Stranger Than Fiction (Part 2)
"If you're not part of the solution, there's much money to be made in perpetuating the problem." ~ Demotivational Poster
In my previous article, I started talking about a number of recent news stories and celebrity scandals having to do with identity politics including Henry Cavill, Aziz Ansari, Jian Gomeshi, and Scarlet Johansson to name a few.
When last we left off, we were talking about the problems of visibility for marginalized people.
This segues into my next topic, which is about Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson taking heat for playing a disabled person in the new movie Skyline. I really like Dwayne Johnson. He's even featured prominently in my Portraits of Inspiration gallery cuz he's just an all-around awesome dude. Some of his movies are less than stellar; but much like ScarJo, you can't deny he draws a crowd with how much work he's been getting lately.
He even briefly toyed with the idea of running for President at one point, which would be pretty neat if it actually happened. So far, we've had two actors play the role of Commander-in-Chief and both (depending on your perspective) did an amazing job. If I had to guess, it's probably because they're outsiders, untainted by the machinations of the media-political complex.
At this point, much like Oprah, he'd be one of the few people who are charismatic enough to actually stand a chance at winning against Donald Trump. Too bad for the Dems he prefers making movies and being the marginalized people's champion than sullying himself with the role.
I say good for him.
But this recent incident is unfortunate because it's just more virtue signaling. The number of movies in which an able-bodied actor has played someone who was disabled is too high to count.
I'm pretty sure Samuel L. Jackson has been at least half of them.
Again, I don't see why this is a problem. It's just acting. It's not real. Yes, it's good to cast disabled actors and give them work, but we should be focusing on elevating those people instead of tearing others down. I talked about this in my Black Panther review wherein you had a great triumph with a nearly all-black cast and crew, but apparently that wasn't good enough for the LGBT community who had to chime in with their own cries of erasure.
You cannot win with these people.
And then folks wonder why things like Gamer Gate happen or why people think the progressive left is coming for their media. Why there's pushback against the perception that - and see if you don't agree with me here - activists are trying to shoehorn progressive narratives into every god-damned piece of media that comes out.
It certainly seems that way even if they're not.
As a writer, my take on progressive casting is that, if it works for the plot and doesn't affect the quality or undercut anyone, then I'm all for it. Unfortunately, a lot of people are single-minded in their view of the world. They are one-dimensional thinkers who can't hold multiple variables in their minds at a time and they can't process consequences beyond the immediate. It's sort of ironic since a lot of those people are on the left railing against systems.
Much like with ScarJo and the trans visibility issue, the progressive activists are fighting against their own cause. Skyline won't break any box office records, but I guarantee a lot of it's draw came from the fact that The Rock was in it and it would have tanked otherwise, leaving society poorer for not having the visibility of a narrative about the tenacity of a handicapped individual.
That would have been bad enough, but more insidious than that even is a pernicious mindset among the progressive left that works directly against the interests of less-than-able-bodied people in a more direct way.
Not surprising, as the left is used to using marginalized people to advance its own power.
Those of you who follow my blog know that I'm a fan and patron of Feminist Frequency and that I staunchly defend them against conspiracy theories and bullies. Likewise, you probably also know I have my disagreements with them too and point them out just as regularly. This is one of the latter. In a recent episode of their podcast, Anita and crew talked about this very topic with regards to Ghost from Antman and the Wasp, and I have to say it's highly problematic:
(Relevant part at 28:00 if it doesn't go automatically.)
Now, this is not to pick on them specifically. Again, I love Anita and her group. I think they are wonderful, caring people who mean well; but it's meant merely as an example, to help illustrate the sort of larger mindset at work within the progressive left. The notion that it's somehow more noble to prioritize the visibility of disabled people than it is to actually fucking fix the problem!!
It's one thing that I hate about Big Pharma too is this self-serving attitude that we should bilk people for money and power by keeping them sick and dependent. Do I think Anita et al are doing that consciously? No. And in the case of Dwayne Johnson specifically, he's making the best of a bad situation, using his celebrity status to bring attention to the issue so it's somewhat of a silver lining there.
