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Subj: dismantling your theory
Posted: Tue Mar 27, 2007 at 02:54:11 am EDT
Reply Subj: ROD, TOD, AND HOMER theory of fandom
Posted: Mon Mar 26, 2007 at 07:06:29 pm EDT
The below is debate, not attack, so please read it with that in mind. I'm questioning the posters own words directly, point by point, and have no personal animus.
I'm sorry, but with respect, a lot of what you argue is bull. Or at best, totally wrongheaded.
> ROD, TOD, AND HOMER THEORY OF FANDOM
> or, a plea that you do better.
> Some of you may remember a couple of scenes from THE SIMPSONS. In one, Lisa is babysitting the neighbors’ children, Rod and Tod. The younger boy asks her for a bedtime story, and before she can think of one, he continues, “…about TWO ROBOTS! Named ROD AND TOD!!!” So, Lisa begins to tell this story, making it up as she tells it. “Once upon a time there were two robots,” and the boy is pleased, “Named Rod and Tod…” and the boy smiles, “And one of the robots was just a little bit older than the other one…” and the boy shudders and hides under his covers, wailing, “I don’t like this story!”
> In the second, Homer is at a fair where Lynrd Skynrd is playing. They announce that they’d like to play some new material that they’re happy with, but Homer is in the audience bellowing, “PLAY FREEBIRD!!!!” Since he won’t stop, they sigh and start playing the song. Still not happy, Homer yells, “NO! PLAY THAT PART THAT GOES ‘DEERN-DRRUN-DRRINNNN’!!!”, leaving the unhappy musicians forced to play three notes over and over again, at which point a satisfied Homer pulls out his lighter and begins swaying happily.
> Both of the above illustrate a perceptual flaw in comics fandom and how they set their expectations; the demand that comics companies produce the exact stories the readers already expect. Any deviation from what the reader wants is treated as an atrocity from the start.
This assertion demands proof. You may have seen fans who act like this, but your argument is structured towards defining EVERY fan that way. Bull. Okay... lets see what you do with the rest of the argument.
> By “fandom”, I mean a great many of you; you readers that post on message boards and blogs, who write letters to the companies, who stand around and often work at comics shops and talk about what’s going on, or who go on at great length to anyone who will listen. I have heard it in every forum. So many of these “readers” don’t understand what comics are.
Okay, so you ARE trying to define scope. So maybe you don't literally mean EVERY fan. You give yourself an "out" to say "well it might not apply to you" to any individual arguing with you, while holding onto the assertion that your estimation of fandom applies to virtually everyone. In many ways this is even worse than simply making a blanket statement, because you can use it to try and weasel out of the fact that it IS in fact still an unsupported sweeping statement.
> Comics are a form of literature, and a very special form at that, because unlike most mediums, these are stories can continue and develop for generations. The stories about a given hero can be looked at in different eras and enjoyed on many levels, for the stories themselves, for the different styles of art, the varying qualities of production, of dialogue, or how the stories reflect, or deny, the times in which they are produced. All of this is fascinating, and what it means is that comics have more potential than most other storytelling mediums.
If I wanted to I could say "prove it" about that last statement. But me asking you prove it is as peripheral to me debating your main point as you raising it in the first place was towards defending your main thesis--your analysis of fandom.
> Really. As derided and overlooked as comics are, they actually have the potential to bring stories to more vivid life movies than can, or then most novelists can, or than TV can.
> This is because comics have all the time in the world to tell their stories, and because they are a collaborative effort, which invite input from many creative minds.
Okay, this goes to proving the point you raised above, but you make another unsubstantiated claim--that a collaborative vision will be more successful than a singular one. You completely dismiss the possibility that in some cases collaboration can simply water a vision down instead of improving it.
> Literature is an art. It is the dramatization of vital themes, and reflections on the nature of life. There may be those who feel that comics shouldn’t be taken as seriously as other forms of lit, but I throw that right back in your faces. Comics that are not literate are not worth a fraction of the paper they are printed on.
Okay, fine. Most of us can agree with that ON PRINCIPAL. Maybe just not applied in the way you may be doing so...
> So, onto fans, and the issue I take with them. Comics draw a wide and varied base of fans. It is the nature of comics fans to imagine that they become experts on the subject pretty quickly, but many of these fans do not have more than basic reading skills, and no ability to recognize the presence or absence of literary themes or even devices.
