August 15, 2012

The troll conundrum (and not the kind that live under bridges)

Update - 8/15
Please check out the comment below from a staff writer for the site on which the comic is found. He's assured me the piece was meant as satire and that they are not a site of trolls. The nature of that webcomic is like the tone of The Onion. It's meant to be over-the-top. So, while I'll still say that the particular strip about GeekGirlCon was not for me and rubbed me the wrong way, there are other things on the site (podcasts, comics, etc) created by other people that I shouldn't have wrapped up into a blanket statement.

If you've been around the internet for a while, something's probably pissed you off. Maybe things, plural. It's so easy to let articles or comments or tweets or general dbag-ness (yeah, I like making up words) get under your skin. The best course of action is usually not to react. I know this. Very little is worth getting your knickers in a twist. But I can't always help myself. I've written a couple of rants here. Two that come to mind are my responses to the New York Times Game of Thrones reviews. They were sexist, misguided, and crappy. And I had a few points to make. The downside is that I had to mention their reviews, pull quotes, and link to them... so ultimately, I was giving them traffic.

Linkbait is a tricky thing. So are trolls who want attention and hits (the clicky sort not punches in the face).

This is on my mind today because of a comic I saw about GeekGirlCon. The comic from "This Just In" mentions the convention and then talks about women being on their periods, maxi pads, and ice cream. It was tasteless and lazy. I mean, it doesn't work as a comic because it's not original. It doesn't work as satire because it's not funny. And beyond all that, it's just frakking sexist and rude.

It especially got under my skin because in a small way, comics like this are why the convention exists. This sentiment, these stereotypes, this singular way of thinking - it's just the antithesis of what GeekGirlCon is about. No, I've never been, but I've heard amazing stories from friends and read inspiring posts about the convention. That someone would dare to defile it this way, well, it makes me angry. And that feeling leads to some strong knee jerk reactions.

I posted about the comic on Twitter with a link. I know it sends traffic to their site, and I know that's what they want... but that doesn't mean such a piece of crap should be ignored. Hence my conundrum. Notice how I'm not linking to it now. If you really want to see it, you can check out a clip of it posted here (not the website for the comic).

After looking a little more closely at "This Just In," it seems that being tools is their modus operandi. They offend, people are enraged, everyone clicks over to see the horrible thing for themselves. Many of the jokes on the other comic strips are just as trite. They utilize stereotypes and call it humor. I don't want to feed the trolls and fuel traffic to their website that ultimately could lead to ad revenue for them... but how do you just not speak about something like that? I think we have to call people out.

Yeah, I gave them traffic. That part blows. But because I posted about it, some people know to avoid that site now. I'll be staying away in the future. And The One True B!x made a really good point:
I don't think I gave them a full meal. I guess I could have posted a clip of the comic here or uploaded it an image hosting site in order to not deliver traffic to them (and I'll remember that for the future), but I didn't go to their site or page and comment and get involved in a futile argument.

Yeah, I'm giving them a little attention, but it's to let people know they suck. In the long run it might mean that less people will visit their site. I think that it's important and okay to show the world when someone's being an insensitive idgit. It's sort of a public service. Point out the trolls, don't give them dinner.

How do you handle situations like these?


  1. “GEEKBOYCON convened this weekend, but stalled into awkward disarray when 3,500 mental adolescents had no girls to ogle or belittle.”

  2. Well, you could always berate them without giving a direct link -- that way your point is made and if anyone REALLY wants to see what was in poor taste on their own, they'd have to search it out.

    I, personally, have not clicked the supplied link and am happy taking your word for it that the comic was in terrible taste and, whenever it might come up, I will look disdainfully upon it.

    Hope that helps!

  3. Hey Amy,

    I twitter at you occasionally and saw this blog post, so thought I'd comment because I work for that website. I feel odd defending someone else, because I can't truly speak for them. I can tell you that the writer of that comic strip is the person that does most all of our satire pieces and it's not to be taken seriously, that's why it's over-the-top. Now if you didn't find it funny, I won't argue with that; but I do feel it's necessary to point out that neither that writer, nor the site feels the way you might think we do.