Nevertheless this remains the wider M.O. in parts of the progressive left and the Democratic party.
I see it all the time on Twitter and, as a transhumanist, it pisses me off cuz, on the one hand, I'll defend trans people against attacks from the far-right by reframing the issue as a failure of technology. That gender dysphoria is a genetic problem leading to a hormonal developmental problem and a neurological problem within the womb, which then leads to gender identity issues later in life, rather than it being a conscious choice to commit self-mutilation due to LARPing as some are wanton to believe. I then point out that the only way to fix it is with further advances in technology.
Usually, this is met with intense levels of frustration.
I'll go and make that argument and then turn around to find people on the far-left making bullshit arguments like this about how trying to make people healthy and whole is a problem. That rather than help cure people of obesity, we need fat acceptance. Rather than use prosthetics to help people get out of wheelchairs, we need to mandate ramps on every public building. Rather than use genetics to overcome crippling diseases, or even improve people's beauty and fitness, that we should just be accepting of everyone because they're perfect just the way they are.
Bullshit! You know it and I know.
Stop lying to yourself, but more importantly, stop lying to the people you claim you're trying to help, because what you're doing is not actually helping them. It's just pretentious pandering. I'm sure if you asked a leukemia patient would they rather be in a movie or not have cancer, I'm about 1000% certain they'd opt for the latter.
Now, having said that, there are a lot of problems we can't yet fix because we simply don't have the technology yet. So, in those cases, is removing stigma and making people's lives more comfortable a good thing? Yes, of course. Is having realistic expectations a good thing? Also yes. But let's not pretend like that's the most important priority we as a society should hold for these people when a concerted effort to cure the underlying problem could be had if only we rallied more resources behind it.
To me, that's where our priorities should be, and good on The Rock for choosing to take that higher path by transmuting the negative publicity from this movie into becoming a voice for disabled people.
Is it any wonder why he made my Hall of Fame?
The rest of you, however, need to sort out your priorities and stop attacking people over every little thing. Just because someone has something - be it fame, fortune, resource, power, opportunities, relationships, whatever - doesn't necessarily mean they stole it from someone else. Life's not fair, but some people actually got where they are and have what they have cuz they deserve it.
Speaking of petty attacks ...
"Dark humor is like food, not everyone gets it." ~ Joke about communism
Can we as a society collectively come together and agree that the world is, by default, a cold, dark, lonely, hostile, uncaring, unforgiving place such that what makes virtue so valuable is its relative rarity? That not everything has to be so serious all the time, and in fact a little levity now and then actually helps stave off the madness and can even bring human beings together? That dark and edgy humor is often times a coping mechanism for people living under the grinding tyrannical heels of Mother Nature and Father Culture.
I'm a highly sarcastic and edgy person myself, which is helpful when you're an introvert who doesn't really like people. I have it on the good authority of a professional humorist that about a third of humans don't appear to have a sense of humor. Though I'm willing to accept the possibility that maybe that's just confirmation bias and everyone has one, we just disagree on what constitutes a good joke and what doesn't.
Different strokes for different folks.
As a child of the internet, I also understand that parsing sarcasm - or any sort of emotional intent for that matter - can be extremely difficult at times when speaking in text form. This is why, in ambiguous cases, I tend to make it a habit to assume the best motives in people until I have clear confirmation of what they meant. Whereas I'm not a mind reader, this usually involves asking the other person to clarify and then assuming they're telling the truth.
Novel idea in the age of hysteria, I know.
I have often been the victim of such misunderstandings myself, so I can sort of recognize when it happens to others. I also found that a lot of people aren't that bright when it comes to what they say online. When I first joined Facebook, for instance, I was still in my emo phase and posted all the time about how depressed I was and how much my life sucked. It didn't take long for me to notice, based on how much interaction I got, that my posts were off-putting to people.
Makes sense, right? Who would wanna be around someone like that?
