Saturday, September 29, 2012

What Sword of Sorcery #0 has to do with everything else

When the Amethyst reboot came out last week and we discussed it on Twitter, Anna remarked that it was always the football players and never someone like the chess club who engage in this sort of criminal activity.

And while certainly there is a toxic defensive masculinity in sports culture that mirrors the irresponsibility and criminality in frat houses, our media has by this point depicted and portrayed such behavior to the point that it is a cartoonish stereotype. And while it would be valuable to unpack the mentality of so-called jocks to see where embracing traditional masculinity requires rejecting femininity to the point that actual violence against women becomes a bonding experience among boys, the treatment in Sword of Sorcery #0 does not attempt this. It is five pages of completely superficial stock jock villains.

It is also worth noting, as Lyle did back during the original conversation, that if the villains had been the chess club it would be an interesting commentary on geek culture right now. Because we're seeing the term "friend zone" take on a bitter, acidic meaning. We're seeing a backlash against female-oriented properties like Twilight while male properties such as Transformers movies that are equally terrible get a pass. We're seeing a woman used as the Quintessential Poseur invading the geek community. We're seeing fanatical straight male nerds demand that female-oriented properties such as My Little Pony cater to them rather than female children. Hell, we're seeing the previously female-oriented Wonder Woman be completely repackaged and repurposed for male adults (See how the goddess of womanhood becomes the villainess as nearly all of Diana's supporting cast becomes male) just as we see the love story that appeals to female fans of Superman cut almost completely (See Lois Lane criminally underused in all Superman books since the reboot) from the story. We're seeing women passed over for jobs in the comics and STEM career fields. We're seeing sexual harassment scandals at gaming tournaments, comic conventions and atheist conferences and rape threats over research projects.

Right now, we're seeing in every aspect of geekdom a complete rejection of the feminine that is every bit as disgusting and pervasive as in the stock jock stereotyped cliques, and every bit as dedicated to defining those aspects as masculine in nature rather than neutral.

And it is nothing new.

Thing is, with this rejection of the feminine comes the same criminal behavior we associate with jocks and frat boys. With this rejection of the feminine comes a feeling of entitlement to female bodies. With that feeling of entitlement comes the belief that you can judge and police female bodies. With that feeling of entitlement comes the belief that you can claim and use female bodies as you want. The wicked underbelly of misogyny is the same whether it claims women can't play football or women can't read comics. Any community that despises and rejects women to the extent that geekdom does has it. Any community that hinges its manhood on "No Girls Allowed" has it.

But our media likes to pretend that sort of thing doesn't happen with nerds. The chess club has no creepy guys angry at perceived rejection, who project assholishness on the boys with dates, and who fantasize about hurting the women who should have been theirs but weren't. The chess club is a bunch of soft, sweet, shy guys who get passed over by girls.

The jocks, those are the REAL misogynists.

So that is what bothers me the most, what I personally think the saddest part about Sword of Sorcery is. It perpetuates the othering of misogyny. It is a geek-focused property that allows geeks to safely file the mistreatment of women as something THOSE guys do. It lets them keep on, in this environment, ignoring their own communities in favor of assuming that they are the good ones while the jocks are the bad ones and someday girls like Beryl will come around. It even offers an outsider girl in Amy ("Oooh, I have the superpower to become blonde!" she says sarcastically, rejecting the stereotyped cheerleader haircolor like any good fantasy goth/geek/manic pixie dream girl would) who can "smell pervs like you guys a mile away."

And I know some of you are going "So, you'd be happier with 5 pages of the chess club instead?" and maybe, I don't know. It'd be different. It'd force the audience to examine themselves. As is, this is yet another stereotyped rape scene on the pile, added to a thousand that allow us to read everyday horrors are things done to and by Other People, things we needn't really pause to think deeply about when there's ogre-slaying to be done.