Pretty, Fizzy Paradise

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Saturday, June 02, 2007

Maybe He Gives Lessons?

In my post Who Defines Offense, I explained my negative reactions to the defensive comments from Adam Hughes and Joe Quesada about the controversies.

So this time, I'm going to show a defense/response that impressed me.

Kevin at Blog@Newsarama linked to a blog entry by Takeshi Miyazawa which defends Sana Takeda as artist of the cover.

I really like it. In fact I'll go so far as to say that many people could learn a lot from the way Miyazawa-san presents his defense.

Notice that he doesn't try to say that the image isn't sexist because the artist is a woman, for example. He does bring up Takeda-san's personality, but unlike certain others, he's not using it to say "It's not sexist! She's a nice woman!" He's using it to explain that he felt no offense was intended.

And there's definitely a difference between saying "She didn't mean to offend anyone" rather than "this isn't offensive!" The person stating the former does not have to agree that the offense is merited, but it is an acknowledgement that offense exists. And honestly, even an acknowledgement like that can go a very long way toward smoothing ruffled feathers.

Miyazawa-san also brings up, as others have, the cultural differences between the United States and Japan as a partial explanation for the cover. However, again, there's a difference in the expression. Miyazawa-san doesn't appear to be telling us that we shouldn't be offended because this sort of thing isn't as controversial in Japan. In fact, he appears to be saying the opposite. He's acknowledging that because American and Japanese culture is different, some Americans are going to react differently.

I also want to point out that Miyazawa-san isn't making blanket "this isn't tentacle rape/porn!" defenses. (We KNOW it's not. We're referring to the similarity to the tamer covers of explicit content manga involving tentacle porn that many of us percieve.) Those just distract the issue. Because ultimately, it doesn't matter if the image truly falls under the category of "tentacle porn". What matters is that people were offended by the image as portrayed. THAT is the complaint that should be answered.

Finally, I'd really like to highlight this part:

And I'm speculating that what hit the biggest chord with most people had nothing to do with the tentacles or the hairband or the cleavage but the expressions on the faces of the three girls. And, y'know, I understand. Especially since I'm somewhat familiar with the characters and the fact that they are supposed to be strong kick-ass amazon woman-like. It's rather uncharacteristic of all three of them to be acting so helpless and contrary to the purpose of the property. I'm sure Takeda-san had no idea, though, and since she recieves work through translated e-mails and notes, I'm not surprised. She drew the most attractive cover in a way only she could.


Look at that. It looks like Miyazawa-san's actually read more of the complaints than just the initial EWWW reactions. And even if he didn't, he's acknowledging that there is a discrepancy between the characters as portrayed on the cover and the characters of the series in question, which is a big part of many complaints. Also, notice he says that he's "speculating". He thinks that this is the root of the issue, but he's not trying to claim that he knows for sure.

This is important. There is nothing like telling someone why they're "really" angry to get them even angrier. It's dismissive and rude, and most of the time, the assumption is wrong anyway.

Miyazawa-san is very effective at explaining the likely circumstances of the misunderstanding while managing to NOT ONCE try to claim that people are offended for no reason.

Admittedly, Miyazawa has no reason to be overly-defensive. He's not involved and the party he's defending really doesn't bear a whole lot of the blame for the product. (After all, someone at Marvel had to approve that cover.) But still, the tactics used here are ones that would benefit anyone else involved in the project.

Explain-Acknowledge-Move on.

Even if it's just "We saw a cover that we liked, we didn't consider the response of many female readers." That's something. No one has to APOLOGIZE, but acknowledging the offense caused without trying to shift the blame onto the audience would go a long way toward smoothing ruffled feathers. It may not necessarily make them look gracious, but it would present the image of the Powers That Be as people who respect and appreciate their fans. Even if they occasionally produce unappealing covers.

4 Comments:

  • At June 02, 2007 8:13 AM, Blogger Elayne said…

    I touched on this a lot in my last ComicMix column -- the absolute inability of so many Americans to admit that offense has been caused and to deal with it appropriately. The Japanese have had a whole culture of honor in place for centuries that perhaps makes it easier for them to accept responsibility for perceived offenses than Americans.

     
  • At June 02, 2007 11:04 AM, Blogger Shelly said…

    Thanks for that link. It was interesting reading.

    Now that I'm home, I'll do my own entry on the topic, but I've been aware of the cultural differences since Ed Benes got slammed for his work on Supergirl. I don't know the characters or book in question, so I had no context for the expressions.

     
  • At June 02, 2007 11:56 AM, Blogger SallyP said…

    Nobody likes to be told how they should feel. It's one of the things that really pushes MY buttons.

    Apologies are handled so poorly it seems. "I'm sorry IF I offended anyone" really isn't saying much, but at least it is better than saying that there is nothing to aplogize for,and only an idiot would find anything offensive in what I did. Or something.

    Sorry, getting incoherent here.

     
  • At June 02, 2007 4:57 PM, Anonymous Dumma said…

    Now the question is why Marvel asked them to "choose at least two girls out of the cast and draw them as sexy as possible"

    Oh, I wonder, wonder, wonder...

     

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