Cartoon: Token White Male Character


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If you don’t pay attention to online discussions of diversity in media, well then: Good for you. You’re getting outraged less often. Your blood pressure is lower. You’re not involved in endless debates about if Rey is more a Mary Sue than Luke was a Gary Stu. You may even be blessedly unaware of what “Mary Sue” even means.

The only downside is, this comic strip might not make sense to you.

But, briefly: In the last several years, online groups of (mostly) male, (mostly) white fans in various parts of nerd culture – gamergate, sad/rabid puppies, comicsgate, and possibly some others – have been really really angry at the increase in female and non-white characters in nerd media.

And they always say the same thing. “I have nothing against Black/gay/female/trans/etc characters! I just want them to be in the story for a reason, instead of having diversity shoved down my throat!”

And then, if it’s a fantasy genre like Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones (please don’t spoil me!), comes the inevitable claim that it’s unrealistic to have non-white characters in a European based fantasy culture, that it’s unrealistic to have female characters who can stand up to men in combat, that it’s unrealistic to have openly queer characters, etc etc etc..

Sometimes it’s not as unrealistic as they think. But also: Why should we care? If we can enjoy fantasy worlds with spells and dragons and flying heroes and all sorts of unrealistic creatures, then why can’t we also have diverse characters, if that’s what the author wants?

* * *

This one took weirdly long to write and draw. I mean, partly it was because the first time I penciled it, I then lost the entire file to a computer glitch. (And yes, I do backups in the cloud while I work to prevent this from happening. But this time the backup didn’t work.)

But, when I started on it again, I found it took me a long time to draw anything. Eventually, I decided it needed some rewriting, and I think that helped. (Very often, when I’m having trouble drawing a comic, it’s because some subconscious part of my mind is unhappy with the script).

My big storytelling concern, drawing this, was the gargoyle. I needed to have it be just a setting element, and not a character, for the first three panels; but still noticed enough so that when the gargoyle moves in panel 4, readers will be going “oh the gargoyle is a living creature!” rather than “where did that thing come from all of a sudden?”

It’s largely because of the need for the gargoyle to be a consistent and recognizable element that all four panels are shown from the same angle. But having all four panels at the same angle made it feel very “Doonesbury” to me as I was drawing it. (The gag is fairly Doonesbury-esque too).


TRANSCRIPT OF CARTOON

This cartoon has four panels. Each panel shows the same corner of a rooftop in some “high fantasy” sort of setting. The rooftop is rough-hewn but fancy, with three small gargoyles, like snakes with animal heads, and one larger gargoyle, which looks somewhat dragon-ish.

There are two people on the rooftop: A human male, who is white. He wears no shirt and a red cloak. Next to him is an elf woman, who has facial tattoos, large pointy ears, wide eyes, and is wearing a flowing purple gown.

PANEL 1

The human is looking down at something that’s visible from the roof, stroking his chin thoughtfully, with a serious expression. The elf is positioned as if she was just looking in the same direction, but then looked out the corner of her eyes at him instead. She’s raised one hand in a “just a second” gesture.

HUMAN: If we break into Lord Vezox’s warbase at nightfall-

ELF: Just a moment. What’s the story purpose of your being a white male?

PANEL 2

The human and elf have turned so they’re directly facing each other. The human is a bit surprised looking; the elf looks a bit angry and is “talking with her hands.”

HUMAN: Er… What?

ELF: If there’s no reason your character needs to be a white male, then you’re just a token!

PANEL 3

The human is looking annoyed, crossing his arms. The elf is angrily yelling, holding up a hand in a “stop that” gesture.

HUMAN: But what about white male representation? What about-

ELF: Don’t bring in that SJW garbage! It’s just not realistic to have a white man in this setting!

PANEL 4

The large gargoyle has turned its head to speak to the human. The human is surprised looking. The Elf looks pleased.

GARGOYLE: And if we aren’t strictly realistic, fans won’t accept the story!

ELF: Yeah!

This entry posted in Cartooning & comics, Feminism, sexism, etc, Media, Media criticism, Race, racism and related issues. Bookmark the permalink. 

119 Responses to Cartoon: Token White Male Character

  1. 101
    J. Squid says:

    Chris, it’s pretty clear you’re committed to making snap judgements of people based on small bits of information.

