Sunday, December 16, 2012

Comics: Stop The Insanity, The Violence, The Hate

On November 21, I had a nightmare that I dubbed "The Obsessed Comic Fan Dream." I posted it on my personal blog dealing with symbology, mythology, and general esoteric topics -- because, you know, I'm pretty sure any mainstream readers of this blog don't want to read about my dreams or my opinions on how I think the movie "Looper" has Judeo-Christian overtones. (or maybe you do; in which case, feel free to subscribe)

The dream, which you can read in full here, was about a crazy comic book fan in his twenties/early thirties that strongly reminded me of a James Holmes type. He walked into some sort of store and acted as if he "belonged" there, putting his personal stuff on shelves and whatnot; he was obsessed over the idea that cherished childhood icons of his were being "changed."

The owner of the store had an immediate intuitive sense that this guy was batshit crazy and was probably going to shoot somebody, and signaled us to quietly file out of the store. When the police later break into this man's home, they find bones, obsessive writing about certain comic book writers, etc.

I'm writing this now for two reasons. First reason: on December 5th, I recorded another terrifying dream on the same site about encountering another disturbed young man, this time dressed in some sort of military clothing, who also reminded me of a James Holmes type; the dream ended with a scene of mass violence in a room among many people. We all know what happened that next week.

Now, certainly I'm not saying that the second dream was in any way prophetic -- we all know that seeing the future is completely impossible. But, given all the massive tragedy and terror that has occurred over the last five days -- by young men in their twenties, dressed in military gear -- I have been put in a particularly reflective mood.

This reflective mood had been made even further reflective by reading a stack of current "mainstream" (read: not "for mature readers") comics before going to bed that contained over-the-top violence.  I was not purposely seeking out violent comics to read; but almost all of them contained gore and grisly death, sometimes in a "casual," almost "funny" way that was incidental to the actual plot.

Then I wake up to finding out that "Spider-Man" writer Dan Slott has gotten multiple death threats over his latest story arc:

Several points I want to make:

1. DEATH THREATS HAVE TO BE TAKEN SERIOUSLY!!!!!!!! They need to be taken seriously not only by the person being so threatened, but by who they work for. And people getting death threats must be assured their safety when doing publicity on behalf of their employers. For example, if the person in question is going to appear in a public, pre-announced event, what sort of extra security will they have?

2. Women in comics, gaming, and other "male-dominated" fields have been getting death and rape threats for years. We've learned, over time, that not many people really give a shit unless prominent males in that same field stand up and say something.

3. I am pro gun-control, but I also feel that constant exposure to violent content -- whether that content be in entertainment, news, or advertising -- has a cumulative negative impact on society. And this negative impact is especially pronounced on the psychologically vulnerable among us.

Funny thing is, some people who yell about "gun control" the loudest would probably also call me an Orwellian fascist for even the mere suggestion that the content we are exposed to might have some impact on ourselves mentally. When the answer is so simple, even a small child could tell you: "I saw this horrible thing, it made me feel bad/aggressive/sad."

I've been watching this country go batshit crazy on a regular, almost weekly basis since the Aurora shooting this Summer. I've carefully followed the media "buzz," especially as the public/mass shootings continued and the public/media attention span waned. Because, as a person going to work every day, trying to take care of a family, you just get so worn down by the constant bad news, the constant horrors.

But Sandy Hook is where I've drawn the line, where I've asked myself: what can I do to make a positive difference? What am I doing wrong? What are the comics that I read and the TV shows and movies that I watch "saying"? What is the purpose of superheroes, and what messages about heroes are these comics putting out there?

There are so many things. It's a complex set of issues, and I am not telling people what to do -- but instead heartily encouraging them to think for themselves.

I have witnessed so much hate and aggression in just the comic book fandom alone this year -- men hating on women, women hating on men, women hating on women, guys threatening to kill comic writers, people sending death threats to editors and publishers. And then the sites and forums who gleefully stir up the pot, increasing the chaos, adding gasoline to the frenzy. This has to stop.

This has to stop, guys and gals. This has. To fucking. Stop.

What real superheroes are supposed to do and stand for: