Trials and Bad Choices

In Februaury of 2012, seventeen year old Trayvon Martin was shot dead by George Zimmerman.

When the story broke a month later, we were told by Al Sharpton (who took up the cause very publicly) that we had a story about a white man who had stalked and killed a young back boy.  Sharpton was marching with the family on this principal and it was understandably infuriating.  This white guy was out to kill a black kid and he did it, and the police had let him go.

Some people started to challenge the picture by attempting to paint Trayvon as a thug, based on a twitter account that quoted rap lyrics and a Facebook picture of Martin with a grill.  This just made it seem worse.  These were not people who knew anything about Martin, and they had, in at least one incident found a different Trayvon Martin.  We were expected to take these things into account.  Because the white guy George Zimmerman had some bruises.  We saw the footage, grainy though it was, and he did not look all that bad.

Of course, stuff trickled out later…for one thing, George Zimmerman was not “a white guy”.  He was a a mix of Caucasian and Hispanic.  I am pretty sure if a white guy had shot George Zimmerman while he was wandering through the guy’s neighborhood, the story would have been about the white guy who shot a Hispanic citizen.  Later photos and medical information made it pretty obvious that Zimmerman did indeed take a hard beating.

So, it was clear that Zimmerman did not simply hunt and kill Martin.  There was an altercation.  Who threw the first punch…that is what we do not know.  But there were punches thrown, and when Zimmerman realized he was losing, he pulled out the gun and fired.  A lot of the information is murky…but nothing really supports the initial claims by folks like Sharpton that Zimmerman was out to kill Martin from the start.  This has muddied the discussion.  I see a lot of tweets from the Pro-Martin side that seem to ignore the actual facts and information we do have in favor of questionable discussion points.  One example was I saw folks commenting that the room is cold, Zimmerman is sweating…what more proof do we need???  Really?  Because if I was on trial for second degree murder, I am pretty sure I would be sweating my way through the trial whether I was guilty or innocent.

And that is the real problem here.  The prosecution chose to pursue second degree murder.  And you know what?  The evidence we have does not favor a guilty verdict.  The evidence we have?  The prosecution should lose.  But they chose second degree murder because they thought they had to due to pressure.  This was a manslaughter question.  Did Zimmerman think he was in danger and overreact?  There just is no evidence that the killing was the plan from the start, and what I have seen of the court proceedings so far,  the jury cannot find Zimmerman guilty of the charges.

So far, the defense is guilty of a bad joke and being a bit condescending to a witness.  But that is part of the job of the defense and prosecution.  It certainly is not proof they are losing.  I know why Sharpton pushed the story hard…after all, it would have been lost in a sea of other shooting deaths.  It would never have been heard.  And there are issues that needed to be addressed.  And yet, at the insistence of Sharpton pushing a story with little of the facts available caused a severe muddling of information.  In spite of the  information we now have, I still hear folks cling to the “white guy seeking to kill black men” version being talked about as if that had not totally collapsed.  Hint, that version of the story is false…trying to pretend it is true is not helping the Martins and will not bring about justice.

The prosecution made a bad choice to pursue second degree murder.  It made a mess of things.  And, I cannot see how they can get some justice for Martin and his family pursuing the path they opted for.

I Don’t Get It

So, some groups complained about this ad:

They decried it for being to Sexy.  And yeah, the ad teases.  But compared with last year’s Carls Jr Ad?  This is positively tame.  Yeah, you see Upton’s bountiful cleavage.  But she is clothed in pretty regular clothes.  Her cutoffs are not short shorts, her top is something I see women wear every summer.  Certainly, the ad plays with objectification, especially in Kate Upton’s flirtatious posing.  But the ad is all setup.  It is playing off the hopes of guys getting to see the stuff they saw in the Carls Jr ad, only covered in soap suds.  Then it pulls the rug out.  I really do not understand the criticisms of the Mercedes ad.

Search and Destroy

This week, discussions I was a part of collided. Over in political land, it was a discussion about the Website Jezebel.  In case you were unaware, after Obama was re-elected, Twitter and Facebook lit up with dis-satisfied voters who thought the best response to the news was racism and hate.  Some of these people were teenagers doing that thing teens do so well…say stupid things.  Jezebel was understandably put off by these comments.  Their response was to compile a list of these folks…their names, their schools, their extra-curricular activities, what sports they play, etc.  The idea is, apparently, to really hit these kids by ruining their chances at college and so on.