    Holy crap! You are soooooo invested in denying the obvious bigotry of Obvious Bigot. I suppose that next you’ll be telling us how Chris has made a snap judgment about MBS just because he murdered and dismembered one journalist. That’s just not taking the whole context of MBS into account is it?

    I don’t know why you’d defend an obvious racist and misogynist, but you must have you’re reasons. But you’re not fooling anybody here.

  2. 102
    AJD says:

    Youtube is just doing whatever protects their bottom line, in this case appeasing advertisers while doing their best to drive conservatives off their platform

    Counterpoint: YouTube is doing what protects their bottom line, which is paying lip service to having an anti-harassment policy while doing little to enforce it and giving bigots an enormous, free, unmoderated platform and promoting their content.

  3. 103
    Chris says:

    desipis:

    I think Pakman’s on point when he argues Youtube is just doing whatever protects their bottom line, in this case appeasing advertisers while doing their best to drive conservatives off their platform.

    How do you not realize that these are literally mutually exclusive goals?

    YouTube wants as many people using its platform as possible. That is what’s good for their bottom line.

    35% of Americans identify as conservative, 35% as moderate, and 26% as liberal. There is no way YouTube would want to “drive conservatives off their platform.” What they are doing is realizing that overt bigotry is not good for their bottom line–even many people who identify as conservative aren’t fans of such overt bigotry as Crowder’s. Your position implicitly conflates bigotry with conservatism, and suggests that conservatives as a whole are being oppressed because a small minority of them are being banned for such conservatives principals as “feminists should be killed” and “minorities should be deported” and “being gay is inherently worthy of mockery.” I know you’re wrong about the oppression, and I certainly hope you’re wrong about the 1:1 overlap of conservatives and bigots.

  4. 104
    Mandolin says:

    Your position implicitly conflates bigotry with conservatism, and suggests that conservatives as a whole are being oppressed because a small minority of them are being banned for such conservatives principals as “feminists should be killed” and “minorities should be deported” and “being gay is inherently worthy of mockery.”

    Yeah, this particular forced teaming is super creepy.

  5. 105
    Jeffrey Gandee says:

    I know nothing of Crowder’s appeal among conservatives as a whole, but I just checked his channel on youtube, and I’m suprised at the size of his following. I had no idea how popular he was. I don’t encounter him anywhere on the internet outside of the “change my mind” meme, but he’s got 3.8m subscribers, more than double that of Ben Shapiro’s “Daily Wire” and 5 times as many subscribers as Shapiro himself. Crowder has more than Fox News eith just over 3m. For comparison, the Daily Show has 4.9m.

    It could still be the case that he’s disliked or considered fringe among conservatives, but this is at least some evidence that he’s a mainstream voice for conservativism, and definitely changes my perspective on just how big a deal this is, even if I still think youtube is justified in demonetizing his channel.

    Now I have to wonder, will this move by youtube backfire? It’s anyone’s guess. Many former “free speech martyrs” have fizzled, Milo being everyone’s go-to example of this phenomenon, but others, like Shapiro and Peterson, have successfully ridden their “martyrdom” to more fame and fortune than they had before.

    I wish I could see the internal memos at google- I’m curious to what degree this move is driven by a social media campaign vs pressure from advertisers.

  6. 106
    desipis says:

    Ampersand:

    Desipis, you never answered my question. (You quoted an out-of-context fragment of my question and responded to it, but ignored my actual question).

    I thought my response was quite on point.

    By your rather loose standards of “totalitarian,” criticizing a game is an example of totalitarianism.

    Framing my definition of “totalitarian” as just “criticising a game” is totally missing the point I made here:

    It’s a totalitarian ideology because it insists on dictating terms on every aspect of life. Gaming, moves, music, art, clothing, economics, employment, language, education, health, sex. It’s an ideology that demand subservience in absolutely everything.

    The totalitarian nature isn’t the social justice game critic in isolation, but rather in context with the broader totalitarian aspects of the movement.

    It what meaningful way is it “totalitarian” for someone to criticize a game or game culture, but not “totalitarian” to used organized boycotts to attempt to shut down criticism?

    It’s different because gamergate isn’t morally judging people on most things in life. You’re confusing economic coercion (which is something I’ve criticised gamergate for) or authoritarianism or dogmatism with totalitarianism.

