Polaris and future challenges

I plan to make this type of post only once. We’ll see if I need to make it again.

We’re on the cusp of some very good things for Polaris/Lorna Dane. She’s about to star in Gifted, played by a highly enthusiastic actress. She might have a shot at more of a comic book presence. Next year is the 50th anniversary of her creation. Within all of that, millions of people worldwide will finally find out she exists.

With everything coming, it would be very easy to think she has it made. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. She’s in the spotlight. That means there are a lot of forces in play that have been quieter or dormant for the past 8 years that are going to come out of the woodwork.

People who are genuinely fans of Polaris are going to have to be more vigilant than ever as we head into her promising future. If we’re not vigilant, her moment in the spotlight can be used to ruin her.

Fandom Gatekeeping

I’ve warned before about the toxicity of fandom gatekeeping. This is where someone tries to keep people out of the fandom so they get to assert dominance. They have a very specific interpretation of the character, and anything that even remotely deviates from it is not permitted in their eyes.

I’m not talking about “I don’t like that character in a romance with Polaris.” I mean things like “Polaris HAS to date this one specific character, she can’t date any other characters, you have to go along with me on this attitude.” That’s what fandom gatekeeping is: it’s saying a character has to be restricted in their options to only what you, personally, want.

A person could genuinely mean well while holding this attitude, and not realize they’re hurting Lorna’s potential. The point is fandom gatekeeping would keep Lorna from trying new things, developing new relationships, etc. It has to be challenged when seen.

“Fans”

Now that Polaris is becoming popular, a phenomenon that used to be fairly dormant is now in sharp rise: people of other characters that pretend to be fans of Polaris.

This is going to take some explanation for people not familiar with comic books.

Comic book fandom often sees the spotlight as a limited capacity thing, especially when it comes to female characters. Female characters in comic books are traditionally considered a “one or two allowed only, the rest are nobodies” thing. If a female character is in the spotlight, then the belief is that she needs to be either exploited or kicked out of the spotlight.

I’ll delve into each variety now.

Exploitation: In the exploitation variant, the “fan” sees Polaris as a way to boost the prestige of their own favorite character. This is not the same thing as seeing potential in a relationship and wanting it explored. This is where the fan of the other character pretends to be a fan of Polaris for the express purpose of making Polaris’ entire identity revolve around their ACTUAL favorite character. By demoting Lorna from unique character to their favorite character’s second, they get their favorite into the position Polaris was in – at her expense. Her stories and exploration of her character get destroyed in favor of putting this other character on a pedestal.

Kicked out: In the kicked out variant, the “fan” sees Polaris as a rival for a position only one can have. Their goal in pretending to be a fan of Polaris is to kill off all possible story branches for her until there’s nothing left. “I don’t want to see Polaris as Genosha survivor explored” “I don’t want to see her dealing with trauma” “Lorna should spend more time on fights and less on spouting exposition and her views” and so on. Eventually she’s so deprived of who she is that she’s kicked out of the spotlight for another character – ideally their actual favorite – to take her place.

Marvel sabotaging Fox

The Gifted is a joint venture between Marvel and Fox. That should insulate it from a lot of the risk… but things can change. And Marvel publishing is not Marvel TV.

Marvel corporate hates that Fox has the film rights to the X-Men franchise. I won’t get into exhaustive detail here, but the point is, they don’t really want Fox to have a lot of success or get any good ideas to pursue without Marvel. That could lead to Marvel trying to sabotage Polaris in their own work – comic books, video games, cartoons, etc.

Take Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver. Fox and Marvel both have the film rights to both characters. Marvel decided to pull a forced retcon on Wanda and Pietro in the comics to suddenly make them not Magneto’s kids anymore. In other words, Marvel was trying to cut them off from Magneto, who ties them to the X-Men franchise, and make them exclusively Avengers characters.

Marvel might try to pull something similar with Lorna. She’s always been an X-Men exclusive character, so there’s no changing that. What they might try to do, though, is make her look terrible in their own work while insisting their version is the “real” Polaris that Fox should be conforming to.

Lack of crucial voices

This is a very important one that often gets overlooked.

There are creative minds at Fox and Marvel who truly want to do well by Polaris. Some know her history well, some don’t. Some have known her for decades, some found out she existed this year.

In all cases, they need fan feedback. They need to know what’s working, what isn’t working, what you want to see and what you don’t want to see. They need to know this information to know how to develop her and really get the most out of her potential.

More importantly, people in all three above categories are talking too. Polaris is in the spotlight. People who don’t want her to succeed, or who want her to fit a specific idea of who she should be, are going to be talking a hell of a lot from here on out. They’ll be trying to convince these creative minds to take certain directions with Lorna.

Speak up. Say what you think. If you don’t, and enough people say the exact opposite of what you want to see, there’s a very good chance the creative minds will do precisely what you don’t want them to do. They listen to the voices they hear. They can’t listen to people who never speak up.

