Why Do You Want To Be on Team Rapist?

CN: Rape/rapists

I’ve been mulling this over for a little while now, and I think I have an idea of what’s going on with the Team Dickwolves thing: these people think they’re funny.

But let me set this up a little bit:

In the 1980s, Gary Brodsky, son of longtime Marvel comics executive Sol Brodsky, started Solson Publications. Solson specialized in black and white books with even more ludicrous premises than most comics, stuff like Reagan’s Raiders and The Bushido Blade of Zatoichi Walrus, but that wasn’t the end of it.

You see, Brodsky is an MRA. While he failed miserably at comics, he has made a killing consulting with pathetic men on how to get laid more often. However, that propensity for ubermench dickishness came out in Solson books as well, most notably with titles like Sultry Teenage Super Foxes, a book about scantily clan women living on an Air Force base with their high-ranking fathers and, despite having many conversations, still can’t pass the Bechdel Test because they used an alchemy machine to give themselves superpowers for the express purpose of attracting the hot, young airmen.

Now, I’m going to put up an ad here for Sultry Teenage Super Foxes, and I want you to pay attention to what the disembodied MRA head is saying.

Stupid ad for Solson Publishing

Even “grating” is an aspect of “personality,” I suppose.

You see, Gary Brodsky and his publishing house aren’t incredibly sexist. They have personality. In fact, they’re the only comic publisher who does.

Getting back to the relatively recent past, after Mike made his…well, fairly standard dumb statements at PAX Prime, my friend and guest blogger here, Lisa, texted me with a really good question: why would you want to be on Team Rapist?

Seriously, that’s an excellent question. Those who freaked out about not being able to buy shirts that said “Team Dickwolves,” where Dickwolves=rapists (so much so that @TeamRape was created on Twitter just to harass people who don’t like rapists), were basically saying that they want to walk around proclaiming their allegiance to rapists. Not to the idea of rape or the thought that rape is somehow a joke, but within the context of that shirt, of actual rapists.

Lisa also pointed out that while it’s nice that they’re identifying themselves so that they can be avoided, it might not be worth the triggering on people who can’t really handle walking around with people loudly proclaiming their support of non-consensual sex.

The funny thing is, these are the same people who likely react to concepts like Schrodinger’s Rapist by claiming how sexist it is to assume all men are rapists. I’d be curious to know if it’s ok to assume that the people walking around with t-shirts claiming support for rapists might be, or if that would be sexist as well?

Alex Lifschitz has an amazing piece on the nature of apologies and why it’s so important that we continue to be vocal about why it’s a good thing to not sell shirts that say, essentially, that the wearer supports rapists, and not some action that further embroils you in controversy.

Outright identifying as “a dick” or getting angry with a critic does not unshackle Mike from the personal responsibility of tempering his outbursts, like some discoursal equivalent of the Stand Your Ground law. He doesn’t get to be a dick anymore if Penny Arcade want to be perceived as a positive industry force. His thumb-fingered morality has become the trough feed of tens of thousands of up-and comers in the game industry. And as long as he spews it, he will have high-minded, conscience-stricken people to be his personal pains-in-the-ass until he gives things a second thought.

Do I think Mike cares about the comfort of people at his conference? Yeah, I do. But apparently, his desire for everyone at PAX to feel safe does not outpace his lack of understanding regarding why anyone would feel unsafe in the first place, nor his improvised intertwining and decoupling of his identity with his station in game culture to more effectively skirt the accusation du jour.

The problem with Mike and with Brodsky and with the people who really, really want shirts that say “Team Rapist” is that they sincerely think that rape can be funny. They think that merely stating an absurdity (because obviously none of them are racist or sexist) is funny, like they’re the Monty Pythons of rape jokes.

Now, I’ve studied comedy for most of my life and I can assure you that even if there was some way to tell that you weren’t a rapist just by looking at you, it’s still not funny just to misidentify something. Remember when Prince Harry thought that it would be hilarious to wear a swastika armband to a Halloween party? I have less of a reason to think that Prince Harry is a Nazi sympathizer than I do to think you’re a rapist, and it still isn’t funny.