  7. 107
    Chris says:

    Yes, yes, the majority of Americans agreeing on what terms like “racism” actually mean is “totalitarian.” Guess who agreed.

  8. 108
    Ampersand says:

    It’s different because gamergate isn’t morally judging people on most things in life. You’re confusing economic coercion (which is something I’ve criticised gamergate for) or authoritarianism or dogmatism with totalitarianism.

    I think you’re using a new definition of “totalitarian” which isn’t the same as the definition that has existed for almost a century (the word was first used to describe Italian fascism.)

    Framing my definition of “totalitarian” as just “criticising a game” is totally missing the point I made here:

    “It’s a totalitarian ideology because it insists on dictating terms on every aspect of life. Gaming, moves, music, art, clothing, economics, employment, language, education, health, sex. It’s an ideology that demand subservience in absolutely everything.”

    And you’ve looked up the author of the review, and researched them, and know their opinions on all those things? I very much doubt it.

    And in most of your examples, what you describe as “dictating terms” just means “having an opinion that Desipis disagrees with.” In comics, for instance, no one has proposed that a piece of racist garbage like “Iron Sights” should be outlawed. It’s been criticized for being racist, for being sexist, and for being incredibly badly drawn – but criticism isn’t “dictating terms.” If you’re not too much of a snowflake to stand being criticized, nothing but good taste prevents anyone from defending, reading or publishing “Iron Sights.”

    Honestly, I think that some people on the left ARE oversensitive and have overwrought reactions to what should be minor annoyances. But they’ve got nothing on the anti-SJW right. “WAAAH! They criticized my game AND my comic book! This is like living under totalitarianism! WAAAAAAAH!!!”

    When you say “dictating terms” on health, you mean, I’m guessing, supporting single-payer health care? Supporting the ACA?

    This is ludicrous.

  9. 109
    Ampersand says:

    Since someone asked (I can’t find the specific comment, sorry), I am concerned by how much of the (in effect) public commons is being controlled by a small number of mega-corporations. I think it’s probably bad for the “culture” of free speech. (In the way capitalism has always been bad for it.)

    But mandating that all those platforms should be free-for-alls, and that site owners have no rights to set limits, is also bad for the “culture” of free speech.

    In the end, if we decide that the current situation can’t be lived with, I’d favor the government splitting up the megasites (which I’m not sure would work) before I’d favor the government forcing Twitter et al to be free-for-alls.

    Jordon Peterson has begun launching “Thinkspot,” his alternative to Patreon (although from the way he’s talking about it, he’s also envisioning it as an alternative to sites like Facebook and Twitter). He says that Thinkspot will not remove anyone from the platform without an order from the U.S. government. But he also says that users whose comments get less than 50% approval from the community will eventually be put in a situation where their comments cannot be seen unless someone specifically clicks on them – a policy that I think many Peterson fans would describe as “shadowbanning” if Twitter did it.

    It’ll be interesting to see if Thinkspot can make a go of it. My guess is that it’s going to end up being a platform that in theory is open to all, but in practice will be usable only by the right, as left-wingers posts and funding projects will be quickly downvoted into invisibility.

  10. 110
    LimitsOfLanguage says:

    Ampersand,

    But they’ve got nothing on the anti-SJW right. “WAAAH! They criticized my game AND my comic book! This is like living under totalitarianism! WAAAAAAAH!!!”

    The critiques I see are not typically that they are upset by the criticism itself, but that people in positions of power/influence are wielding that power and influence against them, often with falsehoods. Or to put it in SJ terms: they mainly complain about structural oppression, where the oppression comes from the combination of power plus prejudice.

    ;)

    Of course, the same criticism of the SJ use of “power + prejudice” applies to anti-SJ people: power is not on/off, but gradual and pretty much anyone has some power. So without applying a threshold and without recognizing the problems of the other, it can easily result in extreme sensitivity to minor slights or crybullying.

    The SJ narrative of anti-SJ revolts pretty consistently frames these revolts as not being revolts by those with less power against the powerful, presumably because seeing it like that is incompatible with a simplistic SJ narrative.

    a policy that I think many Peterson fans would describe as “shadowbanning” if Twitter did it.

    I can’t speak for these hypothetical Peterson fans, but the hiding of downvoted comments happens on various community-moderated sites, including Slashdot and Reddit. I’ve never seen anyone call that shadowbanning, which is very different anyway, since it refers to completely withholding comments from others, not hiding them by default.