    We are all huge comicbook (and video game, books, etc) fans and love the medium. You may not love an article or comic, but I promise you we are not a website of trolls. I work very hard on the pieces I write (Personally, I don't do satire or snark because I don't think I can, my pieces are normally serious in nature).

    Anyways, I wanted to reach out to you because I've followed you on twitter and seen some of your work and respect your work.

  4. My name is Jude Terror and I wrote the comic in question. I would like to respond, and I hope that you will read what I have to say with an open mind.

    I write 2-5 articles, news stories, or webcomics every day, five days a week. They are all written in a style which is intended to be mockery, sarcasm, satire, or farce. When you produce that much work on a daily basis, sometimes, you are going to fail miserably. Apparently, this is one of those times.

    Humor is subjective, and my thought process when I wrote this particular comic was: "Geek Girl Con... what's the most offensive and stupid thing someone could possibly say about that?" And then I put those words in Anakid's mouth (Anarkid is the character in the comic). That is the point. Anarkid is an asshole. He takes cheap shots.

    My intention in writing it was certainly not that I wanted readers to agree with the statement. The idea is that they would find it to be an idiotic and absurd thing to say, which is a commentary on how idiotic it is to have a sexist (or any other prejudiced) viewpoint. Judging by the reaction, clearly, this was not my best work. :)

    However, when you examine it alone, as you are above, you are taking it out of the context of my larger body of work, which, I believe, shows by repeated example that I wrap my message in absurdity and sarcasm, and that my words should not be taken at face value. In fact, often I mean the opposite of what I say.

    Let me give you some examples:

    In this article, I beg people to band together to save Joss Whedon's new TV show, which has not yet begun production, from cancellation.

    Here I make fun of people who love Neil Gaiman's books "too much." My daughter is named after a character from one, by the way.

    In that article, I claim that Alan Moore is the headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardy.

    Here, I insist that Marc Silvestri's free Cyber Force comic is part of a communist plot to destroy America.

    My purpose in posting this is not to convince you that I am funny, or that I am a great writer. I do hope it shows you that the point of my work is to use mockery to get a point across. I attempt to frame these articles in complete absurdity so that it is obvious that it is "tongue-in-cheek." When you view one of them out of context, I can see how you might mistake the intention, but I think it is clear when taken as a whole where I am coming from.

    Sometimes, I will fail at my mission. Sometimes, I will write things that are way off base. It happens. I will keep trying.

    I am not a sexist. I have two beautiful daughters, and I want them to a grow up in a world where they are treated equally and with respect and one where they have all the opportunities any human being should have in life. My comic was, perhaps, not the best attempt at advancing this viewpoint, but, whether you choose to believe it or not, that was my intention, in the same way that I always write. It was meant to make fun of people who would make misogynistic comments seriously.

    I have put up a note explaining this beneath the comic, so that readers will not think we are supporting a sexist viewpoint.

    So, while I do believe humor is subjective, I certainly concede that, in this case, my attempt may have fallen flat and caused more harm than good. My apologies if I've offended you.

    It is not often that I will break character and "explain" a joke, because I think that jokes should stand on their own. I am making an exception in this case because I am uneasy, as a husband, as a father of two daughters, and as a liberal-minded person, to be branded as a sexist when I am not.

    Thanks for your time.

    -Jude Terror

    1. Did you attend GeekGirlCon? Are you defending the misygynist's "status quo"? Explain your comment here:

      I am not a sexist. I have two beautiful daughters, and I want them to a grow up in a world where they are treated equally and with respect and one where they have all the opportunities any human being should have in life. My comic was, perhaps, not the best attempt at advancing this viewpoint, but, whether you choose to believe it or not, that was my intention, in the same way that I always write. It was meant to make fun of people who would make misogynistic comments seriously.