Absurdist comedy is really difficult, and it’s more than just putting a sign on a chair that says “cat” and calling it a day. It’s more than drawing not very smart, underaged girls fighting crime for the sole purpose of getting men’s attention. It’s more than walking around proudly proclaiming your love of rape because everybody should know that you don’t actually love rape.

As the old showbiz saying goes, “Dying is easy. Comedy is hard.” So, let me be perfectly clear: you’re not funny. I know you’ll dismiss me as some Feminist killjoy, but saying that you support rapists is simply not funny.

So don’t feel sad that you can’t proclaim to everybody who sees you how awesome you think rape is. Instead, think of it as an opportunity to not be a giant douche while simultaneously not telling the world that you think sex with unwilling partners is just the bestest. You’re welcome.

Update: Just looking through @Teamrape, and here’s exactly what I’m talking about:

Persecution Should Empathize With Other Persecution

You have no idea how hard it was to find one of these that wasn't actually racist.

You have no idea how hard it was to find one of these that wasn’t actually racist.

A couple of weeks ago, Bob Chipman had an excellent video on The Escapist about the rise of geek culture and how its journey into the mainstream has increased a very specific set of negative traits that always existed but are often mythologized away.

It was always an open secret, you see, that for all the pretense of refuge for those who were different, geek culture was always thought of and built around only one classical nerd archetype: white, male, heterosexual, cis gendered, first world, with enough disposable income to afford their hobbies.


And while it was common for idealized depictions of the culture to imagine that welcoming and understanding were the rule (after all, persecution must empathize with other persecution, yes?), in reality sexism, racism, and other forms of clique-ish and exclusionary behavior were often the ugly underbelly of the whole scene…


A culture that built so much of its sense of self around resistance to persecution and oppression has no moral or logical rationale to become an oppressor itself when it attains a seat of power.

I could quote the whole second half if I’m not careful, so go watch the video.

I think this speaks not just to geek culture, but rather any culture that has gone from an embattled position to a gradual acceptance into the mainstream. It’s not too difficult to apply much of what Bob said above to gay culture instead of geek culture which is still largely focused on the white, upper middle class, cis gender gay male. To an extent there is more acceptance of lesbians as well, though often in the sense that straight men find the idea titillating and therefore there must be more women having sex with women to watch. However, it’s still ridiculously difficult to be a bisexual in a gay space even if we are technically allowed there, and even closer to impossible by a long shot to be a transwoman in a scene largely dominated by gay men who may see crossdressing as a form of play, but certainly don’t accept that somebody may in fact be a woman, though they were born with a Y chromosome.________________________

Thus begins my latest piece over at Queereka. Go over and take a look at the full article.

A Lady Doctor and Trans* People

As we all know, at least the people who have heard of both the internet and have no fewer than one Whovian friend, Matt Smith is leaving Doctor Who. I am disappointed like so many others, but I have learned that as a Doctor Who fan, I need to roll with the regenerations. I remember being a kid and watching the switch from John Pertwee to Tom Baker in reruns on PBS and being very, very disappointed. So disappointed I ran over to my dialup modem, put it on the cradle, and hit every local BBS until I found one with somebody who knew what the fuck just happened. Did I mention I’m old?

However, I believe this presents a good chance. Let’s get a female Doctor.

Seriously, it wouldn’t be any less strange than anything else on the show, and there is precedent for it with both Romana (that there are Time Ladies, at least), and also with the non-canonical and absolutely hilarious The Curse of Fatal Death where the Doctor at the end is played by Joanna Lumley.

But I was being foolish. As Aiofe over at the Tea Cozy points out, Russell T. Davies himself, though no longer running the show, came up with the hitch in this plan.

While I think kids will not have a problem with a female Doctor, I think fathers will have a problem with it.

That’s because they will then imagine they will have to describe sex changes to their children.

How did I not think of that! Fathers (not mothers) will have to explain to kids about sex changes!

Obviously, this fails on a number of levels, and I will give Davies some credit that his wording implies that fathers are not justified in this opinion, merely that some will “imagine” this to be the case. But let’s look at these fails as if this is the case and some dads are this delusional.

