Tag: racism

500 Words on Fear

Art by Paul Klee

When people look at all of the crimes being committed in the US, from corrupt and unhinged leadership to murder in the streets by emboldened hate groups, it can be difficult to see the fuel that drives such things. A good portion of it is ignorance, another is projection and feelings of disenfranchisement. But, at its foundation, these small-minded, petty people are ruled by fear.

It’s a difficult thing, facing up to the truth. Especially when it comes to our own thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Getting up in the morning, looking in the mirror, and seeing something you do not like — that’s hard and disturbing, on a very deep level. Being afraid of those things — the behaviors that have hurt others, the decisions you’ve made that threw you off your pace and broke hearts, the beliefs you had that turned out to be false or misinformed — is natural. Fear kept our ancestors alive. Fear warns us of danger. Fear can save your life.

Fear can also kill.

People have feared “the other” since time immemorial — those of different skin color, with a different language, living and thinking in different ways, were “the enemy.” People were afraid of prophets, philosophers, Jesus of Nazareth — and they killed them. People were afraid of native populations, and wiped them out. People were afraid of Communism, and founded toxic ideologies in response, waging pointless wars that cost countless lives in pointless struggle, and creating arsenals that could literally end all human life on this planet.

And now here we are, in the 21st century, still dealing with that bullshit.

We live in an age where vast stores of information are at our fingertips. The means exist to have healthy, enlightened debates on our climate, our society, our future, and ourselves. We have a plethora of tools to look into, discern, and correct those things about ourselves and the world around us that we can change, that we must change. We have so much power.

Some are afraid of that power.

To see change affecting others can be terrifying. Be it for good or ill, seeing a new side or a newer version of someone we used to know is off-putting. If it’s for the better, and that person is living a healthier, more thoughtful, more loving life, it’s worth celebrating. If it’s for the worse, it must be called out, if not condemned.

It’s understandable to fear change.

It is not understandable to fear skin color, gender, sexual orientation, or personal philosophies.

It simply isn’t logical. What affect do these aspects of another have on your life? None that I can discern. It’s that vestigial, knee-jerk fear of “the other” that informs the marches, the lit torches, the toxic thoughts, the gestures of hate, the murders. No matter the flimsy justification, underneath the bile is fear, the fear of a child, the fear of the ignorant, the fear of the lost.

And make no mistake. These fearful are going to lose.

Because love always triumphs.

On Fridays I write 500 words.

Art: Mask of Fear, by Paul Klee

The Myth of Misandry

Males of the Internet, I submit to you the following:

If you think you’re the target of misandry, you’ve probably done something to deserve it.

Before I elaborate, let’s cover some trigger warnings. I’m going to talk about misandry, obviously, but I’m also going to talk about misogyny, degradation and devaluation of women, acerbic Internet culture, racism, homophobia, defamation, and rape. Just so we’re clear before I start rambling.

There are some folks out there who would like to tell you that gaming culture has always been ‘a certain way’. The prevailing sentiment is that everything from teabagging in first-person shooters to calling someone a faggot for inadequate game performance is normal. You can tell someone they’re about to get raped or suggest they kill themselves or get cancer when they beat you, and it’s fine. That’s “just how it is”. “Oh, you know how gamers are.” “Don’t be a little bitch, learn to take a joke.” And so on.

Lately, some folks have been fighting back against this. Everything from Anita Sarkeesian’s series on Tropes vs. Women in Video Games to posts about sexism and misogyny in areas outside of gaming (like this great stuff from Chuck Wendig) has emerged to fight back against this rather callous and insensitive habit of men to use the defamation of women, minorities, and the LGBTQ community as a source for humor that reinforces their need for cultural dominance. And what has their response been?

The threats of rape, I get. That’s a knee-jerk, juvenile reaction from a knee-jerk, juvenile culture. It’s a three-year-old stomping their feet while screaming and maybe chasing the cat with a crayon intending to draw dicks in poor kitty’s fur. It’s as tasteless as it is pathetic and useless.

