Social Media Working Title.
Alright, here’s a column where I don’t really have an answer, but more of a question that I’d be interested to see what people think of. So, much as I may come to regret this, I will be looking at the comments.
I think one of the most important changes in human interaction of the last ten years has been the dominance of social media in our day-to-day lives. There are a thousand things to be said about how much more wary people have become in both conversation and life in general, as I think we’ve almost become living camera to an extent, recording hopefully amusing, interesting, outrageous and sometimes moving incidents for the eternal reality show that is the Internet. One funny aside can make you famous, while one drunken tweet can wreck your career. I have a standing rule that I don’t argue about things that are important to me on Twitter as I don’t think the format lends itself to any in-depth discussion, and most things aren’t, I think, adequately covered by the almost slogan language needed for 140 characters.
One of the more interesting side effects of Social Media, for me, is the removal of the intangible barrier between us ‘Little People’ and the ‘Stars;. In the early 80’s, if I wanted to somehow express my teenage crush on Drew Barrymore, I’d have had to buy an issue of Empire and check out their classified ads section, where someone would be selling a directory of celebrities and which agency to send fan mail to. Then I’d write my, er, hypothetical mash note to Drew, send it off and hope there’d be an answer at some point in the future that would read something along the lines of the following:
Dear Me Coleman
‘YES Nevs! I am very bored with living in Hollywood in the sun and being treated as a celebrity, making films seen the world and making lots of money for showcasing my acting talents. What I’d LOVE to do is come live in a grim, rainy bit of South London. PLEASE tell me more about your extensive knowledge of Spider-Man. In particular, your gift of memorizing everyone who’s been a Green or Hobgoblin sounds AMAZING. When would be a good time for me to fly over?
That was less than twenty years ago, now, as I’m sure you’re more than aware, the whole world is very, very different. I can go to watch ‘Filth’ at the cinema and tweet Irvine Welsh before I’m out of the building to say I liked it. More often than not, though, well, its people tweeting Dan Slott to express their outrage about Peter Parker’s death. I wonder how people would have reacted if there’d been Social Media when Marv Wolfman killed Supergirl in Crisis On Infinite Earths. Or when Marvel revealed Spider-Man to be a clone in the 90’s. I’ve seen some of the questions asked on Tom Breevort’s Tumblr, and the sheer lack of manners and snark dripping from every word in enquires stuns me. More so that he answers so informative and honestly which amazes me, as my default response to rude people is to tell them to fuck off and block them. (He was quite decent when speaking to me about comic reboots, also.) Now that the barriers are down, we’re free to say anything to anyone in the public sphere, which brings to mind something Reginald D.Hunter said in an interview with The Metro this week.
‘More and more people are reacting like consumers. “I’ didn’t like that, and I’ve got in touch with you to register my compliant.” I think it makes all of us think our opinions matter way more than they do.‘ (Reginald D. Hunter being interviewed by Sharon Laughner for The Metro. Thursday, November 28 2013. Annoyingly, the online version of the interview is hacked to pieces, but I promise the quote is in the printed version)
He’s got a point, and I do wonder about people treating the Internet as the Compliant Department For Reality. I can totally understand the Comics Artistic Community, a group more than aware of the history of their peers being mucked about, exploited , their artwork cut up, shredded or used in t-shirts and posters sold without any financial compensation, being quite sensitive’towards the current Spike Lee/Juan Luis Garcia situation as they’ve probably been in similar situations, and wanting to take a stand against this kind of thing. (People are directed to my current favourite thing on Twitter, for more on this.)
I can also understand that perhaps Spike wakes up one morning, checks his Twitter and sees hundreds of people he’s never heard of demanding he ‘should’ sort out a situation he’s obviously not very familiar with personally and is two minutes of deep breathing away from RageTweeting ‘I DON’T KNOW WHO THE FUCK YOU PEOPLE ARE, BUT IT’S THANKSGIVING AND I DON’T CARE WHAT YOU THINK I ‘SHOULD’ DO ON A PUBLIC HOLIDAY!’ ‘ It probably would have been a PR disaster, but as Chris Rock once said, I don’t agree with it, but I would have understood it. ‘ It seems apparent that Spike is probably in the wrong here by association, if nothing else but I’m not aware of all the facts and would rather hold off until I see more of Spike’s argument before declaring ‘HE’S The Good Guy! BOO The Bad Guy!’ Nor, if I’m honest, do I think it’s particularly important what I think of the whole thing or believe my opinion makes any difference to how this matter will resolve itself.
I suppose what I’m wondering is: Is there a line to be drawn here? Should there a line of what ought to be said and not said to someone’s personal Social Media Accounts or do we just hope that everyone understands, eventually, that you ought to talk to people online the way you would do so in real life, regardless of what you think of the work they produce. That’s what I think, and try to do, but maybe I’m wrong. Maybe that notion is simply antiquated and what strikes me as rude is just how things are now.