    On both sites, I’ve seen revolts/anger when authorities stepped in to hide or delete comments that the majority of the community thought were worth being seen, but not when the community caused comments to be hidden by downvoting.

    Anyway, to address your last comment in general:

    We can compare it to real life. The public streets are public commons and the rules for the streets are set through democratic means. People don’t get to walk naked in the streets, because most people don’t like that. Google doesn’t get to ban protesters from protesting on the public streets in front of a Google building.

    Furthermore, the rules for public streets are supposed to be as politically neutral as possible. Any limitations on the right to protest should be minimally limiting to ideologies. Neo-Nazis have just as much right to protest as BLM. Only extreme statements, like direct calls for violence are to be banned, and then by all.

    This neutrality is not just important with regard to the freedoms of citizens, but is important to preserve the very legitimacy of the meta-rules (the rules that govern how we make rules) and their enforcers. If the meta-rules and/or their enforcers are seen as too biased, they themselves become targets for those who seek political change. See how ‘populists’ now often attack the media.

    Ultimately, a society with different beliefs can only exist if the vast majority of people have faith in the fairness of the meta-rules. In the previous century, when this faith was lost, we’ve seen people turn to meta-rules based on identity politics, like fascism and communism, which ended up with horrible death counts.

    BTW, this is why Peterson is worried about Social Justice. He sees your movement as another rejection of enlightenment/classical liberal meta-rules, seeking to replace it with identity politics that will likely result in killing fields.

    OK, back to the comparison. Next to the public streets, you have privately owned places, where people can put more and fewer restrictions than in the commons. You can walk naked in your house and people who (having been told you will be nude) enter your home can’t call the police to make you stop doing so. Google can ban protesters from their buildings. You do get to ban Neo-Nazis or BLM members from your home, if you so please. Etc.

    With the digitization of society & mega-corporations winning due to network effects and such, much more of life is happening online & control over larger aspects of society is ending up in the hands of a few corporations, that we don’t want to turn into government organizations.

    However, in real life we had the same issue with carriers and the solution was common carriers: they are not responsible for policing the content, but are then also obliged to not discriminate. So they lose some of the rights of private ownership.

    We could something similar with Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc. For example, YouTube could be required to supply their technology for others (for a fair price). So you could have SexTube.com with porn videos running on YouTube technology and AlexJonesTube.com, but you wouldn’t see those videos if you visit YouTube.com.

    However, what I think is way more important is to stop payment providers and such from being able to boycott companies and individuals. They can truly eliminate someone’s ability to speak out, even on a personal blog or other obscure site.

  11. 111
    Ampersand says:

    I can’t speak for these hypothetical Peterson fans, but the hiding of downvoted comments happens on various community-moderated sites, including Slashdot and Reddit. I’ve never seen anyone call that shadowbanning, which is very different anyway, since it refers to completely withholding comments from others, not hiding them by default.

    Fair point (although on Reddit each reader’s threshold for hiding downvoted comments can be set by individual users).

    However, I’ve seen “shadowbanning” used in other ways than what you say – for example, to describe Twitter allegedly hiding tweets from search results, even though they’re still visible if you follow the URL or the specific poster’s twitter feed.

    As I understand it, it would take an act of Congress for Facebook or other social media services to be regulated like common carriers. (And would it be regulated by the FCC, or would a new agency be created?) It’s not impossible, but it seems pragmatically unlikely to happen.

    The problem with Youtube isn’t that there’s anything all that unique about their software – there are dozens of other sites that also play streaming videos and have search, comment, and suggested further videos functions. The thing that YouTube has that makes it better than other sites is the incredibly large user base.

    I agree with you about payment providers like VISA or paypal – they shouldn’t be able to boycott based on content.

  12. 112
    Mandolin says:

    (FWIW, payment providers also discriminate against some usually-considered-left-associated-politically stuff.)