Guys saying they won’t watch/read/buy anything from the person again, also understandable. I’d even say that’s a reasonable response. Sure, it’s usually wrapped in the sort of puerile drivel I’ve mentioned above, but people expressing themselves with their wallets is legitimate.

But guys saying they’re victims of misandry?

Really?

How is this even a thing?

Let’s look at the big picture, here. Until the 19th century, in most parts of the world that were affluent enough to do so, it was perfectly acceptable for people to own other people. Most if not all of the time, the owners were white males. Democracies began to emerge around the same time, and guess who got to do all of the voting? White males. Before then, we had a lot of dictatorships and monarchies, and most of them were controlled by men. And then there’s the institution of religion, especially in the form of the Catholic church.

Looking at that, men have had it pretty sweet for centuries. White men, especially. As our global population and culture continues to grow, and barriers of communication and distance break down, it’s logical for more people of different races, genders, creeds and outlooks to become involved in every level of living life on this planet, from governing the populace to charming diversions. To try and hold onto a position that’s been held through intimidation, abuse, defamation, character assassination, and the myth of “tradition” or the excuse of “that’s how it’s always been” is selfish, childish, and pretty damn unfair.

I’m not saying that misandry doesn’t exist. I’m sure there are people out there who hate men vehemently and violently. What I’m saying is that misandry as a tactic to be used against the ‘traditional’ gamer culture (and entertainment circles in general) does not exist. There is no great movement to rain hatred and destruction on men in entertainment. There’s no feminist conspiracy to take your games away. Just like the ‘gay agenda’ that FOX News loves to bang on about in their little corner studio in the asylum, misandry in gaming and entertainment is a great way for guys to deflect the thrust of the main issue at hand, which is that as our culture changes and evolves, those participating in it as creators or audience need to change and evolve with it.

And some men are either too lazy or too scared to do it.

That’s right. This talk of misandry, these threats of rape against rational voices pointing out the flaws in our culture, the pedantic and obstinate words that continue to get thrown around the gaming table; all of this is born out of fear and sloth. I know I’m going out on a limb here a bit, and I won’t be correct in every case, but from everything I’ve seen and heard, for the most part, guys who continue to use these words, spew this hatred, make these threats and “jokes”, are too lazy, too scared, or too dumb to change their ways. They’re not as powerful as they’d like people to think they are. They’re cowards, frightened to be placed on an even level with women and people of color and folks born with orientations other than “heterosexual”, and every time they tell a female gamer to get back in the kitchen or talk about getting ‘gypped’ in a game or indulge in other racial slurs, they prove it.

Misandry, as a general mode of behavior, is a myth, gentlemen. We don’t hate you because you’re men. We hate you because you’re behaving like spiteful, scared little boys. This isn’t the schoolyard anymore. It’s time to put away childish things. It’s time to grow the fuck up.

IT CAME FROM NETFLIX! Blazing Saddles

Logo courtesy Netflix. No logos were harmed in the creation of this banner.

{Audio returns next week.}

Hatred is, unfortunately, nothing new. There are people even today who have built their lives, fortunes and reputations around rhetoric that perpetuates ignorance and blind intolerance. From the Spanish Inquisition to the Nazis, the Crusades to Mao’s Great Leap Forward, sooner or later somebody somewhere is going to react in a violent and ugly fashion to somebody who’s different. It falls to those of us with tolerance, love for our fellow man and enough wherewithal to keep the things that actually matter in mind to combat this fear and hatred any way we can – even if it’s just by taking the piss out of those cretins. Hence, Blazing Saddles.

Courtesy Warner Bros

The year is 1874. The location, an unnamed territory of the American West. The attorney general of the territory, Hedley Lamarr (no relation to the similarly named actress of the 70s), wants to cultivate the land with railways to earn himself even more wealth than he already has. Standing in the way of his railroad is the quaint frontier town of Rock Ridge. When their old sheriff is murdered in an attack by Lamarr’s goons, they wire the governor for a new one. In his effort to drive out the people, Lamarr conscripts a man named Bart. Bart, incidentally, is black.