The first is one that Aoife points out: we went through this 20 years ago with another character. Her name was Jadzia Dax and she was on the masterful Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. To quote Aoife,

Dax- or Jadzia Dax, as she is when we meet her- is a joined Trill. Trills are a species who, in their joined state (most Trills aren’t joined) are composed of two parts- a humanoid host who lives and dies like other humanoids, and a wormlike symbiont who can live for many centuries and who holds and preserves the memories of its hosts. When a host dies, the symbiont is transferred into a new host to begin another life. A joined Trill individual is therefore a blend of the current host, their symbiont, and all of their past lives. Trippy, eh? Where the Doctor rarely refers to the past, Dax doesn’t have that luxury. Jazdia Dax lives and works among people who knew her when she was an old man. Her boss, closest friend, mentor and mentee (life is complicated when you’re a twentysomething with a centuries old mind) calls her “Old Man” and reminisces about old times. She encounters people of many species who she knew in past lives, deftly negotiating complex terrains of age and gender, owning both who she is and all of the other people that she was. She’s also, by the way, a badass science officer, wicked smart, and manages to gamble with the Ferengi and win.

DS9 is my favorite Star Trek series. I remember very clearly laying on the floor of my family room with two uncles, two cousins, my grandmother, and my parents all sitting around together watching the premiere of the show. We didn’t always watch it as a big family, but my father and I have seen it several times all the way through together. We quote Garek to one another often as an inside joke. Mine is no casual fandom, and neither is my dad’s, which is why I also remember asking him once why Dax is referred to as “Old Man”.

And I remember my father explaining to me that she has a symbiont inside of her that is passed from host to host, some of them are men, some are women. And that was it, because I was 11 years old and “that’s how Trills work” was perfectly acceptable. No discussion of sex or gender required.

And you know when else we didn’t discuss sex or gender? During the episode Facets when Jadzia has her friends embody the personalities of her previous hosts as part of a Trill ritual and has Quark embody one of the female hosts without telling him. Yes, violation of his consent, misplaced femininity played for laughs, but it was at least mildly funny and in no way required my father to explain that some people legitimately feel that way all the time and can take a number of steps to correct the problem. You know why? Because I was less concerned about why there was a woman inside of Quark and more concerned with whether Nog will pass the practical test to get into Starfleet Academy because priorities.

The other part of this fail to has to with why this is a problem in the first place. Trans* people exist, so why is it so difficult to explain that some people change their gender in a variety of ways and to a variety of degrees? This is not a difficult thing to explain, and it shouldn’t be held to a special level of scrutiny because fathers might not be comfortable with it.

And that leads me to the point that I think is most important.

I don’t give a fuck what you tell your kids.

Seriously, why the fuck is it my responsibility, or the BBC’s, or Steven Moffat’s to avoid certain topics? Trans* people exist. If your desire is to prevent your children from realizing that, that’s your prerogative, but nobody else is under any obligation to help shelter your children from reality. In fact, I will outright say that my objective is to introduce your children to reality if you are trying to deny it to them, because your child deserves to be able to handle the actual world around them when they are no longer under your thumb.

Also, hi kids of parents who don’t want you to know things! Hope you’re enjoying reading my blog with all the dirty words and talk about TV shows!

On a related note, Mike Huckabee shares with us his incredible sad that he has to actually see gay people on TV. This was his example of how downtrodden and oppressed Christians like him are: they might have to change the channel or accept that gay people exist someplace. This was prompted by Penny Nance of Concerned Women for America saying that conservatives on college campuses were “bullied” and had a hard time expressing their views on issues like same-sex marriage, completely ignoring that they have that trouble because their views are horrendous and there is no good way to phrase them.

And I have basically the same reactions: I don’t give a single fuck. Before the 5th century CE you couldn’t accurately represent how many fucks I give because the number zero hadn’t fully developed yet, and all of those fucks were merely a placeholder or deciphered from context.

Also, the Doctor is not LGBT. And if he regenerated into a female presenting body, she may or may not be LGBT, but not because of that. The Doctor is Gallifreyan. Thought we should clear that up.

