Opinion - Scorsese and Coppola Vs. the MCU: Are we focusing on the wrong argument?
October 25, 2019
Nuking The Cat
Last Refuge of the Sensible Nerd
Opinion - Political Rant Part 4: So You've Been Called a Racist... The Rise of the Social Justice Warrior and the Fall of Humor.
August 9, 2017
So. It finally happened. You’ve been called a racist.
First off…DON’T PANIC. I guess it’s like hitchhiking the galaxy in that way. If you’ve ever written anything on the internet, this day was going to come. That’s just the way it is. But that’s okay, we’ll get through this. First off, take a look at what you said. Sure, you might not be the best judge here, after all, you wrote it…but still, sometimes things slip out or you end up thinking of a better way to put it after a second looking over. Here are some guidelines: did it contain any already known derogatory language? You know, the “N-word” or some such? I know, I know, we’re starting off really basic here. How about…were you talking about ‘white power’ but it had nothing to do with laundry soap or toothpaste? [That’s whitening power, you idiot. – Ed.] What about cocaine or anthrax? [That’s white powder. – Ed.] Okay, okay, now, here’s the hard part…try to put yourself in another person’s shoes. [That’s called empathy folks. Look it up and you’ll find out how rare it truly is these days. – Ed.] Could this be hurtful? If you’re coming up with a lot of ‘no’s so far, that’s good. Stay with me now. Let’s look at context…that’s really important. White bedsheets are fine if you’re talking about a killer linen sale at Target…but there are other contexts that are…well…not so much. Is there anything surrounding what you said that, combined with any particular word, could result in a particularly racist bouillabaisse? No? All right, you’re doing good pal…just a little bit farther to go. This next part’s kinda hard too…self-reflection. Ask yourself “Am I a racist?” They say deep down, you kinda already know this stuff…you just gotta be brave enough to admit it. No? You think you’re an okay guy/girl? Seriously now…no bullshit. You cool? All right, all right, I believe you. Now, the last thing, I’ll admit, I’m not a fan of this technique. Sure, it can tell you that you’re not racist…but it can end up being kinda racist. I’ll explain that once we do it…and don’t worry, it ties into the larger picture here. Okay. Here it is. Think about your friends and/or loved ones. How many races you got there? I know, it feels like I’m calling your hand in a game of poker, doesn’t it. Just bear with me. If everyone you know and like is pretty much just like you…well, it’s not a SURE sign…but you might want to think about diversifying your portfolio there, if you know what I mean. Whoever levied this charge against you is probably going to use that at some point as proof. If you can think of one…well, you’re doing okay…especially if you’ve got more than one example within that race. If you’ve got more than one example, you dodge the bullet of what they call ‘tokenism’. So that’s cool. Now if you’ve got two races? Well, then, we’re done with this test, you’re good. Three? Hey, hey, thumbs up buddy, you’re in the clear! See, the reason why I said that this might end up being a little racist is that whole ‘tokenism’ thing I brought up. Some people, especially on the Left, treat their friends of other races more like an item on a checklist, not an actual human. You can spot these schmucks real easy, when referring to said friend they will use the phrase “…who just happens to be (insert race here)”. It’s the liberal version of comparing SUVs…or measuring dicks. [Last time I checked, weren’t YOU a liberal? – Ed.] I’m center-left. I tend to side with liberals on most of the important issues…but I manage to retain my common sense and not go overboard. We’ll get to what I mean in a bit.
Okay, so, I’m gonna assume you passed. Now, if you didn’t, sure, you can read on because I’ve got a larger point to make here…but you might wanna reflect on what was said above about diversifying. Trust me, it’s a good thing.
