Vincent S. Moore Presents:
Why It Fails When Fangirls Attack.
Now that Marc has given me permission to discuss politics and religion in this column, I can disclose another fact about myself. I’m a Nichiren Buddhist and member of an organization called the Soka Gakkai International-USA. I’ll leave it as an exercise for you readers to research the group. In recent months, I have found myself dealing with a position of minor leadership within the organization and consequently have been struggling to get a handle on the situation.
See, I’m not necessarily one of the friendliest people you’d ever meet. Oh, sure, I’m cordial and polite and can even be funny at times (especially with a few beers in me), but I usually prefer to spend time more quietly -- reading, writing, drawing, or watching TV. A typical comics geek, if you please.
Finding myself dealing with a small group of people where the only bond I have with them is a shared faith (and as much as I enjoy being a Buddhist, I’m pretty mellow and relaxed about it, not terribly extroverted or preachy or very proselytizing about it) wasn’t a situation designed to bring out my better aspects. If it’s comics or science fiction or The Beatles, I can talk up a storm. Talking a lot about Buddhism or being a guide of sorts for my fellow practitioners, I was lost.
In the hopes of getting a grasp on this task that wasn’t necessarily going away, I sought out the guidance and wisdom needed to help me out.
I found that help in buying a copy of one of the classics in the self help and business arena, How To Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie.
Now, you may be asking, what does this have to do with the rather incendiary title for this week’s column?
I’m getting to that, just trust me.
I started the book this past weekend and by the end of the first section and its three chapters I began to see some of the reasons why the feminist fangirls have had so many troubles trying to change the face of superhero comics into a place where they and other female readers could feel supported and comfortable. I could see why the struggle is a difficult, seemingly endless one and why, if the tactics adopted and applied currently continue, they will not succeed, or if they do, the victory will be a pyrrhic one.
For the sake of full disclosure, I will state for the record that I am not a feminist by any means. I consider myself more of a humanist, believing that every person should be allowed to achieve their fullest potential, no matter who they are. When I was younger I might have said I was a feminist but attending college and reading the works of Warren Farrell and others, and my own observations of the world, disabused me of those beliefs. Now, I don’t have an axe to grind per se with the feminist fangirls. By sharing this information and my observations upon the same, I’m hoping to change the nature of the conversation somewhat. At least in the sense of helping it become more productive and not merely cases of any number of average folks blow off steam via the Internet. (And if you don’t think I am including myself in this number, then you are very much mistaken. I’m still coming to grips with the fact that nothing I say here really matters in the grand scheme of things. I’m not crafting The Prince or the Constitution here; I’m just writing a series of columns on the web, reflecting my opinions on various topics. No more, no less.)
Like many people, I do end up killing some time reading websites such as Girl-Wonder and When Fangirls Attack. Mostly for the morbid curiosity value. Occasionally for the accidental humor caused by the postings or the reactions to the postings and so on and so forth. Very little of what I’ve read has ultimately changed my mind or made me feel a sense of solidarity with my fellow female humans in their struggles against The Man. To me, a black man born after the Civil Rights movement, you would figure I’d want to be on their side, to support their struggle.
Yet nothing could have been further from the truth.
Why was that?
I mean, I’m not a feminist. That’s for sure.
But I am a humanist.
Shouldn’t I have wanted my fellow human beings of a different gender to be better represented, to have their share of wish fulfillment power fantasies on display? If for nothing else than for the fact a comics industry that’s more female friendly just might be more multiculturally friendly. So it would have been in my own best interests to be concerned with the various issues as they arose and were dealt with or not.
Yet and still, nothing.
That perplexed me.
Until I read the opening section of Dale Carnegie’s book and the light went on in my head as to why I wasn’t moved by anything the fangirls were saying.
I want to break own that first section for you readers, to hopefully get you to see what I saw. The first chapter, entitled “If You Want To Gather Honey, Don’t Kick Over The Beehive”, through various anecdotes leads the reader to the author’s conclusion. Namely what Carnegie calls Principle 1 in the Fundamental Techniques In Handling People: Don’t criticize, condemn, or complain.
Well, I would say this rule has been violated severely by the fangirls, and repeatedly.
For example, all the times Greg Land has been accused of tracing pornographic pictures. You know, the infamous Porn Face comments. Not to defend him so much but to ask how many comics readers out there are aware of the long standing tradition of swipes, of copying already existing images. In his famous chalk talks at Marvel, John Buscema recommended that artists keep swipe files filled with pictures and cutouts from comics to help with producing pages. So what if Greg Land does it? Has complaining about it up and down the web stopped him from doing it? Have his editors fired him or forced him to make changes in the art to stop drawing attention to whatever sources he’s used?
Not at all.
Greg Land is still working and still copying pictures as far as anyone can tell.
