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The Old Hack

NP September 10, 2018

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I have mixed feelings about this one . On the one paw, I agree with the point Dan is trying to make. On the second paw I'm tempted to argue semantics; while it's impossible to tell a story without some political messages to it (intended or not), the specific term "social agenda" implies to me that one is intentionally trying to bring about real-world change, and (keeping in mind I have no idea what comic Dan is referring to or what the story behind its creation is) it seems possible to me that the creators had no greater goal than to tell what they considered fun stories. On the third paw, often people who claim they have no social/political agenda are lying, so maybe they had an agenda after all.

On the fourth paw, I also have some semantic issues with panel two. A lie and a truth placed side-by-side do not necessarily a paradox make: strictly speaking a verbal paradox should be a singular statement which contradicts itself; two contradictory statements are an antinomy. (Of course antinomy is obscure enough that my spellcheck doesn't like it, and honestly I just discovered the word myself, but that doesn't change the fact that the situation in the comic does not fit my definition of paradox.) ...Also, that's not how paradoxes work, but I'm willing to let it slide for the sake of humor seeing as this is non-canon.

Incidentally, that's a pretty impressive triple-starburst in panel two. I'd cheer for it, but I'm pretty sure it's part of the "paradox" special effect rather than a proper "background".

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14 minutes ago, ChronosCat said:

the specific term "social agenda" implies to me that one is intentionally trying to bring about real-world change, and (keeping in mind I have no idea what comic Dan is referring to or what the story behind its creation is) it seems possible to me that the creators had no greater goal than to tell what they considered fun stories.

If that was all they wanted, why would they even bring 'social agenda' up? As you yourself pointed out, the claim itself is suspicious.

And to be frank, I disagree with the 'intentionally' part of your definition as it is definitely possible to have a social agenda without being aware of it. In fact, as soon as you write a classic superhero story, you are already promoting a social agenda -- if nothing else, the idea that if you have power, you ought to use that power for good and that using it selfishly and without regard for others is bad. Writing a story without a social agenda is approximately as viable as writing a story without tropes.

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*walks on by* *plays Heroes and Villains by The Beach Boys*

However, the comic now begs context. If it does not, this is all moot.

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3 hours ago, Stature said:

*walks on by* *plays Heroes and Villains by The Beach Boys*

However, the comic now begs context. If it does not, this is all moot.

It is possible that it is a reference to the upcoming new comic from 'Diversity & Comics', which putatively is supposed to champion a return to the 'good old days' before the 'social agenda' ruined comics. Gail Simone happened to retweet an example of it posted by the creator. I am providing a link to the sample here but I warn in advance that it may be offensive to some. Click at your own risk.

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It's one thing to claim that your comic has no social agenda, like ToH said, it's impossible to have that since anything they can write will have some sort of basis on real life like "do bad stuff? get arrested" is enough to make the claim false.

It's a completely different thing to say that you're writing a comic without regards for what others would call a social agenda, which I'd be more incline to believe is the case for the comic in question. It's like how people are claiming that political correctness is ruining comedy, though comedians stating they'd be going back to the good ol' days and being free of political correctness would be easier to claim than being free of social agendas.

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15 minutes ago, Scotty said:

It's a completely different thing to say that you're writing a comic without regards for what others would call a social agenda, which I'd be more incline to believe is the case for the comic in question

But that is in and of itself a social agenda. What you are doing is a denial of their arguments even being worth discussing, which is not the same as refuting them but nonetheless acts as a brake on discussion.

A good example would be a certain European nation some eighty to eighty-five years ago. Its new leadership was taking it in a direction a lot of citizens found distressing. The national leadership exercised heavy control on what the media could and could not show. One particularly clever minister noted for his instinctive grasp of mass psychology realised that he could not convince all the nation's moviemakers to produce the state message but decided that this need not be a problem. Instead he gave them the go ahead to freely make movies and plays that celebrated the good old times or romantic comedies or similar stuff. This way, he figured, the people who didn't like the political development could be soothed into not objecting as much because they had entertainment that let them forget about it. And it worked as intended -- the moviemakers, relieved that they did not have to make entertainment tailor made to please the State produced exactly this kind of material, incidentally pleasing the State.

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Just now, The Old Hack said:

But that is in and of itself a social agenda. What you are doing is a denial of their arguments even being worth discussing, which is not the same as refuting them but nonetheless acts as a brake on discussion.

I meant more in the way of "you can call it a social agenda, but I'm doing it anyway because this is a fictional setting and there needs to be a plot device for it to work."

I can't find it now, but someone had pointed out a comic called "Destroy!" or "Destruction!" or something like that, about 2 super powered men fighting each other, on the surface it didn't look like there was any agenda beyond two guys being violent until it was realized that some of the buildings that were destroyed happened to be based on buildings belonging to publishers where the writer and artist has bad experiences in.

