Thursday, February 22, 2007

A Quick One While He's Away

I am a few hours from stepping on my airplane, but since it seems to be the topic du jour around the big table, I thought I'd throw in my few cents on the subject of yelling at stupid people.

It's a bad idea. I've probably done it myself a few times. It feels good to vent. But... it's the least productive action possible given the circumstances. It's so unproductive as to almost be counterproductive.

To wit:

* Sometimes following serialized fiction entails buying books you don't like or don't enjoy. I still think it's something of a misnomer to say that people don't want these books, however. They obviously do want them or they wouldn't be buying them. Sometimes you keep up just to see how bad it can get, or to have something to complain about, but that doesn't mean you're not getting some kind of value for your money if that's what you're doing. We've all done it, and it's not unique to comics: how many people do you know who have kept watching a TV show long past its prime, or followed a book series, or went to see movies they knew they wouldn't like because a favorite actor was in them? Negative enjoyment is not physical pain, and it's still possible to enjoy something you don't "enjoy", when you factor in ancillary context. Just think: do you know a Milwaukee Brewers fan? Or a Boston Celtics fan? No one calls them crazy for watching a losing team - even when the team loses chances are they still enjoy watching the game.

* There's this idea at the back of these complaints that comics spending across the industry is somehow a zero-sum game. As much as some may protest, there is at the heart of the matter a core assumption that if people would just stop wasting money on crap they would spend their money instead on Nextwave / Casanova / Sleeper / Love & Rockets / Kramers Ergot. The consumers that makes up the majority of the audience for mainstream comics are not fans of the medium. They are fans of specific characters and concepts, as well as connoisseurs of a specific type of aesthetic experience that can only be gotten from sewrialized heroic fiction. If these characters and concepts ceased to be published, they would probably not continue to be comics readers. Just look at how enthusiastic so many superhero fans are over shows like Buffy and Heroes and Lost: the medium, much as a vocal minority may fight against the tide, is nowhere near as important to the vast majority of comic readers as the message. And the message is serialized heroic fiction. If the Marvel Universe ceased to be published in comic form and instead became a series of ongoing live-action soap-opera programs on a dedicated cable network, many fans would probably grumble, but most would put up with the switch in formats and continue to follow Captain America and Wolverine. And probably never read a comic book again if it wasn't Garfield.

* Most importantly: if something that someone else does bugs you, leave it alone. This is a hard lesson to learn, but learned it must be. You don't win any friends by berating stupid people, and it just succeeds in raising your blood pressure.

Stupid people will always prosper, and short of an IQ-based genocide followed by a selective eugenics program dictated by alien overlords, that will always be the case.

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