Well, if it’s not you, let’s take a look at who gave you this label. Now, the level of information you’re going to get here is gonna vary…and no, this is not the time to start stalking someone. But more than likely, they’ve got a twitter feed or a faceyspace or whatever. So let’s take a look. Have they called anyone else racist? Or sexist? Or xenophobe? [No, I’m not asking if they’re fans of the Alien franchise. C’mon buddy, focus here. – Ed.] Homophobe usually pops up too. Pretty much anything ending in “-phobe”. Now, if they have ended up calling other people these things…well, let’s just go ahead and call that strike one. We might be on to something…let’s look a little more. Next up we’re looking for academia…how long were they in college for? Are they still there? Are there signs of intellectual elitism? If your magic 8 ball is saying ‘signs point to yes’…well, then we’re on our way to a conviction, because there’s strike two. Now this last bit might be a little bit hard…but more than likely, if they’ve aced the first two questions, then they’re more than likely to brag about this last bit…are they on one of the coasts of this country? Doesn’t matter…east coast or west coast will do. They don’t HAVE to be there…I mean, let’s face it, there are assholes everywhere…but it usually helps. At this point, you should be hearing a bell, because you, good sir or madam, have a winner. But let’s go to the bonus round. Like the coastal location, this doesn’t HAVE to be a quality…but when diagnosing a disease, you’ve gotta play the Vegas odds…but are they under 25-30? Now, don’t get me wrong, this DEFINITELY shows up in the older sorts…and that’s our next question…but the odds tend to favor the youngins here. Last one, Democrat or Republican? You’re looking for a Democrat…Republicans tend to handle their racism WAAAAAAY differently. And if they eschew the Democrat label and simply opt for Liberal or Left? Then buddy, you got yourself a fish there that worth mounting on the wall.
Congratulations. You’ve just fallen prey to a Social Justice Warrior.
Don’t worry, you’ll survive. In fact, your life may not even remotely change. Or…your life just might be ruined. And maybe you’ll get death threats. In fact, maybe you won’t survive. I don’t do optimism very well. It’s really all in the hands of the internet gods. Oh…and however many other SJWs or internet trolls follow the SJW that attacked you. And if you have sponsors or make a living via your website? Then you’re screwed.
Here on the site, we’ve already tip-toed up to this topic a few times in our rants about “whitewashing”, Bill Maher and CNN’s Lewis Beale vs Wonder Woman, but now that we here have been sucker punched by an actual Social Justice Warrior, well, it’s time to turn our full attention to this social menace. I’m going to keep this relevant to the themes of the site, and as such we’ll cover two examples of Social Justice Warrior-ing at their “finest”, the incident that got this site mixed up in all this mess and then wrap with a little commentary on how, if unchecked, this can result in the loss of a very vital component to the human condition: humor.
For our first example, let’s rewind the clocks all the way back to the mid-1960s. You’re likely asking one of the following two questions: “Isn’t the Social Justice Warrior a product of our modern age and confined to the internet?” and “You’re not belittling the Civil Rights movement, are you?” No on both counts. Yes, while the 1960s are associated with the Civil Rights movement…and those were very serious events that are vital to the fabric of our nation…well, that’s what separates a serious movement from a Social Justice Warrior. I hope my story illustrates what I mean. Mid-60s Cleveland, Ohio…WJW TV 8 hires Ernie Anderson to host a late night horror movie show…and Ghoulardi is born. Ghoulardi and his contemporaries…such as Vampira and Zacherley…would prove to be the forebears that spawned the greats: Elvira and, patron saint of this site, Joe Bob Briggs…and without all of these, Mystery Science Theater 3000 would never have happened. Anyway, Ghoulardi’s late night antics kept Cleveland’s teenage and lower 20’s audience glued to their TV sets every Friday night. Hell, there’s speculation that he might have been responsible for keeping the crime rate in the city down his first few months on air. [There is the counterclaim…that’s probably a bit more factual…that it was the exceptionally cold winter that year that kept ne’er-do-wells off the streets those months. – Ed.] Anyhow, as we all know, late night always has been and, hopefully, will always be a place for comedy and satire…and Ghoulardi was no exception. At the time, rival network ABC was showing a very popular evening soap opera, Payton Place. Ghoulardi felt this was ripe for parody and, as such, created Parma Place as a segment on his show. Parma, both at the time and now, has a sizeable Polish community, and as such jabs in this vein proved to be a cornerstone to Parma Place. Enter our pre-internet Social Justice Warriors. The mayor and several of the city councilmen petitioned and lobbied Channel 8 to have Ghoulardi removed, as he was doing “irreparable damage to the community”. “Our children are being ridiculed.” [They ALWAYS bring in the children, FYI. – Ed.] “Our community is losing face.” “We’re being made a laughingstock.” The truth of the matter? Letters to the station as well as interviews with Parma residents provided ample evidence to the contrary. The majority of the citizens of Parma loved it. “The humor was spot on.” “It’s so nice to see our community in the spotlight.” Most comments boiled down to one of the truest axioms of comedy: It’s funny because it’s true. Eventually, the pressure from the suits on the station heads at WJW would erode away any resistance and this, along with the combination of a couple of other factors, would lead to Ernie Anderson resigning and Ghoulardi to disappear from Cleveland television.
