Monthly Archives: September 2014

#GamerGate and Revenge Porn

*Trigger Warning: This post will discuss subject matters such as harassment of a sexual and non sexual nature, rape, suicide, and revenge porn.*

Revenge Porn is defined as a form of sexual abuse that involved the distribution of nude/sexually explicit photos and/or videos of an individual without their consent. Revenge porn, sometimes called cyber-rape or non consensual pornography, is usually posted by an ex-lover or friend, in order to seek revenge after a relationship has gone sour.*

Zoe Quinn is an indie game designer in a mostly male industry and, for the last month, has become the target of harassment after her ex-boyfriend wrote in her words “a several-act manifesto about [her] alleged sex life.”** He claimed that she had traded sexual favors for positive reviews in her videogame, Depression Quest, which is a choose your own adventure style game that explores the nature of depression. The game, by the way, is playable for free. This claim has since been quickly debunked, but she has had her personal information spread across the web, been harassed and threatened, had nude photos of herself sent to her colleagues, and had her family and friends also harassed just for associating with her. She’s had strangers on websites such as reddit and 4chan fantasize about raping her and driving her to suicide. (For those who follow the link, there is a major trigger warning, but it is definitely worth reading.) These people seem to think that this woman they have never met deserves her comeuppance for an act that never happened. The #GamerGate was a Twitter hashtag that started out as a personal attack against Ms. Quinn and her family, but now claims to be about journalistic ethics in the gaming industry.

Sadly, Zoe Quinn isn’t the only one to suffer personal attacks as a result of revenge porn. Many people, often women, have had their lives destroyed by the phenomenon. People have had  to change their names, their job prospects have been ruined, have been stalked, and had friends and family harassed.

I could go on to talk about the lack of women in industries like gaming and comic books,  and how, even though we have come so far, we still have the belief that video games and comics are mostly for straight white men. I could easily talk about the hostilities women still experience in these industries and how that has contributed to #GamerGate, but I’m not nearly smart enough. I could also rant and rave about the rampant slut shaming in our society and how people somehow think its okay to fantasize about committing horrific acts of violence against a woman they’d never met just because they read a blog entry by her ex-boyfriend. I could speculate as to why people would stalk and threaten said woman and the people she loves, and try to destroy her life. I mean, you’d think they’d have a life of their own, right? Why waste so much energy on a random woman discussed in a blog post? But I won’t, because I honestly don’t know why someone would go out of their way to threaten and wish suicide on a game designer or an eleven year old girl. (Warning to those who follow that link, I do not take any responsibility for anything damaged in a rage after reading it, or the subsequent heartbreak you feel.) I could also wonder why jilted ex-lovers would post something as life destroying as that in the first place and rant about how wrong it is, but I feel that would be stating the obvious. I could say all of this, but reading what these people went through just leaves a hole in my heart. I’m not angry, I just feel really tired and so very sad.

Instead, I have three messages. The first is for the people who consider posting revenge porn. For you, I say, stop. Take a deep breath. After a bad break up, you may want to make your ex hurt as much as you did, but that is no excuse. Stop and think. You did care about them once, so show them this basic human decency in the interest of the love you once shared. If you’re still angry, remember that posting nude pictures without their consent is illegal. I would hope that remembering basic human decency would be enough though.

To the people who harass those who don’t agree with you, who hack into their personal information, and threaten the lives of those you’ve met online: you are the reason I write under a pseudonym. At the risk of sounding cliche, cyberbullying people like this doesn’t make you seem stronger, it makes you seem weak. Strength comes from compassion and forgiveness, not bullying. When you’re behind a computer screen, it’s easy to forget that the person that you’re criticizing is still just that, a person, but that is no excuse to threaten, harass, or wish harm on another human being. When you come across something online that makes you angry, get off line, spend some time with you family and friends, or go for a walk. Don’t do anything rash, especially if it means ruining someone’s life. And never, ever wish suicide, rape, or murder on someone. It should go without saying, but there are people have taken their own lives because they were harassed so much online. The Internet and humanity at large is capable of tremendous good and of tremendous evil, and, God help me, I still believe in the inherent goodness of the world. I may be naive, but it’s true. I can’t make you be civil online, but I all I ask is whether you want to be the hero or the villain of your own story.

And finally, to the victims: I know I’m just some stranger on the Internet and I cannot begin to imagine what you are going through, because I’ve never gone through it myself. I can only sympathize and lend a nonjudgmental ear if you feel like telling me your story. I just want to say that no matter what others tell you, it’s not you fault. Stay strong because there is always hope for a better tomorrow and you will pull through this. Do not be afraid or ashamed to speak up and get help because there are others who have been where you are. You are not alone and you are not forgotten. No matter how hard it gets do not let the harassment get to you.  You don’t know me, but I promise you this: life will get better. It may not seem true right now, but it always does.

