Sheltered Student and Overprotective Parents want to Save Campus from “Garbage” Graphic Novels

1301837181091024555A 20-year old Crafton Hills College student, Tara Schultz, and her parents want four graphic novels that are currently included on an English course’s syllabus to be “eradicated from the system” because they’re obscene, pornographic, and violent.

As Schultz, herself, has said, “I didn’t expect to open the book and see that graphic material within. I expected Batman and Robin, not pornography.”

Cue pearl clutching and cries of “WON’T SOMEONE THINK OF THE CHILDREN FULLY-GROWN ADULTS!”

The four graphic novels in question are:

  • Fun Home by Alison Bechdel
  • Y: The Last Man: Unmanned (volume 1), by Brian Vaughan
  • The Sandman: The Doll’s House (volume 2), by Neil Gaiman, and
  • Persepolis, by Marjane Satrapi

For the record, I’ve read three out of the four graphic novels in question and while they aren’t meant for children, they hardly meet the criteria of adults only. Yes, they contain sex, violence, and naughty language but so does life, the universe, and everything. What is this woman and her parents expecting? That she’ll never encounter these things in the “real world”?

To be fair, her initial reaction, in itself, isn’t surprising to people who have never read a graphic novel before. When I was doing my Master’s in comic books, I had the opportunity to TA a class that had a couple of graphic novels on the syllabus. I don’t remember which ones specifically, but I think they included a volume from the Sandman series, The Dark Night Returns, and Maus. For students whose only frame of reference was Archie (or your all-ages run-of-the mill superhero stuff), they were a little surprised that something as “low-brow” as comics could also be a form of literature that often deals with adult situations but no one was outraged or offended by the material.

Schultz took the course (English 250) as part of her course requirements for an Associate’s Degree in English and was unable to drop the course without academic penalty by the time that she realized how objectionable she found the content to be. She also raised her concerns with her instructor, Ryan Bartlett.

(Bartlett, an Associate Professor of English, has taught the course three times and this is the first time that a student approached him about the material. His aim in studying graphic novels was to demonstrate that it’s a “viable medium of literature.”)

Schultz claims that if she had known how objectionable the course’s materials would be, she would have never taken the course. She’s especially angry that no one warned her that her college course might deal with adult issues and that she might be exposed to obscenities, nudity, sex, and violence in the materials that she was studying. She fully expected that “The professor should have stood up the first day of class and warned us.”

Because, you, as an adult, need to be warned that your college course may contain material that is adult-appropriate.

Her father, Greg Schultz, reiterates this sentiment “If they [had] put a disclaimer on this we wouldn’t have taken the course” (emphasis MINE).

Jesus fuck. Pro-tip to parents everywhere, if you find yourself using “we” to describe things that your adult children do – such as take a college course – you’re doing parenting wrong and probably should think about your overprotectiveness and helicopter parenting style as the reason why your child is so sheltered, naïve, and innocent that she thinks that these particular graphic novels are absolute filth. (Or that adults need to be warned that their college course might contain adult situations.)

Schultz is also outraged that the books are sold in the campus’ bookstore because “there are under-aged kids here at this campus.”

Sadly, the Schultzes did achieve one victory, Crafton Hills College promises that they’re warning students about the course’s material going forward. Which is utter and complete bullshit.

I’m very curious how the Schultzes would have reacted to the knowledge that there are college/university courses out there that *gasp!* screen actual pornography in class. In my undergraduate gender and sexuality course, we actually watched Beyond the Green Door at 8am on a Friday morning as part of our course syllabus. Hell, I’ve studied the cultural significance of hentai/tentacle porn and have presented those findings at an academic conference!

ImageCollege/university should not be G-rated. LIFE is not G-rated. And people like the Schultzes need to realize that censoring “objectionable” material in this environment isn’t appropriate and that they’re doing a disservice to those who are at that school for an actual education. These people do realize that the internet exists and all the not-safe-for-life shit that you can find on there, correct?

Perhaps I’m just rankled because I’m one of the people who fought to get graphic novels recognized as a form of literature. The fact that I’m profoundly anti-censorship is also another bias that I’m bringing to this table.

