06 December, 2010

isn't that a cliche?

Oh my gosh tumblr pretended to be back for one minute, but it really wasn't and now I have to make dumb posts on my important blog. (I know this blog isn't actually important but I refer to it as my "important blog" sometimes.) For some reason I was tweaking out on how much I love Chase Stein from Runaways even though I haven't been into Runaways for a really long time, but this is how I felt about it when I was into it:

picture of me three years ago holding some issues of Runaways and looking super excited
(circa three years ago)

And I was thinking about the fact that I stopped respecting Joss Whedon when he wrote some issues of Runaways and he portrayed Chase as liking comic books and basically talking like Xander Harris. Which is like--Victor Mancha could have had all those lines. But it seemed like Joss Whedon's understanding of Runaways was just: oh, it's just like my stuff because they're teenagers with superpowers or whatever, so I'll just write all of them as talking like my characters, and all the dude characters will be Xander, and all the girl characters will be Willow and Buffy.

I mean, I guess that in theory there's nothing wrong with only being able to write one kind of dialogue, but I feel like if you are that way, then you shouldn't write in other people's universes if they have characters who don't talk like that. But it's seriously not just my ridiculous love for Chase talking. Well, it is. But to me the way Joss Whedon wrote Chase indicated something deeper and it got on my nerves.

Basically, I guess Runaways is a geek-centric comic in that most of the main characters are geeky/alternative in some way. And I think this is sort of what makes Chase like my favorite comic book character of all time. Let me explain. I feel like a character like Chase (who is introduced as a "dumb jock," and is a lot more than that; but that description never stops being true) is normally only presented sympathetically in really mainstream narratives, which tend to not have a ton of depth and tend to portray geek characters stereotypically. Brian K. Vaughan, the incredibly baller person who wrote Runaways, sort of decenters Chase from being the character we're supposed to identify with (which he would be in a mainstream narrative) but still portrays him with a lot of depth.

Chase reminds me of my favorite person from high school, John M. John was a jock, and he was dumb. He said dumb stuff about me being gay. He made gross jokes. He was also one of the best friends I've ever had, and he was an outsider in his own way. I feel like writers, especially genre writers, tend to be geeky/alternative and don't portray "dumb" or non-alternative characters in a compassionate way. Although I guess in a lot of ways I am Hipster Scum, I just don't really identify with the value of rejecting people who aren't intellectual or aren't alternative. I can't imagine feeling that way. I mean, maybe it's because I'm disabled or something (see you guys, I got it in there somehow!) but I try to relate to people based on how I get along with them emotionally and not based on their subculture or what they want out of life. Wow, I sound like an asshole--I mean, I can certainly be a dick and cut myself off from people for other stupid reasons. But I guess I just get annoyed by people who are anti-anti-intellectual and I got irked with Joss Whedon because I realized that he was maybe that way.

And now I'm going to pretend to be in class.


  1. Hm. I don't reject people for not being intellectual on principle or anything, but I guess it's an important part of how I relate to people. It's not that I don't like people who I can't relate to intellectually or whatever, but it basically never happens that I feel very close to them, even if I'm fond of them; familiarity is about as good as it gets.

    I mean, it would probably be better if that weren't true, but I guess that's just the way things are for me.

    (Mind, I do agree with the part about writing and not always portraying sort-of unintellectual characters unsympathetically just by default.)

  2. Really? I mean are you close with any nonverbal people?

    I guess--to get more disability-centric--sometimes I wonder if the whole shiny aspie thing comes out of people with an Asperger's diagnosis belonging to the anti-anti-intellectual subculture and therefore not being able to relate to severely disabled people who aren't able to fit their model of an intellectual (who may not fit the model of an anti-intellectual either, but never mind). I'm not saying you are like this of course. You don't strike me as elitist or anything.

    And I do think there's a difference in how you relate to people who you do or don't relate to intellectually. Although I think a lot of this is social pressures, I do feel weird about the fact that I'm not in contact with a lot of people with more severe disabilities who I have worked with and genuinely liked as friends; and I am almost completely out of contact with John M, who I really miss. It's just weird when you can't really "make conversation" with someone about the same things.

