_grimtales_ (_grimtales_) wrote,

One of these things is not like the other


A doesn't bother me at all. B does.

I have been trying to work out, since this morning, why it is that all this continual fuss about portrayals in fantasy bothers me so much, because it does bother me, quite a lot.

Portrayals in more everyday media do concern me. I'm fairly secure and confident in my own physique etc for the most part, largely because I consider my attraction to people to be my mind, but I do worry now and then when I 'pudge out' a bit who doesn't? Equally I don't want to devote myself to spending the sort of time needed to be Captain Six-Pack above and I'm OK with that, really. That's not to say the pressure isn't there so I do empathise with women who feel the social/media pressure to be the size zero model and who get complexes about that. I really do. Women aren't the only ones to suffer due to media portrayals, either in terms of looks or behaviour.

There's a massive disconnect for me, however, between making legitimate complaints about fashion portrayals and complaining about portrayals in comics, games, books etc. There's a huge difference for me between reality and fantasy. While I might feel a twinge not looking like Captain 6-Pack, he's a real person. Thor isn't. Of the two I'd much rather be Thor if it came down to it but at the same time I know Thor is entirely fictional and I can never be Thor. I don't feel even the slightest twinge of regret that I'm not Thor because he's fantastical, fictional. Fictional characters may inspire and entertain, you might aspire to some of their characteristics - a sense of justice perhaps, a level of honesty or confidence - but you surely don't aspire to BE them unless you're mentally ill in some way.
Demands to represent 'ordinary folk' in fantasy also strike me as odd. I don't really want to project MYSELF into a game because I am largely boring and ordinary and can't do anything cool. The only games I can think of that are exceptions are Silent Hill, Alan Wake, my Eclipse Phase character and the themes of a game I, myself, am working on. When I play a game I generally want to play something beyond myself, the superhero, the assassin, the secret agent, the starship ace. I want to play someone who is NOT like me. Why enter a fantasy world to just be yourself?

Heroes in fantasy and SF generally aren't normal people, they're archetypes. The word 'hero' is used for a reason. Go back to the folk stories, the Greek legends, the tales of gods and demigods and that's just what you find powerful archetypes, handsome, beautiful, strong, cruel. Sure, there's a place for the everyman hero now and then, either for comedic effect (Jack Burton), succeeding against the odds (Deeba) or for grounding the story in a more realistic way for empathy (Dagmar) but for escapist fantasy? Not so much.
In short, it jarrs, to have people want to de-hero the heroes, to remove the very thing that makes them noteworthy, larger than life, interesting, engaging characters that are fun to read about or to play. The vicarious greatness or capability that goes beyond the ordinary.
That's not it though, that's not the central nub of what bothers me about it.
Go back, mentally, in time. Think about the way horror comics were demonised and how they were defended. Think about BADD and the way D&D was treated as satanic and dangerous. Think about the campaigns against computer games. Think about the fuss over Elvis' hips or Iron Maiden's lyrics and album covers. How have we defended these hobbies in the past from the accusations made against them? How ridiculous do people's concerns about these things look now?
We've made great pains to point out that these are fantasies, that they are not real. That there are differences between reality and fantasy, that D&D doesn't involve worshipping strange gods or casting real magic. That you don't have to be a Satanist to like Heavy Metal. This has been backed up by psychological research, particular in gamers which shows that as a demographic we tend to have a heightened ability to tell reality from fantasy and treat them as separate things. I'm a big believer in this evidence and the point that reality and fantasy are distinct. Anyone who isn't a nutter can tell the difference between the two I reckon.
I think, having thought long and hard about it, that this is why people complaining about depictions in fantasy and SF (whatever the medium) bothers me so much. It's a betrayal of that defence made all the worse because it's the same nonsensical arguments but coming - this time - from within the hobbies. It's an 'admission' (and a false one) that there's no difference between reality and fantasy. It's agreeing with the Jack Chicks, Jack Thompsons, Pat Pullings and Andrea Dworkins of the world that fantasy cannot be  separated from reality and that it can corrupt and pervert people's viewpoints. It's saying a comic book can make you a murderer, that a computer game can make you a criminal, that a jazz mag can make you a rapist.
This is bullshit.
I do not accept that viewpoint and I object to the fantastical being hemmed in and neutered by people's RL hangups about this, that and the other. It's no longer escapism if you let yourself get tied down to reality. Bucking a genre conceit only works if there's a genre conceit there to buck. Cohen only works because of Conan. Nite Owl only works because of Batman. So it goes. Not everything has to be all things to all people and it's possible to innocently enjoy Twain's tales despite 'Nigger Jim' or Barsoom despite the fawning (if not entirely helpless) Martian princesses. It's possible to recreate what made the pulps great without being racist, to enjoy a pinup without being a misogynist. It bothers me to see otherwise intelligent people making the same mistakes as the aforementioned pompous arses and, even worse, to be taken seriously in so doing.
Tags: culture wars, stfu, the depths of human idiocy, writing

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