Pretty, Fizzy Paradise

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Saturday, January 27, 2007

On Negativity:

This is by far one of my least coherent posts (this month anyway). You are warned. :-)

My mind is in a strange place today. I was reminded again of a comment from my post on Cassandra Cain:

"You have an awful lot to say about a character you aren't interested in. It's okay to just not like a comic, you know. You could just say "it wasn't to my taste" and move on to Green Lantern butts or something, so I'm wondering why you feel the need to rant at length on the subject.

It's a fair comment of course, but it's one that gave me pause nonetheless. Not to mention, more than a little bemusement. After all, if I limited myself to only talking about things that I enjoy or agree with, well, I definitely wouldn't make my "one post a day" resolution.

Besides, it's my blog. And if I want to spend an entry ranting about things that I don't particularly like, that's my prerogative. :-)

I do think people react oddly to negativity sometimes. I mean, sure, no one wants to be around someone who's only complaining about the bad things all the time. But there's nothing wrong with the occasional piece of criticism. Or even "I don't like this because of..." sorts of posts. They can make for good discussion. (See my Cassandra Cain post, if I say so myself. There are a lot of great comments from people who are fans of the character, and while I may not agree with them, they've definitely got some great things to say.)

And then there are people who can make criticism funny. I've never really mastered the knack for that.

I am reminded of an email I'd gotten once, from someone who compared me "favorably" as a feminist to another feminist comics blogger, who he'd felt had become too much of a "hardliner" on the issues and had lost her sense of humor. Now I put "favorably" in quotes, because the truth is, the blogger in question actually posts a great many humorous/light-hearted posts. As many or more than I do. The big difference though is that she also has a knack for critical essays and tends to post them more often than I do.

(The fact that she had called this person out in one of the essays may have had something to do with that assessment as well.)

I simply couldn't and still can't understand this mindset. Either someone is enjoyable to read or they're not. It shouldn't matter whether they're raving about something good or ranting about something bad (and no one says everyone else has to AGREE anyway).

And sometimes criticism and rants are important. Sure, I can dismiss my own opinion with "Well, it wasn't to my taste." But why should I? Ranting helps me organize my thoughts. When I can pinpoint what exactly it is that I don't like about a particular subject, I can narrow down what exactly I do like, which is very useful to me. I've already mentioned the discussion potential.

It can be really important when it comes to issues regarding racism, sexism or homophobia. Because, well, honestly human beings tend to have a very narrow perspective. It can be hard to think outside our boxes. I'm a white American with all of my privilege intact. And that means sometimes I miss things that are racist or offensive to other people, because it doesn't affect me. A good example of this is with Eli in Young Avengers. It took a rant from The 4th Letter for me to pick up on the unfortunate overtones regarding the character's actions. It never occurred to me that Eli's actions could be read like that. I still like the comic, and Eli's still my favorite Young Avenger, but David's post really made me sit down and think.

Just saying "It wasn't to my taste" does absolutely nothing for anyone. It doesn't offer any insight. It doesn't invite any discussion. It's pointless and meaningless. We might as well not say anything at all

And finally for the record, though I am a very big Green Lantern fan, butts are not to my taste. I leave that to other notables.

I on the other hand write Mogo slash fiction and essays on how Guy Gardner is a woman.

It's an easy mistake to make. :-)


  • At January 27, 2007 7:40 AM, Blogger Joel Bryan said…

    I enjoyed your Cassandra Cain post. We may differ on our POV on some things about her, but probaby agree on certain fundamental things. Which is cool, certainly.

    But yeah, that particular comment- which I've seen many times in other places, in similar forms, by other posters- was unfair. It's ridiculous to have to point out to people it's your blog and you can write what you want, whenever you want...

    But here we are! And it has to be done from time to time. Keep on keepin' on! Your blog rocks hard.

  • At January 27, 2007 10:04 AM, Anonymous elias A said…

    Kalinara, I wasn't the one who adviced you to just say "this is just not my taste", but I admit I was thinking the same when I read that post. So, I will try to collect my thoughts on this, because right now I'm not sure if I reacted unfair then.

    First, of course you are entitled to an opinion. And I rather admire that you read indeed the complete Batgirl series and did not base your views on incomplete info.

    But I think, what the poster was trying to say (or at least what I wanted to say when I agreed with him) is that, if you don't even like the concept of a series, than maybe that is really just a question of taste.

    For example, I don't like Birds of Prey very much, but have read a lot of it lately in the hope it gets better, and because I liked Gail Simone's Rose and Thorn and hope they get a larger role in Birds. Now, I could critisize a lot of things about the way BoP is written, and would probably do if I had a blog, but I am aware that a lot of people like it and this might be a question of taste.

    What you did was critisizing the concept of Cassandra Cain: You claimed she is a mixture of cheap cliches. That is surely worthy of a discussion, but it sounds a bit like "this character is immature, so everyone who likes her must be stupid or immature, too." Probably that is not what you wanted to say, but with the points you make, it is a bit hard to avoid this conclusion.
    So you have to be prepared if people feel more, even personally, attacked than by a usual review. And if one of the attacked wants to avoid a heated and personal argument, he might just say "let's agree to disagree" before the argument starts. And I think "this might be just a question of taste" is another polite "peace offer".