There is a perception from people, especially on the right, that it is the responsibility of the wider world to raise their kids for them, or at least don’t put them in a position where they might have to talk about something that makes them uncomfortable. And you know what? It sucks to be them because this is the world that their kids live in, and they really need to get used to it young, or those kids will grow up as stunted and ignorant as their parents, bewildered by the very thought of some people’s mere existence and afraid that they might turn on the TV and actually see some of them.

So, with that objection out of the way, can we maybe look at a possible Lady Doctor this time around? And perhaps even get more than one female writer while we’re at it? I don’t think that’s too much to ask.

UPDATE: More from the “don’t mention gay people” news. Apparently the Duma  just passed a bill, unanimously, to make it illegal to even mention that gay people exist. And Mike Huckabee secretly pines to be in Mother Russia.

Free Comic Book Day!

First, May the Fourth be with you. Always.

Now that that’s done, today is not only Star Wars Day, but Free Comic Book Day. As you can imagine, this makes today a very exciting day for me. I have a lot of work to do, but my excitement is palpable and I can’t wait until noon when the comic shop opens. I’m at the Sewing Goddess’s place, so it’ll be an unfamiliar comic shop, but the culture is the same and I’m ready to talk about how awesome the new Aquaman is, or how much I love everything Kieron Gillen writes (and he’s doing great with Young Avengers), how much I miss Avenger’s Academy and how torn I am about Avenger’s Arena (if you haven’t guessed, Marvel has realized that slapping “Avengers” on anything basically allows them to print their own money). And, best of all, I will get to see what sort of promotional comics they will give out so I can see if there’s anything worth reading that I might not have looked at before.

Anyway, I leave you with my favorite Avenger’s parody. The Sewing Goddess played it for me last night (she wanted to make sure she could see my face when I watched), and I adore it. Gritty Reboots is my new favorite YouTube channel.

I agree with this article that it could use a little more diversity, but it was still incredibly awesome and I would seriously watch the hell out of that film. It would be like Scary Movie, but entertaining.

Responding to Fandom

First thing’s first: to everybody who has been sharing my post from last night all over Facebook and the like, thank you so much. I wrote it because I was too angry to sleep. and now it’s really just taking off like crazy. I have the best, most intelligent, most attractive readers on the internet, and I hope that those of you who came around for the last Human Excommunication or to read about how re-posting the Frankenstein’s monster of a Bill Cosby speech doesn’t make black people the absolute worst will stick around for more rage coupled with supporting details.

Yea. Like that.

And it is on that note that we’re going to take a small digression away from rage to discuss something that is merely frustrating, perhaps a bit anger-inducing: the new Robin.

But first, some history.

During the 90’s, when everything about comics sucked, the few gems in the industry really stood out. Among them, we were introduced to a semi-villianess named Spoiler, the daughter to Chuck Dixon’s pulled-from-the-bin-and-dusted-off Cluemaster. Basically, she ruined her father’s plans, but wasn’t really a “good guy”, much like the Huntress from Green Arrow. She had her own agenda, and often it matched up with the Dynamic Duo, specifically Tim Drake Robin for whom she became a love interest.

Due to a number of things, Tim’s father finds out that his son is Robin, forces him to retire, and Spoiler, who is named Stephanie Brown, gets her own Robin costume and demands that Batman train her. He does, she’s Robin, all is good until she makes some serious mistakes and is fired…and becomes Batgirl.

During this time period, however, Steph really gained a major fan following. She’s spunky, raw, and really an interesting character. So when DC annouced they would be bringing in a female Robin, people got excited that it might be Steph.

Nope. It’s Carrie Kelly from “The Dark Knight Returns.” This is about as much of a letdown as when DC announced that one of it’s “major characters” would be gay, then made it Alan Scott, who is absolutely awesome as a character, but let’s not pretend that when people think of “Green Lantern,” they’re thinking of his Earth 2 counterpart. Similarly, I really, really like Carrie Kelly, but there’s a whole lot more going on behind this.

Ultimately, DC isn’t my comic label, Marvel is, but after reading Jess’s take on the bizarre and active opposition to Steph at DC, I can’t help but wonder what the hell they think they’re doing over there. Here’s a partial list of the things that DC has done to prevent this character from seeing the light of day, as compiled by Jess.