That says to me that complaining and criticizing him doesn’t work.
It hasn’t worked yet in the case of Stephanie Brown, the fourth Robin, either.
Chasing down Dan Didio hasn’t produced the results sought. If anything, he seems less likely to change his editorial decision about this issue. Besides, if the real important issue is stating, for the record, that Stephanie Brown was indeed a Robin, why is it so important that she be given a separate display case? Isn’t having her name added to the plaque with or replacing Jason Todd’s just as good? As a monument to the two Robins who fell in battle? By seeking a glass case of her own, isn’t there a risk of wanting special treatment rather than equal treatment? It appears as such to me. I wonder if it does to other people.
Yet and still, the topic of how Stephanie Brown is to be remembered and honored continues with no end in sight.
Now, chew on this quote: “Criticism is futile because it puts a person on the defensive and usually makes him strive to justify himself. Criticism is dangerous, because it wounds a person’s precious pride, hurts his sense of importance, and arouses resentment.”
Wow, that sounds to me like the attitude encountered on the Internet whenever a feminist fangirl piece is posted. That some but not all fanboys’ sense of importance is under attack and, like a wounded animal, the fanboys attack back. Which doesn’t seem to be the goal at all.
Of course, by even writing this, it could be said that I’m breaking this rule. Maybe and maybe not. Then again, in almost perfect obedience of the idea expressed above, the fangirl community tends not to respond well to criticism either.
Another quote: “Let’s realize that criticisms are like homing pigeons. They always return home. Let’s realize that the person we are going to correct and condemn will probably justify himself or herself, and condemn us in return; or like the gentle [President] Taft, will say: ‘I don’t see how I could have done any differently from what I have.’”
If we accept this statement as true, then is it possible to assume that all the criticism of various fangirl writers have, like the above mentioned pigeons, come home to roost in terms of recent events such as “One More Day” and the “Green Arrow/Black Canary Wedding Special”? That the powers that be are responding by digging in and creating more and more books that will not appeal to even those women readers who are reading comics now? It seems so to me.
One last quote: “Any fool can criticize, condemn, and complain -- and most fools do. But it takes character and self-control to be understanding and forgiving.”
I offer these words as food for thought to the fangirl community.
The principle given at the end of chapter 2, The Big Secret Of Dealing With People, is: Give honest and sincere appreciation.
So, who do the fangirls appreciate?
I would hazard to say Gail Simone is one name I can think of. Colleen Doran would be another. But who else? And why is there no massive show of affection for those comics creators admired and appreciated by the fangirls, the ones who “get it” and “get it right”? I mean, if the idea is the change the way superhero comics are made, then who are the examples that lead the way? How is anyone expected to change if no examples are shown? Maybe this is being done and I just haven’t seen it. That those loudest and most noticeable voices are those who complain seeming endlessly.
And still don’t get what they want.
Let’s take a look at this: “The only way I can get you to do anything is by giving you what you want.”
In this case, I would wonder not so much what the fangirls want, but what do the fanboys and the companies want. And suggest that the real task is to get the fanboys and companies to want what the fangirls want. I’ll get into this more below. But it is important.
According to Carnegie, there are a limited number of desires we all share as humans, such as health and food and sleep. Last on his list, but by no means the least, is a feeling of importance. Of feeling important in our lives. I wonder if this is the actual goal of such sites as Girl-Wonder and When Fangirls Attack, of feeling a sense of importance in their lives, of drawing attention as much to themselves as to their various issues. It’s a possibility. More directly, by attacking mainstream superhero comics, I would say the fangirls are indirectly attacking the fanboys’ sense of importance by demanding that superhero comics be made more female friendly. And that doesn’t go over so well, which again explains the level and degree of negative reactions.
Also, I wouldn’t expect to have any of the artists or writers who have found themselves being roasted over the coals, so to speak, rushing to make those female friendly comics either. Not after their egos have been attacked.
Try this on for size: “Honest appreciation got results where criticism and ridicule failed.” And this: “Hurting people not only does not change them, it is never called for.”
Again I ask, what are the superhero comics appreciated by the fangirls? Why is that? Is it too much to ask that these books be broken down and analyzed so that the industry as a whole can learn from their example? If the old saying is true that one can attract more flies with honey than with vinegar, then isn’t it worth more effort to exalt those books that “get it” than to criticize those that don’t? I would think so.
With chapter 3, “He Who Can Do This Has The Whole World With Him. He Who Cannot Walks A Lonely Way”, the last of the three principles to be shared is: Arouse in the other person an eager want.
This quote actually gave this chapter its title: Harry A. Overstreet in his illuminating book Influencing Human Behavior said: “Action springs out of what we fundamentally desire . . . and the best piece of advice which can be given to would-be persuaders, whether in business, in the home, in the school, in politics is: First, arouse in the other person an eager want. He who can do this has the whole world with him. He who cannot walks a lonely way.”
