Pretty, Fizzy Paradise

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Monday, November 05, 2007

Reconsidering Wizard

Over in the comments of my Variations on a Theme column at Newsarama, some astute folks have pointed out that the whole "Men's magazine" thing only appeared on one variation and likely was supposed to be a joke/parody cover of magazines like Maxim.

I have to admit, I hadn't really thought about that option. It hadn't occurred to me, but thinking about it now, I think they're right and I was wrong. I think it was supposed to be a harmless joke that ended up falling flat.

And you know what? I was more apathetic than anything else before, but now, I genuinely am annoyed.

Not because it's a joke, because honestly, I have no proof one way or another that it is or isn't one. Though I suspect it is.

I'm annoyed because the joke would be funny if it were any other publication. But with Wizard, it really isn't. Because with Wizard, it's actually believable. Because while we had a bunch of folk saying "how outrageous" or "well, good for Wizard!" or "Meh, whatever," very very few people even suspected it was a joke.

I admit, sometimes my sense of humor needs work. I don't always get jokes right away and can be fairly gullable. Sometimes I need to be told that the parody's a parody, and if it were only me who had taken this seriously, I'd think the problem was on my end.

But I genuinely think most bloggers and commenters believed it, intelligent people on both sides of the Great Feminist Divide actually took this at its word. And I think that indicates that the problem isn't ours anymore, I think the problem is in Wizard.

This kind of parody doesn't work if it's true. And blurb or no blurb, Wizard's content has essentially proven itself to be a magazine geared almost exclusively toward the basest, most immature, most stereotypically fratboy-esque of straight men.

A magazine with a feature called "match the rack" can't get away with making that joke. Not and have people actually get it.

I hope it's not a joke. Because at least then the creative minds behind Wizard are displaying some sort of sense of self-awareness. If they made the conscious decision, if they did as has been suggested, and looked at the results of those questionnaires filled out at conventions and decided that their magazine would be better off just declaring themselves to be a magazine for men, okay. I can accept that. I don't necessarily like it, but I can understand that decision. Sometimes it's wisest to keep your central fanbase happy rather than risk alienating them for a larger potential market. I don't know if I think that's the best decision here, but I can understand it.

However, if it's a joke, Wizard's creative brass has just proven themselves to be utterly deficient at anything resembling intelligence, insight, or self-awareness. If they meant it as a joke, if they actually still intend to reach out to a broader audience of women and men who don't find their sophomoric posturing terribly amusing, they've complete and utter morons.

The fact that they made that joke, if it is a joke, means that they think they're NOT at that level of straight men only, yet. They would have to think that they ARE making sincere efforts at reaching a female (or not-straight-male) audience.

With "Match the Rack".

23 Comments:

  • At November 05, 2007 4:00 AM, Blogger LurkerWithout said…

    Next month's cover:

    "#1 Straight Men's AND Lesbians Entertainment Magazine!"

    *in small print at the bottom*

    That'll make 'em shut up

     
  • At November 05, 2007 7:17 AM, Anonymous bellatrys said…

    "Hey, we only put 'No Coloreds' on one of the three doors leading into our restaurant! What's your problem?"

     
  • At November 05, 2007 9:51 AM, Blogger SallyP said…

    The sad thing is, that I can really see the guys at Wizard, thinking that this was just hilarious. The humor was always on the dumb side, but lately it's been scraping the bottom of the barrel.

    But they ARE complete and utter morons...that's why their making this joke is so pathetic.

    "A magazine with a feature called 'Match the Rack' can't get away with making that joke. Not and have people actually get it."

    I think you've hit the nail on the head. NOBODY "got" it. And if you have to explain it, then the joke just really isn't funny, is it?

     
  • At November 05, 2007 9:54 AM, Blogger kalinara said…

    bellatrys: I have to say, I don't think that's necessary a fair association.

    At the very least, calling it "for men", is not the same as saying "no women".

    Moreover, your choice of using race here is propagandistic and imparts cultural contexts (re: segregation) that don't exist in a gender based problem.

    I think this stands as offensive enough on its own, without the need for propaganda, don't you?