At its best, comedy is a way of holding a mirror up to the more absurd aspects of modern life, calling attention to stupid things we take for granted or as the status quo through way of parody or satire. For a long time, the western was seen as perhaps the manliest of the movie genres, with rough and tumble two-fisted fighting men gunning their way to victory. Nearly every single one was white. Moreover, this was a time when minorities were just beginning to come into their civil rights, yet still had to deal with a great deal of hatred, pre-conceived notions and harsh epithets. Enter legendary comedic film-maker, biting satirist and prominent Jewish-American Mel Brooks. It takes perhaps a particular kind of genius or insanity to look at the litany of Western cinema up until this point, and say “You know what? Why don’t we have a black guy in the lead role?” You can guess how some people reacted.

Courtesy Warner Bros

This is a point covered in the movie, and in fact directly addressed in an exchange between Bart, played quite well by Cleavon Little, and the always memorable Gene Wilder as Jim the Waco Kid. I won’t spoil the line, as it’s one of many great ones in the flick, but suffice it to say Jim hits the nail directly on its racist head. The very notion of the black leading man with a white sidekick can be amusing enough to consider on its own, but with these two actors the combination’s dynamite. They have great chemistry which only makes the punchlines funnier.

Considering the amount of comedic firepower Brooks had at his disposal it’s no wonder Blazing Saddles is thought of by many as his best work. Harvey Korman adds the perfect mix of presence and insanity to Hedley Lamarr, the townsfolk of Rock Ridge are great and Madeline Kahn nearly stops the show as Bavarian bombshell Lily von Shtupp. Not because she’s devastatingly sexy, though she is in her prime here – it’s because she is, like so many other things in the movie, pointing out something just a tad absurd. Like stopping in the middle of a rustic narrative to have a good-looking woman do a song and dance routine. It’s out of place in most serious films; but here, with Lily sounding more like a dying badger than a breathless lady of the evening, it’s just funny. It takes talent to sing; it takes real talent to deliberately sing this badly.

Courtesy Warner Bros

If Blazing Saddles has a flaw it doesn’t manifest itself until halfway through the third act. A sprawling, rolling fistfight for the fate of Rock Ridge spills out of the town – and into a neighboring movie studio. What follows is one of the most complete evaporations of the fourth wall I think I’ve ever seen. Chaos is unleashed upon Warner Brothers studios even going as far as the famous Grauman’s Chinese theatre in Hollywood. It’s known that Brooks was sat down by studio executives before the film was released and given a list of changes they wanted him to make, toning down the racist language and otherwise de-fanging all of the humor. Brooks, who had final say in the cut of the film, diligently took notes at this meeting, and when it was concluded, threw his notes in the garbage. This sudden shift at the end of Blazing Saddles could be Brooks taking a shot at the excesses, expectations and general idiocy he saw in the studio system. Or he could just have trouble ending his movies.

Either way, Blazing Saddles is hysterical from beginning to end. A tightly-written script assisted by Richard Pryor (excepting perhaps that last bit) is packed with humor ranging from the aforementioned epithets to what some consider the very first cinematic fart joke. This stands with his History of the World Part 1 and Young Frankenstein as some of the funniest parodies ever made. So powerful was the imagery, humor and outright Western silliness of Blazing Saddles that it was many, many years before another serious Western was made in Hollywood. For all these reasons and more, it’s a movie that belongs on your Netflix queue. If you ever look around the world at crimes perpetuated for the sake of hate based on the color of a victim’s skin, their gender or the people with whom they fall in love, I suggest you watch Blazing Saddles. Not only will you find yourself laughing, you’ll be reminded that people who act, think and speak based on such hatreds have ignorance and ignorance alone on their side. Mel’s filmmaking, jokes and excellent cast will show you just how short-sighted, misinformed, brutish and downright stupid those morons are. And there’s a pretty great pie fight at the end, complete with Adolf Hitler.

Don’t ask. Just watch the flick.

Josh Loomis can’t always make it to the local megaplex, and thus must turn to alternative forms of cinematic entertainment. There might not be overpriced soda pop & over-buttered popcorn, and it’s unclear if this week’s film came in the mail or was delivered via the dark & mysterious tubes of the Internet. Only one thing is certain… IT CAME FROM NETFLIX.

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