In an email, Ryan Bartlett described not only why he chose the graphic novels in question but also why those graphic novels are important:

I chose several highly acclaimed, award-winning graphic novels in my English 250 course not because they are purportedly racy but because each speaks to the struggles of the human condition. […] The characters in the chosen graphic novels are all struggling with issues of morality, self-discovery, heartbreak, etc. The course in question has also been supported by the faculty, administration, and approved by the board.

(via CBLDF and Boing Boing)

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Ava DuVernay May Be Directing Marvel’s Black Panther. Cue Awesomeness!

ava-duvernayI cannot begin to say how fucking excited I am about the rumours that Marvel may have managed to sign Ava DuVernay to direct its Black Panther film. This is huge news because it brings a little diversity into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Indeed, if the rumours are true, DuVernay – who co-wrote and directed Selma – would be “the first non-white, non-male director to see a Marvel film to its completion.”

Representation matters, bitches. Both in front of the camera and behind it. Female representation behind the camera is particularly abysmalBack in January, Variety reported that “Over the past 17 years, the number of women directing the top 250 grossing films declined by 2%, according to a new study by the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University.” (The Bloomberg Business documentary Celluloid Ceilings states that, of the 600 top grossing films between 2007 and 2013, only 1.9% percent were directed by women.)

The Variety article goes on to point out that, of the top grossing films, only 7% had a female director. Rates of representation aren’t that great for other key behind the scenes roles. Women made up only:

  • 23% of producers,
  • 19% of executive producers,
  • 18% of editors,
  • 11% of writers, and
  • 5% of cinematographers.

According to the 2015 Hollywood Diversity Report (authored by the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies at UCLA), while there were some small to modest gains, non-whites remain underrepresented on every front in Hollywood. Another study found that, when examining 100 of the top grossing films of 2013, “only 6.5% of the films were helmed by a black director. That’s seven films and of those seven, two shared the same director.” Out of this sample, there were no black female directors represented. The study goes on to state that “Across the six year sample, there are only 2 Black females represented across 23 unique Black directors in all six years and 600 films.”

Along with Chadwick Boseman, who will be playing the eponymous character of T’Challa/Black Panther, the film will also star Martin Freeman and Andy Serkis, who will play a representative of the American government and a white industrialist, respectively. From the sounds of things, it’s likely that most of the plot’s main action will occur in the fictional African nation of Wakanda and will focus on the ownership and control of Vibranium, the rare and valuable (not to mention fictional) metal that Captain America’s shield is made out of.

I am a little nervous about this because Marvel has been known for not being the most creatively free place for directors, especially those with strong voices and visions for their films – Edgar Wright left Ant-Man over it, after eight years of development, and Joss Whedon has recently spoken out about the “really, really unpleasant” storytelling battles that he lost making Avengers: Age of Ultron. What’s going to happen to DuVernay , who’s an incredibly strong and talented storyteller with her own distinctive voice in that environment?

I think it speaks directly into how, in order to keep control of its franchises, Marvel has become too safe in terms of their film’s premises. By exercising such extreme control over the universe and its stories, they’re stifling the creativity of their creative teams on the film. They’ve gone from taking chances to putting directors behind the camera on these films who don’t have a unique voice because those directors are easier to control. They won’t fuck with the product and will deliver a film that is, above everything else, a safe bet.

And that’s incredibly disappointing. Because why bother hiring outstanding directors who have their own strong and distinctive voices if you’re just going to make them film a cookie cutter blockbuster?

I mean, that’s their prerogative. Odds are, by playing it safe and by not taking chances, they’ll continue to gross obscene amounts of money. We’ll still get the generically shot, big budget blockbuster popcorn movies but the overall quality of the final product will diminish because they’re not hiring people who can deliver a strong film in its own right. (On the flip side, who really cares if your superhero movie is critically acclaimed if it loses money at the box office?)

I’ve been disappointed in the last couple of offerings of the Marvel Cinematic Universe – specifically Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Thor: The Dark WorldThor: The Dark World, especially had so much going for it – amazingly strong cast, outstanding director – but it seemed almost stifled. As if it gave us a glimpse at how awesome it could have been had Marvel just unclenched.

