Welcome to Act II of “The Marvel Players Present: A Midsummer Night’s Journey Into Cultural Irrelevance”. For those coming in at the Intermission, we left off on the tragicomedic scene of the Duke Alonso holding the accursed Blade of Straightwashing over the bearish corpse of Hercules. Now we just have to see on whether the dastardly Sheriff of $4.99 will be making his much maligned appearance.
You know, after last week’s example of why Marvel requires a PR overhaul, you figure they would have done the smart thing and shut the hell up for a little bit, but alas. However, this week’s example has actually brought back to the forefront an excuse that has infected all forms of media on all levels, from the highest executives to the lowest of fans that I would sooner not associate with.
This image is from the formspring of Marvel editor Tom Brevoort. Basically, this call for “legitimacy” is the continuing equivalent of the whole “it’s not organic” excuse to justify not bringing diverse casts or creators in now, but waiting for some theoretical “right moment”.
We need to take that term “organic” and throw it into the heart of the sun.
Let me explain to the people who don’t write stories. Now, I am an admittedly amateur writer who has created a couple comics, some short stories and such. But there is one rule I know: There is no such thing as an “organic” story. Every single aspect of a story; from characterization to world building to metaphor to everything is an artificial construct.
Now, I am of the opinion that a creator should have free reign to create whatever they want. It is their project and that is their right. Having said that, your choice, deliberate as it is, to not include people of lesser privilege, whether it is different sexualities, gender identities, race, e.t.c. is all on you and people will rightly question why you chose to do that. So, when you decide to go with a majority straight, white male cast, ask yourself: Why?
It also continues to perpetuate the very toxic notion that only straight white male protagonists are the only “natural” or “default” character while anything thing else is deemed “too radical” or “unnatural”.
There’s also another fallacious argument, particularly among fans, that they “don’t care as long as the stories are good”. The problem with this argument is that it is working on the false belief that every demographic of people are equally represented when it is so obviously not. If we ever make it to a time where all demographics are truly represented, so the burden of representing a whole demographic isn’t on a bare handful of characters, then maybe this argument can hold some water. As it is right now, that is not the case.
To say you’re waiting for the right writer or pitch or whatnot is understandable… to a degree. Why? Because there are literally thousands of creators of all races and genders and sexualities who would love to write or draw or edit for Marvel and they can bring amazing perspectives. Now, is there a chance that these products starring non-SWM (straight white male) protagonists or crafted by non-SWM creators can be bad? Of course. There is no such thing as a perfect story and even best intentions can be crafted horribly (for example, I have said multiple times on twitter that while I like Bobby Drake a.k.a. Iceman coming out as gay, I thought that Brian Michael Bendis approach reeked of problems, including unintentional Biphobia as well as essentially stating that it was perfectly fine for Jean Grey to violate the privacy of someone else by reading their mind without consent in another awful example of “Protagonist Centered Morality”, but that’s a story for another day). But my point is, these stories by these creators aren’t even being considered is the major problem.
Marvel (and DC, because it was only a year ago that the positions were reversed and DC is just as capable of throwing all the good will they’ve mustered these last couple months in the name of short-term profit) has been consistently shooting itself in the foot PR-wise this last month and with the “All-New All-Different Marvel” Initiative. Bringing back this specter of “we’re waiting for the right story” and “the story has to be organic” are just more and more excuses to not change. To not take risks. To be narrow-minded and short-sighted in one’s goals until the rest of the medium decides to pass you by. And that’s your decision. That’s your choice to make. But trust me, it’s not we the people’s fault.
And now, I am rather sick of talking about Marvel or DC.
Next week, we’re talking about Manga.