    The problem was that you hardly left a way out. You did hardly say "there are some good ideas here and some bad, so here is what I would improve with this character", but you said something like "this character does not work at all, and where it works, it works for the wrong, cheap reasons."

    If you said (like some other Bloggers) that you would prefer another Batgirl and don't like Cassandra as Batgirl, this would be easier to discuss. But if you flatly reject the concept of Cassandra herself, Batgirl or not, what is the topic of the discussion? That characters should have flaws? OK, we discussed that. But as I said there, you seemed to either miss or ridicule the sort of conflict and character drama by which the Batgirl series connected with its readers. So the suggestion should be allowed that maybe you missed it because that is just not your taste.

    What I mean, if I critisize a Batman story I have a mental picture of how a good Batman story should be like. But if someone says "Batman is just an immature fantasy of being allowed to punch everyone you don't like in an S&M costume", how should I react? All I can say that there may be indeed aspects like that in Batman, but nevertheless there have been a lot of great, intelligent stories with him. If the other person cannot see that, well...
    What I want to say, you don't seem to have a mental picture of a good Cassandra story (I hope this does not sound insulting :) ), so the discussion is difficult in a similar way.

    I hope I was making sense, as I said, I was trying to figure out what I wanted to say while writing...

    So, summary: Of course you have the right to critisize the concept of a character, and you did this in a intelligent, interesting way.
    But I had the impression you did not seem to take into account the possibility that other people might see something interesting, non-immature in this character - maybe not a good way to start a discussion?

  • At January 27, 2007 10:36 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    It was me wasn't it?

    The person who comapared you faveroably?

    Does that mean I've been mentioned? I think it does!

    I need atention...

  • At January 27, 2007 10:36 AM, Anonymous Loren said…

    I have to admit that I generally dislike posts that say, "I hate this BECAUSE it sucks and it's stupid and you're a moron if you like it." Your entry on Cassandra Cain, however, I felt, did not fit into that category and I think you gave some good reasoning as to why you disliked her. You didn't say -- everybody else hate her. You just don't like her and everybody is entitled to their own opinion.

    I get a lot of comments from people about my even handed approach to things, but, I think there are times for ranting. And, as you said, it's your blog and you can rant if you want to. :)

  • At January 27, 2007 10:56 AM, Blogger SallyP said…

    I love reading your blog, because you put so much thought into what you are saying...which is more than can be said for a lot of people, who DO constantly rant and whine. That said, if you want to kvetch, then it is your perogitive to do so.

    Kvetching is fun, it gets the blood flowing and makes your hair shiny and managable. I myself spent two days mocking Batman, and when it was all over...I felt GREAT!

    You give reasons why you like or dislike something. Someone may not like those reasons, and may disagree, but that makes for interesting give and take and occasionally, wankery at its most ridiculous.

    And thank you for the link. Tee hee. Now WHEN are you going to do your Kilowog/Guy essay?

  • At January 27, 2007 12:02 PM, Blogger Rob S. said…

    Elias A wrote:

    What you did was critisizing the concept of Cassandra Cain: You claimed she is a mixture of cheap cliches. That is surely worthy of a discussion, but it sounds a bit like "this character is immature, so everyone who likes her must be stupid or immature, too."

    This in particular seems like something you're bringing to the post yourself. Kalinara didn't put it there. She doesn't like a character you like, so you're taking it personally. But all of Kalinara's criticism was aimed at the character.

    There's no reason for Kalinara to use the phrases you suggest; if she wants to, fine, but they only serve to distance herself from her own criticism, and provide a feeble bandaid to anyone's wounded feelings. If it means so much to you, consider keeping those phrases in your head when you read anyone's opinions. Personal taste always affects artistic judgement to one degree or another; there's no reason to say it at every juncture.

  • At January 27, 2007 12:23 PM, Blogger CalvinPitt said…

    What I've found is that blogging about something you don't like is healthy. When I started my blog, there were things I'd been angry about for years, and no matter how many times I complained to myself, to the guys at the comics store, wherever, I never seemed to get past it.

    Then I Blog-Rant about tem, and I felt better, I moved past it. So discussing things that you donn't like is clearly a good thing.

    As to the Cassandra post, i felt you did a good job outlining why you felt like you did. I feel differently about the character than you, but I understood your reasoning, so it was no biggie to me. Difference of opinion and what not.

  • At January 27, 2007 5:11 PM, Blogger Denyer said…

    Serums? Drugs? Steroids? Freak lab accidents? Lots of characters gained powers through deliberately placing themselves in harm's way, or simply through taking rare herbal supplements / water from some magical place / vitamin tablets.

    The main thing that seems to set MGH apart from these is OMGdrugz!! story angles, specifically that they're finite in effect and some powered characters resent those who aren't "pure". Some chemicals good, some chemicals bad, depending on the politics of the day.