Now let me give a more recent, more pertinent and yet, very similar example.
The live-action adaptation had announced Scarlett Johansson would be taking the lead role of “The Major”…who, in the original anime, was Major Motoko Kusanagi. Given her name as well as that Section 9 worked for the Japanese government and the anime was focused on…gasp…Japan…shocking I know…Social Justice Warriors came out of the woodwork screaming words of racism and “whitewashing”. [Did you know there are absolutely no white people in Japan? Now you do. Thanks Social Justice Warriors! – Ed.] This lambasting of the film carried on without any consideration of the film on its own merits. None. The crime was that the producers, trying to appeal to as large an American audience as possible, had adapted the material to cater to the majority of the target audience. Some basics here so we’re all on the same page…the ultimate goal of any movie studio is to make as much money as possible, right? And as such, they have to pander to the lowest common denominator, the majority. We can argue the merits, ethics and evils of this all day long, sure, but this is the way it is. In order to optimize this, a studio attaches a bankable name and, comparing the various anime versions of the Major, you’d be hard pressed to find an actress with a better fit or a higher profile than Ms. Johansson. But no, this internet bashing persisted and ended up being one of the factors that led the movie to bomb. [Yes, you can certainly bash the story if you’d like, but we here at the Cat actually really liked it. – Ed.] But you know the one question that the Social Justice Warrior never asked? How was the film received in Japan? Let’s go further. What did the director of the original anime think? Let’s take it a step further than that. What did the creator of the original manga…THE CREATOR OF THIS ENTIRE WORLD…what did he think? Starting with the first question…they liked it. It opened to a higher box office in China than it did here and it topped the box office in its opening week in Japan too. As for the whitewashing…it was a total non-issue. One moviegoer stated that “Hollywood whitewashing is not an issue that most Japanese people in Japan care about. Why? They see themselves represented in Japanese media all the time.” Talk about a confident people. [We’ve got a commentary on the resilience and just plain kick-ass, centered perspective of the Japanese viewer coming up. Keep an eye open for it. – Ed.] Here are some more quotes: “I heard people in the U.S. wanted an Asian actress to play her. Would that be OK if she was Asian or Asian-American? Honestly, that would be worse, someone from another Asian country pretending to be Japanese. Better just to make the character white." "It looked really cool and I really enjoyed it. They didn't just try and copy the original, but came up with an original story, which was a better approach." "She was very cool. I loved her in The Avengers, and I wanted to see this because she was in it. If they had done a Japanese live-action version, they would have probably cast some silly idol [girl-band member]." So what about Mamoru Oshii? What’d he think of the “whitewashing”? “The Major is a cyborg and her physical form is an entirely assumed one. The name ‘Motoko Kusanagi’ and her current body are not her original name and body, so there is no basis for saying that an Asian actress must portray her.” That’s strike two, SJWs. As for Masamune Shirow? Well, he’s notoriously reclusive…so we’ll likely never know. [Talk about an anticlimax. – Ed.]
[Side note: There was another whitewashing “controversy” surrounding Doctor Strange, wherein The Ancient One, a Tibetan old man, was replaced by Tilda Swinton, an Englishwoman. Similar cries of outrage poured out, but Doctor Strange still ended up doing typical Marvel Studios type business, pulling down $233 million domestically. Why the difference? Why did Marvel succeed while Paramount did not? The strength of the brand. Ghost in the Shell is all but unknown to the general public, so when the very nerds that needed to be supporting it turned in mutiny due to the “whitewashing”, the ship went down. However, given Marvel’s name recognition in the current cinematic marketplace, the instance anyone in the general public hears that name, “whitewashing” controversy or not, there’s already a built in audience in place. – Ed.]
What do these two examples display? An instance where those purported to be offended…simply weren’t. At all. Instead, the Social Justice Warriors were offended on their behalf. But why? It doesn’t make sense. If something is not offensive to a group, then there’s no issue. If there’s no issue, there’s nothing wrong, there’s no wrongdoing, there’s no crusade…it’s NOTHING. But they know better, don’t they? Remember, back at the beginning, I asked about intellectual elitism? Here it is. Whether it’s the Polish-descended citizens of Parma or the Japanese viewers of Ghost in the Shell, Social Justice Warriors are here to tell you that you should be offended…you NEED to be offended. The biggest problem here is that the vast majority of Social Justice Warriors are not part of the group they seek to protect and as such, the VITAL factor of CONTEXT is not taken into account. Most SJWs don’t walk the path that those they claim to protect do and thusly cannot differentiate from the REAL problems facing a group opposed to the ones perceived by the SJW. Again…context and perspective.
