Episode 401 - Stan Lee, a stupid comedian, and the new prudes

Nov 19, 2018

This is Quackcast 401! Error, error! Pitface and Tantz were absent so Banes and myself were left to go quietly off the rails and expostulate all sorts of radical, half formed, badly articulated thoughts. This is an interesting one! We cover the death of the great Stan Lee, titan of the comics and superhero world. Then we sidestream into talking about comedians trying to be political commentators (re: Bill Maher)… I must apologise for my Ad Hominems. And lastly our focus is on a “new puritanism” in some aspects of pop-culture. It all ties together, if a little awkwardly.

Topics and Show Notes

Stan Lee was instrumental in creating a unified fantasy universe populated by a pantheon of godlike superheroes with very human thoughts and failings. Not only that but he helped elevate comics as a medium to the mainstream. No longer are comics seen as something just for children. Cartoons, fantasy, Scifi, and comics have been rightfully elevated to the mainstream where they belong as valid forms of artistic expression. People no longer have to apologise for or feel ashamed of liking them either. You're free to consume or create the media of your choice and Stan Lee was a massive part of that.

This is why the remarks by Mr Maher about Stan Lee are problematic and ill-judged. He said that the veneration shown for a creator of comics, which are “only meant for children”, shows how the US has been dumbed down and why someone like Donald Trump could have been elected.
I'd contend that the reason for “Trump” and people's idea of politics being dumbed down is that we now get most of our political commentary through comedians. They have helped turn complex subjects into simplistic black and white caricatures because that's how comedy works. It's great for breaking down ideas and giving you a simple primer to understand them, but when comedians and partisan talking heads are your main sources then things are going very, very wrong. Bill Maher IS the problem, not people liking comics. If anything, Stan Lee worked to do the opposite; his characters weren't simple 2D cut-outs (like Maher's version of political figures), they were complicated and human. These were A-political characters who strived to do what was right outside of mere party affiliations.

Then we transition into my idea of the “new puritans”.
There's a slow tide of people coming out against sexuality in art. It comes from both the left and right so there's no real political platform. I feel it's very much related to the same point of view that Bill Maher has about comics: this is media for children and we must protect them from anything grown up. When in reality all we end up doing is insulting and infantilising adults when we attack sexuality in media, whether in games, cartoons, books, comics or movies.
This is no more clearly shown than in the word these people use most often: “Sexualise”
They claim that characters are “sexualised”. You cannot sexualise an adult or teen. By biological, physical definition we are ALL sexual past puberty. That doesn't mean we have or even want sex, it means we have sexual traits and that's all it means. You can “sexualise” a non-sexual thing like a toaster or a car but it's impossible to do that to a teen or adult. Sexual traits in adult characters are healthy and normal. I contend that the need to remove them is a perversion.

This is NOT to say that sexual traits in characters should be over-emphasised. What these people really mean when they focus on sexuality is “EROTICISM”, and that is a very important distinction. It has little to do with sexuality though so it's NOT a mistake that should be overlooked. There is a time and place for eroticism and we should never foist erotic depictions where they don't belong or onto audiences that should not be exposed to them. But we should also guard against hyper-vigilance or start attacking any depiction that shows sexual traits.
Ask yourself: Is the character sexual? If yes, then is the depiction erotic? Then is eroticism appropriate for the context of the work, its audience and where it is sold? Those are the questions to ask, not weather or not a male has a bulge or a girl has prominent breasts.

This week Gunwallace has given us the theme to Quixote Coyote… Let’s get a little chaotic with this quixotic jazz jam for Quixote Coyote! Let the organs fill your body (no, not those sorts of organs), let the drums be your heartbeat, and the trumpet will chase the electric, eclectic thoughts in your brain.

Topics and shownotes

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Ozoneocean at 10:47PM, Nov. 20, 2018

All great points and great examples! I wish we'd have had you as a guest, you're more knowledgeable on these subjects than I was. I had the idea sort of half formed but I knew there was more to it.

Amelius at 11:05AM, Nov. 20, 2018

No wait I remember one worse-- it was a webcomic author's OWN CHARACTER, a tactfully covered nude, and very very obviously aged up to an adult. They called the author a pedo because the character, though clearly adult in the picture, is a teen in the story. You're not allowed to imagine your characters outside the strict canon established this very moment! It wasn't even a particularly sexual picture either! I think these people would pitch a fit if they read a French comic. They've come to equate naked with porn, no exceptions, and I think the casual, not even remotely sexual nudity would make them short-circuit. And anyway it's a fricking far cry from drawing porn of like, one of the Rugrats but aged up. When it's an actual little kid I do understand the side-eyeing "Why did that child character make you horny enough to want to age them up for porn..."

Amelius at 9:27AM, Nov. 20, 2018

Bill Maher's comments made me furious, also. Japan, France, and Norway treat comics in a higher regard yet they aren't facing the same social problems as the US. What a tactless turd! As for that comic artist's concerns, it's likely because there's a contingent of people on social media that believe that canon age overwrites fanfic age, and call people pedos for aging up characters to explore adult situations, even if it's not overtly sexual in nature. I saw someone level that claim at a fanart of an aged-up couple holding their newborn... I'm FULLY against depicting minors in sexual situations but that does seem like a reach.

Amelius at 8:25AM, Nov. 20, 2018

Dragon's Crown was the game you were thinking of! It was a deliberate pastiche on sword & sorcery, especially Frazetta, and also heavily inspired by medieval art. Of course, people who have never seen a pulp fantasy novel in their life pitched a fit... and when people pointed out it was based on something, the response was "Ugh, it was problematic then, nobody is allowed to parody that, I want to remain offended!" It was done to such extremes that it was practically caricature, and the artist even said so himself-- it's deliberately extreme in the cartoony proportions.

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