    2. I am saying that I am anti-misogyny.

      In the blog post above, Amy says this:

      "It especially got under my skin because in a small way, comics like this are why the convention exists. This sentiment, these stereotypes, this singular way of thinking - it's just the antithesis of what GeekGirlCon is about."

      In fact, "that sentiment, those stereotypes, that singular way of thinking" is what I was trying to mock and parody, not express support for.

      I know that sounds like a cop-out - "Oh, now that people are mad, you claim it's a 'joke'."

      That's why I posted examples of my other writing - I ALWAYS write in a tongue in cheek style. I say things that are absurd or ridiculous, pushed to the extreme, in order to show how absurd and and stupid they are when expressed more subtly and insidiously in everyday life and culture.

      But again, in this case, regardless of my intentions, people got the wrong message. So that tells me this is one of those times where I did not execute my work well. It's gonna happen - I write a lot, and sometimes I will get it wrong.

    3. It's just sad that a man with " two beautiful daughters" still chose to use such a lazy, banal stereotype ! Oh and even though he will learn this in a few years not all women love Ben & Jerey's ice cream! I'm more partial to Reese's peanut butter cups!

  5. Hello there, my name is Keb Ellis and I'm a longtime contributor to the Outhouse, the site that hosts "This Just In". If you're not familiar with our site, I really recommend you take a look around. I for one write a weekly column that looks at elements of comics that I love. It's about what I love. And that's what our site really is. Not very different from your blog, am I right? At the end of the day, we're not trolls, just comic fans trying to have some fun. Is that really so bad?

    That's all I really have to say. Have a great day!

  6. Jude... man. That comment was longer than the article lol. She broke you! Amy has power!!

  7. I applaud your efforts Amy. How do you deal with this?

    “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
    ― Martin Luther King Jr.

    Something to consider.

  8. Jude, the use of the phrase "Bitches be crazy" is never a good idea, even in satire, even if you're trying to mock the attitude, even...ever. I appreciate that there's more to your work than this one comic, but you need to realize you're playing with fire here.

    May suggest that if you want to make the menstrual period joke, treat is as you treat other potentially-offensive topics in this same strip: attribute the potentially offensive attitude to a single character, and call them out on it at the same time, as you did with "Frank Cho's" masturbation-as-exercise "quote." There was nothing in this comic to call out the misogynistic asshattery as anything other than a (fake) news report of something that happened in Seattle last week. And then you added a rape reference in the "news ticker" and a phrase I particularly loathe. Even with the additional context of the 6 other "This Just Ins" that exist, there's no way I could interpret this strip as anything other than offensive, until you came out and "explained" the joke.

    I realize that you didn't mean to come off as sexist, misogynistic, hateful, anything. I don't think you're a bad person. I realize your characters are not you. But as a woman who has presumably lived more life than your daughters, I want to make sure you're aware of the things they will one day be sensitive to in a way that you will never be. That's all.

    Best of luck to you.

    1. I hear what you're saying. Normally what I write are longer, satirical op-ed pieces (linked above). This strip, as you said, is a week old and is finding its voice.

      When you produce stuff at a very high rate of output, as I do, you have to be prepared for some missteps. As I said, I publish sometimes more than 20 articles in a single week.

      I do appreciate the rational criticism and will take it into account in the future.

      And yes, I realize that when you have to explain a joke, the joke stinks. :P

      Normally, when I write an article, most people "get" the joke and I laugh it off when someone doesn't. In this case, it was the opposite distribution, which reflects on the joke itself. :)

      What I'm hoping to accomplish through discourse is to show that I have a much larger body of work (which does have a decent audience), but when something like this gets "picked up" by bloggers, it is taken out of context and quickly I could become "that guy who writes the misogynistic webcomic."

      Message received - this one was not my best.

      So I recommend you try this one:

      Or this one:

      For a better example of my normal output.

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