The fangirls want better comics. The same as the fanboys and the superhero companies.
Meaning the real question is: how will the fangirls achieve their goal of better comics and more female friendly comics? Might I suggest that both the quote and the principle point towards finding ways of getting the fanboys to want and the publishers to want to create these better, more “female friendly” comics.
As can be seen, the current tactics don’t appear to be working. So what would?
Here are my modest proposals on that front:
Make the comics. To be honest, this isn’t a slur or an insult. Many professionals working today started by making the kinds of comics they wanted to read. Bendis doing crime comics when no one else was. Or Los Bros. Hernandez creating Love and Rockets. And Colleen Doran creating A Distant Soil. All of these people made the comics they wanted to see and as a result they ended up making similar comics for Marvel and DC, thereby changing comics to some degree. If there were any comics made that did everything the fangirls want, and sold well, in time, imitations would show up on the scene. If you don’t think so, then what is DC’s Minx line but their attempt at capturing some of the audience reading manga or artcomix collections at the bookstores? Making the comics is a good thing.
Pointing out helpful resources to creators, in a polite manner. It has become standard to advise any male writer to run his characters and ideas past any female he knows, to check them for various levels of “female friendliness”. This isn’t a very good idea, for the simple fact that it makes it seem like these male writers have to get their mother’s approval or permission for their ideas. Instead of that, why not suggest other kinds of resources. For example, I was planning a project where there would a number of female characters. Now, the last thing I was going to do was run my ideas past any woman I know; that was ridiculous to me. Out of desperation I found two items that helped me. One was an article available on Amazon for 0.49¢ entitled “Why Can’t A Woman Be More Like a Man?” by Leigh Michaels. This piece gives, in very generic terms, many of the behavioral differences between men and women. The other was a three compact disc recording from the Dramatica group with the title of Mental Sex. This product, while focused on the Dramatica storytelling model, has helped to fill in gaps left by the aforementioned article. With these two tools in my possession, I felt I could comfortable write the kinds of female characters I wanted, the kind that readers male and female will enjoy. Finding resources such as these helped me. Offering other tools, ones that don’t offer what is a fundamental difficult challenge for any man -- asking a woman’s opinion -- would be helpful.
Dialogue. I know many fangirls feel they are dialoguing about the issues at hand. Especially when they complain about what they feel is an injustice and an imbalance. Except it doesn’t work. It hasn’t worked at all, really. Being willing to engage in real dialogue -- a sharing of ideas and opinions calmly -- and not ranting and raving or spouting philosophical party lines will go a long way towards healing this gap.
And this is just off the top of my head. You fangirls yourselves may come up with better ideas. As long as they are constructive.
Look, at the end of the day, all comics companies want to sell comics. They will sell whatever kinds of comics their target audience wants. Why are there a billion X titles out there? Because that’s what the audience is buying. Why are we deluged with big crossover events? Because the sales and the audience are there for such things.
If the numbers of women buying superhero comics at the local comics shop are small, then why should any publisher go out of their way to create many or any female friendly books? Yes, the comics industry is in no way as strong as it was a decade ago, or two, or three. But the industry cannot risk what resources it has available to go after an audience that isn’t really there to begin with.
So we find ourselves in the position we are in today: the fangirls are attacking those comics they don’t like and the companies and fanboys attack back and nothing changes. And I simply don’t believe this is what the fangirls or anybody wants.
But, you know, I could be wrong. I could be wrong to suggest that changing tactics will solve this problem. That applying practical wisdom to the problem at hand will actually solve it. I mean, this is a problem that needs to be solved, right?
So go ahead, fangirls, continue with your quest, using the tools -- complaining, bitching, moaning, shaming, attacking -- you have used before, to seeming no avail. Continue with the Porn Face sightings and with finding controversy with and conspiracy behind every toy and cover ad infinitum. It’s obvious to me that this strategy is working like gangbusters for y’all.
Yeah, and it’s also why it has and will forever fail whenever the fangirls attack.
In the above column, I consciously chose to stick with the very generic term of fangirls without differentiating or specifying who I meant. If anything I’ve said offended you, well, okay. You have a right to be offended. I’m offended by a lot of things. I just don’t go calling for heads on platters to assuage my bruised ego. If none of what I said applies to you, then you shouldn’t be upset. And if you’re upset, then go back and reread the damn thing to see how it does apply to you.
I’ve noticed that Marc placed a link to my email at the bottom of this thing. If you feel you must contact me, feel free. Just put the title of the column you’re replying to in the subject line or else I will just dump it. I may choose to respond directly and I may answer here in the column. My choice, of course.
See y’all next week.
Copyright 2006- 2010 Marc Mason/Comics Waiting Room. All rights reserved