*as defined by www.endrevengeporn.org.

**To hear Zoe’s story in her own words, click here.

If you or someone you know have become a victim of revenge porn, here is a website you can go to for help and information.

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Nilson Groundthumper and Hermy

Hello, I’m a unicorn. Imagine for a moment a world where Stan Sakai chose not to write Usagi Yojimbo. Once you’ve stopped sobbing in a fetal position from the horror of that thought, let me tell you about the adventures of another knight errant from the family of Leporidae and his unwit guinea pig sidekick. These are the adventures of Nilson Groundthumper and Hermy, and it’s a fascinating exercise in what might have been. Originally, Mr. Sakai intended to have their stories start out as a comedic anthology, and slowly turn into an epic fantasy as the stories became longer and more dramatic. Nilson, Usagi’s predecessor, would eventually become king. Hermy, his faithful companion, would eventually be kidnapped and taken to Japan, where we’d then meet a certain long eared ronin. The story would tell of the rise of the humans, and how, under the leadership of Lord Hikiji, they’d take over world of our anthropomorphic heroes. In the conclusion of this 2500 page novel, everyone would have died in a spectacular last stand. Alas, though, it was never meant to be, because Mr. Sakai decided he preferred writing about everyone’s favorite long-eared ronin instead. Thus, Usagi Yojimbo was born.

The trade collection of Nilson Groundthumper and Hermy is a fascinating read to Usagi fans for these reasons. It’s really interesting to compare the two titles, not necessarily to see which is better, but just to see the differences. While Usagi has comedic elements, it is, for the most part, a serious take on funny animals comics. Nilson is the reverse. Its anthology format reads like one of the funnier the breather issues for an Usagi comic. It has great comedic timing and jokes that made me chuckle even in the second read through. There are also some nice Easter eggs. For example, in one arc, Usagi makes a cameo in the very end, the writer himself makes a cameo, and Nilson says verbatim something Usagi says in another issue.

This story, and the author’s notes also explain certain aspects of Usagi’s world that didn’t make much sense, such as how Lord Hikiji could be human when the rest of the world is make up of animals. Hikiji is only shown once throughout the run, but his appearance makes a lot more sense now. I like to think that Nilson Groundthumper still exists in the same universe as Usagi.

There’s a distinct difference in style in the writing. Usagi is much quieter and more cinematic, a bit like an episode of Samurai Jack, but Nilson is more like the Smurfs. While Usagi can go an entire issue with little to no dialogue, the other is a lot more talkative. I’d be hard pressed to find a quiet page in Nilson Groundthumper, much less an entire issue; not that there’s anything wrong with that. It completely fits the tone of the series and what the writer was going for. Unlike its samurai counterpart Nilson is meant to be a comedic fantasy series, so the sillier tone works. It’s just interesting comparing the two. The world building is another major difference. While Usagi delves so deeply into Japanese culture that Stan Sakai has received a Parents’ Choice award for his careful research, this is a more typical European landscape. As stated before, I’m reminded a bit of the Smurfs when reading it. That being said, Nilson and Hermy do end up in some pretty unique kingdoms and situations that would never pop up on an Usagi story. When that happens, it’s normally played for some very good laughs.

For those readers who have never picked up Usagi, please, please, pretty please with sugar on top, do.  You will not regret it. But, you don’t have to read Usagi to understand Nilson. It has some adorable artwork and vibrant coloring that makes it fairly kid friendly. There is one exception though: in the background of an issue, there are some very scantily clad women, but what is happening would probably fly over the kids’ heads. It’s still definitely for younger readers, but there are enough parental bonuses and clever jokes for adults.

My one criticism would be Hermy. I’m sure that is Mr. Sakai had stayed on the project longer, he would have developed Hermy and made him much smarter over time, but at this point in the series, he was hit and miss for me. Sometimes he was adorable and hilarious, and other times he could get really irritating. In my Unconscious Webcomic review, I mentioned how Uncy’s sidekick Itchy is a hard character to write because he’s the type that could easily annoy the reader. The difference between these two adorable sidekicks is that Itchy has hidden depths. You see the way he is and you wonder what happened. You get his back story in bits and pieces, and what you see is horrifying. Hermy is just a simple soul, which has its charms, but he also tends to be too dumb to live, so it’s a good thing he’s cute.

