2017/05/10

Why Comics Stopped Trying

BatCap

Under the able editorship of Jeffro Johnson, the Castalia House blog and the Google Plus account which he also curates have grown into an impressive meeting of the geek minds. Recently, the Supreme Nerd Intelligence deliberated the perennial topic of why American comics have lost their groove.

We open with Jeffro himself, who made the following comment on a G+ post about the SJW convergence of SFF:
If you want people to employ traditional virtues in service of civilization, they first have to be able to imagine them. Heroism and romance were suppressed specifically to make it easier to destroy a people. The poindexters hold loyalty in contempt and sneer at sacrifice. They think goodness is for chumps. And they have held the reigns of culture for decades.
A CH reader left this trenchant reply to Jeffro's comment:
This, right here, is why the iconic comic lines are dying. Captain America, and Superman, are at their best when they are demonstrating the best ideals that we, as Americans, can aspire to. Those ideas include standing up for liberty, dedication to family, discipline and hard work, and a basic “can do” world view pared with a cultural orneriness that drives one to individual achievement and self-sufficiency.
The current crop of comics writers simply can’t imagine this. They cannot imagine anything good or inspiring in America, projecting their own failures and insecurities and insufficiencies on the culture as a whole, without realizing that they should have been among those propping up such icons.
The largest icon, of course, in this trope is Jesus. They can’t imagine him either.
I’m not a Christian. But you have to be daft not to credit Christianity’s influence on Western culture and (frankly) dominance in the world.
But they can’t imagine that. Reason number two is because of their self-imposed lifting of hypocrisy as the “ultimate” sin. It is better to not have a code at all than to have one and fail to live up to it. This is reflected in the method by which they try and tear down icons – hell, they even said it in Spider-Man 1 (Toby MacGuire), “the thing people like best is to see a hero fall.” (Paraphrased). They cannot fathom that the (a) the purpose of a code, even an unreachable one, is to set a goal for all people to strive to achieve, and (b) that you can’t live up to it all the time is because we are flawed, fallen, and human. However, (c) that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t stop trying.
As a people, a country, and a world, we’ve stopped trying.
It bears pointing out that the commenter has identified the bait and switch at the core of the Morlocks' moral nihilism, apparently without realizing it.

He's correct that many high priests in the entertainment industry death cult have cast off objective morals to avoid accusations of having committed the last remaining sin: hypocrisy.

What they miss, due to a (likely purposeful) corruption of language, is that hypocrisy is not striving to hit the mark and missing. It's arbitrarily setting one target for yourself and a different target for others.

Isn't it interesting how moving the goalposts like this enables SF SJWs to continually set up double standards while a priori absolving themselves of hypocrisy?

Back in Jeffro's G+ thread, Tomas Diaz sums up the case with a superbly Scholastic closing argument.
There's a dictum in Thomistic philosophy which goes, basically, that there is nothing in the intellect that is not first in the senses. You can't know something unless you've first experienced something. You can extrapolate certain things, yes, but you need that primary experience to do so.
For the Thomist, the imagination is nothing but the internal senses. Stories, history, poetry are formative because they give to our imagination, the internal sense, what our intellect can then abstract. This is why, in the Catholic sphere, perhaps the most important of personal practices after prayer and reading of scripture is devotion to the Saints. These give to our imagination the model of being a Christian.
Science Fiction and Fantasy, at it's highest, are exactly this practice (minus, though not contrary to, religion proper). They give to our imagination those virtues and values which form us. The real danger in Hard-Bud Sci-fi is in diminishing the gift to the imagination of the properly humane values in favor of inspiring mathematical and technological "wonders".
This is one of the reasons I think the push against message-fic needs to be tempered. We don't want message-fic which is little more than warmed over didaction (looking at you Lewis) and especially not message-fic which is contrary to wholesome reality (looking at you, modern SF "literature"). But we do what messages in our fiction - messages that don't try to bash our heads with facts, but rather enflame our imaginations with the True, the Good, and the Beautiful, the virtuous, the holy. This need not mean "sanitization" (looking at you, "Christian fiction"), but can include the darkness entailed in this difficult endeavor (but not the denial of it's worthwhileness, looking at you, Grimdark).
As the International Lord of Hate so aptly said, go ahead and put a message in your story, but put fun first!

It's the same guideline that I've committed myself to following in the Soul Cycle.

@BrianNiemeier

17 comments:

  1. > But we do what messages in our fiction - messages that don't try to bash our heads with facts, but rather enflame our imaginations with the True, the Good, and the Beautiful, the virtuous, the holy.

    But you see, for the SJW's in SF&F the message fiction they're promulgating IS their true, good, beautiful, virtuous, and holy. Diversity and equality in all things is their highest virtue and calling.

    They even have an ultimate evil. An eternal evil which must always be fought and can never be redeemed, in the form of the white male and his society.

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    1. You're correct, which explains why SocJus is a Christian heresy.

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    2. This is definitely my optimistic Thomist talking, but I do think the SJW message has a major flaw in that it is contrary to reality.