  • made Steph Robin as part of a publicity stunt, only to promptly kill her off in a lengthy, brutal, sexualized sequence;
  • subsequently announced that she had never really been a Robin and denied her a memorial case for years;
  • hosted a panel in which one of their freelancers, speaking as a representative of their company, expressed a desire to violently murder her fans for asking when they would see her again, and did not subsequently apologize nor request that the writer do so;
  • removed a character who, again, made The New York Times bestseller list, along with Cassandra Cain, from their New 52 in favor of Barbara Gordon, claiming it was to avoid confusion, while retaining four essentially identical-looking male Robins (thus eliminating not just two female characters, but a character of color and a differently-abled character);
  • rejected multiple pitches from popular writers to use her, including Gail Simone, Grant Morrison, Scott Snyder, Bryan Q. Miller, and Scott Lobdell;

There are several more examples over at the post, and I highly recommend reading them all. The point is, despite a dedicated and huge fanbase, the high muckity-mucks at DC really, really, really don’t like Stephanie Brown and they’re going to do everything in their power to ignore fans and keep this character out.

That’s one reason why I’ve always been more of a Marvel reader, really: they tend to be more responsive to the fans (also, Doctor Strange is an amazing character, and the new Defenders is fantastic). In fact, like we see with the absolute train wreck of 90’s Spider-man plots that eventually ended up with a plane-crash-on-train-wreck attempt to correct those plots (One More Day, the Clone Saga, I’m looking at you guys), they may be even too responsive to their fans. However, I prize more highly a ham-handed attempt to correct a wrong than the steadfast refusal to admit to it.

And now we get to the crux of the matter: is it better to save face and deny a problem or to admit to it? Well, we can look at some examples.

Perhaps the most obvious is the Vatican, an organization that has staked its claim on infallibility, so they are completely unable to admit to wrongdoing, instead having to hide, deny, and command away any problems they may face. Even when they do apologize, it’s for things far too late or minor that any change can be affected. By extension, the ever-dwindling group of people who still give credence to the Vatican as a moral guide will reflexively proclaim every pope BESTEST POPE EVAAAAARRRR, and the problems will continue.

But yes, that’s an easy target. “You’re always down on the Church, Kaoru! Why don’t you ever criticize atheists?” Well, dear reader, let me do just that.

Sam Harris has recently come under attack for being “Islamophobic”. This is part of a recent trend these last two weeks to conflate the criticism of Islam by the New Atheists with a hatred of Muslim people in that weird way that we say “race” when we’re talking about “religion” (see also: Jewish). I think many of the criticisms of him and people like Jerry Coyne are off base, but then we have Harris’s response (h/t PZ Myers).

A general point about the mechanics of defamation: It is impossible to effectively defend oneself against unethical critics. If nothing else, the law of entropy is on their side, because it will always be easier to make a mess than to clean it up. It is, for instance, easier to call a person a “racist,” a “bigot,” a “misogynist,” etc. than it is for one’s target to prove that he isn’t any of these things. In fact, the very act of defending himself against such accusations quickly becomes debasing. Whether or not the original charges can be made to stick, the victim immediately seems thin-skinned and overly concerned about his reputation. And, rebutted or not, the original charges will be repeated in blogs and comment threads, and many readers will assume that where there’s smoke, there must be fire.

Rather than admit that at the very least when he regurgitates well-worn philosophical experiments and tries to apply them to the real world, they have the potential to negatively affect people in the real world (PZ has plenty of examples), he basically says that any of his critics are unethical for calling him names. I disagree with most of his critics, if for no reason other than they are criticizing the wrong thing, but Harris’s response is a blatant attempt to cover up mistakes by blithely putting his fingers in his ears and repeating to himself how much better a philosopher he is than other people.

We make mistakes. It happens and it’s a part of human nature. Sam Harris needs to admit that his philosophical riffing often comes across as callous because he is trying to impose the results on a real world that doesn’t so easily conform to thought experiments. DC needs to realize that Steph Brown is not going away and it’s time to confront that and address it rather than attempt to suppress it. The Vatican…well, it needs to close up shop, but at the very least it needs to show some real humility (not just washing the feet of AIDS patients or choosing a less ostentatious wardrobe, neither of which require any effort), admit to its mistakes, and make an effort to actually fix them (working with governments for the prosecution of people who had raped children, falsely imprisoned women, or snatched babies from their parents would be a start).