Because here’s a thing. Human Behaviour 101, I suppose. Nobody wants to listen to some random being judgey and rude at them. No matter how righteous, how correct your argument might be, if you are rude to me, in real life or online, the best thing that’s going to happen is that I’m going to ignore you. There are a select few people whose judgement I’ll listen to. Less than a dozen out of the hundreds of people I’ve met in this life. The opinion of randoms online don’t really concern me too much, and are less likely to get me to change my behaviour if they’re couched in words like ‘Should’. I don’t think that’s a particularly odd point of view, and I’m a bloke who works in a comic shop and writes columns with less than a thousand followers who’s had his fill of being lectured by Moral Crusaders. God only knows what the likes of Dan Didio or Slott think about it.
Essentially, you are absolutely free to say anything you want to me. The response I give you is entirely based on what you write.
While we’re on the subject of the effects of Social Media and how ‘the little people’ can and have changed things
Back in the period I was talking about, we didn’t really know what celebrities thought about the world. All communications were done via carefully transcribed and edited interviews, and hard truths about what Errol Flynn, Frank Sinatra or Don Simpson were like without entourages to bribe and basically , um, manage people who might have seen or heard things that didn’t exactly match up to the star’s public persona. into forgetting what they saw. There was a whole industry in ‘Tell-All’ books, explaining in detail the ‘Real’ person behind the facade presented to the world, because we seem to have a real kink for knowing about the cracks behind the make-up. Just ask Albert Goldman.
Now we’re still gamely feeling our way around new ground, I think. There’s a massive pressure to be online and talking where all the cool kids are, I also think we’re learning the very hard way that blurting out every thought that passes through our brains doesn’t just have the resonance of drunk texting a bad taste joke to a mate late at night, everything we say is part of an ongoing portfolio that can and may well be judged, usually when its least convienent . See: Caitlin Moran having all of her possibly bad taste tweets being Retweeted everywhere when she was attempting to suggest that one way the Internet might be better would be if we were a bit more decent to each other.
Obviously, the last few years has demolished that distance between the likes of Amanda Palmer or Patton Oswalt, It’s much easier to take an educated guess at what someone’s personal beliefs are and make informed buying decisions based on that information. Orson Scott Card is the strongest recent example of a potential audience being turned off by someone’s ideology, and I understand exactly why people would be reluctant to give their money to someone so clearly not in favour of LGBT people, a point of view that, in 2013 would seem quaint if it weren’t still so dangerous.
So, yes, Orson Scott Card has had his Adventures Of Superman story pulled from the schedule. I imagine DC has had, er, enough of a rough year with its public treatment of freelancers and such that they wouldn’t want to incur the online wrath that bringing him back onto a comic would invoke and we won’t see Card on a Superman comic anytime soon. What I’m wondering is, how far does this go? I’d be very surprised if Orson was literally the only comic creator of the thousands who work in the medium currently to harbour some unpopular political ideas.
If the reasoning behind people being opposed to Orson Scott Card writing a Superman comic is that they don’t want to give money to someone who has unpopular views, that’s understandable, but this isn’t a case of Orson writing a story and people paying him directly into to his Paypal. Comics are, on the whole, a collaborative endevaour and the writer isn’t the only person makes money from the sale of a comic. Editors, Writers, Pencillers, Inkers, Colourists are all part of the process as well, and it’d strike me that creative types aren’t espousing the currently in vogue political view are possibly keeping their thoughts to themselves for fear of the same reaction. Orson Scott Card is personally well-off enough to not be too bothered by losing the Superman gig. Others might not be.
And taking the hypothetical situation further. Let’s say we weed out all the undesirables from creating comics entirely. Only full on, right on, correct people are allowed to work on Superman/Batman, etc. Then do we have to factor in the politics of Steve Geppi at Diamond? The CEO of Ronalds Printing who actually print a fair amount of American Comics and get paid for doing so? Comixology staff? Apple? The Staff at your Friendly Neighbourhood Comic Shop? Because unwillingly or not, this could set a precedent. Group of people are uncomfortable with Comic Creator’s opinions on Life and the bad press leads to them losing their job. The One Million Moms group attempted to have Toys R Us drop the Kevin Keller comic from their shelves a while back and were refuted. What if, instead, they learned for the Card situation and had created a focussed online assault on Kevin Keller writer Dan Parent instead. As slightly insane as it seems to us, Extreme Right Wing people take the view that Homosexuality is an aberration in the eyes of God, and there’s a worrying amount of them….
Again, I’m not saying the above situation, as far-fetched as it might be, is right or wrong, I am slightly wary of uniform thought being acceptable from either Left or Right Wing angles. What I am curious is what people think, given we’re in a new age, and perhaps I’m out of touch. I’ll be honest, up to the last few years, I hadn’t taken in the politics of people who create the entertainment I consume much thought anymore than I’d given serious consideration to what the guy who runs my local kebab shop thinks about the idea of the Minimum Wage. I’m starting to believe that perhaps that was an ignorant point of view and it’s time to rethink things
Thoughts, please. I’m not going to be taking part in the comments, but I am keen to see what people have to say on this. You know where to find me.