And you know this how? Based on cherrypicking comments from a public messageboard? First, your own evaluation of them may be incorrect. Secondly, they may not be truly representative even of the environment you took them from. Third, your evaluation might not equally apply to ALL messageboards, or even moreso to fandom who don't post on message boards.
> Even so, they blare their angry criticisms and denunciations at full volume. Most fans have no idea what is involved in writing, or editing, or drawing a comics story, but are more than eager to mouth off that a given writer or artist “sucks”, or that a story “sucked”, or that a whole company is no good, or that an editor-in-chief doesn’t know his job.
Again, you are presuming an awful lot, based on very little to no evidence.
> The reality is, no, that writer does not “suck”, and that artist does not “suck”. You, the griping fan, may not have been turned on or titillated in the exact way you wanted to be by their story or art, but that is a matter of taste, and more often than not, it is matter of what expectations you had to begin with, expectations which may or may not have grasped a story’s actual possibilities, and which the writer had no way of knowing in advance.
This goes beyond mere presumption, as some earlier points have suffered from, and into an a virtually insoluble philosophical debate along the lines of "what is the subjective nature of reality" or "what is art" or any other gobbledygook thrown around coffee houses or beatnik poetry readings or wherever the current crowd performs mental masturbation. Its like advice from Yoda... "there is no good, there is no bad, there only IS!"
This has been argued a million times here and elsewhere and I'm sure nothing I say will convince you of my opinion that there ARE absolutes of quality, just as I'm sure nothing you can say will convince me that "all art is subjective".
For those reading this who ARE more likely to be convinced think about two things:
1.) the saying "I don't know what makes good art, but I know it when I see it".
To me this timeless chestnut DOES actually have some meaning. I think its a statement about how we ALL have a somewhat built in compass which can differentiate bullshit from real "vision". Our sensitivities differ, but its there.
2.) storytelling, as an art form, is best received when its LOGICAL. A lot of the "it sucks" comments made by people about certain comic book story arcs happen when the chain of logic grows weak. Please note that a demand for logic is NOT the same as a demand for realism. Something can be wildly unrealistic, and can be a total masterpiece, of both art AND logic, because it is internally consistent. It sets "rules", even if fictional ones, and sticks to them. The "crap" the person I am responding to thinks doesn't exist is the stuff which isn't consistent.
> Which is good, because if stories are written to meet an audience’s expectations, they are pointless. That kind of readership may as well just read whatever past chapters they liked over and over again, like Homer and his favorite three notes, instead of demanding that they be repeated in the place of new product. They may as well stop reading new things, and just close their eyes, and imagine their own Rod and Tod Robot stories. Or write their own, which will just be repetitions of other writers work.
I get the argument that new things need to be tried to arrive at new stories. What I DON'T get is the inevitable conclusion that certain expectations aren't good. For example, that "expectation" I talked about before about internal consistency. Within the realm of keeping something logical there are still billions of possibilities. And in the worst case? A comic company can always branch off into new creative directions with NEW characters. New settings. New universes. Or even, yes, reboots and recreations like the Ultimate line. What doesn't always make sense is breaking the chain of established history behind a character or series on a weak creative whim, which risks much for an entire franchise for very little potential payoff. And a company like Marvel has made a habit of doing this all too often. If you have to change something about the core of a character, there are always ways to do it which consider the past. But Marvel doesn't always take the trouble to reason them out.
> You might be this kind of fan, because it’s not a rare breed. Here on the Comicboards, you can go to any page and find reams and reams of this kind of correspondence, this kind of obnoxious, insulting diatribes. I have read posts that say that Brian Michael Bendis is a bad writer, or that Mark Millar is a bad writer, or J. M. Straczynski, or Chuck Austen, or that Joe Quesada is a bad editor-in-chief (that one is hilarious; what do ANY of these goofballs know about being an editor-in-chief??). I have read posts that claim that Alan Moore writes “unimaginative crap”, and posts that claim that this is the worst era ever for Marvel comics, or for comics in general. Obviously, NONE of these people know what they are talking about.
Why is this "obvious"? It isn't to me. I don't think its true of all of these people, but I respect the right these posters have to have that opinion. Its not obvious that they are all universally wrong, as you insist, to dislike the creative visions of certain authors.
> They aren’t well versed in even very recent comics history. They do not know what is involved in writing a story, or about visual storytelling, or writing dialogue. All they know is that if their immediate expectations are not met exactly, then the writer must be bad, the artist must be bad, the editor must be an idiot, the book must “suck”, and so on.