In comic world, the other day, someone found a website post Director James Gunn did two years back (possibly closer to three).  It was a list of the 35 comic book characters folks want to have sex with.  So, it was a mature list.  I was actually familiar with the list…and the less controversial list (one with none of the commentary that bothered people) has comments by me.  I used to be pretty active at Gunn’s site.  He was very interactive, and in spite of random moments that made me cringe, seemed pretty open minded.  The list I commented on, Gunn and I had an exchange about our shock that the only Watchman character to make the list?  Comedian.  Seriously.  The rapist.  The list was compiled by a vote, and on one version of the list, Gunn made commentary that was a bit…uncomfortable.  Rachel Edidin addresses it nicely.

Some have stated it was satire of Misogyny.  Maybe.  But it failed because it did not lampoon the outdated attitudes…it seemed more to lampoon it’s subjects.  But the point is, people wanted to do something about it.  And this is where stuff collided.  People seemed to want to destroy Gunn.

I am not crazy at all over the idea that the right answer when someone offends us is to try and get them fired.  People have the right to express the most heinous of ideas.  I have every right to decide whether I want to give them my money.  I have every right to express how wrong I think they are.  I have every right to take to twitter and express that.  Or Facebook.  It is important to have that outlet of protest.  But when we take it the step ahead and force destruction to rain on their heads, we start to lose our righteous ground.  Especially, I am concerned because these are tactics that were used on the left for decades.  Threat to out gay people, petitions to get people with unpopular opinions fired, etc.  Look at the pro-life movement.  There were some within the movement that publicized the names and addresses of doctors who performed abortions.  As some doctors were shot and killed, they were crossed off the lists in blood.

Do we want to have a legacy like that?  Where we start keeping a list of people who “think correctly” and those who fail to meet our standards are not allowed to move on in life?  Do we really think it is different when we do it to them?  It’s somehow different to try and get someone fired because they are homophobic than to get someone fired because they are gay?  Should something you said years ago be held in higher regard than where you are now?  The person I was long ago held very different opinions on issues than the person writing this post.  There was a time in my life that I saw homosexuality as evil.  I was vehemently pro-life.  Do the views I evolved to mean less than the ones I held when I was decades younger?  I cannot comfortably agree that punishing kids as Jezebel seeks to do is wise or good.  It is not the right step forward.  Especially hurting their ability to get into schools.  Yes, lets try and keep them teens from going to the place that often results in a personal re-evaluation of one’s beliefs.

Gunn, btw, apologized. And hey, he avoids the “sorry you were offended”…he takes credit for the failure on his own.  Considering that other recent offenders took the “Stop being offended route? (including defenders of Gunn) it was kind of refreshing.

Shameless Promotion: The Nerd Patrol

No lie…I kind of wanted people to pass this around…I am  not as clever as Ty Templeton (dammit)…but I gave it me best shot.

Confused?  Check here, here and here.

I would like to point out that Harris pretty much invited  the controversy as he asked people to retweet his comments.

So, here is my rant from last week (With some edits):

I said it yesterday…but after reading various follow ups I feel it needs to be said.  The “Real Nerd Girls” thing…I see guys trying to say it is true.  They point out that Tony Harris says there are exceptions…so he is not slamming all cosplayers as being “fake nerds”.  But here is the thing…an exception is a small minority.  So, he is slamming the majority of cosplayers as fake nerd girls.

The complaints about hanging on to guys they would not give the time of day to (so uh…what exactly is the motive here?)…shaming the women for not being as attractive as we assume they think they are…it is bitter and ridiculous.

And really?  Who CARES if they are comic book fans?  Who CARES if they like to wear a skimpy outfit?  They like to dress up as cartoon characters, but are not into comics…so?  What kind of self righteous shithead thinks it is their job to decide who is a legit geek?  I could care less why someone cosplays.  If that is something they enjoy doing?  More power to them!  Guys, gals,short, tall, thin, overweight,average looking,conventionally beautiful…if these folks get joy from it?  Why is it anybody’s job to take that joy away?  To shame them?

It was not worth Tony Harris and Dirk Manning bringing up…it is not defensible.  I’ve interacted with both guys online over the years and found them amiable and nice enough guys…but that does not make this recent commentary from them not a moment of douchebaggery or misogyny.  What was said was most certainly a misogynist rant.  We have all said things that might not reflect us overall…but the measure of a person is whether they can understand why what they said is problematic and step forward, rather than dig in and defend themselves for their douchey commentary.  And not only did Harris and Manning dig in, their supporters did as well.  Way to class it up, folks.

Seriously, why is it such a threat to let women in the nerd/geek family?  Why do they have t jump through hoops to prove they deserve to be allowed?  Why is there need among some guys in the geek community, professional and otherwise, to jump up to judge women on their looks and whether they are allowed to dress as certain characters?

And in regards to the girls who might not really care about comics or cartoons and maybe just are looking for an opportunity to dress “sexy” while hanging off of nerds?  WHO THE F**K CARES?!  It is not hurting anyone.

It’s Not US…It’s YOU! Or the Devil! Or the Media!