    You claimed she is a mixture of cheap cliches. That is surely worthy of a discussion, but it sounds a bit like "this character is immature, so everyone who likes her must be stupid or immature, too." Probably that is not what you wanted to say

    And something that wasn't said.

    "Batman is just an immature fantasy of being allowed to punch everyone you don't like in an S&M costume"

    Yes. For great justice, and So That No-one Else Has To Die(tm). Though you're missing the opportunity for a length tangent about adolescent sidekicks...

    That doesn't prevent a Batman story from working on other levels, since like everything else the product is a mix of writerly intent and whatever reader context is brought.

    There are probably people who can enjoy Tarot for its deep metaphysical content.

  • At January 27, 2007 10:01 PM, Anonymous david brothers said…

    There are probably people who can enjoy Tarot for its deep metaphysical content.

    Hey, whoa there buddy! Let's not talk impossibilities here!

    Anyway, I'm a huge proponent of "Love it or leave it." If I don't like something, I just ignore it. It's out of sight and out of mind. This is why I generally don't blog about Judd Winick, Mark Millar, or other things that bother me. This system works for me, but may not work for others. I understand that. I may choose to read blogs that either conform with my own personal philosophy or ones that go against it, but I tend to veer toward the ones that focus on either good stuff, or good commentary on bad stuff.

    If I, personally, am looking to make a negative post, it will almost very definitely be part-self examination (why I feel that way) and part-complaint/rant. I just feel like saying "This sucks" is pointless, but saying "This sucks because of X, Y, and Z" is pretty cool.

    You listed and expounded upon the reasons why you don't like Cassandra Cain. I may not wholly agree, but I found it interesting reading nonetheless, and that's all I really expect from both myself and others.

  • At January 29, 2007 9:57 AM, Anonymous green with wheelpower said…

    A man [or woman] who stands for nothing will fall for anything-Malcom X- Bravo Kalinara

  • At January 29, 2007 11:47 AM, Blogger Marionette said…

    I was bothered by my response to your original article, which is why I didn't return to it until now. I'm not denying your right to rant - I do plenty of that myself. Plus I'm often as negative as you are here. So it confused me that I reacted so strongly to your post.

    Part of the problem I think is that you go into it with a disclaimer that can be easily read as "I know this character has a lot of fans so I expect criticism for saying anything negative about her". I don't think it was your intention, but it sidelines any criticism as fan kneejerk reaction before you've even said anything.

    And then during the course of your article several times you cite factual errors to support your case, or you interperet something in a way that flattens it into a cliche, losing all the magic I had found there. You can turn anything into a cliche if you simplify it enough.

    Yes, there are problems with Cass. Her introduction in No Man's Land is five kinds of stupid, and I stopped reading the title in the mid-thirties because it felt like it had lost direction, and Cassie didn't seem like the same person I'd been reading about until then.

    I'd happily debate what went wrong with the comic, but for a couple of years it was one that I actively looked forward to seeing the new issue as it came out (the other was Harley Quinn, which I also loved to pieces up until the issue it hit a great wall of suck and I stopped reading it).

    I'm not sure this explains any better, and I am still perplexed why you read far more issues of a comic than I did when you found nothing likeable in it. Actually elias a says it all much better than I do so go read his comments again.

    Maybe I should just go away and write an article about why I like the first thirty or so issues of Batgirl so much.

  • At January 29, 2007 1:31 PM, Anonymous elias a said…

    Thank you, marionette! :)

    In my opinion, the Batgirl series got very good again when Gabrych was writing it, maybe even better than ever. Perhaps you should consider checking out the trades?

    Out of curiosity: What exactly was it you consider silly about Cassandras first appearance in No Man's land? OK, it is a rather huge coincidence that she works for the person whose father her father is send to kill, but besides that, I have no idea what you could mean.

  • At January 29, 2007 8:00 PM, Blogger Marionette said…

    The No Man's Land bit?

    I guess it's mostly because it seems so shoehorned in at the last minute.

    It's a long time since I read it, so feel free to correct me, but as I recall we have Babs without Cass for a while and then all of a sudden Cass is introduced as having been her gofer for months, and what a surprise, it seems like she is a martial arts master, let's give her the costume made for someone a foot taller with an entirely different body shape and call her Batgirl.

  • At January 30, 2007 5:59 AM, Blogger kalinara said…

    Thanks for your responses!

    Marionette: I actually ended up reading most of them because my friend is a very big fan of the series and handed me a stack of comics one day. I was bored so I read them. :-)

    I actually liked the story telling style and the atmosphere a lot. And a good part of why I kept reading was that I really wanted to like the character and was hoping there'd be a point where she clicked for me. (Similar to Jade in the Levitz-ghost-story arc of JSA). Didn't really happen for me, sadly.

    I don't regret reading the books though. :-) (I've read much MUCH worse when bored :-P)

  • At January 30, 2007 3:46 PM, Blogger Marionette said…

    Kali, I'm just glad we can agree to differ on stuff without it turning into a huge dramatic nastyfest.

    Not that I'm thinking of anyone in particular, or anything.


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