      In the discussion of "what went wrong" in genre fiction (comics, books, movies, etc), I don't think the importance of the technological revolution is talked about enough. How many reprints of the old stuff was around for people to read after, say, 1970? Not many as publishing wanted new stuff to push out. And how many now? Well, we're finally getting a chance to read the old pulps without access to the physical collection.

      This is important because, I contend, it gave the SJWs the needed "blank canvas" to put forward their ideas to a public that wasn't equipped with the good ole stuff to bash it back. We take for granted access to old imaginative works, but this wasn't the case 10 years ago.

      We should never make our enemy out to be more powerful than they are (an Ignatian dictum when dealing with the devil and all his wiles). Doing so is what gives them strength. The need is less to point out how heinous they are, but to simply recognize them for what they are - childish tantrums against reality.

      The greatest argument against the morlocks and SJWs is a proper reading of Burroughs, Howard, Tolkien, and Lewis (Space Trilogy, I'm ambivalent on Narnia) and their true heirs finally now arising. Reality is too radiant to lose out when not hidden from view.

      Toppling this tower of babylon will be easier than we think. The problem is whether it's too late to get out from the shadow of its collapse.

      And for the record, I really don't like calling what the morlocks do Social Justice. Leo XIII and the whole Social Justice tradition of the Catholic Church (We did it first!) would declare anathema on the communist, anarchist, atheistic lot of them.

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    3. This is a good point. If I want to read old stories of Captain Marvel or The Question, I have to pay obscene amounts for overstuffed collections or troll the second hand market. But there are no digital options for these old series. Pulps, music, movies, and video games, don't have this issue since there are digital options for them.

      But, you are correct. It's not Social Justice. But this is the name they first called themselves (do not believe the revisionism, I was there and saw it) and it is the name that aggravates them the most. That is the only reason it sticks.

      I do not consider it proper Social Justice, either.

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    4. Read any Black Bloc site that gives Antifa after-action reports. They used to be wall to wall crowing about their string of victories. Now it's all lame, sniveling excuses about how construction fences and not knowing fight song lyrics are to blame for their failures.

      "And for the record, I really don't like calling what the morlocks do Social Justice."

      Neither do I. But I recognize that neither side of the culture war cares what I think of the accepted nomenclature. Much like indulgences, the Inquisition, and other intrinsically good ecclesial terms, social justice has become a curse and a byword thanks to secular propaganda.

      No one but the minority of non-heterodox Catholic academics think of social justice as anything but intersectional feminist and cultural Marxist boilerplate.

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  2. Am I the only one around who has read "the abolition of man"? Seriously guys, it's sjwal written half a century ago, perfect prediction of the modern age. All y'all are doing is re-proving its thesis. ;)

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    1. Of the two, I've only read SJWAL.

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    2. It's one of those books, like Orthodoxy, that will have you wondering why nobody took the writer seriously. Everything he said was going to happen, happened.

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    3. It would seem that Vox has succeeded where Lewis failed.

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    4. Full text.
      https://archive.org/stream/TheAbolitionOfMan_229/C.s.Lewis-TheAbolitionOfMan_djvu.txt

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    5. It's not failure to tell the truth to people who are determined not to listen. Ask Isaiah.

      Lewis told people the bank they were dancing on was slippery, and they would end up in the deep water. Vox is telling drowning people what that stuff in their lungs is.

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  3. I was going to make a post, but it once again spun out into its own topic.

    http://wastelandandsky.blogspot.ca/2017/05/aware-of-dark.html

    I have to learn to keep on topic.

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    1. Intriguing. One reason for your higher tolerance of grimdark might be that self-aware storytelling is actually more postmodern.

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    2. Postmodernism is a labyrinth of fun-house mirrors. No matter where you look, you see yourself distorted and in the center of it all. It's all about how special you are.

      It's the same issue with message fic. It's not about the story, the ideas, or the characters, but about what the very special message is. It's no longer about the audience at that point.

      It might be an issue of creating to connect versus creating to reflect.

      Or I might be spewing nonsense because it's late. Who knows?

      "Pop Will Eat Itself" really was the most prophetic band name ever. Modern pop culture is filled with remakes, reboots, re-imaginings, and relaunches. Maybe if they would stop looking in a fun-house mirror all the time they might get a clue.

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  4. I object to Tomas's characterization of Lewis's fiction. LEwis was an entertainer first and foremost - there is a quote on the blog of the estimable Tom Simon where Lewis himself says that if fiction does not entertain, whatever else it does, it failed its primary purpose. Lewis wrote message fiction, true, but it was always, but if it was fiction, he always, always aimed to entertain; he never wrote anything without that primary goal in mind. Not the Chronicles, not The Great Divorce, not even The Screwtape Letters.

    It's the reason his supposedly didactic fiction holds up so well - he never sacrificed entertainment for message. SJW's do; look at "Jessica Jones". The season ends with Jessica having undergone no character development - this being "realistic", but also bad writing. They strove for "What would 'really' happen" and failed to complete a character arc, intent as they were on portraying that message - and the show was worse for it.

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  5. (Tomas's main points are more than sound, however.)

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