It’s just really sad because the Marvel Cinematic Universe can have both.

(via Jezebel and Vanity Fair)

ETA: Since publishing the following, Marvel’s Kevin Feige has confirmed that he has met with DuVernay but also stated that

We need to find the best director for any given movie, and that’s really where we always start. If diversity is part of that, it’s great. It’s important. You will start to see things across the industry as a whole change as more filmmakers come up through the ranks and become part of making movies like this.

(ETA via The Mary Sue)

John Oliver on Internet Misogyny and Online Harassment

On this week’s Last Week Tonight, host John Oliver took on internet misogyny, Gamergate (though not explicitly named), online harassment, and revenge porn. As always, his take on the topic is fucking awesome:

I’m talking about the kind of direct threats that can make people fear for their safety. And if you’re thinking, well, come on, that doesn’t seem like that big a problem, well congratulations on your white penis. Because if you have one of those, you probably have a very different experience of the Internet. Women, in particular, can receive a veritable cornucopia of horrifying messages online.

[…]

The internet is mean! And, look, this does not just affect women in gaming. It can potentially affect any woman who makes the mistake of having a thought in her mind and then vocalizing it online.

FYI: I totally agree with the YouTube commenter who “I don’t know why but I always picture John Oliver as a Puffin.”

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Add glasses to that Puffin and BAM! Twins!

(via Gizmodo)

Casting Announcement for the All-Female Ghostbusters Reboot!

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When Paul Feig announced the newest cast member for his all-female Ghostbusters reboot, I will admit that I squeed a bit. In case you haven’t heard, Feig announced that Chris Hemsworth would be playing the part of the ladies’ receptionist over Twitter. Hemsworth is best known for his role in the Marvel Universe as Thor, but I will say that he’s got some big shoes to fill, specifically that of Annie Potts who played Janine Melnitz in both the 1984 film and its 1989 sequel.

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I’m just waiting for people to start complaining about how Feig is once again raping their childhoods, first by having an all female cast – made up of the incredibly funny Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Leslie Jones, and Kate McKinnon – and now by reducing Thor to being their lowly receptionist.

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It’s been awhile since a bunch of misogynistic, men’s rights activist man-babies accused director Paul Feig of ruining their collective childhood for having the audacity to have an all-female cast in the Ghostbusters reboot; spouting what Feig described as “Some of the most vile, misogynistic shit I’ve ever seen in my life”. My only reaction to it was a Facebook post where I pointed out:

Do these men even realize that Ghostbusters was a beloved part of MY FUCKING CHILDHOOD, too. (I remember watching it on (and taping it off of) First Choice, motherfuckers.)

Do you have any idea how fucking awesome an all-female cast is for kid-comicbookgoddess, who used to play pretend Ghostbusters? Or, for any other lady who watched the films and the cartoon or who bought the toys and the slime in a can and wanted to be a real-life Ghostbuster?

(Ed’s Note: First Choice, for all you young folks out there, is what TMN/The Movie Network was called way back in the day.)

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I’d like to take a second and thank Paul Feig for this. For every fan whining about how their childhoods were irrevocably ruined, I (and a lot of female fans, like Mina Kimes in the Tweet above) want to say thank you for letting women be Ghostbusters in your new film. It’s incredibly important.

What this means is that women no longer only get to be the damsels or the secretaries. We actually get to bust some motherfucking ghosts ourselves, son!

I think that some of the misogynist reaction to the announcement that the central ghostbusting cast would be all women is because men are uncomfortable when they’re being cast in the supporting role. Olivia Wilde described what happened when she took part in a reading of American Pie at LACMA when they switched the genders of the characters and men took on the female supporting role:

And it was so fascinating to be a part of this because, as the women took on these central roles – they had all the good lines, they had all the good laughs, all the great moments – the men who joined us to sit on stage started squirming rather uncomfortably and got really bored because they weren’t used to being the supporting cast. It was fascinating to feel their discomfort [and] to discuss it with the afterward, when they said, “It’s boring to play the girl role!” And I said, “Yeah. Yeah. You think? Welcome to our world!”

