Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Name-Calling: All the Cool Kids are Doing It!

I've already updated everyone on the Comic Book Resources interview/Comic Geek Speak controversy, but just to provide a scorecard, the interview response that seemed to piss people off the most was when I said "I always get really frustrated with people who say 'I don't get it' or 'it just doesn't make any sense.' I just think that people who say that are just bad readers. They just don't know how to read. To be a reader, it's not just figuring out the obvious stuff, it's seeing the underlining patterns, seeing beneath the surface, seeing the symbols and themes, even if you don't have the background to analyze all those things." I also say that authorial intent doesn't matter in the interpretation of a text. You might disagree with my statements, with my philosophical belief about what makes a good reader, but here's how some posters at the Comic Geek Speak message board chose to respond, in order of appearance, and directly quoted:

(1) "This guy gives credence to the phrase 'Those who cannot do, teach.'"
(2) "He's a dick"
(3) His opinion is utter crap
(4) His dismissal of the author's intent based on what he reads into subjective work (ie. art) is idiotic
(5) He comes off as pretty didactic and even vain to me
(6) I can't reward that snotty attitude
(7) It looks like some one has been handing out literary degrees at the Troll academy.
(8) You sir, are nothing more than an affronterous coxcomb

I don't take that stuff personally--I find the whole thing ridiculous.

If I weren't talking about comic books in the interview, but I were talking about Shakespeare, or Joyce, or Pynchon, do you think posters at the literary message boards would have flamed me for what I said?

Why do comic book readers have such low self-esteem?


Anonymous said...

Its true! We are a low self-esteem bunch. I, for one, as a teen and pre-teen escaped into comics becuase I was bullied and my homelife stunk. Without comic books I surely would have become some sort of crook and not simply a misanthrope. I think what you said was dead on correct originally. I think comic readers, generally, are bad readers. Typically this is the marvel and dc lot. They only care about cradeling their Spider-man under-roos while they cry themselves to sleep becuase JMS ret-conned Spideys past or some crap. I think mainstream comics fans have alot more in common with Hubert Humbert of Lolita than they would admit. They are each striving to reclaim some lost, pristine love they had at a younger, more innocent time. Personally, I cannot condone their attitudes or bashing of you. I think they are regressive babies who need a swift kick in the existential ass so they can enjoy themselves more!

Anonymous said...

I just realized that what I wrote about mainstream comics intent to chase their childhood was a subtext they read into the comics they love oh so much. So, in fact, by their simple denial of your claim they are proving it correct. Not to mention, and this is a moutful, but denial of subtext is actually reading a subtext in the work itself. You must claim it is real to deny it is there. I hope that makes sense beyond my domepiece.

Jeremy said...

Again, Tim -- I'd like to make clear my problem was not with what you said but how you said it, and as far as I'm concerned the tempest in the teapot has been abated. (and, while I can't speak for anyone else, I suspect the roots of whatever vitriol you are encountering are similar).

I'm not going back on my initial impressions--I indeed thought it was not classy--but I respect your follow-up and, unfortunately, now it looks like you're feeling unfairly castigated. Which is probably true.

I think the sooner you let it lie, the sooner people will shut up about it and start talking about the content of the book rather than whatever's surrounding it.

JunBobKim said...

Wow, I don't get it... Is this another case of your morning-coffee-lacking duality? On the CGS forum, you apologize to Bryan... and on your blog, you are keeping a scorecard.
The only thing I really don't think you made yourself clear here on your blog... is what is it that you are really looking for? What is your purpose in all this? I just don't get it...

Anonymous said...

I don't see any discontinuity between what Tim has said here and said on the CGS boards. That he's perhaps less diplomatic in his own space than in someone else's is hypocrisy? Is that what whatever CGS person is trying to say? If so, I think that's another example of Bad Reading.

Tim, you went over there and -- like in your book -- explained things as plainly as possible. Really, I wouldn't have confessed to any error in phrasing, as you didn't make one. You defined for them "Reading." Under those reasonable parameters, the sort of people we were talking about in our interview (including particular CGS'ers) do indeed qualify as Bad Readers. It's not an opinion, it's not an attack, it's just a fact. And -- again, as you explained plainly -- it's something of which we are all guilty at some point or another, yourself included.

But many superhero fans are cut deeply when made aware of how much content they're glossing over (willfully or otherwise) in their supposedly harmless, escapist fantasies, and that's obviously the case here with the feed cancelation and the board's reaction to you. I think you're probably right when you characterize the phenomenon as a symptom of low self-esteem.

Timothy Callahan said...

I did apologize to Bryan. I didn't mean for him to feel personally attacked.

The "scorecard" here is just to show in imbalance between the philosophical stance I took and the personal attacks I received because of it.

My purpose is to tell readers what's going on and to add my thoughts on the matter. That's it.

Oh, and Anonymous, I HIGHLY recommend the Casanova podcast. It's really great. And I'm not saying that sarcastically. Klock and Fraction mostly dominate the discussion, and it's a fascinating two hours. Definitely listen to it.

Timothy Callahan said...