19 minutes ago, The Old Hack said:

A good example would be a certain European nation some eighty to eighty-five years ago. Its new leadership was taking it in a direction a lot of citizens found distressing. The national leadership exercised heavy control on what the media could and could not show. One particularly clever minister noted for his instinctive grasp of mass psychology realised that he could not convince all the nation's moviemakers to produce the state message but decided that this need not be a problem. Instead he gave them the go ahead to freely make movies and plays that celebrated the good old times or romantic comedies or similar stuff. This way, he figured, the people who didn't like the political development could be soothed into not objecting as much because they had entertainment that let them forget about it. And it worked as intended -- the moviemakers, relieved that they did not have to make entertainment tailor made to please the State produced exactly this kind of material, incidentally pleasing the State.

Yeah, there's that, but where do you draw the line between just telling a story and having it turned into propaganda or social commentary? Sometimes people can be so critical of every little part of a story as if they're sole purpose is to actively look for social agendas and "virtue signalling", the amount of times I've seen people accuse Dan of "pushing an agenda" each time the subject of sexual preference of gender identity or even bullying/harassment comes up makes my head hurt.

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2 minutes ago, Scotty said:

Yeah, there's that, but where do you draw the line between just telling a story and having it turned into propaganda or social commentary? Sometimes people can be so critical of every little part of a story as if they're sole purpose is to actively look for social agendas and "virtue signalling", the amount of times I've seen people accuse Dan of "pushing an agenda" each time the subject of sexual preference of gender identity or even bullying/harassment comes up makes my head hurt.

See, there's this: having an agenda is not necessarily a bad thing. It can even be necessary. Let's say you sit down and write a truly agendaless story. You write about how the sun rises, a person (gender carefully left indeterminate) awakens due to the touch of sunlight on their face. After a while, they rise, and driven by biological pressure relieves themself. And so forth. You are so careful to remove identity and motivation from the story that nothing is actually going on. Things are just happening. And even then it turns out that you have failed because someone decides that your agenda was to demonstrate how inchoate existence that is all reaction and no action is.

I am currently writing a book. Do I have an agenda in it? Darn straight I do. I want to show a protagonist who wants to do the right thing but runs into the issues of her own limitations, the fact that the right thing is not always obvious and that sometimes impulse and anger can make you do some very much not right things. I want to tell a story of human beings muddling along where some of them do some terrible things that nonetheless seem right to them. And most of all, I want to tell a story that people can have fun with so I will hopefully make money off it. Yeah, I said it. Writing for fun and profit.

My point is, you can't really avoid having an agenda. But there is a difference between letting the agenda just be a part of the tale with as few seams as possible and hammering your agenda home with the force of an anvil dropped from the top of the Empire State Building. Dan's agenda is fairly obvious. He wants to tell tales of genderqueer and/or LGBTQ teens struggling with their identities and to demonstrate that even if you are not vanilla cishet, you are still a person like anyone else. Also, I strongly suspect, he wants to have fun and make some money. I see Dan's agenda as being obvious without actually having hammer force applied to it. He is not trying to hide it but nor is he forcing it down the reader's throat.

When it comes to those people who scream about agendas, virtue signaling and the like, they are almost always trying to 1) discredit the writer/artist and 2) draw attention to themselves. In this case, they are the ones with hammer and anvil. They are attacking the artist, not the work itself. It is a shabby tactic and one I find largely worthy only of contempt. Of course, that means that someone who says they don't have an agenda may simply be doing so in self defence so as to shield themselves from such creatures. But on the other hand, it is also very often done by these exact creatures themselves because they pretend that being status quo minded or even reactionary is the norm -- and ignoring the fact that promoting a norm or a return to older values is in and of itself an agenda.

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22 minutes ago, The Old Hack said:

When it comes to those people who scream about agendas, virtue signaling and the like, they are almost always trying to 1) discredit the writer/artist and 2) draw attention to themselves. In this case, they are the ones with hammer and anvil. They are attacking the artist, not the work itself. It is a shabby tactic and one I find largely worthy only of contempt. Of course, that means that someone who says they don't have an agenda may simply be doing so in self defence so as to shield themselves from such creatures. But on the other hand, it is also very often done by these exact creatures themselves because they pretend that being status quo minded or even reactionary is the norm -- and ignoring the fact that promoting a norm or a return to older values is in and of itself an agenda.

I know a lot of the reaction has had to do with Diane's recent developments, but I think many of them forget that Susan was originally a "Straw" feminist who preferred female superiority over equality. Diane's introduction was during the "still figuring things out" phase of Dan's life in which Susan came in from, the difference between the two is Susan has had much more panel time to develop as a character and it's only been the past few years that Dan's been able to develop Diane more, and it needs to be gradual because just having her reappear after several years absence with a new outlook on things would be too jarring, but having it be too gradual might drag things on too long. Also the social media climate was much different 10+ years ago so it makes me wonder about the age demographic of those that are using those tactics.