Joe Davidson can donate 10% of the nightly earnings to Camp Quest from the night that he reneged on his deal with them.

Brad Paisley can resolve to talk to some black people who are from the South and not multimillionaires to learn about modern racism, why wearing a Confederate flag is not a color-blind expression of heritage, and make an effort to highlight actual Southern contributions to this country.

We all make mistakes, but we can learn from them, we can grow and we can make amends. That sometimes means listening to our fandoms, even when they’re being our critics.

Carl Sagan Day

It’s been really depressing around here lately. I partially blame being sick, but the rest is just that I’m getting a little battle fatigued and need a weekend of folk music and sword fighting to perk me back up.

Today is Carl Sagan Day! In celebration of the birthday of a great man and thinker, the Center for Inquiry is encouraging people to go study the universe tonight, especially if you have a CFI branch nearby that will be doing a party.

I wish I could be spending this at Skepticon, but instead I get to spend the night under the stars with my friends and loved ones in the SCA, so still very awesome. Maybe I’ll see if I can identify some of the stars and patterns Tycho Brahe noticed and were made sense of by Kepler.

Also, go take a look at Starts With a Bang for a really great article on how every galaxy will continue to make new stars for trillions of years, even our own, which will then take billions of years to burn out. Not only is the science fascinating, Ethan always posts the best pictures to go with it.

So keep your eyes on the stars tonight. And remember these words from Sagan, “For small creatures such as we the vastness is bearable only through love“.

The Real Winner: Math

One of the post-election narratives that I love seeing get so much traction is how math was borne out, once again, as being the best way to predict things. Especially when the people who lost most were counting (no pun intended) on math being wrong and the voices in their heads being a better indicator of future trends.

Perhaps the finest example was Glenn Beck and David Barton, who could tell Romney was going to win because they were more spiritually attuned and god was making it look like Romney was losing because it wanted the win to seem more like a miracle.

Of course, Beck weeped openly and melodramatically yesterday. And this disappoints me, since he sheds tears so often that they cannot sustain me any more. Conservative tears are at their best when they’re like The Crying Indian ad.

Either way, watch as Beck weeps, calls for conservatives to abandon the east coast and take their kids out of school so they can be raised on farms far away from liberal influences. As always, my services to help pack are offered.

Now, I think the major issue here is that we have to recognize that math does not bend to wishful thinking. It didn’t in 2010 when Nate Silver (and Nate Cohn, and Sam Wang, and many, many others) predicted a red tide sweeping over the nation, and it didn’t this year. As Jennifer Ouelette at Cocktail Party Physics, a Scientific American blog, writes,

There are many complicated reasons why people react this way, but one of them might be the fact that math is just so damned unyielding, the enemy of wishful thinking, dashing our most cherished hopes with its cold hard facts. And is it sorry? It is not! Like the infamous honey badger, math don’t care. Math don’t give a s$%.

But people most certainly do give a shit, and you had everybody from the moronic David Brooks, to the slightly less moronic but still kinda dumb Joe Scarborough calling Silver names and trying to defame his character because math doesn’t yield to their particular ideologies. We saw this when the Bush administration stopped publishing reports that showed things they didn’t like. We saw this when the Government Research Service retracted a report that showed that supply-side economics doesn’t create jobs.

It was at least nice to see Dean Chambers admit he was very, very wrong, though he blames right-leaning polls for screwing up his unskewing. It was also nice that he entertained us with such laughably incorrect predictions and went all ad hominem on Nate Silver so we could get this tweet.