     
  • At November 05, 2007 10:01 AM, Blogger Shelly said…

    Unfortunately, in my case, I first heard about this on blogs and took it seriously, letting myself be influenced by what I'd read, which was the view of the blogger. I tend to do that and I need to stop.

    Once I saw it was a variant cover, I thought it likely to be a joke. Because magazines do have such proclamations on their covers and because Wizard does have that kind of sense of humor. I don't always like their sense of humor, but I don't like everything in other mags I read, either. And it reminded me a bit of National Lampoon.

    If they continue to do such things or change their content to be more like a men's mag, I'll revisit my purchasing of it, but for now, it is a non-issue for me and I wish I'd waited to see for myself before I blogged about it.

     
  • At November 05, 2007 11:35 AM, Blogger Jaap said…

    I don't know, but the entire blogo-scope is talking about Wizard again. It might have been a very conscious effort to provoke the feminism-in-comics movement.

    I have never opened a Wizard in my life, but that's not a decision of taste, rather I don't live where they're that big a deal so I just never needed to look inside one.
    SO I might not be knowledgable about their editorial eloquance. The decission may have just been made between lunch and fapping to Powergirl.

     
  • At November 05, 2007 4:59 PM, Blogger Rob S. said…

    Jaap,

    Thank you for teaching me the word "fapping."

     
  • At November 06, 2007 9:12 AM, Blogger Joel Bryan said…

    Well, since it's Wizard, it took someone else pointing out that it might be a joke for it to click in my mind that it's probably a joke. Up to that point, I took it at face value.

    The reason I was pretty apathetic was to me, it's like writing "This is a shoe" on a shoe.

    But I was enjoying the back and forth on it. There's been some incredible commentary. Comics fandom is alive and feisty as ever! To me, that's a sign of its robust health.

     
  • At November 06, 2007 10:28 AM, Blogger megs said…

    It actually would have been hilarious if one of the other covers (wasn;t there a scary halloweeny one? that'd be perfect) had been "#1 Pop Culture Magazine For Women"

    Because then they really would have been obviously screwing around, especially with the juxtaposition. Damn shame.

     
  • At November 06, 2007 6:59 PM, Anonymous lowland_rider said…

    However, if it's a joke, Wizard's creative brass has just proven themselves to be utterly deficient at anything resembling intelligence, insight, or self-awareness.

    What, you're saying that they just did this now?

     
  • At November 06, 2007 8:36 PM, Blogger bellatrys said…

    kalinara, I think if you don't see that there's a continuum of privilegemindedness, then you're extremely naive. And pointing out that exclusionary language is similar to other exclusionary language through history is hardly "propaganda" (obref Princess Bride, there, too.)

    Or do you really not think that the "Mens' Magazine" statement was, as everyone has agreed, the same as slapping a "No Girls Allowed in the Treehouse" sign on?

     
  • At November 06, 2007 11:47 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    Bellatrys: I will be honest. Initially I posted a very different response here, harsh and kneejerk and very accusatory. In reflection, I don't think your statement warranted that sort of unfair response, which is why it was deleted.

    Now that I'm calmer and can be more diplomatic, I'll try again.

    I do think that the quote may resemble "No Girls Allowed", however, I think it's more similar to the Boy Scouts of America. It's a gender divide, and it does exclude women, and very much should be challenged.

    However, my problem is in the use of the comparison to a "No Colored" sign. I feel that the analogy is inappropriate and oversimplistic enough to be designed to provoke a kneejerk reaction of revulsion rather than actual thought on the issue. That's why I called it propaganda.

    Simply, the difference between "No Colored" and "No Girls Allowed", which may or may not be the implicit meaning of such a slogun, is that one comes accompanied by a nation-wide campaign to exclude and dehumanize a group of human beings because of their race.

    Even your own example, a sign on a treehouse, is an example of exclusion from a group with no legal power to enforce the exclusion. They're kids being mean to other children. "No Coloreds" however was part of this greater campaign, accompanied by legislative practices (the Jim Crow Laws) that often meant severe consequences to any African-American who violated those practices.

    I think that Wizard is a group that has no real legal power. Its choice of language is insulting, yes, but there's no legal power to enforce, and there are no consequences, aside from perhaps being offended by the content, to a woman reading the book.