Overall, Nilson Groundthumper and Hermy is highly recommended. For non Usagi fans, it’s a funny little fantasy story with great artwork and clever jokes. It’s something I’d be comfortable reading to younger audiences and just on my own.  For Usagi completionists, it’s an interesting look at the early career of Stan Sakai. Nilson Groundthumper and Hermy has all the elements of Usagi Yojimbo, but these elements are not quite as honed as in the latter. It’s still tons of fun and a must read, but it definitely makes you appreciate Usagi contemplative tone and ability to seamlessly transition from comedy to tragedy. So what are you waiting for? Read it now!

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Storyline: Homecoming

The front door of Kirin’s house burst open, and she stepped in, dragging her leather suitcase behind her. “Textbox, I’m home!” she called as she entered the kitchen. With a grunt, she hefted the suitcase onto the counter. “Textbox?” she called out again.

“Hey Kirin, check this out!” a familiar voice yelled as a her stuffed ninja turtle came tumbling down the stairs. Kirin’s jaw dropped as the doll stood up and held up it’s arms in victory. “He sticks the landing, and the crowd goes wild! Wooooo!” the toy said. Kirin stood in a slack jawed stunned silence. Seeing this, the ninja turtle coughed. “I said “and the crowd goes wild!” Why hasn’t the crowd gone wild? I mean, it wasn’t the most dignified entrance, but I’m still getting used to this whole having legs thing.”

“Textbox? Is that you?” was all Kirin could manage. The doll looked up, and even though, like its 2003 cartoon counterpart,  the eyes had no pupils, she swore it was rolling them.

“No, it’s the Easter Bunny in a clown suit. Seriously Kirin? Its almost like you don’t even recognize me.” Textbox hopped onto one of the kitchen stools.

“I just–I thought you couldn’t manipulate anything this big. I mean, I know you could work the TV, but I thought that was it,” she stammered, nervously brushing a dirty blond lock of hair from her round face. She sat down on the stool next to the toddler sized stuffed animal.

“I know. Retcons are stink. It’s almost someone is just making things up as they go along,” Textbox said. Kirin rolled her eyes and sighed.

“Textbox, stop leaning on the fourth wall and tell me how are you doing it,” she said. Textbox shrugged.

“I got bored watching TV, and I’m allergic to books, so I tried to see what I could do. For whatever reason, this doll was easiest to work. Anyway, how was your trip to fairyland?” Kirin laughed, almost hysterically.

“Word to the wise, never try to steal from a fairy king’s court. Let’s just say, I’m glad to be human again, and if you want to know what it’s like to be a mouse, it’s not fun. At all. Like, everything’s trying to get you, and it’s all so big, and twigs taste terrible. I got the book though,” Kirin said with a shudder. She pulled a pair of gloves from her pocket and put them on. “For protection, just in case it’s cursed,” she explained with an aside glance at Textbox. She then carefully removed the book and placed it in the counter. It was ancient and leather bound, with the title in golden calligraphy. Below the title, there was the engraved image of an owl holding a snake in its beak.  The pages were yellowed with age, and had the woodsy aroma of old ink. Even though the pages may or may not contain secrets that would drive a person mad just by reading them, Kirin couldn’t help but admire the craftsmanship. “Can you read what the front says?”

“Sure. It says one ring to rule them all, one ring to find them, one ring to bring them all, and in the darkness bind them.” Kirin groaned in annoyance. “Do I look like I can read Eldrich abomination?”  She sighed.

“Fair enough.” She squinted at the symbol, which felt oddly familiar.

“What’s up? You look confused. Or constipated. Confused and constipated?” Textbox asked. Kirin shrugged.

“I’m just trying to remember where I’ve seen this symbol.”

“Maybe you should just call Mulder and Scully?” Suddenly, Kirin’s brown eyes widened in recognition.

“Textbox, you’re genius!” she exclaimed as she jumped down from the stool and ran upstairs to her room. She pulled her box of miscellaneous junk out from under her bed. On top of the box was her copy of Marked. With a look of disgust, she tossed it into the corner of the room and rummaged through it with a mad fervor. Unbeknownst to her, a shadow moved across the corner, causing the book to vanish into thin air. Kirin’s hand closed around her quarry, and she held it up triumphantly. “I found it!” she yelled.

“Found what?” Textbox asked. Kirin jumped and looked around. Textbox had apparently abandoned her ninja turtle for the moment.

“You remember that alien that attacked us last fall? You know, the one that looked like that love child of a bat and Bigfoot?” she asked, barely containing her excitement.

“Yeah, what about it?” Kirin opened her palm, revealing two halves of a gold coin. Engraved on the coin was the same symbol.

“This was on the creature when we captured it, and now the same symbol’s popping up again. Coincidence? I think not! I’ll go call Lilly and Eli.” She rushed downstairs to make her call, Textbox close behind. The shadow stayed hidden, biding its time. When it was ready though, it knew exactly what form it was going to take.

 

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