I’m a big fan of Neal Stephenson, who takes his love-affair with math and writes it into a fetish, so I already have a strong respect for what math can and can’t do. It is a powerful tool with limitations, but it doesn’t lie and when it’s wrong, you can see exactly how it got to that wrong answer. Math is consistent, it is self-correcting, and it works. So can we please stop attacking the mathematicians unless we can point to methodological problems? Also…

Keep Calm and Trust Nate Silver

NdeGT Locates Krypton

This was too cool not to share. It seems that DC Comics hired Neil deGrasse Tyson to locate a physical place for where the doomed planet of Krypton might have been based on information given in the comics. Of course, most of that was made up and probably inconsistent, but the Astrophysicist of Awesome bent his brain to the task and found a place for Krypton to have been, officially.

Apparently, it once orbited the red dwarf star LHS 2520 in the Corvus Constellation. The color of the light was obviously important, as well as the distance (27.1 light years) and several other factors that NdeGT took into account.

Now that he’s done that, perhaps Disney can hire him to determine exactly which galaxy far, far away the Galactic Empire ruled. And if it was a long enough time ago that light from the two suns that once shone on a despondent farmboy unaware of his destiny will have reached us.

Game Overthinker and Some Thoughts on Self Identification

The new Game Overthinker came out last week and I just got around to watching it. It’s very story-heavy and will be the last episode of it that Bob hosts on Screwattack.com due to its formatting not really being what the website needs.

The chief focus of it is Nintendo’s “I’m Not a Gamer” campaign and the surrounding controversy among gamers who, after decades of loyalty to the gaming giant, feel a little put out that Nintendo is trying to distance itself from them. Gaming grew up as a culture of the rejected and dispossessed, and having the refuge to which many of us ran running away from us now is not only hurtful, but infuriating.

However, as Bob overthinks the problem, he brings up a point that changes the narrative a bit. Think about how many people are involved in some form of gaming these days. Not just console gaming, but Facebook games (I know several of you reading this are because you keep sending me requests that I will never, ever respond to), smart phone games, enhanced reality games, etc. We are a culture that craves entertainment and have found new ways to satisfy that craving. Bob’s thesis is, essentially, that in a world where everyone is a gamer, nobody is a gamer, and the label fails to have any sort of significance. I find this a little optimistic, since I think that there is a certain weight placed on self-identification in the application and growth of subcultures (i.e. claiming membership in a group has a lot of resonance, hence why most people would agree with basically every feminist ideal yet are reluctant to call themselves feminists because it’s easier to believe the details than to claim the name), but there’s a certain comfort in thinking that what was once a rallying cry for the dispossessed can be put down, the fight basically over if the result is not what anyone expected. Gaming is mainstream, everybody does it, and claiming to be a gamer is no longer a defiant cry against those who told you only freaks and losers played video games.

That being said, it made me wonder how this may be a model for other sorts of self-identification. The rise and embrace of gaming is a fairly new phenomenon and it’s hard to compare the treatment of gamers, who have had it comparatively easier for no more than a single generation, to the ideological and physical minorities that have been mistreated for centuries and watched a bunch of kids breeze past (or sometimes step on) them to get to a point of general mainstream acceptance. I suppose you could argue that the building of the gamer subculture had foundations laid by the movie geeks of a good portion of the 20th century, who owe their leaps to the teachnology geeks of the Victorian period, who were accorded status by the natural philosophers of the Royal Society, etc., but that ignores that racial minorities, women, LGBT people, etc. existed through all of that in largely the forms they are currently in and received none of the structural support that gamers could claim they walked into. Basically, what was it that gamers had that bought them into the mainstream?

I think the answer is pretty simple: games. Games are entertaining, and growing more so every day. The availability of games to a wider audience and the targeting of games to new demographics meant that in order to be a part of the club, you had to stop knocking the club. Gamers offered a benefit that, and this is important, signified no potential for loss to cultural gate keepers.

This is why “gamer” is a different label in many respects. The only thing that people lose by accepting gamers and gaming culture into their world is the ability to beat up on gamers and gaming culture, despite what Nintendo’s ad campaign seems to imply. That’s an easy trade when you get awesome video games for it that target you and make you happy.

Not having to claim one’s atheism, on the other hand, will probably not be something we can look forward to in the near future. The very act of not believing threatens whatever dominant religious hegemony exists in your particular region of the world. We believe because we all believe, and the existence of non-believers threatens the power, prestige, and control of those at the top of that faith-based pyramid. All we offer, ideologically, is the abandonment of that thing that we’re trying to subvert, and that’s just not as much of a selling point as games are.

