Friday, February 26, 2016

Leftover Sycophantry

Damnit, I wanted to talk about computer games today but that bastard over at Leftover Soup did something again. He has a very bad habit of doing something. I've bit my tongue time and again (or would that be my fingers; though that would turn confusing as I actually have a nervous habit of biting my fingers) to prevent myself from writing tedious, lengthy blog posts on trains of thought his comic or comments appended to said comic have sparked.

The freedom created by webcomics' original lack of financial pay-off yielded a heavy dose of social commentary, with many authors slapping their disjointed thoughts online to vent as they could not in real life about anything and everything. Patreon brings death to that freedom, but that's a big-ass can of gut-instinct-worms I really shouldn't allow to parasite this reaction post. In any case, Leftover Soup follows that proud dying tradition, hitting everything from race to gender to religion to the military to... ida know, hell, there was even an incontinent three-legged sheepdog involved at some point.

This week's flavor's police brutality and the bureaucratic brutality of the police/legal system as a whole, a topic on which I mostly agree with the author. I say "mostly" because I don't think he's nearly forceful enough in his views on the matter. Yes, he is absolutely right in pointing out to those who criticize his criticism that he's already included a sympathetic cop character in the comic in the form of Cheryl - a bit too sympathetic as far as I'm concerned. I disagree with him a helluva lot more when it comes to religion or gender relations, but you know what? That's fine. He gets to be wrong, as a basic right of sentient individuals. I'm not indulging in "everyone has their opinion" or some other anti-critical, anti-intellectual bullshit postmodernist self-serving rhetorical means of placating, subverting and silencing those around oneself. Tailsteak is just wrong sometimes. Dead wrong.

I still read his comic and comments. He is right more often than wrong and damn clever at being both, which is what art is supposed to be: expression. Pretty sure I even tossed him a few bucks some time ago and will likely do so again once he finishes it. What I don't do is write letters to the editor attempting to censor this or that view expressed in that one particular work of fiction, demanding that he voice my opinion through his work.*

To the point: in the comment to today's comic, as in a few past instances, he takes a conciliatory, almost apologetic tone in response to what I'm guessing is some vociferous pressure from his readers to lay off this or that social group, ideology, ice cream flavor or hair style. This is a problem. It's not enough that he gave them Cheryl, not enough that even without Cheryl they might like 80-90% of the comic; they demand supplication. What's worse, he doesn't seem to have completely internalized the realization that this will not be enough either, that no amount of kowtowing and self-flagellation for one's thought processes can ever compare with the communal public's utter lack of thought processes. You will never be "me" enough for my tastes, Tailsteak. You will never provide bland enough reinforcement to compete with a facebook friend list. While you still have three or more working brain cells you will never provide a loud enough echo chamber to compete with the social media circle-jerks your readers likely use as their frame of reference for discussion.

Focus groups are the death of creativity and objectivity both. That oversocialized tug of war of compromise toward the lowest common denominator yielded "news" stories about kittens up trees long before teh internets went pop and in the era of one-click social sanction recalcitrance has become a necessity. You'd think webcartoonists of all people would readily think back to a recent example of an individual mind collapsing under social pressure. Its name is Tatsuya Ishida.

Creators, if your audience's comments start coloring your work, sequential or otherwise, as you're working it, it's time to stop reading them. Your mind is not a damn democracy. Yeah, maybe years later you'll look back and think "I was a bit too hard on the pigs" but at least it'll have been your own past error, your own personal growth and not the mutant, half-formed brainchild of getting completely mindfucked by the zeitgeist. Fuck tha thought po-leece.

Damn, this ran long, and I've been trying to ramble less too. That bastard needs to stop doing somethings.

* I did this one time only, and if I ever meet Christopher Baldwin I'll have to apologize for that e-mail he never even read thirteen years ago.

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