And I guess you could say my secondary point is that I see comic books as literature, and the statements I made, if they were said about literary works, would not have been personally offensive to anyone.

So why were comic book fans offended? Why do they personally insult people with opinions different from their own. From my experience, that type of behavior is consistent with low self-esteem. I could be wrong about that, and you're free to debate it.

Anonymous said...

Why shouldn’t Tim keep a scorecard? Not only does it say a lot about the listeners, but it says a thing or two about the hosts too. It’s not like they don’t routinely delete posts they don’t agree with. If they didn’t enjoy having their forum members calling Tim a dick or making derogatory comments about his level of education, they could easily delete those posts.

I think not carrying the CCL show on their feed after they said they would is a petty thing to do. It’s not the same thing as not wanting to debate Tim on the show. I certainly understand why they may feel as though they aren’t up for the task.

Peter said...

So, in your blog post, you present a lengthy quote of your initial statement. But when it comes time for the scorecord, you present snippets of quotes that will make this all juicy and controversial.

So how about a scorecord of your own comments in the same fashion:

(1) "so now you can attack me live, in person, on the internet"
(2) "let the barbs fly!"
(3) "I'll target a podcast for ridicule just so I can become famous!"
(4) "I'm a BAD promoter."
(5) "I'm a "badass""

"Directly quoted" I might add.

You said: "in imbalance between the philosophical stance I took and the personal attacks I received because of it." You mean the personal attacks you called for? Or did you forget "I want to stir shit up". This quoting thing is fun.

Curious that you don't mention all the posts of those members who agreed with you, who tried to engage you in discussion, who are now curious about your book. But that wouldn't be juicy reporting would it?

To the other "anonymous": if we really wanted to look good, wouldn't it look better for us to delete those posts that agree with Tim? Your argument can be summed up in my best playground speak: "Tim started it."

As far as the feed release of Tim's interview on CCL - perhaps Tim should turn his attentions to the person who fed him that information. Loose lips sink ships and all that. The debate that Tim is bringing up is one we've had on the show many times - with those authors/creators that don't bother themselves with pettiness. There are tons of other podcasts out there - go hog wild.

And unlike some of the comments above, I won't hide behind an anonymous tag.

Unknown said...

I am still curious as to how Bryan Deemer was misquoted - it's not even like it's something that's happened once or twice. It seems to be something that pops up fairly regularly on the show; something stepping slightly out of the bounds of what he's used to reading and he immediately and vociferously shuns it, usually with some variation of "I didn't get it" and "it was stupid".

So how was he misrepresented in any way?

Timothy Callahan said...

You'll notice that all of the quotes Peter pulled out from me are all self-deprecating. None of them insult anyone else.

So how is that in any way similar to the things I listed on my "scorecard."

Timothy Callahan said... wonders?

Timothy Callahan said...

And Peter, did you notice that all of the comments you quoted above from me are laced with irony and yet you seem to interpret them literally?

Do you think stuff like "snotty" and "vain" were used ironically by your CGS crew?

So if you can't understand irony, what kind of reader would that make you, Peter?

Streeborama said...

I occasionally post over at CGS as invisible_man. I love their show but I think the idea that the Geeks have blacklisted you from their show speaks poorly about them and I hope it is a decision that gets reversed once emotions cool down. There were a lot people directing name calling at you - but Peter did castigate them for so doing. Once a flame train gets started - there is simply no deterring it.

I'm personally sick of hearing about authorial intent and symbolism on that forum because whenever it comes up someone always shows up with a stop sign and says the topic isn't worth discussing and that people should either read comics for fun or deeper resonance - but there is no point in talking about it. That is simply a closed minded attitude and one that does the medium no good.

Anonymous said...

And unlike some of the comments above, I won't hide behind an anonymous tag.

Why do some of you so passionately care that I post my comments as Anonymous? Would it make one a bit of difference if I went by Larry, Bob, Stan, or SlapTickle44? I’m guessing not.

You do bring up an interesting word. You used the word “hide” . I can think of no better word to define what you and your fellow co-hosts are doing by refusing to discuss this matter with Tim on the show. Do you think he really needs the publicity your show would bring him? I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that the majority of your audience falls somewhere outside the intended demographics of his book. Sure, there may be a few of your listeners that would be open to something as urbane as Tim’s book, but a majority of your followers wouldn’t buy the book unless it had a picture of Power Girl breast feeding Batgirl on the cover.

I thought Tim was doing you guys a favor by offering to go on your show and discuss what he said in his interview on Comic Book Resources. Granted, it would be you six or seven or nine versus only him. I imagine even with those odds you guys would have a difficult time debating Tim on this issue. But to slink away from the offer and to not even try?

That’s just sad.

Anonymous said...

I think Tim's excerpted quotations really illustrate the venom here, but this just seems to come with the internet. It's not the first time, nor will be it be the last.

The internet is a phenomenal invention, but it can let people feel free to be relatively anonymously snarky, and it can lead to misinterpretations of tone, etc. Having met and talked to Tim personally, I keep thinking that anyone who thinks he's this lofty academic snob just wouldn't think so if they met him personally.

-- Julian Darius, Sequart Research & Literacy Organization