Shifting gears, let’s take a look at how we here at the Cat were dragged into this nonsense. In late May, I presented two movie reviews, Zaborgar and Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky, under the banner “Asiansanity”. My motivation for this moniker was as follows: the movies under this title will be from the Asian continent…focusing on China and Japan, but also nearby countries including, but not limited to, Korea and Indonesia…and would have content that was weird and original in a fun way…insane. Now, it was brought to my attention that it was the “insanity” part that was the problem. I disagree. Words in and of themselves are mostly harmless on their own. They have their definitions and their usage. This is what is called its “denotation” in grammar. Where things get fuzzy is a word’s “connotation”…its feeling or suggested meaning. How does a reader determine a word’s connotation? From its context. Oh…there’s that word again. Can insanity mean something bad? Of course it can. ‘The man ate the entrails of his entire family. That’s insane.’ That’s terrible. ‘Dude, you drank a full bottle of Jack Daniels and still managed to land a crashing 747 AND save a kennel full of puppies? THAT’S INSANE!’ That’s awesome. Same word, two different meanings. Further proof? Remember the NBA craze of ‘Linsanity’? I don’t seem to recall any SJWs mounting any crusades there. Let’s go back to take a look at those reviews, shall we? Both of those reviews were fairly positive. I know I’m getting repetitive here, but again…context. In the instance of Zaborgar, the film is both an homage to tokusatsu AND a parody. It plays up the crazy moments…just as we did in the review. It’s a Japanese director saying loudly to the world “I’m in on the joke. We ARE weird! And we love it.” We do too, Zaborgar, we do too. With Riki-Oh, the film is so extreme because the source material is so extreme. Extreme…another word that can be substituted by ‘insane’…again, depending on your context: ‘It gets to 40 below in Antarctica? That’s insane.’ As such, in each of these instances, insanity has a positive connotation in its usage. If I were to bring up a counterpoint, one does have to wonder why the SJW in this case is so fixated on the negative connotation. What does it say about them? I cannot help but wonder. So that diffuses one aspect, but there’s another: is the individual bandying the term “racism” from a group that could rightly be offended by the term…in this instance a person of Japanese, Chinese, Korean or Indonesian ethnicity? Nope. They’re just as white as I am. In fact, they’re from the same town in Northeast Ohio that I was from. So the SJW in this case doesn’t have the cultural context either. To throw around such a hurtful and damaging term…yet argumentatively not having a leg to stand on in the matter…well, unfortunately, this just ends up being typical Social Justice Warrior.
So why drag down our daffy little site down this reality based path? I mean, this Spanish werewolf/samurai movie sitting on my desk isn’t going to review itself! But I feel this issue needs to be addressed because it poses a very real threat to a vital aspect of this website: humor. There’s an old saying when it comes to comedy, “If you haven’t offended at least someone, you’re not doing it right.” The point to humor, whether it’s the jester in the king’s court in the days of yore or the late night talk-show host of today, is to point the mirror at ourselves and remind us to never take ourselves too seriously. Let’s take that mirror analogy a step further. For a hypothetical, say the reflection shows a honking-great pimple on your nose. Some people would react, “Dude! I look like Rudolph! Ha ha!” while others might react with a shrug and making a mental note to pick up some zit cream from the local drug store. The Social Justice Warrior decries that the mirror and its unsightly image are oppressive and thus, not only should their mirror be destroyed, but ALL mirrors are evil and should meet a similar fate. All the while, the very real problem…the pimple? It’s still there. And more innocent mirrors? The ones whose viewers didn’t have a pimple? Well, they MIGHT show a pimple later…so, better safe than sorry. What’s sad is that people WAAAAAAY more qualified than me on this topic are noticing this disturbing trend too: Professional Comedians. Comedy legends like Jerry Seinfeld (hey, I don’t find him funny, but I can recognize that a lot of people do), Chris Rock and John Cleese have flat out said that the will not play at universities or colleges anymore…for fear of offending the student body and that which usually follows afterward. Sure, political correctness is nothing new…and it’s something we needed. But like any monster in a bad sci-fi film, it’s gone out of control and is devouring the masses. If we go all Marvel on it, PC is the new Galactus, with SJWs as the starving behemoth’s herald…finding new “causes” that need to be devoured. Should the beast continue to be fed, devouring more and more “causes”…real and imagined…then we find ourselves very close to where we are now, a population that cannot look back at itself and laugh…a people who cannot step back from the edge and think “you know, maybe I’ve gone a little overboard here”. Let’s consider some