Friday afternoon, Twitter blew up discussing the transphobic representation of the gang rape of a trans rapist character in Howard Chaykin’s The Divided States of Hysteria. Of course, Chaykin’s response is… nothing. Image’s response is… nothing.
Well, that’s not technically true. When questioned by Bleeding Cool, Image responded by forwarding Chaykin’s curse laden diatribe against the hypocrisy of liberal America. Let’s get real all up in here for a minute. We have a few lessons that need to be learned from this, and I’m going to take you to school.
Lesson the First:
When a marginalized group of people argues that you have undermined them? You just apologize. It’s really not that hard. You look at the group, you say, “I realize I am not you. I am sorry that this hurt/offended/insertwhatmarginalizedgroupwasupsetabouthere.” You own that you are not them. You own that you have to do a thing to make up for the thing you did wrong. End of story. You do not get to tell the marginalized group, “but wait, you didn’t understand what we were trying to do.” Nope. Just. Take the Nope Road all the way to Never Land, then hang a right at No Way Street and park your car in Noping All the Nopes lot.
Lesson the Second:
When putting media into the world, thinking about how that impacts audiences is a strength not a weakness. Chaykin has said that he doesn’t read critics. He acts as though he’s above criticism because he thinks he knows best. The tone deafness of this reaction is a side effect of hubris. Hubris, in Greek tragedy and real life, leads to a fall.
Lesson the Third:
Image has an image problem. I love some of the books that come out of there. However, let’s be honest, it wasn’t all that long ago that McFarlane told Think Progress writer, Alyssa Rosenberg,
“It might not be the right platform,” he said. “I’ve got two daughters, and if I wanted to do something that I thought was emboldened to a female, I probably wouldn’t choose superhero comic books to get that message across. I would do it in either a TV show, a movie, a novel, or a book. It wouldn’t be superheroes because I know that’s heavily testosterone — driven, and it’s a certain kind of group of people. That’s not where I would go get this kind of message, so it might not be the right platform for some of this.”
If that’s one of your founders, then clearly you’re going to have a problem when it comes to listening to people being upset with representation. There is never a place that should be considered “not the right platform” for responding to people’s desire to be represented. Any fictional media has the opportunity to help people change the way they view the world. If we keep allowing these kinds of messages, ones that reinforce violence towards transgender men and women, then we are allowing transphobia to continue. Image doesn’t care because, guess what, it’s run by a bunch of white, cisgender males and all the privilege thereunto appertaining.
Lesson the Fourth:
If you’re going to be an asshole, expect people to treat you as one. In response to being questioned, Image forwarded Chaykin’s prewritten essay about why he wrote The Divided States of Hysteria. You know what Chaykin said in that prewritten essay?
“So instead of “Trigger warnings,” “Cultural appropriation,” “Safe spaces,” and “Social Justice Warriors,” maybe we on the left should have put aside all this balkanizing nonsense and been fucking Americans for fuck’s sake, instead of allowing this nihilistic shithead to mainstream and legitimize the racist, sexist, bigoted and flat-out moronic sensibilities that have always been there, but were held in check by a common understanding that one doesn’t get away with that shit in the United States of America.”
The irony of this response being sent to people upset about the representation of the trans community is that Chaykin is doing the exact same thing he rails against. By ignoring the critics of this scene in his book, he legitimizes bigoted and “flat-out moronic” sensibilities. He argues it should be a common understanding that “one doesn’t get away with that shit” in our country. Yet, here we are again, having a conversation about how one white, cis, het dude can’t see his way to admitting he made a mistake.
The trans community deserves an apology. If Chaykin can’t see fit to do it, then his company needs to do it on his behalf. They need to take responsibility for letting this go to press. Hiding behind Chaykin’s tone deaf narcissism is a cop out.
All of us deserve better than this. We all deserve to be treated with respect. We deserve to see something from our creators when they make mistakes. We deserve to have comics move forward with the times and not stay in the dark ages of geekdom.