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3 minutes ago, Scotty said:

Also the social media climate was much different 10+ years ago so it makes me wonder about the age demographic of those that are using those tactics.

Trolls come of all ages and times. The EGS forums ten years ago had a full complement of them. They just used slightly different tactics to poison and ruin debates. I am sad to say that the basic techniques of attacking the person and not the position as well as the constant moving of goalposts remain the same. Sigh.

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11 hours ago, The Old Hack said:

And to be frank, I disagree with the 'intentionally' part of your definition as it is definitely possible to have a social agenda without being aware of it. In fact, as soon as you write a classic superhero story, you are already promoting a social agenda -- if nothing else, the idea that if you have power, you ought to use that power for good and that using it selfishly and without regard for others is bad. Writing a story without a social agenda is approximately as viable as writing a story without tropes.

I could not find (at least with a very quick search) a definition of "social agenda", but "agenda" itself specifically refers to a plan or list (at least according to wiktionary). This is why I feel a person should have the intention to promote a cause for it to properly be said they have a social agenda. I will admit though that from how I've heard it used many other people do not seem to have such a strict definition of the term.

At any rate, as I said to begin with this is just a semantics argument. Even if a writer does not consciously have an "agenda", they can't help but insert their own point of view and opinions into the story, so the end result for the audience is the same.

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7 hours ago, The Old Hack said:

It is possible that it is a reference to the upcoming new comic from 'Diversity & Comics', which putatively is supposed to champion a return to the 'good old days' before the 'social agenda' ruined comics. Gail Simone happened to retweet an example of it posted by the creator. I am providing a link to the sample here but I warn in advance that it may be offensive to some. Click at your own risk.

 

It is very easy to see when a comic is made solely with a particular agenda in mind, especially when it is in the advertising for it. Vox Day is one particular example, though I choose not to pay too much thought to it because I think it is doomed to failure just based on the premise of which their line was built upon. 

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Also did the comic DELBERLIATLEY ADVERISE it’s selling point was it had no social agenda, or did it come across as having none after flipping through it?

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14 minutes ago, animalia said:

Also did the comic DELBERLIATLEY ADVERISE it’s selling point was it had no social agenda, or did it come across as having none after flipping through it?

the whole "Diversity and Comics" brand is cultivated specifically to disguise its persistent conservative boy's club rhetoric, in the larger campaign by such political groups to introduce its brand of bigotry through attempting to appeal to civility and fair discussion in the most absolute bad faith that one could have

so, yes, it specifically markets itself to the gamer dudebros as a continuation of this shit going down

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There will always be a message.

Also, *gulp* wow. :(

18 hours ago, The Old Hack said:

Click at your own risk.

*clicks link* *writes down notes* *flips down notes* *places notes at a compartment*

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3 hours ago, animalia said:

I was talking about what Justin was reading not the real world.

I can't imagine that anyone could create an agendaless comic for reasons I have given above, so I suspect they advertised it that way. And Justin did use the phrase 'selling point' which I have most often seen in the context of marketing and advertising.

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On 9/10/2018 at 10:31 PM, The Old Hack said:

Writing a story without a social agenda is approximately as viable as writing a story without tropes.

The Tropeless Tale (Obligatory Warning)

14 hours ago, Scotty said:

I can't find it now, but someone had pointed out a comic called "Destroy!" or "Destruction!" or something like that, about 2 super powered men fighting each other, on the surface it didn't look like there was any agenda beyond two guys being violent until it was realized that some of the buildings that were destroyed happened to be based on buildings belonging to publishers where the writer and artist has bad experiences in.

One of Mercedes Lackey's early books included a suspicious number of the monster's victims being the idiot jerk bosses of long-suffering computer programmers.  ;-)

12 hours ago, ChronosCat said:

I could not find (at least with a very quick search) a definition of "social agenda", but "agenda" itself specifically refers to a plan or list (at least according to wiktionary).

Next time you want definitions, may I suggest onelook.com?  Then you'll be able to find a more complete range of definitions, such as (bolding is mine):

Oxford's "The underlying intentions or motives of a particular person or group.  ‘Yet one suspects that there is another agenda behind his attempt to subvert the global uniformity.’"  

Or Merriam-Webster's: 

1: a list or outline of things to be considered or done  agendas of faculty meetings

2: an underlying often ideological plan or program  a political agenda

Or from American Heritage:

n. a·gen·da

1. A list of things to be discussed in a meeting.
2. 
a. A program of things to be done or considered: "King's broadening of the civil rights agenda to include issues of class, income, and employment" (James Carroll).
b. Informal A usually unstated underlying motive: "Everyone has an agenda, whether he or she is honest about it or not" (Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger).
3. A datebook: bought a leather-bound agenda.

