bogdanovich’s Paper Moon.
The Transformers franchise really doesn’t hit the spot, and neither does the new Star Trek franchise. These stories have emotion and meaning in them, right? Sometimes they can get us to feel something, or we hear something whiz by that sounds like advice we agree with, but afterwords we rarely watch them again, and never feel anything in our hearts for what they did for us. That’s why I don’t think it’s too soon to suggest that stories such as Transformers: Dark Side of the Moon and Star Trek: Into Darkness will not be heralded as classics (unlike the three films I mentioned before.)
"But R. J., you can’t pit three classics up against two popcorn action flicks. That’s a straw man argument. They’re two different kinds of stories!" That is correct. One kind of story is good, and the other is not worth our time — but because we have so few choices we end up having to go along with it. I understand we all want to justify our expenses, but “genre” as an argument breaks down really fast when you bring up the science of Entertainment and Message. Bare with me here.
There are stories that sustain our engagement throughout the entire tale, and are so good that we herald them as classics, even though they do not really have anything in particular they think is important to say to us either. These are stories like George Lucas’s Star Wars (original) and the Wachowski siblings’s The Matrix (original). I think they succeed in large part because they’re really good at faking having something to say. Please bare with me.
Sure, we’ll hear “Star Wars was about Luke learning to trust himself.” but Luke’s arc is likely 10 minutes long when all else is cut out of the film. So what’s the other 110 minutes of film for? It’s not set up for Luke’s arc — that was included with the 10 minutes.
The other 110 minutes of Star Wars is engaging and emotional, and focused (as far as portraying a convincing “heroes journey” goes,) but it is also unfocused in terms of trying to say something more than it’s individual parts.
I don’t think authors realise how entertaining “having something to say” is. Why? Our education systems tell us, “Learn this, or you will be punished,” so I see why most people (professional critics included) would try to argue with me that “Entertainment is more important than Message.” Yet I would propose that if we attempted to engage children into the importance and practical relevance of the lesson, that they would not only be willing to learn, but readily seek it out. After all, the purpose of teaching is not to fit each new person like a cog into a machine so that the machine runs without flaw, but to equip each new person with the tools and the momentum they can use to further their own goals and happiness, and through each new person collectively bring boon to society on the whole. Teachers and education administrators aren’t monsters, but I do believe they’re stuck with a oppressive teaching style curriculum they can’t themselves change (among other reasons I need not stress here).
Much of the film is hodgepodge, but when Luke Skywalker uses the Force instead of his targeting computer at the end, we all felt something. Like Star Wars the few good stories that are created today tend to be in this sort of watered down, unfocused message. They’re frankensteins; made of awesome tidbits, with a tiny message layered within. A message that hasn’t the room to breathe. A message that has very few solid examples of why it’s assertion is or isn’t correct. A message that is not itself complete. And it suffers because of this. If Star Wars was based more on the struggle of trusting one’s own internal computer, we’d feel a lot more.
Yes, some smokers live to 80 years of age, but doctors will, on the whole, posit that had these people not been smokers, they would have lived to 90 or 100. Similarly, Star Wars was an insanely addictive film, but it could have been who knows how infinitely better had its message’s influence been stronger. As for all the awesome tidbits, for example, you’d still have Han Solo, but now he’d be more directly related to, and influenced by, “the struggle of trusting one’s own internal computer.”
"Sure R. J., but focused stories like William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, & George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four just aren’t the sorts of stories I want to write!” Those stories are great, but I see what you mean, and if that’s what you want I completely agree.
But I think you have the power to write a focused story about something other than intense oppression, savagery, and murder.
And I think you have the power to talk about something important to you that isn’t talked about nearly enough in other fiction or non-fiction of today.
As do I think you have the power to give new examples for old arguments. (aka: revitalize an old moral with new logically-clear reasonings, so that more people can appreciate and uphold this old moral for clearer and juster reasons).
You’re not just here to keep yourself and others happy, right!? You want more than that for yourself and others, right!? You and all of us deserve more, right!?
That’s right. You’re here to help yourself and others get smarter on things you feel strongly about, learned or intuitively felt.
Some people fight for respect. I say, let’s have some respect for our stories too.
When Pixar’s Brave arrived in theaters in June, two directors shared full credit for the film: Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman. The project had originated with Chapman — who’d previously directed DreamWorks Animation’sThe Prince of Egypt — but at the beginning of 2011, the studio took the reins from her completely and handed them to Andrews, who’d worked on The Incredibles and Ratatouille.
It was a surprising development to say the least, given that Chapman had been Pixar’s first female director of a feature length film, not to mention that Brave featured the studio’s first female protagonist, a fiery Scottish archer-princess named Merida (Kelly Macdonald). But other than a brief comment to the Los Angeles Times in 2011 that the split was due to “creative differences,” Chapman has remained silent on the matter. Until now.
In an essay for a larger New York Times feature about women’s perpetual underrepresentation in all corners of Hollywood, Chapman wrote that the past year and a half had been “a heartbreakingly hard road” for her. “When Pixar took me off of Brave — a story that came from my heart, inspired by my relationship with my daughter — it was devastating,” she writes.
While she still does not go into any specifics about why she was removed from the film, Chapman makes quite clear she did not agree with the decision. “Animation directors are not protected like live-action directors, who have the Directors Guild to go to battle for them,” she writes. “We are replaced on a regular basis — and that was a real issue for me. This was a story that I created, which came from a very personal place, as a woman and a mother. To have it taken away and given to someone else, and a man at that, was truly distressing on so many levels.”
Chapman does point out that ultimately her “vision” remained in the film, and that she remains “very proud of the movie.” But her last word on the matter (for now) would seem to suggest that after reportedly leaving Pixar to consult on an animation project for Lucasfilm, she’s not eager to return. “Sometimes women express an idea and are shot down, only to have a man express essentially the same idea and have it broadly embraced,” she writes. “Until there is a sufficient number of women executives in high places, this will continue to happen.”
I’d like to hear more about this Brenda Chapman “Brave” fiasco from her (details, I want details) and a few other sources within Pixar before I decide she was removed on account of her vagina.
Accusations of sexism in the work place is a big deal (and if indeed it is true, then this treatment of her removal from her story is bullshit and we should all get mad and proactive) but with such little detail to back up her claim (and with such unwillingness to give that detail — professionalism be damned — relaying facts of this nature require stepping on toes), the only other major possibility is that she was removed because she is a bad director/person-to-work-with/(or)-storyteller-in-general and her anger and refusal to accept these accusations (note: no one wants to believe they suck) may have given her cause to claim that it was sexism.
Full disclosure, I have a penis, and it is suspicious (nay, uncouth) for one with a penis to question accusations of misogyny/sexism-against-women at the time of this writing, but FUCK YOU, sexism is a heavy subject. Throwing that shit around without backing it up is REALLY FUCKING UNCOUTH (passive aggressive, in fact, and I hear that at Pixar they HATE passive aggressive people), and such an action, be it by a man or a woman, needs to be questioned, NOT JUST FUCKING REBLOGGED ‘cuz that’ll give the idea that you SUPPORT her evidence-less claim.
Occasionally I get requests for advice. Well, although I can’t tell you how to succeed as I have little experience in that area, I do know how to fail. So this is a little thing that looks at the things I didn’t do that helped me to be an unsuccessful web comic artist, in no particular order.
AAAAAAAAAHHHHHH. Damn!! Number 3 & 1 nailed me. Yikes.