Similarly, LGBT activism or feminism offer a world where heterosexuality isn’t the assumed default and male is not inherently treated as superior, and the cultural gate keepers tend to be heterosexual males who quite like being assumed to be that and treated as superior. There is nothing to offer other than a sense of having done justice.

I’ve said a number of times that the reason why the LGBT community co-opted “pride” and “straight pride” is not a thing is because it’s the opposite of “shame” and straight people have never been told they should be ashamed of their sexuality. The taking on of labels is usually as a reaction to those who say that the thing which those labels signify is shameful, and thus we proudly proclaim our allegiance, defiantly refusing to be ashamed. With gaming, it’s no longer something to be ashamed of, any more than being able to use the internet is, so the label becomes more limited, if not entirely unnecessary.

That’s why I can almost see this Nintendo ad campaign in a hopeful fashion. Perhaps now I’m the one being optimistic, but it would be nice if the other labels we use to push back against shaming tactics can someday start to crumble from lack of necessity. It won’t be today, and probably not tomorrow, but it’s something to look forward to.

New GameOverthinker: Ask Ivan

I love, love, love Game Overthinker. It’s my favorite web video series, not only for the really smart commentary on video games and video game culture, but I’ve grown to love the corny plot segments that really do a fantastic job of mocking and satirizing that same culture.

The Game Overthinker

In this episode, we have a mailbag that’s probably their best so far, answered by Ivan the Intern. Things to watch out for: how many times Ivan is asked his favorite pony, the note perfect parody of hardcore gamers in the Robothinker, Ivan’s answer to “What’s with you and Tinkerbell?”, the difference between censorship and vocally disliking something at the 11:06 mark.

Most especially, watch the extended commentary beginning at 12:30 about why a girl Link would actually be a fantastic idea. There’s nothing particularly masculine about Link, he’s relatively gender-neutral to feminine in design, and there’s no reason why Zelda can’t remain a woman in this version. And no, that isn’t me saying that Princess Zelda should have a lesbian love affair with the legendary hero of Hyrule. As Ivan points out (among other things, so watch it), in most versions of Zelda, the two of them are just friends, barely know one another, and were even related in A Link to the Past. We just have it in our heads that they must be a couple.

Anyway, just watch it. If you’re new to the series, scroll for a quick “The Story Thus Far” summary for the plot bits before and after the analysis. I won’t do this every time (maybe I’ll just link back) and while you can skip the plot bits, I recommend watching them since they’re fun.

The Game Overthinker (Bob Chipman) is a hero that stands between the world of games and our world. The barrier between them is weakening, letting video game creatures through. For the most part, there’s small things like Goombas or throw away ninjas, but occasionally a real threat passes through. First came the Anti-thinker, a douchebag who tried to take over the Overthinker’s show. Then came the Pyrothinker and Cryothinker, two ninjas who burned down arcades all over the city. Bob defeated all of them, and started gathering colored crystals that seemed to be fueling their powers, each with a different prime element magic.

In the ruins of one of the burned arcades was found the Retrothinker, a guy who loved video games and cryogenically froze himself so he could see how amazing video games of the future would be. Disappointed by the flood of Call of Duty clones and Zynga games, he was transported to another dimension where a mysterious figure imparted to him a colored crystal that turned him into the Necrothinker and gave him the ability to raise video game zombies (characters that nobody remembers any more). Bob defeated him, too, and Retrothinker has now moved in.

At the beginning of this arc, the Anti-thinker returned, only to be handily defeated by the Omegathinker, a man from the future named Clogs Shoes who tells Bob about the appearance of the Robothinker and subsequent destruction of the Earth. Clogs then warns Bob not to get involved, as the Robothinker will kill him.

Beyond that, the police commissioner is a rabbit (Commissioner Bunifacio, but often called “Commissioner Bunnyface”) and the ambiguous Senator Lieberson, our first Ninja-American Senator, has been making frequent appearances.

Ok, now go watch them all. Leave comments about things you enjoyed or want to discuss in more detail.