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This is why this reboot is so important, why gender swapping characters in the reboot is such a profound thing. Not only does it say a lot about gender roles and stereotypes but also power roles – in both Hollywood and in society. Strong, powerful, female heroes/leads in films is incredibly important because representation matters. The cultural texts we consume are incredibly important because as much as they reproduce and reinforce norms and power differentials, they can also deconstruct and challenge them.

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Having an all-female reboot isn’t pandering to some feminazi agenda. It’s a way to invigorate and reboot the series and bring it into the present. It’s been 31 years since the original and 26 since the sequel. And It’s exactly why Ivan Reitman chose not to return to the franchise:

I felt it needed fresh eyes as a director and somebody with new ideas.

The thing that these whining assholes don’t get is that Paul Feig has those ideas, one of which was to bring all the “funny [and] amazing” women into the franchise. As Feig, himself, said:

All I know is my ladies are going to kick ass and I would not want to go into battle without them.

And so help me God, if I hear another person say “But women just aren’t funny!” I’m going to kick someone in the metaphorical balls

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#GreyLivesMatter

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On June 3rd, a #Bizarrochat Twitter Q & A was held to celebrate the release of Heath Corson’s Bizarro #1, when the geek feminist account Twitter account, Femmes in the Fridge asked a pretty standard question with regards to the lack of diverse characters. Specifically, the question asked if characters of colour would appear in the series and if not, why not?

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Heath Corson inexplicably replied with a “joke”, which equated Bizarro’s grey complexion with people of colour.

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Let that sink in for a minute.

In that one shitty “joke”, Corson equated the Bizarro character – the grotesque, Franensteinean monster who is the opposite of Superman, his negative; the Other – with people of colour.

To be fair to Corson, he did follow this up with a more serious answer, however, his answer could be best described as half-hearted, at best:

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“A whole mess of folks” in comics tend to largely be white and male – though if you’re lucky, you might get a female character thrown in to the mix.

As you can probably guess, the response to Corson’s “joke” (and his half-hearted serious answer) wasn’t exactly positive. And it shouldn’t have been, because, whether he intended it to be or not, his “joke” was incredibly racist. If Bizarro represents people of colour, then Superman becomes (literally and figuratively) the Übermensch, the paragon of the white master race who will dominate, enslave, and eliminate those who are “inferior” (i.e. the Other, in this case Bizarro).

Dude, that’s so not okay.

This is just another example that shows how clueless some people in the comic book community are and how people are still unable to understand why representation and diversity – at the corporate, creator, character, and consumer level – actually matters in comics.

As The Mary Sue – – points out, DC’s current ad campaign, DCYou, has been trying to to emphasize the amount of diversity in its post-Convergence titles, however, it still doesn’t change the fact that the majority of creators and characters at DC Comics (not to mention consumers of DC Comics) are white males.

Representation and diversity in comic books matter at the corporate, creator, character, and consumer level. Full stop.

I recently read an article about a speech that Shonda Rhimes made at the Human Rights Campaign’s annual dinner:

When Rhimes took the stage, she addressed depicting the different gender, race and sexual orientation as “normalizing” television. “You should get to turn on your TV and see your tribe,” said Rhimes. “Your tribe can be any kind of person, anyone you identify with — anyone who feels like you, who feels like home, who feels like truth.

That’s why diversity and representation matter in media. You need to be able to go to a cultural text and see yourself in it.

Characters in cultural texts have an impact on our lives. They shape who we are, what we aspire to be, and how we view the world around us. Representation and diveristy in cultural texts can and do reproduce and reinforce norms, mores, cultural conventions, and power relations. But as Rhimes points out, it can also challenge them. By “normalizing” difference and diversity in cultural texts, you start to unpack and challenge how we consume and reproduce that shared cultural inheritance.

Somewhere along the road to researching and writing this article, I came across a statement as to why representation and diversity matter: “If he/she can’t see it. He/She can’t be it.” I, and other diverse individuals, want to see ourselves represented in these cultural texts and not as sidekicks or damsels in distress. We want to see ourselves as human beings and, more importantly, as superheroes.

(Via The Mary Sue and Buzzfeed)

PS> Special thanks to Twitter user @jozerphine who coined the title to this article in a Tweet!

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