Maybe they are being overly simplistic with many of their comments, but you have done zero to prove that they are wrong in their opinions.
> And below, just in time to provide an example, we have another genius, Halo82, with his “A post CW Marvel and the SHRA is still a flaming pile of crap and Tony is an idiot” post. Well, no, “Tony” is not an idiot, he is a character.
Okay... so he's a CHARACTER who's an idiot. Is that better?
> More importantly, within the context of Civil War, he is a literary comment on the nature of commitment. Do you commit to something for only as long as all your friends agree with you? Do you stick it out even to the point of doing things you don’t want to do, because you believe that your goal is necessary? How close does this come to “the ends justify the means”?
Does having a literate motivation for his actions (although its a badly cobbled together one, not supported by many of his appearances) mean he's RIGHT? Characters can be wrong. If they are, might we not refer to them as "idiots"? Why not?
> This is good, thought provoking stuff. All the fanboy hatred for the Iron Man character over the past year, and I haven’t read more than one or two posts that acknowledge this, and that this is the major (not the only) point of the whole story. These are readers who do not recognize what they read.
I'm sure they are glad to hear that from you. Again, maybe some posts could be less simplistic, but that doesn't make them invalid. And you can dismiss the simple, but are you really so sure you know what's actually in people's minds that they haven't communicated? Have you actually read every post, every opinion, to know for sure that all "fans" are thoughtless idiots? No. You don't.
> The truth is, these are very exciting days for comics. I have been reading regularly since 1984, and I have seen many eras and styles come and go. What we are seeing in mainstream comics today is a whole new level of development. We saw something like this in the late 80’s at DC pre and post Crisis, and before that you have to go all the way back to Marvel’s Silver Age for this kind of innovation. Well trained and educated, high quality writers are being given a lot of freedom to work, and the result is that comics stories are being pushed into new directions. This is all for the better.
Well, okay. You could be right. Its really a debate for another time, since our main focus is how smart or dumb fans are.
> So, my call to fandom is this: be a little self-aware. A very good friend of mine told me that the recent issue of Waid and Perez's BRAVE AND BOLD “pissed him off” because it was too wordy. This same guy hated the DARK KNIGHT RETURNS (the art “sucked”, he prefers Michael Turner) and Frank Miller’s work on DAREDEVIL for big “too wordy” and couldn’t get through WATCHMEN. See what he missed out on? If something is “too wordy’ it’s not because Frank Miller “sucks”. You need to step up your reading game. While most fans are not quite THAT handicapped, most DO need to step up their game to a large degree.
I guess you don't think much of your "friend". Again, how have you proved he's wrong? Or even if he is, how does that apply to millions of other fans with THEIR own opinions, who you have summarily dismissed because they don't see this as a golden age?
> Set aside your weird hatreds and jealousies, set aside your preconceived notions and unreasonable expectations. You are not professional writers, or artists, or editors, and should not be judging and denouncing those who are as if you could do what they do.
If I recall correctly, many of the best authors and illustrators in comic history grew out of fandom. You seem to be dismissing the very source of much of this talent you are lauding as "infallible".
> Drop the words "suck" and "crap" from your vocabulary. True, a story may not be exactly what you want it to be. I tell you this: If you look at a story for WHAT IT IS, rather than for what it is NOT, you will find a lot more enjoyment and surprise in what you read. You will stop missing out on good work.
Why drop those words? Maybe they should be used more intelligently, because they are hammers and not chisels, but at times they can be adequate. You yourself have used terms almost as strong to describe the fans who are reading these stories. I'm tempted to use them to describe your argument. They are just opinions.
You have no idea of whats in people's minds and yet your arguments seem to all assume that you do. That they all somehow "don't get" something. That we don't understand the nature of art, and that critical thought is impossible from fandom. You dismiss the possibilities than creators are fallible, that stories can be illogical, that fan criticism can't even help direct misdirected creation. And even as you champion the creators, you also weaken them by insisting that joint creative visions driven by one creator contradicting another makes comics strong than a single singular vision maintained by a good editorial staff imposing limits which adhere to the original creator. Your arguments are all over the place when it comes to creators, basically. In one section of your argument they are sacred, in another interchangeable.
As we do, you have the right to your opinion. I just buy very little of it. Sorry.
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