I think this is all the crucial categories. I’ll add if I missed any. Be aware that as much as we’re loving everything that’s happening for Lorna, there are people who hate it with a burning passion. There are people who want to exploit her for their own interests. There are people who mean well but don’t see problems for what they are.

Don’t just sit back and assume everything is perfect from here on out. Be ready to step up when necessary. Otherwise she might get screwed over – and it might last decades, possibly forever.

Comic Book Fandom Problem: Character Competition and Role/Panel Hoarding

At this point, I’m both a little experienced but still relatively new when it comes to comic book issues. I only really got into any comics consistently after I discovered Polaris from X-Men. I’ve been reading stuff with her since 2009, but it’s sporadic for her to get use.

In that time, I’ve noticed a lot of specific overall problems with “hardcore” comic book culture. This post is about the specific problem of “panel hoarding” and treating character use and presence like some kind of competition.

At its base, it goes to fanboy one-upsmanship. It’s the “my favorite superhero can beat your favorite superhero” thinking. A good example is how Frank Miller basically made Dark Knight Returns all about how great Batman supposedly is, to a point where Superman was written poorly so Batman could mop the floor with him.

Let’s really look at this. Why do these characters have to fight at all? If they fight, why does one have to be written poorly for the sake of the other? Why can’t a fight between them give both characters admirable qualities, with the loser losing the fight for perfectly good reasons?

When you get to the bottom of this stuff, this sort of behavior isn’t merely about fandom or wanting good exciting stories. This is ultimately about dominance and power. The people who insist their favorite character has to be on top and win everything are saying it cause they want their favorite character to be in a dominant position, and their fandom, and themselves, along with the character. It’s not really about the character. It’s not about good stories. It’s all about ego.

One personal example. In Secret Wars House of M, Polaris and Quicksilver fought. Lorna was depicted in that as a character that scared Pietro with her power, with Pietro only winning because of a surprise attack on Lorna not from Pietro. I didn’t like that either. Pietro was depicted very poorly to make Lorna look better.

This brand “dominance fight” was not needed. It’s a staple of comic books that some people blinded by egotistical desires think is a good thing. It’s not. Poor writing is poor writing, and everyone loses. With writing that treats both characters well, we could have seen some really interesting nuance to their genuine points of view. We could have seen some creativity for use of powers. Instead, Quicksilver was a bad caricature of himself, and that just pisses off fans of the character.

Another example. X-Men Blue recently had Polaris and Havok fight. I saw quite a few people liked that, and were excited to see Polaris beat Havok in that scenario. I wasn’t. I’m a Polaris fan. I consider her my absolute favorite character right now in anything. I wasn’t happy about Lorna interacting with Havok in any sense, including this sort of thing.

I have very detailed reasons, tied to Polaris’ character history, for why I don’t want her interacting with Havok. I won’t go into them here. It’s a very specific and special issue tied only to Havok. My point here is, this “dominance fight” wasn’t needed either. We could’ve had panels that focused on something entirely different. Lorna could have had an argument with Emma about mutants, for example.

Now, for a problem that’s not the same as above but closely connected: panel/role hoarding.

Comic books have a loooooot of characters available. Most characters are heavily underused in favor of ones that have been heavily promoted across decades. Here’s the problem: characters that can fit a niche are often ignored in favor of inserting those traits into “popular” characters where they don’t belong.

Sometimes, fans of a character think only their character can fit a role. Or, out of desperation to either get their favorite into a prime position or keep them there, fans will refuse to acknowledge other characters having any kind of meaningful stake in a storyline or event. They may even badmouth and try to diminish the character’s value to make that happen.

This is another dominance play. This is all ego and selfishness talking, and it’s a problem specific to comic books.

The “logic” of this attitude is that if you let other characters occupy the same or similar role, or have panel time too, that hurts your favorite character. That “undermines” your favorite character’s “standing” in the role and supposedly keeps them from getting much use.

This “logic” is a huge mistake. Even when taking on the same role, two characters are not going to think and behave the exact same way. They will have disagreements. They will have nuance. In some cases, the base role could split into more than one direction. If you have only one person in the role, you either lose all except one direction, or the one character allowed to have the role becomes a disgusting mess of poor characterization that ends up looking terrible to most people.

But when you acknowledge other characters’ worth and let them be involved? Your favorite character actually benefits. Maybe you lose some panel time for the character. Sure. The lost panel time is more than made up for by much better writing. The two (or more) characters can interact, develop associations, common ground. In the future, the already established connection can lead to amazing new stories that never would have been possible without the connection.

For this example, I have Scarlet Witch.

Brevoort at Marvel said a lot of negative things about Polaris several years ago. They seemed to be mainly fueled by the idea that Magneto can have only one daughter, and at the time, he wanted that sole daughter to be Scarlet Witch.

This was a mistake. There is a lot of interest in the idea of Polaris and Scarlet Witch spending time together as sisters. They’ve both dealt with mental issues. Lorna suffered from M-Day, and Wanda has yet to have a redemption arc/story that most X-Men fans accept. They would have common ground of being Magneto’s daughters, but that connection makes them closer and gives them opportunities to have interesting stories together. Brevoort had the belief that only one daughter can exist, because his focus was exclusively on the role of “Magneto’s daughter,” as if it’s a coveted title only one can have. It blinded him to what they can accomplish together because they both have the same role.

