‘It’s Not Real’

So what’s all the fuss about then? Why all the complaints about lack of female characters (and non-white characters, and gay characters and yadda yadda)? Why is it such a big deal, why all this PC stuff? No one’s going to be affected that much by a comic.
It’s just comics. They’re not real.
You’ve probably seen or heard that particular argument before, and also about film, cartoons, RPGs, whatever medium you’re into. Issues of representation just don’t matter and that fiction we pay money to experience, why that just has no effect on us. The way we think about women and what they can do, or about racial minorities, the stories we tell about them (or about the lack of them) will never really effect how we think about them in real life.
Except in Volume VI of Titan’s Charley’s War trades, writer Pat Mills recounts meeting an ex-squaddie who joined the army because he grew up reading war comics. He also recounts meeting two men from ‘traditional military families [who] didn’t enlist’ because they grew up reading Charley’s War and its brutal depictions of warfare. Grown men picked their careers because those silly comics made it look cool or made it look horrific.
Except that Dr Mae Jemison, the first African-American woman in space, has cited Uhura on Star Trek as a reason she wanted to become an astronaut. And NASA hired Uhura actress Nichelle Nichols to recruit women and ethnic minorities, capitalising on her influence from Trek.
Except that Weird Fantasy #18’s Judgement Day!, taking on contemporary segregation through metaphor and then ending with a clear symbol of real-life segregation ending, was universally praised by readers as something that hit them hard. A school principal asked for copies for his school. Only one critical letter arrived, decrying EC Comics because ‘the North and South are like they are, so why not leave well enough alone!’… while other southerners praised it for what it had done.
Except that the group Racebending has done surveys to see what drew fans to Avatar: The Last Airbender, a cartoon where everyone is Asian or Inuit, and comments from non-white fans cite things like ‘It was fantastic being able to spot things from my own ethnic background on the show, which is something that I hardly ever get to see’. In response to the film, which cast Caucasian actors to play the three leads, one fan notes ‘I lost that self esteem’. One states that growing up, ‘I thought there was something wrong with me and wished to be Caucasian myself’ because that was all she saw on telly.
Except when reviewing MTV’s old cartoon Daria, Jezebel’s Margaret Hartmann recalls growing up with Daria as the only TV character she could truly relate to, a smart female character that was having experiences that she could recognise from her own life. And that the show ‘provided me with the sort of social guidance that allowed me to stay true to myself’, leading to her sticking with her best friend in the face of ‘social suicide’.
This is a list that could go on and on and on. What we see, read, listen to, and generally absorb from the media around us has an impact on how we think. At a young age, that’s even more important. Kids and teenagers come out thinking ‘I can do that’, ‘this is the right thing to do and it can be done’, ‘this stuff is possible‘. Or, in the case of young white boys, come out looking at things in a way they hadn’t before, or even just thinking ‘hey, that character’s badass!’ when looking at a character who isn’t a white male.
But of course, fiction isn’t real so none of it matters.
Except when the blog Crimitism took issue with Warhammer 40,000 retconning a black Space Marine platoon into white people who had been mutated into ‘daemonic’ looking dark skinned mutants, another blog went out of its way to decry Crimitism as talking ‘crackpot conspiracy theory kind of bullshit’. It went out of its way to bring up half-understand pseudo-facts about skin colour mutations and England’s racial demographics to try and prove the blog wrong. And then it ended with saying it’s just a game, ‘don’t take it too seriously’.
Except fans on the Internet have crawled out to complain about a prominent Muslim woman character in Captain Britain and MI:13, or there being too many black characters in Dwayne McDuffie’s JLA run (two of them).
Except Bill Willingham allegedly wanted to ‘gun down those girls’ who asked for a dead superheroine to get a memorial case like a male hero had received.
This is another list that goes on and on and on. Why is all this ‘PC stuff’ such a big deal to you, guys?