 

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2 hours ago, The Old Hack said:

I can't imagine that anyone could create an agendaless comic for reasons I have given above, so I suspect they advertised it that way. And Justin did use the phrase 'selling point' which I have most often seen in the context of marketing and advertising.

How about trying to create a comic just trying to have fun and not care what other people read into things. One thing I noticed is that people bring their own judgments wherever they go. You can try to conform to them or you can just have fun and tell the type of story you enjoy and let people read into it what they read into it.

 This may be the state in comics, and to be fair the comics industry probably deserves it but let’s talk about other industries.

That being said I should probably define some ground terms first so before we go further I want to share a video with everyone. THEN I will share the link dealing with the problematic subject I wanted to address in the next part.

 

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I am not saying there aren’t assholes who honestly don’t care about things, but I do think that sometimes it feels like there is no middle ground with people. As a result all you it seems you can do is write what you want to write. Try to be as accurate as possible, yes. Be as realistic and human as possible, yes. But if you let fear of insulting people keep you from writing the story you want to write what’s the point. There is NO story in the world who won’t offend someone. And you can’t please everyone.

 

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 I’d also like to point that even stuff that pleases the juvenile pervert in us can also have well-written characters that move us to tears. (Not saying epic masterpiece, just saying that even that stories like that can have their value when done right.) I guess that why it bugs me when Dan talks about how hes matured. Called me crazy but why can’t you enjoy dirty jokes AND want a relationship with someone that’s based on based on emotional attachment? I wasn’t aware the two were mutually exclusive. 

 

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3 hours ago, animalia said:

 Lionel Shriver lost me around the point where she equated cultural appropriation with someone writing from the perspective of a murderer without having committed murder, and her grip on me was already very shaky before that.

1) Being a murderer is not a culture. In fact, I would almost call it the antithesis of culture since most cultures I know of are based on living together in a certain way. Not on killing. (And yes, I would not call Nazism a culture; it is barbarism of the crudest sort, its icons and symbolism... appropriated... from cultures that had nothing to do with it.)
2) Cultural appropriation is not defined by these cherrypicked and extreme examples that Shriver likes to wallow in. Cultural appropriation is when someone grabs something from another culture that 'looks nice' and then uses it heedlessly of its origin and without respect for its original meaning. It is not 'cultural appropriation' to cook and eat sushi. It is cultural appropriation when one takes an ancient and respected religious symbol of another culture and then makes it the symbol of a barbaric agenda of genocide and mass murder. Yes, that is where the Nazis got their swastika from and there are people who revere the swastika and wear it as Christians would wear the Cross, and these are of course HURT and HORRIFIED when they come to Europe or the US and are told that they are foul Nazis for revering their sacred icon.

That is an extreme example, of course, but THAT is the essence of cultural appropriation. Shriver's pathetic and self-indulgent complaint utterly ignores that. She has taken the exact wrong lesson from what she has heard: that it is forbidden to use anything from another culture in order not to hurt anyone's tender feelings, which is not true, hyperbole invented by opponents of the concept. What it means is that when one takes something from another culture, one should damn well investigate its origins and use it with some respect for the source material. The sushi menu does not count. On the other hand, if that sushi menu was served by waiters wearing yellowface in WW2-propaganda style outfits and they spoke with a fake 'Asian' accent (most likely not sounding remotely Asian, let alone Japanese) while extolling the virtues of committing harakiri for dessert, then yes, it would be cultural appropriation.

As for Shriver's ludicrous demand that you wait on street corners and beg for permission of people of that culture that happen to walk by, that is worthy only of contempt, an extreme example selected by a moral coward who knows that if she actually states the problem in reasonable terms she will lose the argument. This is the age of the Internet, people. Research has NEVER been easier. If you want to use elements from a foreign culture, LOOK IT UP. If you got this far, you know how to read. Use Google. Spend as much as half an hour reading articles about the subject matter. Then you will have a basic idea. And if you want to be thorough -- a concept entirely foreign to Shriver, it seems -- there is such a thing as social media where you can reach out to the people of a specific culture and ASK them for information. If you do it politely and respectfully and you have done at least a minimum of homework first, odds are that you will find someone who is glad to help.

Or, like, you can do as Shriver seems to recommend and happily write African characters as blackface-wearing Vaudeville clowns from the late 19th Century and Irishmen as jolly uneducated chronic drunks who get into fights all the time and French as Pepe le Pew-accented onion sellers who duel to death with loaves of bread. I'm sure you won't offend anyone that way, and good luck with that. (Yes, an extreme example like Shriver likes to use -- notice how TOTALLY not offensive that is?)
 

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