I’ve gotten a bunch of asks explaining, or attempting to explain, that the article James Gunn posted where he said some pretty horrific things about the female characters of the Marvel universe was satire, and I should do some more research. I understand that there is a legitimate place in the world for satire. Mark Twain and Steven Colbert, and everyone in between, satire is amazing stuff, a way to use humor to point out some of the flaws of our society.
But is this satire or not?
To things like this, I apply “the subway test.”
The Subway Test is really, really easy! I want you to imagine that you are alone in a subway car, with one other occupant. This occupant is unknown to you. He is not immediately threatening, but you don’t know him, and all you have to judge him on is what he’s saying. He might be drunk, he might be threatening, or he might be an aspiring comedian looking for an audience for his satire.
You don’t know.
What you do know is that you are alone with him. And it’s a long way to the next station. Your cell phone doesn’t work on this line. For all intents and purposes, you are trapped with this man. There is no where for you to go, you can’t get out and you can’t call for help, and you have to judge what is happening.
I want you to read James Gunn’s comments and imagine you are trapped in a subway car, alone and isolated with a man who is saying these things to you. I want you to imagine that he is looking at you, maybe looking you straight in the eye, not even glancing at your body, but he is staring you down, and he is saying those words.
Do you feel ashamed? Afraid? Do you want to get away? Do you want to get your mace out? Then this piece of ‘satire’ has failed the subway test.
Maybe you’re a tough cookie. Maybe this doesn’t bother you. So let’s replace the ‘you’ in this subway car with the most fragile person you know. Your grandmother, or your little sister. Your niece or that boy who gets bullied in class. Someone who has been the survivor of violence or harassed or attacked. Replace the ‘you’ in this subway car with someone you love.
Are you comfortable leaving him or her alone with a man saying these things?
If so, great! I’m not. See, the thing about satire? Satire is aimed at those in power. Satire is aimed at sin and politics and vice. So if that article had been saying these things about the men who draw and portray the women in the comics the way they do, that could be accepted as satire. A drawing showing the men of the Marvel universe wearing the costumes that the women wear, that’s satire. That’s attacking the ruling body, not the victim.
And a lot of stuff on the internet, when people say, “Wow, that was horribly offensive,” the writer tries to pull it back and say, “It was humor! It was satire! You can’t take it SERIOUSLY. GOD, get a sense of HUMOR.” And it’s easy to write things and post them on the anonymous forum that is the internet.
Apply the subway test. I have a friend, and she’s got a little sister. I love this girl, very much, and she’s smart, and she’s tough, and she can handle herself. But the thought of her alone on that subway car, as someone reads James Gunn’s words to her, makes me physically sick. The thought of her having to listen as someone says what he said about Spider-Woman, to her face, that makes me so angry I can’t even handle it.
Because I don’t want her to live in a world where it’s acceptable to say that about any woman.