    You may continue to feel that I am naive, if you'd like, but that doesn't change the fact that the comparison is invalid, over-simplifying, and unintentionally disrespects and diminishes a very shameful and painful part of American history that still has ill-effects to this very day.

     
  • At November 06, 2007 11:50 PM, Blogger Adriana said…

    i don't think it's a joke, actually. i know at least one person (http://dryponder.livejournal.com) has written in and received a reply back that was not "oh sorry, that was just a joke" from wizard.

    neither was that argument brought up on the wizard forums where someone brought it up there. so :/!

     
  • At November 08, 2007 4:54 PM, Blogger Mike Haseloff said…

    ""A magazine with a feature called 'Match the Rack' can't get away with making that joke. Not and have people actually get it."

    I think you've hit the nail on the head. NOBODY "got" it. And if you have to explain it, then the joke just really isn't funny, is it?
    "

    Yeah, and when someone doesn't get a hysterical gag with a historical reference in it, the ignorant party is definitely the comedian.

    I think this whole affair has been one of the most glaringly undermining to the "feminist" argument, resulting in a particularly transparent look at the complete loss of perspective.

    "... it's like writing "This is a shoe" on a shoe."

    I'm so sick of people under estimating footwear like that!!!

     
  • At November 08, 2007 7:02 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    Mike: We'll have to agree to disagree.

    "Hysterical" is a subjective judgment. And honestly, if a comedian bombs before a live audience...no one really blames the audience there.

    In this case, very few of the blog posts defending Wizard brought up the fact that it was a joke, at least from what I saw collecting for WFA.

    That would imply to me that even the target audience didn't get the joke. Thus, the problem's very likely in the joke (or manner of delivery) than it is in the audience.

    And personally, I don't see how women and men expressing their discontent over something that could possibly be read as exclusatory or demeaning of women could ever be undermining the feminist cause. Conversation, discussion and analysis has always been our greatest tool. Silence has never benefited any of us in the long run.

    I may not agree with the outrage in a lot of cases, but I'm ALWAYS glad to see it.

     
  • At November 09, 2007 5:41 AM, Blogger Mike Haseloff said…

    "That would imply to me that even the target audience didn't get the joke. Thus, the problem's very likely in the joke (or manner of delivery) than it is in the audience."

    From my perspective, even as someone relatively bemused by it, it's just a throwaway gag. Not really something to be pondered or philosophized. If it was a joke, it was a see-and-say piece of ironic, self-depricating humor.

    My point about a joke rooted in history is just to point out, sometimes it's the audience.
    Which is almost undoubtedly pertinent to the people who snidely turned their noses up at another silly gag about lego breasts. Humorless, and frivilously agenda driven.

    "Silence has never benefited any of us in the long run."

    To paraphrase the old edict, 'if you don't have anything constructive to say, don't say anything at all.'

    I'm certianly not about to frown upon confronting or challenging discussion, but I think it's undeniable that when certain posters fly at an issue with the blinders on, it inevitably undermines the broader point.

    It might not be particularly fair, but it's just natural broad politics. It's not the discourse, it's the course of the diss.
    When sizable chunks of the feminist contingent leap on an issue in such a transparent manner, it's going to harm the point by association.

    "In this case, very few of the blog posts defending Wizard brought up the fact that it was a joke, at least from what I saw collecting for WFA."

    I'd take a wild stab that at least half of the defenders don't even read Wizard. As was the point of a post I contributed, which poked fun at Wizards other substantial list of problems.

    Moral outrage over a self-confessed trash rag that's been reduced to little more than a giant-sized promo inadvertently shines a light through the transparent moral outrage we saw.

    It's easy to dismiss anger over an outsourced sassy photograph of Veronica Mars.
    Overall journalistic redundancy and a complete loss of the perspective that made Wizard what it was -- a little more relevant.

     
  • At November 09, 2007 5:55 AM, Blogger kalinara said…

    Mike: Historical precedence for a joke doesn't necessarily make it funny. And it certainly doesn't negate our right to find it offensive.

