Friday, 14 April 2017

The Difference Between Bullying and Poor Taste

You would think there'd be nothing to hate about this team.
Oh boy.

This month saw the release of Marvel's new RessurXion (is that spelt right? I mean, it's not exactly a word, but...). With it, came X-Men Gold #1, a new team starring favourites like Colossus and Old Man Logan. The issue, to be honest, is quite good- we get a X-Men team that feels more like the well-received Astonishing X-Men than it does Uncanny X-Men.

Sounds great? So what's the issue?

The offending panel
Well, it turns out the issue's writer, Ardian Sayaf, brought in a few too many personal politics. See, X-Men Gold #1 he included a reference to a verse in the Qur'an that, according to some translations, forbids believers from making Jews and Christians their leaders.
Sayaf is Indonesian and right now, the Christian governor (or former governer, not sure), a man known as Ahok, was tried for blasphemy for a misstated comment on the Qur'an. Ahok's comments enraged the Indonesia's 85% Muslim population. Sayaf was obviously upset about this as well, because in

My first thought when seeing this was "how did anyone know to notice the verse here?"  My second thought was "this is possibly the worst comic to include this in."

See, X-Men Gold features a team lead by Kitty Pride; a Jewish woman who has been nothing but upfront about her heritage for many, many years. Let me make  it clear; she is the team leader in a book where the art suggests that people like her should not be leaders. For that reason, and that reason alone, Sayaf should be pretty embarrassed about his artistic faux pas.

In all likelihood, the verse was intended to criticise Ahok, suggesting that Christian was not the best choice for a Muslim nation, and if Sayaf had tweeted the verse with a #Ahok at the end, I 'm certain he would not have faced the same backlash (although, really, if you get political on the internet, don't expect people to leave you alone). The message would have been clear: Ahok should not be, or should never have been Jakarta's governor. In the context of the comic, however, it came off as "I resent contributing to a book about Jewish people". Before anyone jumps down my throat and tells me that I'm making assumptions; I know I am. That's part of what reading entails. But I don't imagine myself to be some great genius and if I'm a total idiot, then I'm hardly alone. If I can take that message out of the book, chances are a few others have as well.

She's Jewish. The verse was a bad idea.
In a past article, I spoke about Marvel's habit of bullying some of their readers into accepting a new status quo or ideology. I don't think that's what is happening here. Bullying has to be targeted and continuous. Someone calling you stupid once is not, for example, bullying. Someone calling stupid over an extended period is. This is the first, and likely the last time Marvel has done something like this. Moreover, Marvel's bullying tactics came from strawmanning an ideology that undesirable, but harmless, into something villainous and idiotic. It was something they did not once, but over and over again and it was certainly more overt than this. It was also unconnected to recent events, but more to a particular "out-group". Sayaf's art bears just about no similarity.

It was, however, in incredibly poor taste; not just because the issue's lead was Jewish, but because recent events (though sparked by the west) have likely put a lot of people who don't know better on edge regarding Islam; well, more so than they were before. The verse could be interpreted as inflammatory; particularly towards a predominately Judeo-Christian country like America.

This poor timing, poor taste and poor use of two letters, three numbers and a colon reflect poorly on Marvel. I feel sorry for him; his intended message seemed a lot more tame than media attention would make it seem. It was a dumb mistake and once he's felt the expected amount of embarrassment, I hope he continues to draw for the comics industry because honestly, his art is good. Marvel have since dismissed him. I think that was the wrong move for a silly mistake that editors should have picked up on. Lets just say that, with the kerfuffles of the last month, my opinion of Marvel as a business is fairly low.