Happy New Year, ya filthy animals! It’s been eight months since you all started reading my ridiculous moaning about feminism, comics, and video games, and I’m excited to welcome you into a new year. Here’s to all the bad decisions we made last night, and all the ones that I’m sure we’ll keep making in 2014. If you need help making a resolution, how about “popping a wheelie on the zeitgeist?” Or how about just being a little nicer to yourself this year? What? Oh. Apparently, I’m supposed to be writing a post on something here.
So my New Year’s Web Crush is Kevin Smith, just because he’s one of my web crushes right now and it happens to be New Year’s. It’s not that he’s the best thing to happen to the internet in 2013. I’d probably pick Angel Haze for that one, or #Blackbuzzfeed. It’s just that, for the past month or so, Smith has been particularly killing it. You may know Kevin Smith as Silent Bob from films like Clerks or Mallrats. You may not know that he has also written and directed films like Zack and Miri Make a Porno, or Red State. He is also in the habit of dropping insightful podcasts on film, comics, and geek culture at his Fat Man on Batman channel. He interviews greats like Tara Strong (who has, like, a thousand voices), Mark Hamill, and even Paul Dini, creator of Harley Quinn.
In fact, Smith’s interview with Paul Dini, where Smith asks the tough questions and Dini responds by revealing exactly how much genuine bullshit goes into Cartoon Network marketing decisions, is one of two reasons he is my current web crush. I go off on it here. In short, Cartoon Network apparently cancels great shows because girls don’t buy the kind of merchandise they’re selling because it’s not marketed to them. Which is an unpardonably dumb excuse to write off an entire gender.
What put him on my radar this week was his reaction to an unfortunate incident. A throwaway jab was made at Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back in this online mag. Smith responded with a throwaway quip—“thanks for the free plug”—and a throwaway question: “why the jab?” Several of his fans proceeded to hurl threats and insults at one Maggie Serrota, the author of the article (which was about Netflix, btw), many of which were openly misogynistic. So while Kevin Smith hasn’t always been the best at this stuff (see: Comic Book Men), he engaged the tweets and then decided that he wasn’t having any of it.
In a post that details the whole hullabaloo, including his response to accusations he thought were unfair, Smith makes one thing clear: he does not endorse or condone misogyny in his fans. He went so far as to say:
if you like women, NEVER call them “cunts”. Or get vulgar with them at all. And if you like me or my stuff at all, then NEVER express yourself to ANYONE – woman or man – in misogynistic terms. This is important to me…If my movies have made you feel it’s okay to reduce another human being by labeling them a “bitch” or a “cunt” then I was an even worse filmmaker than I thought.
That’s a bold and necessary statement. Too often, we see fit to express our disagreement with someone by resorting to degrading their whole group (women, trans* folk, racial/ethnic groups) or we seem to believe that their actions are somehow representative of their entire groups, and how dare they disagree with us. It’s ridiculous, and geek culture has been entirely too permissive and/or encouraging of this behavior.
Over at The Mary Sue, author Jill Pantozzi writes of Smith’s blog post:
It’s the kind of thing we’re hoping to see more of in the new year. We’ve already seen a shift in the comic book world as it pertains to harassment—a serious call to stop the madness.
This is exactly the kind of behavior we want from the figure heads of our culture; we want them to take a stand. Like when JH Williams and Haden Blackman said “enough is enough,” and quit DC after the Kate Kane wedding incident. It makes a difference, and hopefully changes our shared culture for the better. What if 2014 were the year when all the misogynist, racist, homophobic trolls, jerks, and ne’er-do-wells learned where the line in the sand was and that it’s not okay to abuse someone just for expressing an opinion while not being a straight, white, cis man? I can dream, I guess…
In any case, I appreciate Smith’s stand and hope that he continues to endeavor in that direction of not letting sexism—explicit, benevolent, or casual—pass him by, implicitly condoned by silence. May we all. To the rest of you, Happy New Year!