  3. You're very wise. I identify with the point you're making. When I was a teenager I was surrounded by people who were "dumb", violent, homophobic etc and my only access to alternative culture was via the media, in isolation. I sort of built up this naive fantasy image of what "alternative" people must be like and when I finally got actively involved in a more intellectual-based alternative world it was a really crushing disappointment to discover that in its way that culture had as many prejudices, and was in some other ways as repressive for me as the culture I grew up longing to escape.

    In a lot of cases it's sad to see that the people at the fore of alternative communities are the people who were bullied at school, so they set up their own community with specific etiquette and hierarchies to (perhaps subconsciously) experience the sensation of being the popular kids. Only you're judged on liking the "right" bands or adopting the correct cynically intellectual manner or something instead of say, being good at sports.

    Sadly though I must admit, I do find it harder to communicate with less "intellectually" minded people. This isn't because I feel superior or antagonistic to them, but to be honest because they make me nervous. I get on great with young kids and people with intellectual disabilities. But in my younger days I was considered stupid and mentally subnormal by people who in retrospect weren't too bright themselves; as an adult I have real difficult expressing myself in a concise and straightforward way. I think my natural personality comes across as trying too hard to be verbose and witty (I was worried I'd done this in our first youtube interactions and made you think I was an ass, sorry!) but it's really a defence because I find the basics of prosaic A-to-B communication such a challenge.

    I think my experiences with being misunderstood have got it into my head that you have to be all intellectual and liberal minded to understand my ASD, impairments and by extension me. I need to remember that there's lots of other ways to understand and relate to an individual than intellectually and analytically (how I tend to react to people), I just need to have more faith in people I guess. I'll try and let your post inspire me to do this and open up to a wider variety of minds.

    Wow, I'm sure this epic thought-vomit has gone light years away from your original point to the point of hijacking, so I'll close by saying I'm a Marvel Comics obsessive and I never got around to reading Runaways, what’s up with that?

  4. I don't really know any nonverbal people.

    Probably a lot of it is like what Death of a Ladies' Man said about being nervous, although even little kids kind of make me nervous unless I've known them for a long time. So I guess it's more about not being able to react to people in the way that comes easiest than that I'm worried they're going to be mean or something.

    I can see this is kind of a problem, though. I'm just trying to explain more than justify anything, y'know?

    That's still a pretty silly thing to sort of base a subculture on, though. And I think even then a lot of it is about showing how intellectual you are instead of just being intellectual. (Well I guess I'm sort of talking about hipsters here, although it probably applies to some other subcultures too.)

  5. ...There's also that a person can be fairly smart and still not fit into any culturally accepted "intellectual" slot. And that a lot of people who are smart in the sense of knowing big words and having read a lot of complicated books by French people and being able to go around quoting Derrida and looking down their noses at you just to make sure you know exactly how smart they are don't actually have much in the way of wisdom or perceptiveness or the ability to consider situations in something like an objective way. And that some people are bad at academics AND bad at sports AND not remotely street-smart, but maybe they still have valuable insights and skills anyway. And even if they don't, that doesn't make them automatically worse, happier, or less psychologically complex than more intelligent people. And that for every stereotypically socially awkward, shy, absentminded, scruffy-looking "genius" there are probably at least two attractive, charming, confident, organized "geniuses." And that a person who gets bad grades isn't dumb by default. And that a person can be smart when she's in, say, Biology and stupid when she's in Physics.

    I mean, there are a lot of things that neither pop culture nor subcultures that buy heavily into the idea of being "smarter" than the general populace take into account!

    And, I don't know, I used to be really into that "I prefer *intelligent* people" line, but then I realized that what I actually like are people who are genuinely curious about the world around them and willing to question-- or at least tolerate other people questioning-- social norms and values. Which, heck, describes most two-year-olds (not a group known for their erudition).

  6. ^ fantastic post, this topic has really got me thinking.