    And honestly it still pretty much stands that if a comedian bombs on stage, it's usually pinned on the comedian, not the audience.

    Maybe the joke would have worked in another context. Maybe if it were a different magazine who made it, it'd be funny.

    However, no one has any sort of responsibility to find a joke funny. And while I didn't much care one way or another about a serious statement, I do find the notion of this being a "throwaway gag" offensive. I believe my reasons are clearly described in my entry above and I'm perfectly fine if someone else disagrees. My reasons for being offended may be "transparent" in your eyes, but to me, they're completely genuine. And I'm more than willing to give others the same benefit of the doubt.

    I do want to say one thing though "If you don't have anything constructive to say, don't say anything at all" is not applicable here.

    When it comes to social issues, protest IS constructive. Expressing offense is constructive. These sorts of emotions expressed are what ultimately fuels any sort of social change.

    Just because YOU don't see this as something to be concerned about, doesn't mean that everyone agrees. And it doesn't mean that we can't make use of the negative response that this has generated.

    And for the record, the use of protest to further social change, or even just a simple expression of offense or discontent (which has the constructive purpose of serving as a release of negative emotions in one's own blog) is certainly more constructive a use of words than to go on nearly every blog you see reacting negatively to this issue and attack people for being transparent or ask things like "Where's the beef?" when the reasons for offense are usually quite clearly expressed in the posts themselves.

     
  • At November 09, 2007 7:53 AM, Blogger Mike Haseloff said…

    "Historical precedence for a joke doesn't necessarily make it funny."

    My historical reference is just highlighting that audience ignorance or confusion isn't necessarily the fault of a comedian. If you walk into a Larry David set about Julius Caesar and don't laugh, you're in the wrong crowd.

    But if you're talking about Wizard's history in relation to what may or may not have been a gag, I think that's the whole point.
    As already mentioned, it would be a throwaway self-depricating one-liner. Without the splurge of Witchblade boobtacular pin-ups all over the book in the 90s (and it's continued, if less substantial objectification), it wouldn't have any context...

    "My reasons for being offended may be "transparent" in your eyes, but to me, they're completely genuine."
    It's probably worth mentioning that mine was a more general response, and not directed toward anything specific you've said..

    "When it comes to social issues, protest IS constructive. Expressing offense is constructive. These sorts of emotions expressed are what ultimately fuels any sort of social change."

    Again, it's only constructive when it is constructive. There has to be a well formed point, otherwise it's undeniably undermining and silly.

    Much like attacking Wizard for an out sourced photograph of Kristen Bell, for instance.

    "And it doesn't mean that we can't make use of the negative response that this has generated."

    I pretty clearly said I have no problem with confronting or challenging discussion.
    My point remains about the strength of a point, versus frivilous and baseless ranting through the mauve-tinted glasses of an agenda. And mine would be more of a counter-point, than any kind of blanket attempt to cease discussion on the internet.

    I would fully submit that mine is a casual posting habit, and should be particularly characterized as no more malicious than the questioning it questions with light comments like, "where's the beef?"
    But this could quickly become a self-devouring discussion of right to question or debate.

    Though they sometimes adopt a greater weight than they should, there's nothing Earth-shattering about interpretive opinion or pseudo-journalism. Nor should it be unexpected, or unreasonable for those opinions to undermine a broader voice, or attract some form of criticism.

    Your point of the value of social discourse and discussion leaves exposed the point that it 'takes two to tango.'

    "And it doesn't mean that we can't make use of the negative response that this has generated."

    And if this is in relation to WFA content, I wouldn't argue at all. I visit regularly for that very reason, and enjoy absorbing bits and pieces, whether I agree or not.
    Sometimes that even includes commenting with phrases of various weight, and potential misinterpretation.

    Of course, defending point structure overshadows the point that, joke or not, the feminist basis of attacking Wizard for capitalizing on a male readership (or poking fun at it) is - in my opinion, possibly stated in overly certain terms - is silly.

    An excessive tendency to colour events with an agenda that possibly undermines one's ability to appreciate a one-line, throwaway gag -- that would be mocking the lower brow -- is the only real objection in my original comment, which was decidedly light hearted, and possibly misinterpreted.

