Learning From The David Goyer Mess

A column article, Mission: Professional by: Steven Savage

So let's go where this all started. The podcast called Scriptnotes included an interview with David S. Goyer - who is writer and producer on Sandman, writer on justice League, tapped for a Superman sequel.

The host suggested rather colorfully that She-hulk was intended as a kind of male fantasy.  Goyer then suggested she was intended to be a sexual partner for the Hulk (despite being cousins), and meant to appeal to geeks.

Now having insulted a character that was popular, he then discussed the Martian Manhunter that led into a crude She-Hulk joke, and insulted geeks by suggesting those who heard of the character were probably virgins.

As you may guess, people reacted to this mix of sexism, anti-geekery, and disrespect rather forcefully.  Just a sample:

There's a lot to learn here relating to geek citizenship ( as well as the general lesson of "don't be an a-hole."). Let's break it down.

We Can Hear This, You Know That?

As is often noted on the Daily Show, people know you're being a complete ass on tv, podcasts, what have you because we are listening to it.  In fact we're not only listening we're burning, copying, remixing, and reposting.  Making such clueless, insulting (and fact-free) statements isn't a casual thing - it means your general moronicism is broadcast across the world.

Everyone's eye is upon you these days if you stand up and shoot your mouth off.  That's a good time to ask yourself how you're communicating, what you're saying, and maybe if you're being an idiot.

Especially, as I've said endlessly, you're a geek because we are in the spotlight.  Hell, we build the spotlight.

Takeaways:

  • Geeks should cultivate more awareness of, well, awareness.
  • Remind people (and ourselves) that if you say something publicly that insults a lot of people and annoys decent folks maybe reconsider what you're saying first.  In case.
  • The fact we have so many awareness options means we can also make folks aware - of things like a known author being a jerk.

When We Talk Privilege, This Is What We Mean

"Checking your privilege" has become an issue lately; essentially that people should realize that folks have unearned benefits (both positive and in lack of negatives) due to race, class, gender, etc.  It's an important issue as people can get distorted ideas of the way the world works, of how other people function, and of the challenges folks face.  When you drain it of the overheated rhetoric (oft from the privileged) it's really admitting a core set of truths - some people get unearned advantages and we need to consider what that means for society, ethics, and civilization.

The fact Goyer could shoot his mouth off and insult his audience may be a good example of privilege; he thinks he can say these things with no repercussions and/or he's so awesome he can (and he must be right).  There was a peculiar element of douchebag dudebroism in his statements, so I'm going to assume both.

This is a grand example of privilege.  This can be used to illustrate problems in geek culture and culture in general.  I'm also curious as to what this will do to his career - I certainly have no plans to see Batman And Superman's Insanely Long title at this rate and think his insulting of a character and of fans is grounds for dismissal.

Try to imagine someone else in another industry making these kind of statements publicly and experiencing no repercussions.

Takeaways:

  • This is a good chance to analyze the role of privilege in peoples lives and how it backfires.
  • We should ask if privilege has any unique manifestations in geekery that affect addressing it.
  • I think pushes to get Goyer to apologize and/or take him off of the film and other titles is entirely appropriate.  He was vastly out of line on several levels.

The Gods Must Be Jerks

Just because you're high up, well-paid, etc. doesn't mean you're a good person, or even talented or aware.  Actually you may just be lousy at what you do.

I've remarked before there's an Omnicompetence issue in geekery, and this is a good reminder of the falsehood of such an attitude.  It's always a good reminder when some high up known person indicates they probably don't deserve the position.

Takeaways:

  • Hero worship can be a distorter.  Keep people's imperfections in mind - and our own.  This keeps us from having unrealistic expectations - or thinking we're so great.
  • As Geeks are ascendant, we may have many more "fallen gods" in the years to come.

We Can Be Our Own Worst Enemies

Watching Goyer make fun of geeks who know who Martian Manhunter is being virgins is a reminder that in many cases we geeks can be our own worst enemies.  You've probably been there:

  • Perhaps its how we throw others like us under the bus so we can be cool people.  We make fun of ourselves not with self-awareness but with a bully's approach to punching down.
  • Perhaps it's because we don't like those people and are glad to make fun of them - and forget we're connected to them.  Old fashioned bias and in-grouping.
  • Perhaps it's our insecurity so we turn on each other as opposed to fixing a problem.
  • Perhaps you've seen this, when one of our number ups and insults us and makes us look bad.

Either way, many is the time geeks can be our own enemies, highly inappropriate period, but worst in an age of cultural and technical ascension.  Turning on each other is not just bad in general, but limits what we can do, limits what we can achieve, and insults our heritage.

Takeaways:

  • We need to not just emphasize the geek community's need for inclusiveness, but also on not turning on each other.
  • I'd like to see more geek pride in the positive sense.  I get the impression there's still some stigma.
  • These would be good subjects for a convention panel.  Just saying.

So, What Should Goyer Do

In closing, let me state what actions I think Goyer should take.

  • First, he should apologize to the creators and writers (in general) of She-Hulk.  He cast aspersions on them.
  • Secondly, he should apologize for the virgin joke.
  • Third, in the above apologies he should honestly state why he did these things.  It's not an excuse, but it makes his thought processes clear and and may help others avoid similar behavior.
  • Fourth, he should make a community-oriented gesture appropriate to his mistake.  Donate some money to a comic history book or museum.  Help sponsor an inclusive writing or art program.
  • Fifth, frankly, he should step down from writing the film, though if he makes sincere apologies and perhaps even asks for input he may have the chance to making a real difference by writing Wonder Woman well.

Any thoughts?

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