When I was…like seven… I had a t-shirt that said “The Devil Made Me Do It”.  For the Vatican, that t-shirt would apparently read “The Devil and The Media Made Us Do It!”

The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said Monday that a commission of cardinals investigating the leaks scandal had so far interrogated 23 people, including Gabriele as well as other lay and clergy, Vatican superiors and employees. The commission members reported back to the pope on Saturday about their investigation and are continuing their work.

Gabriele continues to be held inside the Vatican police barracks accused of aggravated theft, though he was allowed out on Sunday as usual to attend Mass with his family.

The attempt by the Vatican to blame the media for the leaks is to some degrees a repeat of 2010, when several Vatican officials blamed journalists for fueling the sex abuse scandal that had re-ignited that year. Thousands of people came forward, mostly in Europe, with reports that priests had raped and molested them when they were children.

Because vindicative and self righteous bureaucracy was the message of Jesus.

Some might argue that the official is talking about an attack by Satan…but the fact is, all the “outside” attacks are a direct result of the Vatican’s dependence on secrecy.  If they had been open and transparent all along, they would not be facing the scandals they have faced.

GIRLS! Incognito!

HBO has debuted a new series called Girls from Lena Dunham and Judd Apatow.  So far, the show seems to be full of awkward humor and fairly upfront sex scenes.  I happen to feel that much of the time, this is a lazy grab for attention via controversy.  Girls feels especially so.  The opening scenes of the seconnd episode feel like someone is there, poking you, saying, “Look at how edgy we are!  Look!  See!!!  Are we pushing your boundries????”  And yeah, I tend to find the same issue in male centered shows.  What I do enjoy is the unapologetic way the hero is allowed to fail in brutally awkward ways… it nears Ricky Gervais territory.

But the show recently stepped into some trouble with a snarky twitter comment by staff writer Lesley Arfin:

“What really bothered me most about Precious was that there was no representation of ME.” 

Certainly, this may be a satirical jab…and yeah, I like Comedians like Sarah Silverman who use bigotries against themselves.  But the problem is…it is a short sighted shot.  Arfin is hardly evil.  But she (and her defenders) aer missing a bigger point.

The defense, for example from Rod Dreher:

the diversity prisspots never complain when a film or TV show taking place in a non-white social milieu fails to include white people in the mix. Who cares? A good story is a good story. I don’t care if explores the hidden lives of paraplegic Tibetan lesbians. If it’s a well-told story, we all see ourselves in the characters and the lives they lead, no matter what their race, what their class, what their culture. What kind of parochial nitwit reads Tolstoy and complains that they don’t see themselves in the story?

In an ideal world?  A good story would be a terrific defense.  But we live in  reality.  And Dreher’s comments, along with the defense of other white guys for Arfin seem oblivious to how arrogant it sounds.

Of course it is not anything special to see white people on the big and small screens.  We dominate it.  It is literally impossible for a white person to truly understand seeing a person you recognize as sharing the trait of race when yours is the face that has always been there.

At no time have white people in America turned on the TV or gone to movies and found themselves almost non-existent on the screen.  At no point has the white audience been a niche audience, or movies considered “white people movies.”  Minorities do not generally skip movies with all white casts, yet white people often dismiss films with all/majority minority casts as “Not falling into their interest zone”.  Whether it is a drama, comedy or whatever, white people do not go to African American movies.

Is it wrong to tell stories about white people?  Of course not.  Just as it is not wrong to have stories with all male casts.  But, then, the Thing and Crimson Tide are not considered moves made for men the way that so many movies are chick flicks.  Sure, folks will comment on action films as guy movies…but that is about it.  If your comedy centers around guys, it is a comedy.  If your comedy centers around women?  It is a chick flick.  Bridesmaids was one of the few films marketed as an actual comedy, rather than a girls comedy.

I hear from time to time people complain about how many gay people there are on TV.  As if TV and movies are a festival of gay pride every day of the week.  But shows about gay people…we have had…what… Queer as Folk?  The L Word, Will & Grace… and Ellen.  There was Willow and Tara on Buffy the Vampire slayer.  There have been supporting gay characters on other shows.  But that is about it. 

But the people who get so up in arms about concerns of diversity (who tend to by white) misses the point.  We’ve never truly experienced a landscape where we can be practically invisible in the world of television and film.  This makes it easy to say it does not matter to us if a film features no one directly like us.  That tends to be the exception, not the rule.  And those who express concern about diversity still tend to enjoy films that lack it…they are simply saying that seeing more people reflected than just white people would be good.  Hardly an unreasonable concern.  When we live in a world where 85% (and I am being extremely generous there) of movies and television is not all about white people?  Girls won’t be noticed for it’s focus on white folks.