    Likewise, it was more a response to the quoted comment, than your post.
    I felt you presented the new information with indifference and owned a potential misunderstanding, before lodging opinion. Opinion I think is factually erroneous, but has a perspective that my vague objections to other things I've seen (via WFA and elsewhere) would require.

    "... and attack people for being transparent..."

    With the most endearing smirk of irony, "However, if it's a joke, Wizard's creative brass has just proven themselves to be utterly deficient at anything resembling intelligence, insight, or self-awareness."

    Again, I make no attempt to attack, but enjoy the opportunity to occasionally share an opinion, or enter a debate. Even if I end up make a double-helix out of my point... ;-p

     
  • At November 09, 2007 11:12 AM, Blogger kalinara said…

    Mike, let me be frank, I do not have the impression that we're having a discussion. I have the impression that you are not considering a word I am saying except to pick out wedges that you can use to reiterate the same argument over again.

    1) That the joke is funny for exactly the reason I find offensive. You have the right to find it so, but that doesn't negate my right to be offended for the same reason.

    and

    2) That to express my opinion, I have to somehow fit some set of qualities that you have established as to be necessary for an appropriately feminist post.

    I trust you see a bit of the irony there.

    Your truisms about posting only when its constructive, or it taking two to tango are all meaningless.

    You see, part of what feminists have fought for since before the cause even had a name, is the right for women to be free to express themselves, their opinions, and even what offends them, rather than being forced to sit in silence.

    And ultimately it doesn't matter if people read a particular feminist argument or expression of discontent and agree or think it's crap. Each person posting on this issue is exercising one of the rights central to the feminist movement.

    And I am of the belief that there is nothing more "constructive" to a cause than to exercise the rights and liberties that it has already won.

    As for there being two to tango, there always is, when it comes to public expression of opinion. This would be true if I disabled comments altogether. Hell, it would be true if I printed it up as a flier and stuck it on a bunch of cars. There is the is the speaker and there is the listener, and whatever the listener chooses to do with what was said is up to him or her. The speaker's role is to make sure the listener gets the message.

    I am perfectly fine with disagreeing with you, as I had said in my first response to you. However, your arguments subsequent do not appear as though you are willing to give me the same respect. It reads more as though you're trying to badger me and those who share my opinion into silence, through repetition and shame, by way of our cause.

    Now, if this is not the impression you may well concur that I have severely misread you, or you have not been so clear in the expression of your intent as you may have hoped.

    Either way, my own recommendation would be for you to take this discussion to your own blog. This will lessen the impression I have that you are trying to silence my complaint, and will also enable you to reach more people who might actually be swayed by your argument, because I won't.

    You can feel free of course, should you decide to continue this discussion at your own blog, to drop a link here so that those of us keeping track of this conversation can read what you have to say.

     
  • At November 09, 2007 6:36 PM, Blogger Mike Haseloff said…

    "...that you can use to reiterate the same argument over again."
    At least I'm consistent! :-p

    "Your truisms about posting only when its constructive, or it taking two to tango are all meaningless."
    It might be semantics, but to avoid being mishcaracterized or vilified, I'm not saying anything about restricting "posting."
    The only reason any of that would've been followed up is that you made a surprising disagreement that a poorly constructed argument doesn't undermine a point -- which I think defies logic, and was happy to try to express further.

    "You see, part of what feminists have fought for since before the cause even had a name, is the right for women to be free to express themselves..."
    And yes, at the risk of reiterating, I'm not entering into any debate over whether or not anyone has the right to make even the most absurd of claims [a descriptive example, rather than an accusation].
    Frankly, I'm not sure anyone could lodge that argument whilst voicing their own opinion, or existing in any function on the internet.

    If I sound like I'm repeating myself, it's because while I'm typically happy to explain or enter into discussion, I am also making a conceited effort to stick to the point I'm actually making, without being misquoted into something else.
    'Freedom of speech' is an American debate I'm not typically that interested in, or at all opposed to.

    "Two to tango" merely applies to the scathing irony of the implied restrictions I felt you were describing in responding less to the specifics of any of my points, and more to that 'shut up and enjoy freedom' angle.