So I committed to only posting (or mostly posting) positive stuff online while reserving my darker thoughts for my journal. It took some time for the rebranding to take effect, but I eventually noticed a turn around from adopting this approach. People started liking and sharing my stuff a lot more. I even made a few people's days and that made me feel better in turn. 38D
Of course, as I said, the world is dark and full of terrors. It can't rain all the time but it can't be bright and cheery either. That's boring. Too much light and you go blind. Too much sun and everything withers and dries. You need a balance of both. I contend that's why evil exists in the world, to stave off the madness of utopia.
Come we now to dark and edgy side of the Internet where lots of people apparently are too scared or insecure to tread.
Recently, James Gunn got fired from Disney's Guardians of the Galaxy 3 for posting edgy jokes about pedophilia. Or rather, it wasn't so much he got fired for a bunch of old jokes, so much as he got fired for the negative publicity those jokes generated when Mike Cernovich trawled his Twitter and dragged them out into the light.
Except, that's not exactly what happened either.
Turns out, a bunch of Mike's fans did that and sent them to him and he just reported on them, which is what a journalist does. Now the mainstream media is reporting how a bunch of white nationalists destroyed one man's career. Which is absurd because Mike's not a white nationalist at all. I should know. I follow him on Twitter. I also read his book, MAGA Mindset, which is more of a defense against the aforementioned hypocrisies of the progressive far-left than a treatise on white identity.
You'll note that Mike is listed among my heroes as well.
Said same hypocrisy was the subject of his reporting, since James Gunn supported the firing of Roseanne for her racist comments, and the boycotting of Laura Ingraham of Fox News. Well, it seems that cruel and cocky chicken has come home to roost as James is now under the gun of his own ideology.
Play stupid games, win stupid prizes.
This has become something of a mass hysteria with people praising the firing of others for offensive speech. You have Vox writing articles about how it's wrong to say positive things about Ben Shapiro - who is arguably among the most reasonable and self-aware conservative pundits out there (one reason why he's also in my gallery). People like Tom Arnold are now inciting violence while claiming to oppose it, Whoopie Goldberg flips out against Judge Jeannine Pierro on The View, and even Mark Hamill and Tara Strong, (both of whom I love) have tragically succumb to Trump Derangement Syndrome.
But this goes well beyond Trump, I feel. It's a cultural clash that's been brewing within our society for years, centered around issues of free speech and identity.
It's gotten so bad that even people like Styxhexenhammer - who are well-established, politically neutral edge lords - are having to self-censor in order to preserve their channels against algorithms that can't parse sarcasm but are designed to police offense and hate speech:
Maybe we shouldn't be so quick to condemn social media algorithms when it seems as though most normal people can't parse sarcasm either.
Now, I of course oppose pedophilia and racism and sexism in all their forms, but I happen to agree with Styx's assessment of this issue. Things have gotten out of hand and now it's not just one side hallucinating and crying wolf, it's people on all sides.
I gave out my own assessment of James' tweets this morning and judged them to be merely edgy jokes. Interesting that the two people who self-identify as the Switzerland of politics both independently reached the same conclusion.
As a Trump supporter, I didn't particularly care for Kathy Griffin's fake beheading, but I accepted her apology and moved on while defending her right to do what she did. I defended Samantha Bee when she made her "feckless cunt" comment, even though I despise her and never found her funny, not even when she was on The Daily Show, back when I still leaned left and thoroughly enjoyed watching Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert.
I even defended Sarah Silverman when she donned a full-on Hitler costume and most recently I condemn the firing of Rob Rogers for having made anti-Trump political cartoons:
Likewise, I defended Roseanne when she got fired, and Laura Ingraham as well. I defended Colin Kaepernick and the kneelers as having a right to protest. I didn't like the anti-Trump protests in London or the giant baby blimp or any of the anti-Trump, anti-gun marches in America, but I defended their rights as well. At the same time, I defended the corporations and networks and the NFL owners in their right to fire whomever they want for whatever reason they want and the private social media firms in their right to block whomever they want for whatever reason they want.