Later, after Marvel forced a retcon that made Scarlet Witch (and Quicksilver) no longer Magneto’s daughter, they tried to do a solo comic book for her. The book failed. Its main reason for failing was because Marvel had severed most of her meaningful relationships – including with Magneto and Polaris. Some thought that completely separating her from those relationships would be good for her prestige, but it wasn’t. Losing those relationships denied her the chance to interact with characters that could show her best qualities.

Same applies to any role situation. If you’re a real fan of a character, you want what’s best for the character. What’s best for the character is good writing, not oodles of appearances that all make the character look horrible just for the sake of exposure. If some panel time has to be sacrificed to get good writing, then so be it.

Comic book fandom is rife with these toxic attitudes. There are ways of doing things so ingrained that some fans mistakenly think they have to go along with the flow, or that what they know is a “tradition” that must be upheld. Some have also become so accustomed to those attitudes that it’s become a deeply ingrained part of who they are. They don’t want to break those habits and may refuse to see anything wrong with them.

But seeing the problem is the first step to better comics fandom, and eventually better comics as a whole.

I probably shouldn’t make this public post, but I’m going to anyway.

I’m sorry to anyone following me or just around in general that’s getting harassed and abused by people (or possibly one person) that have it out for me. I block them when they come after me under a new name, but there’s not much I can do to stop them from going after other people.

*looks at latest reblog notifications*

… Really? Three different accounts, nearly a week after my initial post, just so happen to reblog each other’s remarks on that post within the same couple hours using the same logic, with its progression slowly building toward increasingly hostile and abusive?

That’s… that’s not very subtle. I mean, none of it is subtle, but especially not that.

Puerto Rican with 300 Twitter accounts accused of harassment

I’m sharing this on my account for a couple reasons. One, to further demonstrate that harassment is bad, and excessive harassment is increasingly getting punished via law. Two, because of the number of accounts he used.

This is a guy who created 300 Twitter accounts for the sake of harassing other people. 300. Social media like Twitter and Tumblr makes it INCREDIBLY easy to make multiple accounts, and extremely devoted people can and will be heavily active with a slew of them to make themselves and what they’re doing look bigger and broader than it really is.

I’m saying this because I’m extremely familiar with fandoms and social media use. I know there are some great, amazing people out there who get bombarded with hate in this fashion. Without having experienced it over a long period, it’s easy to think all that hate is a wide swath of people and you did something horribly wrong to deserve it. In reality, a lot of the time, it’s one person with multiple accounts and a mission or vendetta of some sort.

“How can someone maintain 10 or 20 fairly active accounts? This can’t all just be one person.” That’s the most common thought, and this article is proof that a single person can definitely maintain that many active accounts. If this man could maintain 300 accounts, what’s 10-20?

Puerto Rican with 300 Twitter accounts accused of harassment

I want to make a quick post about “true fans”, the people who insist they’re the real fans of a franchise or character to the point where they will smear and abuse anyone who doesn’t agree with them.

Most of us already know how awful this is. The people who do it are trying to become the ones who have total control over fandom. They want everyone to adhere to whatever they decide is best, and they want everyone to admire them.

It doesn’t work that way, of course. Toxic fandom is toxic not only because it hurts people, but because it hurts the very things people insist they’re fans of. With every person that gets driven out of the fandom because they don’t want to deal with abuse, the object of fandom has fewer people to support it. The object of fandom gets fewer pieces of fanart, fanfiction, cosplay, and fewer reasons for the company that actually owns the rights to care. Once the fandom has lost so many fans that hardly anyone’s talking about it, the fandom becomes much much less than it can be. It’s a direct attack on a much loved dream.

There’s another element, though, that’s extremely important to bear in mind.

“True fans” don’t flock to things that are worthless. They don’t abuse people over things that have no value. Abusive fans are horrible to have and everyone would be better off if they stopped being abusive… but they also demonstrate that what they’re being abusive around is meaningful in its own right, and that a LOT of other people can see its worth too.

No matter what happens, how horrible it gets, it’s important to remember that. Past the vile behavior, there’s a wonderful franchise or character that has so much to offer. If that was not the case, abusive types would focus on a different franchise or character with a much bigger following.

This is what really keeps me going in spite of smears and attacks: knowing that the thing I’m getting abused for supporting has a lot to offer.

‘Steven Universe’ fandom is melting down after bullied fanartist attempts suicide

This article actually came up among the people I follow on Twitter. Discussion was pretty much how bullies really aren’t about the fandom they claim to be about, as illustrated by these ones even attacking the team that created Steven Universe. Bullies only really care about bullying people, and attacking anyone that gets in the way of the “thrill” they get in doing it.

‘Steven Universe’ fandom is melting down after bullied fanartist attempts suicide