    "And I am of the belief that there is nothing more "constructive" to a cause than to exercise the rights and liberties that it has already won."
    Though a little to the left of what I'm saying, I did/do find it intriguing that anyone would debate the validity of arguments.

    Because that's not inherent to what I was originally saying this ironically seems like an agenda driving a slightly irrelevent point, because speaking in general terms as I have, I just don't see how anyone could claim a BAD argument isn't less than constructive. That intrigues me, and is/has been something I've responded to in the most general sense.

    "However, your arguments subsequent do not appear as though you are willing to give me the same respect."
    This would be the 'two to tango' example, where I've in very explicit terms referred to having no problem with disagreement or confrontation, but am by implication seemingly not being extended the same courtesy to discuss an opinion.

    "It reads more as though you're trying to badger me and those who share my opinion into silence, through repetition and shame..."
    I can only assume, as oft insinuated, that I might be being misinterpreted, and despite my best efforts to clarify, can perhaps only make a vague apology for that.
    As I did reference, the defensive of the offense, (as opposed to the specific points), has overshadowed what was actually being discussed/referenced.

    "Either way, my own recommendation would be for you to take this discussion to your own blog."
    Presumably I have been coloured by the intentions of other less specific critics of the "feminist" argument, and certainly it's because of the largely removed nature of my blog that I would enter a discussion here.

    Trying desperately not to be offensive, I would make the observation that it is perhaps a little unfortunate that a blog comments section has been so tainted to no longer facilitate the introduction of a vague point, or specific discussion.
    It is for this reason that I have endeavoured to better convey my point of reference, but alas, as seems to often be a case (particularly when talking to Americans) my phrasing may not have helped.

    Having spent so much time discussing the discussion, it is maybe with disappointment that I leave the Wizard subject, but it just isn't something that really fits into what I'm doing on my blog -- which I think is largely a source of SOME thoughtful discussion, but mostly disposable entertainment and enjoyment of the characters and medium.

    Which is why I would throw any kind of line out in a comments section, with the vague potential to spark an interesting exchange of ideas. As opposed to any kind of malicious, poorly considered attack.

    I am by no means opposed to confronting discussion, opinion of various construction, or the feminist point of view - [I would, with some (referenced) amusement, maybe even say I'm a 'friend to the feminist'] - but would also extend that willingness to the comments section of every blog that isn't locking polite discourse.

    On broader points, right to disagree and discuss should extend not just to the feminist tackling whatever issues are of interest, but also to the question of those arguments.

    But just to continue the theme of over explaining myself, I agree to disagree, and don't wish to appear to be pestering you. I will take the cue to leave the discussion be.

    My interest is the sincerest form of flattery I can offer, and a you know, I'm an avid reader of WFA (and occasionally your blog, as well).

    Cheers!

     
  • At November 09, 2007 6:59 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    Mike, I admire your stamina, but I meant what I said. Take it to your blog. That is not a request.

    Right now, you are arguing in circles and every point you make has been sufficiently addressed, I feel, either in the original post or in one of my subsequent replies.

    Regardless about how you feel about the appropriateness of your blog as forum for your speeches and pontification on this subject, I can assure you that your blog is more suitable an audience chamber than is my comment section.

    As for remoteness, you need not fear, as Ragnell and I will be more than happy to link any post you make on WFA, ensuring that you at least reach the linkblog's general audience.

    Once more, my comments section is not your audience chamber. And I am more than willing to enforce this decree. Take it to your own blog.

     
  • At November 09, 2007 8:22 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    As a final addendum, please see the comment policy link which has been added to the sidebar of every page of this blog.

    I trust it makes my position clear. Thank you.

     
  • At November 14, 2007 11:23 AM, Blogger mordicai said…

    Bellatrys kind of hit the nail on the head. Moving from "it is offensive" to "it is an offensive joke" isn't trading up that far. To be fair, it is at least the sort of thing you can come back from, & not a permanent, continuing slap in the face. If, you know, it was a joke. That wasn't funny.

    Wait, but "Match the Rack," that was real? Damn, I often feel like I'm out of touch with "mainstream" comic book stuff, & when that happens? I'm pretty glad.

     

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