other populations that failed to take a step back and take a good look at themselves: I wonder if the Ottomans took a step back to look at themselves in the early 1900s? The Nazis sure had a singular purpose with little to no reflection, didn’t they? What about ISIS…not really seeing a lot of jokes there…unless of course there’s a cultural divide at work here and beheadings are the equivalent of a fart joke. The point I’m trying to make in a purposefully un-delicate manner is that if we as a people march ever forward without taking the time to reflect and chuckle at our own folly, well, that way lays hubris. And with hubris comes The Fall. As one of my favorite comedians, Craig Ferguson, has said…”Careful Icarus.” You know, with this very wordy treatise, I could have actually boiled this down to a simple line from Pixar’s “The Incredibles”: If everyone is special…then no one is. And that’s what SJWs fail to see. We need to be unafraid to point out things that are different and laugh at them. That laughter is the first best step toward acceptance. It normalizes…it turns something strange into something that can be viewed with a smile…taking away something that could have been feared and making it familiar. And we all become that much better…because the unique remains unique, it remains special…but we know it now, and it’s not so bad. The SJW approach is like trying to kill a cockroach with an atom bomb: This thing is offensive…stop it. End it. Forever. Thus, whatever does not conform to their view must be eliminated. That sound like any of those fun-loving groups I mentioned earlier? It’s time that SJWs were forced to do what many of us voluntarily chose to do…act like adults. Consider other perspectives. Look outside yourself and how you see the world. It might be funny. If it isn’t…and it’s still not to your liking? Well, if it’s in the form of a book or a movie or a website, no one’s forcing you to partake of it…stop reading, change the channel or close the web browser. Left unchecked, this ends up in a form of censorship that is unique to the Left and its inclinations toward intellectual elitism: This is too harmful to you…I should take it away until you’re ready for it. This argument has been used before. This movie is too violent for you, it might influence you to do bad things…I have to take it away from you. This video game is too violent, it might influence you to do bad things…I have to take it away from you. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that scientific studies that have been conducted on such things? Yeah, exposure does little to trigger violence…in most cases, there has to be something else, another cause or trigger.
But should that type of thinking continue, we’ll find ourselves at the same Big Brother that the Right is just as prone to bring us to, but for vastly different reasons.
The word “racism” carries a heavy weight these days, and as well it should. This is a behavior that we need to move past. But as a word with such weight, it needs to be treated responsibly. We can’t just bandy it about just because we don’t like the way something sounds on first blush. You wouldn’t send a nuclear warhead to Denmark just because you had a bad cheese Danish, would you? God, I hope not. You save the big guns for things you’ve researched thoroughly, weighed all the options and opinions and considered very, very carefully. The Social Justice Warrior doesn’t do that. Theirs is a knee-jerk reaction at a perceived wrong. And I want to emphasize the “perceived” there. As I pointed out in my examples, the citizens of Parma, Ohio weren’t offended by Ghoulardi…nor were the Japanese at Paramount’s Ghost in the Shell adaptation and yet, without looking at the context, Social Justice Warriors past and present sprang into action…where there was no issue, no grievance…nothing. And while they may have ended up looking like fools (well, at least to me anyway), the impacts of their overreactions end up being very real…and very damaging. We, as a society, are at risk at losing the ability to be able to look at ourselves and at the world and understanding that we’re such a small, small portion of it. The raging self-importance of the Social Justice Warrior puts us at risk to becoming very much like other groups that have impacted history…and not for the better. We need to be better at this. We need to step back from this precipice…and just…laugh. Laugh at just how stupid we almost became.
If you can do that, if you can look at things slightly askew, take something within the context it is offered [You know, from a website with a name that CLEARLY displays that tongue is firmly in cheek. – Ed.] and be willing to laugh with me here, you’re always welcome. If you find something that does offend you, please, talk to me via email at email@example.com or a direct message via twitter. I’d be more than happy to talk with you and have a conversation that leads to a better understanding for both parties. But if you’re going to go all Social Justice Warrior on me? If you’re going to swing around various “-isms” or “-phobias/-phobics/-phobes” without an understanding or appreciation of the weight of your accusations? Well, then by all means, you see that door behind you? Yeah, don’t let it hit you in the ass on your way out.