  13. 113
    lurker23 says:

    Ampersand says:
    June 13, 2019 at 12:02 pm
    users whose comments get less than 50% approval from the community will eventually be put in a situation where their comments cannot be seen unless someone specifically clicks on them – a policy that I think many Peterson fans would describe as “shadowbanning” if Twitter did it.the problem

    that is not right i think?
    with shadow ban i think a problem is is that you do not know that twitter is doing the shadow ban, you need to find out from someone else who tries to find you and does not find you even though they should. and another problem is that people do not really know what makes you shadow ban in the first place and alot of times twitter will not usually tell you why.

    so what you say is not shadow ban, you know what your approval is and you know you are with a ban if you go below 50%, and you also know why and how to make it not happen. and if it does happen maybe you can also fix it.

  14. 114
    Jeffrey Gandee says:

    Honestly, I think that some people on the left ARE oversensitive and have overwrought reactions to what should be minor annoyances. But they’ve got nothing on the anti-SJW right. “WAAAH! They criticized my game AND my comic book! This is like living under totalitarianism! WAAAAAAAH!!!”

    Until gamers regularly accuse their critics of denying their right to exist, I’m not buying this.

  15. 115
    desipis says:

    Ampersand:

    And you’ve looked up the author of the review, and researched them, and know their opinions on all those things?

    It’s not about the author in isolation its about the movement as a whole.

    And in most of your examples, what you describe as “dictating terms” just means “having an opinion that Desipis disagrees with.”

    No, it means trying to force that opinion on people using social, economic or political pressure. The key point is the difference between criticism and activism. Unfortunately in the context of a hyper-reactive “cancel culture”, it’s increasingly difficult to do the former without the result being the later.

  16. 116
    desipis says:

    Ampersand,

    However, I’ve seen “shadowbanning” used in other ways than what you say – for example, to describe Twitter allegedly hiding tweets from search results, even though they’re still visible if you follow the URL or the specific poster’s twitter feed.

    I would define key elements of shadowbanning are that:
    1) it’s a unilateral action taken by the platform provider;
    2) it completely blocks (or at least substantially limits) the visibility of a person’s content or comments; and
    3) that person is not notified by the platform provider about their action or its effects.

    The proposed system for Thinkspot has element 2 in common with shadowbanning, but then so do pretty much all systems of moderation. It’s the first and the third elements that are generally why shadowbanning is generally seen as nefarious. Democratic systems involving users voting are almost always seen as better for large communities than autocratic ones.

    The third element was one that I believe originated as a way to deal with spammers. If the automated spam bots were notified their accounts were banned, they would just automatically abandon those accounts and create new accounts. Shadowbanned spam bots would continue using the same accounts but have the spam not seen by anyone. Many people are OK with this being used against spam bots, but see using this system on actual people trying to voice their opinion as abusive.

    Personally I don’t think such as system is the best, as it results in positive feedback of popular ideas result in stronger group think. I’d rather see a federated system where the platform gives the power to its users to create communities and give those communities the power and the tools to define their own systems and enforce their own rules.

  17. 117
    Jeffrey Gandee says:

    desipis:

    Personally I don’t think such as system is the best, as it results in positive feedback of popular ideas result in stronger group think. I’d rather see a federated system where the platform gives the power to its users to create communities and give those communities the power and the tools to define their own systems and enforce their own rules.

    Me too. Is this how you would describe reddit? I know it has it’s haters, but I find it’s a great place to go for advice and product recommendations. I also love so of the more humorous communities there. The toxic communities are easy to avoid.

  18. 118
    desipis says:

    To a certain degree. I think there are some subreddits that take advantage of this to create interesting communities. AskHistorians and NeutralPolitics are two good examples. However the core reddit mechanism of upvoting/downvoting controlling the order of things, and it’s tendency to suppress anything contrary to the majority view, doesn’t work well for all sorts of communities. It certainly scales better than a single chronologically ordered comments thread, but I think there is room for improvement.

  19. 119
    LimitsOfLanguage says:

    Ampersand,

    The problem with Youtube isn’t that there’s anything all that unique about their software – there are dozens of other sites that also play streaming videos and have search, comment, and suggested further videos functions. The thing that YouTube has that makes it better than other sites is the incredibly large user base.

    A YouTube author that I follow, who is at the edge of what YouTube allows (and who is demonetized), seemed to not consider the alternatives at all suitable and was involved in making a new site, when it seemed like he might be kicked off. Since then, it seems that this is no longer an imminent risk and he stopped worrying that much.

    He actually (also) put his video’s on pornhub for a while, as a fallback, despite having zero nudity.

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