Do I like any of this stuff? No, but I defend it because that's what it means to have principles.
I don't like Nazis or communists or racists or sexists, ad nauseum either, but rights mean nothing if you aren't willing to extend them to people you dislike or even despise. It's what makes Western civilization superior to tinhorn dictatorships and regressive cultures in the second, third, and fourth world.
Doing the right thing sucks sometimes. It means putting up with shit you don't want to, but that's part and parcel of being an adult. Be glad you live here and not there.
I do all this because I, unlike a lot of people, have consistent moral principles that I live by - one of those being autonomy of the individual, which includes free speech. Being a free speech absolutist doesn't mean you have to like what someone says. It doesn't mean you can't oppose them or use your own free speech against them. It doesn't mean you have to continue supporting the opposition. It means, short of committing fraud of inciting violence, that you defend to the death the right of anyone to say whatever they want.
Yes, that includes offensive speech because offense is relative and if we all lived by the standard of it being okay to police speech, you'd very quickly find yourself on the receiving end.
Maybe you don't think so, but this business with these high-profile celebrities is a perfect forecast of what is to come and you won't wanna live in that world. Trust me. When all it takes is a simple accusation to destroy someone's life, because we are so willing to seek public approval that we believe it, what's stopping someone from doing the same to you?
Is this the sort of world you wanna live in? Cuz it's where we're heading.
This is not a partisan issue, either, at least not in the way most people think of it. There are indeed only two sides here but it's not left versus right. It's authoritarians versus liberty-lovers; and if you think you know which side you're on, check to make sure you're applying that standard to the people you dislike. If the opposition was in power, would you be okay with them using your own principles against you?
Judge not lest you be judged, as the saying goes.
You wanna play identity politics and make everything about race and gender? Fine, but then you give rise to the Alt-Right. You wanna go around saying punch a Nazi? Fine, but then don't be surprised when they start punching back or calling for Commies to be dropped out of helicopters, like they already do:
Would you be ok with banning Che shirts and Marxist symbols?
It works both ways, just so you know. If you call for banning all Muslims, don't be surprised when people start turning against Christians or atheists. After all, you're the ones playing stupid collectivist games while I'm the radical individualist in this equation.
Regardless, I'd rather people use their words, not their fists.
We have become such an outrage culture that all these million petty little nothings are starting to eclipse real issues, of which there are many in this world. Do you know what I think? I know you probably don't care, but I'll tell you anyway since this is my blog. I think the problem is, we spend too much time fighting. Playing defense, playing offense. We're too involved in the game, the war, whatever you wanna call it.
Too few of us step back and just observe what's going on in the wider world, or if we do, it's from a limited vantage point, so they don't see the whole picture. Too few people are secure enough in their own position, their own principles, to go to the heart of enemy territory and attack their opponent where they're strongest and see if they prevail. They imagine they'll be destroyed if they do that.
Or forget about attacking, or even seeing if your own defenses are tough enough to resist their weapons. How about just going there and standing around for a while and simply observing? See if they'll even notice you. Maybe they'll even welcome you into the fold with gratitude that at last someone is willing to be open-minded.
That's what I try to do, at least, and I'm still standing. I've changed my positions on a few things over the years, but it wasn't painful. No one died as a result.
But again, that requires self-awareness and a willingness to remove yourself from the game. To commit to ending the war in a way that both sides win, not just one. Most people, sadly, aren't looking to do that because most people, it seems, can't even imagine there is any other solution besides their team wins and the other loses.
I don't know about you, but I'm tired of playing petty identitarian games. But you all continue fighting against yourselves and against each other. I'll be over here watching from the sidelines.
If you're tired of shitty remakes and rip-offs, you might enjoy my book. It'll feel familiar, as it's like a lot of things you've probably seen before, while also refreshing in that it's like nothing else you've ever seen before.
What does that mean? You'll have to pick up a copy to find out. Also, if you like the work I do in helping to end the culture war, consider supporting me on Patreon. It really helps a lot.
May you each find love, peace, purpose, happiness, and will in your lives.